King of Bandit Jing: Volume Two Review
Continuing with the episodic structure found in the opening volume the three episodes found here form two intelligently written stories that deal with intriguing subject matter, albeit on a toned down level that can be enjoyed by both adults and key demographic (young teens) alike.
The opening story takes place in the Technicolor city of Pompeii and by the end draws a wonderful parallel to the real life city noting its current image will remain forever etched in the characters mind. Though I'm getting slightly ahead of myself here, this final revelation draws some light to the fact this episode is more serious in tone than previous outings in the series. Jing and Kir are in town taking advantage of the valuable artwork being prepped for an auction, but soon find one of the items lined up for the punters is a tragic human life taking the form of the beautiful Fino, the daughter of a famous artist who worked beyond the restrictions of everyday conventions.
Incorporating some genuine knowledge of the art world with forms of painting methods discussed this adds weight to the fact this young lad is a master bandit endowed with a great knowledge on all things valuable. The episode also offers a step up in actual artistic merit as the secondary character designs are quite exquisite with a more delicate look and added detail around the face and hair. These features are then accentuated as the proceedings are heavily endued with effects work, from beautifully lit scenes basked in moonlight to those flickering in the glow of fire; you will also notice an extended range of filters in addition to those the show employs on a more regular basis.
The remaining episodes on the disc form a two-part story where Jing sets out on an adventure to discover the Eternal City of Revaiva and the secret of everlasting life that is held within. Instigating this adventure is Vermouth, this stories ‘Jing girl’ who happens upon Jing and Kir following their rousing entrance and memorable retreat at a young prince's birthday celebration. Laying the mystery of eternal life and the city which holds the secret on the inquisitive duo Jing is suspicious as to why Vermouth would share such information, while Kir is merely smitten by her cute smile and the possibility of spending an eternity with such a beautiful woman.
To find the city the trio must follow an ancient manuscript written in riddles all the while being pursued by an odd couple consisting of an eccentric rich boy and his muscle for hire China Lilet, who do of course add much fun to the proceedings as they attempt to outsmart the heroes only to be turned into cannon fodder at every given opportunity. Following the relatively serious tone of the previous outing this new adventure sees King of Bandit Jing return to its more natural comedic roots. In particular Vermouth is the traditional strong heroine type we have previously associated with the Jing girls, slightly manipulative in her ways (especially towards Kir whose emotions always get the better of him) but sidelined just enough to be the damsel in distress when opportunity knocks.
Ending with a cruel but wickedly funny twist on the lessons learned regarding eternal life and its numerous downfalls this volume of King of Bandit Jing once again thrives on the sum of its parts and the consistency found therein. From the enjoyable new takes on traditional stories to the combination of standard and somewhat perverse anime humour with a quirky, almost British touch everything is then wrapped up with a crisp visual style that has moments of resplendent beauty lightly sprinkled throughout. The slightly repetitive nature of the now unimpressive Kir Royale and the obvious lack of an overall story arc that can throw genuine surprises your way are the only real chinks in otherwise impressive armour, and Jing wears it well and never fails to be the likeable young chap required to carry a series of this type.
Maintaining the original full screen aspect ratio the transfer here looks every bit as good as that seen on the first volume, with each episode being completely free of dust and scratches while the high bit rate allows the detail in the animation to shine through. Colour reproduction is also very strong with the shows bold look and digital origins paying dividends by allowing a great overall presentation here.
The original Japanese language track is presented as it was originally broadcast, in a crisp stereo mix that serves the proceedings well. If you opt for the English dub (which I have to admit isn't bad) then ADV Films have produced a 5.1 remix that works very well, opening the soundstage up which makes for a livelier experience.
Two optional English subtitle tracks are provided, one to accompany the Japanese language option providing a literal translation of all dialogue and signs, another to accompany the English dub providing signs and song translations. There was an unusual problem here with the occasional word either omitted or wrongly inserted on at least three occasions making sentences a little disjointed but other than that everything else is to a high standard with an easy to read yellow font that showcases the R1 heritage, as does the Americanised spelling of words.
Fairly standard (but still disappointing) for an anime DVD we get clean versions of the opening and close animations along with previews for other ADV Films releases.
Picking up where the first volume left off Jing continues to offer well balanced entertainment with three quality episodes that welcome repeat viewing. As such I have little reservation in suggesting you give King of Bandit Jing a try (and if you already have and liked what you saw, then continue with your collection), though do wish there had been a more concerted effort to ensure the DVD offered good value for money.