King of Bandit Jing: The Lost Story of the Bandit King
Greetings readers, CuriousCat-13 here with a new episode of The Underrated Vault. Do you ever re-watch a series that drifts in and out of your memory because of its simple, yet entertainingly brilliant concept? Does re-watching remind you why you enjoyed it and raise the question: will this brilliant piece of art ever be revived with a remake or rerelease? These are the emotions that resurfaced when I re-watched King of Bandit Jing, one of my absolute favorite anime of all time. Note: I will be mainly focusing on the anime, despite reading some of the manga before discovering the anime adaptation. Also, I’ll just be talking about the main series and not Seventh Heaven.
Story and Characters
The plot of King of Bandit Jing is simple and straightforward: Jing, the legendary Bandit King, and his trusty partner Kir travel to a town. In said town, there will be rumors of a treasure that thieves and bandits seek out and the duo come up with a clever way to steal it. Before they really make any plans on how to perform said theft, a curious character named Postino (a postman on a motorbike) crosses paths with them to give some advice, which doesn’t have a relevance until near the end of the episode. After they succeed in the theft, Jing always has a way to teach a specific character an important lesson. Something that I’ve noticed while re-watching the anime, is that there isn’t a particular order that you need to watch it in order to catch onto what is going on. While there are some stories/arcs that run for a few episodes, there isn’t really a chronological order that connects these stories. I will admit that it took me a minute or two to catch onto this, along with some research. For those of you that are curious about the manga, it plays the same way. Any characters or locations that Jing and Kir come across are never mentioned or seen again. The only “character” that reappears in another episode is the Por Vora, which are cute, chocolate-loving little creatures that can become unstable and explode (which are used by miners).
The world of King of Bandit Jing is simple, yet brilliant in its design, everything in it is related to one motif: alcohol. Almost all (99%) of the characters and locations are named after a type of alcohol or cocktail, the volumes are called bottles, the chapters are called shots, and even Jing and Kir’s special attack is called Kir Royale. In all honesty, I think this is a brilliant form of writing that you don’t come across every day, which is what makes me love this series even more. If any of you were bartenders at one point in your life, I guarantee that you’re going to have the time of your life recognizing the names that pop up in this series.
While there are a handful of characters (both main and minor) that play key roles in each episode, only three are reoccurring characters. It took a minute for me to get used to again, given that most series that I watch have at least four reoccurring main characters. Jing (voiced by Joey Hood), the infamous Bandit King, is a teenage boy who wanders the world searching for various treasures to steal. Jing is very calm and collected but won’t hesitate to use his words as a weapon against certain individuals and teach them a lesson. While he appears unarmed, Jing wears a concealed blade under his right sleeve, which always comes in handy. Other than his blade, Jing always keeps a crystal close to him, which is one of his prized possessions (and has some special connection to his deceased mother).
As Jing’s partner in crime, Kir (voiced by Ron Berry) the albatross (not a crow) almost always stays at Jing’s side. While he spends most of his time hitting on women and wants to aim for targets that give more wealthy rewards (due to his greed), Kir trusts Jing’s judgment. Although he tends to be more short-tempered, Kir will occasionally show his sensitive and caring side to some of the minor characters. Jing and Kir are almost unstoppable together when a fight breaks out. When Kir fuses with Jing’s right arm, they’re able to unleash the Kir Royale (a powerful blast of green energy) and take out their enemies. While he can’t fire forever (it really does a number on his throat), Kir is always ready to show who’s the tougher fighter in the ring.
As the only other reoccurring character, Postino (voiced by Gary Haddock) is someone that you’re always keeping an eye out for. As a motorcycle-riding postman, Postino travels all around the world to deliver mail and will always cross paths with the thieving duo. Whether it’s the beginning or middle of an episode/arc, he always (minus a story or two) gives Jing and Kir some words in the form of riddles that help them out at a later time. After that, Postino is never seen until the next episode/story. While these are most, if not his only lines, it’s always fun to find out what his next words of wisdom are.
As an early 2000’s (2002 to be exact) anime animated by Studio Deen (which animated previously discussed series such as GetBackers and Ginga Densetsu Weed), the animation is very solid and the characters look almost exactly how they appear in the manga. The only thing that readers of the manga will have to get used to is how Jing looks. In contrast to the manga, Jing is given a more mature look, possibly to make him look more his age or they preferred his appearance from the Twilight Tales series. While the fight scenes aren’t very flashy (minus the Kir Royale scenes), they still have this graceful style that is very fitting for the bandit king himself. The facial expressions are both animated and natural, which fit their respectable scenes perfectly. In all honesty, I never found or noticed any goofy animation errors while I was re-watching the anime. It really gave off that energy that the animators really cared about this project and gave it their all; sure, there are some reused clips for certain parts, but the whole thing still looked amazing.
While it’s not particularly memorable, the soundtrack for King of Bandit Jing does have a few songs that will remain in your memory. The opening (Shout it Loud) has this energetic, yet smooth and mischievous tone to it, which fits our main characters. The opposite is what we’re given with the ending theme (Sha Ra Ra), which is calm throughout the whole song, giving it more lullaby-like energy. Most of the songs that play in the background blend in really well and do a perfect job with representing the calm and cool attitude Jing (and sometimes Kir) always seems to express on their journey. In an anime, there’s always that one song that you’ll always hear when some serious action is about to go down and Kir Royale is one of those songs. As the perfect contrast to the calm and cool toned instrumentals, Kir Royale (and the instrumental version of Shout it Loud) is a heart-pounding song that lets you know that Jing and Kir are either about to unleash their ultimate move or ruin someone’s day. There are a few emotional-sounding that are occasionally sprinkled into the anime (because what is a soundtrack without some emotional songs), which are soothing to listen to is you want to relax. All-in-all, despite having a small handful of memorable songs, I believe the soundtrack is worth searching for, even if you’re going to only listen to it once.
While the animation and character design might not appear to be anything special, in comparison to a number of current anime or those after the early 2000s, King of Bandit Jing is still a delightful series to watch. It’s a short series that can easily be binged in a day and has some re-watch value to it. The music blends in well and is fun to listen to in the background while you’re working. While I wasn’t crying from laughing, the series offers some fun comedic moments that are well-timed; along with that, it does have some emotional moments that made me sympathize with the characters. All-in-all, this short-but wonderful little series stole my heart once again and I hope it does the same for you. So if you have time, which I’m sure a number of you do (given the current situation), turn on your computer and look up King of Bandit Jing. If any of you have a series that you believe deserves more recognition, feel free to leave any recommendations in the comments and I’ll check them out. Until then, this is CuriousCat-13, signing off.