Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Dec 13th 2003
King of Bandit Jing
The King of Bandits, Jing, and his lustful companion Kir continue to traverse strange lands in search of the world's most valuable treasures. This time, a famous painter's greatest masterpiece turns out to be his first born daughter, and a mad baron intent on obtaining all of the artist's works pursues her relentlessly. Then, a girl named Vermouth recruits the duo to help her find eternal life, putting them at odds with a dangerous couple known as Pernod and China Lilet.
King of Bandit Jing is something of a conundrum. Beneath its polished and abstract artistic trappings lies the basic formula for an everyday shounen action series. Jing is, essentially, the Himura Kenshin or Luffy D. Monkey or Uzamaki Naruto of his series; the best (fighter, pirate, ninja, baker, construction worker) in the world, who goes around fighting for truth, justice, and all that stuff shonen heroes fight for. He even has a spunky talking animal sidekick. While the episodes on volume two do little to stray from the established story formula, King of Bandit Jing has one thing going for it that sets it apart from the vast sea of Kenshin-alikes out there: art direction so unique it defies description.
Jing is worth watching for the visuals alone. It's impossible to name all the different sources this series is pulling from to create its visual style. In episode five alone, you can see visual references to The Beatles' Yellow Submarine, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Salvador Dali's various works and a whole host of others. If that sounds strange for an anime series, it is; frequently the show lapses into fits of nearly anarchic visuals, eschewing common anime technique for a totally chaotic and abstract experience. Jing's adventures in ‘Technicolor Town’, a city washed out in bleeding reds, lime greens and baby blues is a visually stunning artistic device and should not be missed, particularly if you're an art student.
Unfortunately, King of Bandit Jing amounts to a whole lot of flash and very little substance. At its core, Jing still follows the shonen formula to a tee. Each episode is basically an encapsulated adventure, wherein Jing tries to get some unattainable treasure that winds up getting destroyed or left behind for something more important. Everyone learns an important moral lesson (Jing is usually trying to steal something that symbolizes some nebulous human concept that's considered unattainable, like lost love, eternal life, that sort of thing… OK, we get it), Kir hits on the closest woman, and then fires a cannon from his mouth at whatever monster appears near the end of the episode. The end. Yawn. We've seen this sort of thing before, and if it weren't for the visual panache this show displays, there wouldn't be much to write home about.
It's unfortunate, really, that the art director, who obviously had ambitious plans for the series' visual style, got stuck with such tired material. Otherwise, this could have been a classic for the ages to appreciate. The production values are all top-notch, which is a good thing, considering that with such challenging art design, poor animation could have brought this entire production down in flames. Jing and his friends are animated with the utmost of care. Kir, the standout character design who almost looks as though he were ripped from the panels of a Krazy Kat cartoon, seems to suffer from a lower frame rate than the rest of the cast, but it might just be his bizarre design affecting how he moves on screen. Closeups are rendered lovingly by the animators, with flowing hair and shining lips and so forth. The music isn't half-bad either, provided you can take a little rock music and the occasional violin solo.
The dub is passable, if not amazing. Jing's voice is a little sedate, but it's hard to blame the actor, given some of the dialogue he has to work with (“Will we find a paradise of treasure, or a frozen hell? Only the angels know for sure.” Oy.). Kir's actor sounds like he's doing his best Gilbert Gottfried impression, which is both fitting and highly annoying. Competent ADV regulars voice the rest of the (totally inconsequential) cast, and they do a good job bringing the show to life. ADV's dub work has done nothing but improve since the late 90s, and King of Bandit Jing is no exception. If you're a dub fan, give it a shot.
Overall, King of Bandit Jing is a rote exercise in shonen formula action, tied up in an exceptionally pretty package and given a high glossy sheen (and a little whiff of artistic pretension). Don't let that fool you, though; art design students and art fanatics will find a lot to love about the visuals, but little else to keep them in their seats. Shonen fans will probably find something to love, but won't stick around for long. It's an odd little show that doesn't have overwhelming appeal to any particular audience. Here's hoping the storyline improves over the final two volumes.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A-
+ Amazing visuals, great animation
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