Another series from Geneon has landed into the hands of FUNimation. Heat Guy J comes a few years after the initial release here in the States and almost seven years after the show originally aired in Japan. When it hit store shelves critics lauded the show for being original and fans gobbled it up, but in all honesty I never actually sat down to watch it. The series has been sitting in my backlog since it came out, though now that the complete series has been release I figured it was a good time. Know what I found out? Everything I heard about the series it true.
The whole thing takes place far into the future at an undisclosed point in time. Humanity has congregated into seven cities around the globe, and these metropolises seem to be remnants from the old world. None of it is really discussed at length in the show and we only get snippets of information here and there. What you do need to know is that gasoline is a rare and ancient item that isn't used anymore (that puts the timeframe into perspective), people can have their DNA augmented with animal genes, and cyborgs are banned from civilization for some reason. With this in mind we visit the city of Judoh, which sees its fair share of crime as those with power rise to the top.
Heat Guy J follows the exploits of a team from the Social Services agency that takes on special missions and works alongside the police of Judoh. The main focus is on a young guy named Daisuke who seems to be very lucky, in both the good and bad sense. He finds himself in the midst of several crime scenes as they are about to happen and his ass is saved countless times over by his partner, J. That's not entirely surprising because J is about as state of the art as an android can get. He's in tune with Daisuke and their lives are more of less tied together in some sort of bond.
Now, I'm sure you're wondering how J can operate in Judoh if the city has outlawed Androids. Well, since J works on the side of the law and is monitored continuously the powers that be have given the team that works with him a shot. There are many points where it is brought into question that J should be decommissioned, but that never really seems to happen. If it did I can't imagine the show would be named after him. Working with Daisuke and J is a desk jockey named Kyoko, though the main focus is on the dynamic duo that runs around fighting crime. Kyoko is just kind of there for support and to offer another dynamic to the group.
With its main cast in place the secondary cast fills in the blanks. You have J's hot robotics engineer, a guru named shogun who dispenses advice to Daisuke like bad fortune cookies, a rival police officer, and a series of thugs, crime lords, and Mafioso-types causing mayhem in each episode. The cast works well together and within the confines of the show they fit perfectly, often changing roles and becoming more or less important as the series progresses.
The story that backs Heat Guy J isn't necessarily as enjoyable as the atmosphere the show creates. Basically what you have here is a buddy cop show about a guy and his robot who run around fighting a criminal of the week. It gets old part of the way through, and though most of the storylines converge at some point, there's not much in the way of continuity and development. The characters are fun and the episodes are entertaining, so I guess that counts for something.
There are two things that really drove home my appreciation for Heat Guy J. The first is the atmosphere the show boasts. There's a definite Blade Runner motif at work here amidst all the talk about androids, artificial intelligence, and other sci-fi elements. I was drawn in from the beginning and I'm pleased to say that the show never lost me up to the end in this regard. The other thing that really stands out with this series is the action. J really busts some skulls here and the villains that are thrown at the Social Service crew are quite fearsome. The animation really sells the action and it's extremely fluid all around.
If you missed Heat Guy J the first or second time around when Geneon had the license, then consider FUNimation's complete release the perfect ticket. This show offers enticing science fiction, solid action, impressive designs, and fun characters. That's a damn fine package, but what really sells the show is the atmosphere. It turns out that the style is more entertaining than the substance unfortunately, but the show is more than just a guilty pleasure. This a viable series that should be on everyone's watch list; science fiction fans and action fans alike. Highly Recommended.
Heat Guy J is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic aspect ratio. Despite the fact that the show was released six years ago in Japan, the series looks incredible. The lines are clean, the animation is lively, the colors are vibrant, and all around the image quality doesn't skip a beat. There are a few points where some aliasing can be spotted, but those moments aren't too distracting. Otherwise this set is a fine presentation of the series, even if it looks like FUNimation didn't have to do much to the original Geneon transfer.
Disappointingly the audio for Heat Guy J only comes with 2.0 stereo options for the output. I saw that kind of sucks simply for the fact that this show has a lot of action in every episode that would have truly benefited from a more substantial showing. Still, the show does well for what it has and the sound quality is clear, concise, and what you'd expect it to be. There's a tad bit of robustness to the 2.0 selections and if I had to choose between the dubs I'd pick the Japanese one. There's nothing wrong with the English track per say, but the Japanese one definitely nails some of the performances better.
For bonus features there are some trailers, which you'd expect, and an interview with the creators of the show. This one features a lot of background information on the series and helps fill in some of the creative blanks that will arise as you watch it. There's nothing astounding here, but it's a solid enough inclusion that is worth watching when all is said and done.
Heat Guy J may not be the most prolific sci-fi piece in the anime world, but it's definitely one of the better ones. The show came out quite a few years ago and because of that I'm sure many of you may already have it in your collection, or maybe have seen it at some point. Whatever the case may be this is an awesome show that deserves to be watched. It has an exciting level of energy, the characters are well-developed, and the style is really a cut above. There are some negative aspects to the show, but they mainly stem from its episodic nature. Even that's not necessarily a bad thing. Heat Guy J is highly recommended and this boxed set is one worth adding to your collection if it's not already there.
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