I will admit I have a thing for outlaw type stories. I like reading and watching anything that has to do with thieves and assassins. I saw the name and decided to give it a try from the name along. I recalled seeing the Jing’s character design once in the distant past, but other than that I went in blind. I wasn’t really impressed in the beginning, nor was I particularly satisfied when the last line of credits scrolls on the final episode.
So I found out pretty quickly that the whole story is basically a teen with his feathery partner going through a city to steal whatever valuable items are there; and winning the heart of some lady along the way! This happens every.single.episode.
Now repetition is fine for children’s shows, and when you only see an episode about once a week or so. This is because the story doesn’t get as old as quickly. However, binge watching this show was extremely hard for me because it had the same pattern for the entire 13 episodes. The show was episodic as well, meaning that the episodes had no connection with each other, with the exception of the last 2-3 episodes, as the last heist of the series was told throughout those episodes.
Needless to say I just got bored with it halfway through, and I really got no enjoyment out of it in the end. It played off the same mechanics, with a bit of comedy thrown here and drama thrown there.
Art and Animation: 6/10
If I could give just one word to describe the art in Ou Dorobou Jing it would have to be “outdated”. The show was released in 2002, and it clearly looks like it. This isn’t a particularly a bad thing; the style is pretty classic for a shounen of the time (and it makes me feel nostalgic). However, it’s not aging well nearly 13 years later with the rigid lineart and bright colors. The animation is nothing special either, pretty stagnant scenes throughout the show. If you are a person that is really into art and animation then this won’t give you a very great aesthetic experience.
I honestly can’t remember a single moment while watching this show where I stopped and appreciated the sound quality of the show. The background music in the series was pretty forgettable; the opening was a classic mild jrock that was appropriate for the show in my opinion, which was carried over to the ending in style and essence. They both had recognizable and somewhat catchy beats, but again it was nothing impressive.
As for the voice acting - I only watched the english dubbed version. 2002 was when dubs were still pretty bad (but improving) so if you watch it dubbed you’ll notice some misportrayal or underemphasis of emotion, annoying voices, and overacting. That being said I thought that it was translated well enough and the recording quality was better than some other shows that I have watched.
The characters were pretty bland throughout the show. Everyone in the series with the exception of Jing and Kir were only covered in one or two episodes, which didn’t allot much time to background stories. In every episode there was one girl that had her own backstory and was supposed to be the “love interest” that always ended up liking Jing by the end of the episode. These girls were basically all the same in my opinion, and I just did not care about a single one of them.
Jing and Kir are the protagonists of the show, which means you would think that you would watch them grow and develop. Well you would be wrong. I will admit that there is something to a lack of backstory for a protagonist - it makes them mysterious, and we must accept Jing is a well known bandit king and take it with a grain of salt. This frees up time to show off what Jing and Kir do best: steal valuables and do it well. However, the two never grown beyond more than a quirky and comedic duo who are good at stealing. They run into mild conflict in every episode, but nothing that creates a lasting impression of Jing or Kir as characters. This left me a little disappointed.
It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. The show felt more or less “filler” - esque and about halfway into the show I was just done with the repetitious story. There was nothing in particular that made me want to continue it other than the fact that I didn’t feel it was bad enough to drop completely. This combined with a lackluster ending left me feeling almost cheated out the time I could have spent watching something that I really would have preferred to watch.
Spoiler Alert! This show is about a character named Jing, and he’s a bandit.
Story - 9/10
The show follows our titular character Jing, and surprise surprise, he’s the most feared and revered “King of Bandits”. While Jing does steal you’re normal thiefly delights, like gold and jewels, he tends to focus on items that have something a little deeper in them. Each episode, or grouping of episodes, has Jing and his companion Kir tracking down a legendary item that is often more than meets the eye.
Of those items Jing is after, about eight in total, they each have a message behind them. Be it a mother’s love, the greed of man, or how a life focused on revenge may not have the happy outcome you hoped for when you get it, it’s as if Jing finds life experiences and knowledge more important than the physical items he can get his hands on. Only in the end do we actually see him take off with the item he first set out for, but even then there could be a second meaning to what he was looking for. Along with those messages comes one other reoccurring aspect, a pretty girl for Kir to fawn over, who eventually has a strong connection to the object.
Each story plays out on it’s own and can be enjoyed without having any knowledge of the others. They are all comical and easy to follow, but end up having a lesson of some sort at the end. The part I enjoyed most about Jing is that despite being so lighthearted, many of the episodes had extremely tender and emotional moments without being overly gooey, they also were never shoe horned in, but actually play nicely within the story itself, if not also being central to it.
Animation - 8/10
The animation has a feel of combining traditional Japanese styles along with what we would have seen from older American cartoons. While Jing, and Kir too, look like what you’d receive if you asked someone to draw you typical anime hero, many of the other non-human inhabitants of the series appear as if they’re straight out of the mind of Tex Avery, or more recently the Spumco team of John Kricfalusi and Bob Camp. All those minor and background characters are what really make the show, adding a wacky aspect to the show.
The scenery is equally as interesting as the characters, as each city has a personality and look unique to itself, in both the world of Jing and pretty much throughout the entire anime universe. Each looks as if it came out of the mind of Dhali, from the towering spiraled Capital of Thieves, the possibly “Persistence of Memory” inspired Capital of Time or the brilliantly designed Techno Color Town. In an anime where each story isn’t very deep, the towns themselves give you a little bit of story on their own.
While new series have come along that have greater detail and clarity, available due to the newer and more powerful tools animators have on hand, I think the series holds up because you can have all the best computers and animators in the world, but if you don’t have the imagination to create those characters or environments, they are worthless, and Jing’s team had the imagination needed to make the series a visual hit.
Sound - 9/10
Like most aspects of this series, the music, and well the audio in general, is highly underrated. The opening song, Shout It Loud by Scudelia Electro, can be given one of the best compliments about an anime song, that it’s something you would actually listen to even if you heard it elsewhere. Musically it’s a great composition and the vocals sound like that of a really top quality band, it’s surprising that they haven’t transcended Japanese music like L’Arc-en-Ciel or the Pillows have. Not only is it an excellent song, but it’s put to good use throughout the series, capping off some amazing moments in the series. There is also a piano version of the song titled Crystal Note which again is used to perfection as the underlying tune to some very beautiful moments in the show, moments which also sometimes are accompanied by the song Jing Girl, which is equally as pretty a song.
Other songs vary from the whimsical Lady Killer and Dragon Paw, the serene Together We Fly, or the sometimes annoying Kir Royal, which plays every episode when Jing and Kir combine their skill. The many other songs we’re treated to, mostly instrumental pieces, play in perfectly with the shows light hearted and at times goofy feeling.
Looking at the voice over artist it’s strange to see that they don’t have extensive anime backgrounds. Jing’s human, Joey Hood, did an amazing job bringing out a character who’s voice can portray such a range of emotion with only the slightest of variances. While Kir is a bit more in line what you’d be use to hearing in anime, he’s equally as green and also as perfect. The cast of characters that interact with Jing and Kir fall into the same boat as our heroes. Each one has a unique voice that matches their quirky look and personality.
As a whole KoB:J could be the dark horse in any competition of best overall sounding audio in an anime series. Not once was I ever thrown off by an annoying voice or song, never bored by their lack of emotion or aggravated by thirty characters having the same V.O. artist who has no ability to vary their output. This was a show that would be a delight to listen to even as an audio CD.
Characters - 7/10
Jing, just as the title implies, is the greatest bandit alive. He’s wanted in every town in the land, but has managed to stay free in part to the fact he looks like a teenage boy as opposed to a seasoned and grizzled thief. When things get tough Jing never breaks a sweat, and often uses his intelligence and agility to best anyone, or any situation, that may befall him. While not exactly Robin Hood-esc, he often ends up using his skills for good, instead of just thievery.
Accompanying our hero is his sidekick and secret weapon, Kir, a sarcastic Albatross with a love of beautiful ladies. Kir often has a snarky comment in response to Jing, but he’s always there whenever Jing needs him to transform and unleash his powerful “Kir Royal” attack to save the day.
The only other reoccurring character in the series is a mail carrier known as Postino. He delivers mail to all over the planet, and thanks to this he often has tips for Jing about his latest target or the town where he’s planning his heist.
Most of the other characters fit the same niche for each episode. Often there’s a beautiful girl for Jing to help, and Kir to swoon over, and an evil King or greedy villain for him to defeat in a way that makes them look rather silly. None of them are very interesting or original, but they help move the story along and support our main characters.
While the none of the sub characters have a very deep backstory or captivating personalities, they are entertaining and fit the feeling of the show perfectly. The shinning jewel of the show is actually Jing himself, as the creators managed to make a character that is truly likable and who you can root for throughout the whole series. Unlike other shows where our hero tends to have few, if any, redeeming traits, Jing is almost nothing but them, a hero that is actually a good guy through and through.
Overall - 9/10
If you’re a cynical person, or someone who just focuses on anime for the violence or overplayed sexuality rather than storyline and character building, than Jing isn’t going to be for you. It’s a series where you need to be open to actually feeling emotion for a subject, even one as strange as a robot doomed to living forever.
Each episode is a great adventure story that has you rooting for a happy outcome for all those involved. No matter that outcome, we’re pretty much always left with a profound message or idea that it’s worth your time to ponder. The show has a high rewatch-ability factor, as well as a story that should resonate well with a wide audience. It’s disappointing that a series that is so good in all aspects, as well as being a somewhat family friendly, doesn’t get the recognition of others that are just episode factories with scripts written with boiler plate plots used over and over again.
Structurally, King of Bandits Jing is of the same type as Cowboy Bebop: Jing visits a bunch of different cities and has self-contained adventures in them. Most arcs are one or two episodes long, with the final arc being three. There are few callbacks between episodes.
King of Bandits Jing initially seems like a pretty standard episodic shonen series. The first two episodes are in that general style -- with goofy/cartoony characters and settings that are pastiches of existing genres. With the Adonis arc, there's a shift in the tone and visual style toward dark, moody, and surreal settings, and while goofy humor and sight gags remain present, they are heavily toned down. This more or less continues throughout the rest of the show.
In the end, barring the first two episodes, King of Bandits Jing is more similar to Flip Flappers or Madoka Magica than to One Piece.
The only recurring characters between arcs are Jing and his annoying horny animal sidekick, Kir. Jing's silent demeanor fits with the darker tone of later episodes, but Kir is a comic relief character whose presence increasingly clashes with the tone as the show goes on (and he's consistently drawn in a cartoony style that conflicts with the dominant art style of later arcs). While he has a couple tonally consistent lines, and while he has a single episode to himself that ends up being enjoyable, he's mostly a detriment to the show.
In terms of visuals, Jing uses a mix of cell animation & digital filters. The cell animation looks gorgeous -- it makes excellent use of color, in particular -- but the digital filters haven't aged well and look quite cheap.
The sound track is excellent, and fits the show well. During the first two episodes the only indication of the tonal direction the show is heading in is the moody opening and ending themes, both of which are things I'd listen to on their own. The BGM doesn't distract from the viewing experience but is at the same time good enough at tone-setting that it's noticable -- something shared with shows like Rah Xephon or Evangelion that make particularly good use of sound, and rare otherwise.