King of Bandit Jing: Volume Four Review
The charismatic young Bandit King we have come to know over the past three volumes embarks on his final journey of the series, with the writers choosing to bring the proceedings to a close with a three-part adventure that promises more of the trademark action and comedy along with the possibility of furthering the character to a point we are happy to leave him.
Arriving in the city of Zaza, a location overflowing with Victorian era European architecture and brought to life through the sparkling sheen and twee musical themes we have become accustomed to, Jing and Kir are faced with a struggle to enter into the event of the season, a masquerade ball. Each of the three episodes work like acts in a movie, so over the course of the opening episode we discover the Madame who oversees this bustling town was tragically robbed of both husband and young son (and heir to the throne) several years prior. Since then she has adapted the once legendary event so it is somewhat of a masquerade itself, as replacing the dancers are the region’s worthiest young fighters who enter into a battle arena fighting for both their lives and the chance to be named successor to the Earl’s throne. While the bouts get under way the palace guards are on high alert as both they and the town's inhabitants are aware the Bandit King is among them, but as per usual are oblivious to our young hero's appearance so he is able to enter into the competition and stun the crowd with his deft ability to defeat foes several times his size.
Said to be in town for the treasured "Hidden Smile" Jing has another purpose for his visit, one he goes about engineering by seeking an appointment with the Madame's beautiful young daughter Stir. Longing to gain the attention of her mother Stir has lived confined to the palace grounds ever since her father and young brother were murdered, a tragedy which saw her mother develop a mask over her emotions. Symbolised further by the literal mask she never removes the Madame is left detached from her young daughter as she seeks year after year to replace her loss with a stranger that must aspire to unattainable goals.
As the writers continue down a proven and well-trodden path we are treated to a story that satisfies the publically known item on Jing's "to steal" list through some wonderful action sequences (that are far more extravagant than previously seen given the additional time in which to play them out) and the visual comedy we have come to love (such as one of Jing's opponents who is equipped with an oversized pocket knife for a weapon, or the fight commentator who is quite literally all mouth). Giving the story its heart and allowing us to side with the thief who makes it beat Jing has a hidden agenda, one that always ties in with the item he plans to steal and for this final story proves to have that added something which allows us to see him develop, from a boy to man if you will, and leaves us on a satisfying emotional note with which to end the series.
Sadly my coverage of King of Bandit Jing is coming to an end but one last mention for the animation direction is deserved, which continues to please as they combine the lush cell visuals with digital paint and CG rays of light to hide the limited budget and create a series with a beautiful look throughout, while adventurous segues during exposition sequences continue as we see an avant-garde approach as we learn about the Madame's history, giving the show a look akin to European (or possibly Russian) animation. It really is quite striking.
Presented in the original Full Frame aspect ratio this is another top-drawer effort from ADV Films which delivers the multitude of colours and varying levels of detail in the shows strong art direction. The same care extends to the bold and dynamic original Japanese stereo language track, while the 5.1 English dub alternative should please those with the appropriate setup and affinity for the work ADV's voice artists do. Optional English subtitles are present and to a high standard, with no memorable errors and an easy to read yellow font with black outline.
Extras are limited to some appreciated original artwork stills, clean open/close animations and ADV trailers. Pretty standard really and they serve their purpose.
While it has never been anything more than a series brimming with action, adventure and a few laughs King of Bandit Jing rarely claimed nor aspired to be much else, and has duly entertained over the course of this first series. Highly recommended to those looking for a break from the sci-fi drama and romantic comedy escapades on offer elsewhere, I hope to join you once again for some Jing antics come the OVA release (whenever that may be)...
Last updated: 14/05/2018 09:47:14