King of Bandit Jing Anime Review
Ou Dorobou Jing
Thief King Jing
US Release By
Thief Fantasy/Sci-Fi Action
13 25-minute episodes
2002-05-15 - 2002-08-14
Able to steal teeth right out of a man's head, and the heart of young girls everywhere, is the famed King of Bandits. But who is this guy, really?
The answer is a young boy named Jing, probably not much older than 14, who is armed with a retractable blade on his right arm and a talking, womanizing bird named Kir (or Keel, depending on which version you're watching). The bird is Jing's trump card--he can latch on to his arm and fire bright green balls of energy, called "the Kir Royale." They make an odd pair indeed, but they are the perfect team if you need something stolen (or, if you're a pretty girl, to be rescued).
Together they wander a mysterious fantasy world that combines magic and technology, stealing, romancing and generally looking cool.
As can be surmised, Jing does not have much of a plot. His adventures are very episodic and as far as I can tell from the first four installments, characters are used and discarded from episode to episode, Pokemon style. Or rather, Lupin III style--'Jing' shares many resemblances to Lupin, in terms of cool thief-action and occasional silliness.
But what Jing lacks in continuous plot and characterization (although Jing and Kir are likable enough) it makes up for in detail and style. The world Jing lives in is a weird blend of fantasy and technology, and is reminiscent of Trigun's Planet Gunsmoke in that each town/city (each more bizarre than the last) are visited for the duration of about an episode until Jing solves whatever oddball problem the residents are having. The clothes, villains and desert settings between cities are also similar.
As a result, the settings are colorful and really strange. The building sometimes slant at odd angles, creating a nightmarish look, and range from bright and sunny to downright spooky. And for some reason, a lot of the cities are named after alcoholic drinks (Cognac and Vodka are mentioned in the first episode alone, followed by Blue Hawaii and Adonis).
It's details such as these that really make Jing fun to watch. The world Jing's characters occupy seems based on its own little rules and it would be cruel to point them out; it encourages you to watch with an open mind, a lounge chair and a cool beverage in your hand. Nobody questions how or why Jing owns a talking bird, or why it can fire energy balls from its mouth. The dialogue is snappy and clever (though I was watching a fansub, I'm pretty sure it was accurate).
Kir: A hot springs without a woman is like... Jing: ...a martini without an olive? Kir: No, more like an olive without a martini.
Each episode mainly consists of, like the early episodes of Trigun, a bunch of people in trouble with Jing and Kir stepping in to help (usually they're there to steal something). Also Trigun-esque are the villains, who range from an evil mayor to a demonic anchor. Other interesting one-shot characters include a spunky young police officer and a hot air balloon manned by naked pirates.
Wonderfully and surprisingly though, are the ways 'Jing' uses the object to be stolen as a metaphor for the message of the episode.
Possible SPOILER: For example, in a city filled with Time obsessed people, Jing discovers a whole room full of grapes that are actually made of bunches of clocks; he ignores these interesting prizes, however, and goes for the naturally grown "True Grapes"--the grapes that have escaped the grip of Time, which has been the underlying message all along. end SPOILER
"Jing" does a good job of packing lots of tasty tidbits into the space of one episode. You might have to concentrate a little harder than one might for your typical action-anime-romp--but not much harder.
The animation is quite good, but nothing special; it's quickly overwhelmed by the scenery and cool character design, but it fulfills its purpose well. The music is a fast-paced track designed to get adrenaline up, and there are some other pieces that fit the mood well. Neither the animation nor the music is obtrusive in any way.
...It would be asking a lot to try and find anything deeper than light-hearted action in Jing, but it's there if you look close. All in all, this is a fun series that borrows elements from at times looks like Trigun, Lupin III and Robin Hood (mixed in with a bunch of other series I can't remember right now, but seem similar). I would recommend it to most people, and to younger brothers with small attention spans.
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Notes and Trivia
The version I saw was a fansub by AnimeJunkies on VHS, but it has since been picked up by ADV Films. For the official English release, ADV decided to go with the original if grammatically questionable English title, using the singular "Bandit". You can check out ADV's official Jing site.
US DVD Review
The DVDs feature the ADV basics: Japanese and English soundtracks, an English subtitle track, creditless opening and closing animation sequences, and production sketches. The first disc is available with or without an artbox that holds the rest of the series.
Mild violence, womanizing and mildly complex plot themes.
Violence: 1 - People burst through walls, comedic slapstick.
Nudity: 1 - A short skirt in the second episode.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - A kiss and bouncing breasts in the second episode.
Language: 1 - One sh-word that I can remember, but nothing much objectionable.