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Heat Guy J Review

August 2, 2005

story 8/10

Heat Guy J screenshot The story focuses on Daisuke Aurora: the head (and only) investigator of a special agency which functions as a complement to the police in the city of Judoh. His brother, Shun Aurora, is the chief of the agency, which is the only one authorized to use androids, the manufacture of which is strictly forbidden. Their android agent is the title character, simply named "J." The show starts off with a series of episodic stories that serves the dual purpose of introducing the many other characters that will become important later in the show and also of showcasing the various locations, peoples and groups that make up the rich universe of Heat Guy J. The plots of those episodes in themselves are hardly complex, though not so simplistic as to be insulting. They are primarily action-based, and bring Daisuke and J closer and closer in contact with the city’s thriving underground, which is modeled much like an Italian mafia organization that you may have seen in Western movies like The Godfather. In general, it’s the excellent visual/auditory presentation of the episodes and the tantalizing glimpses of various parts of Judoh and its surroundings that really kept me interested in the initial episodes, as the plots themselves at first seem somewhat haphazard in the sense that they really don’t seem to be connected very well. This does, however, change later in the show, as the many threads of individual stories established earlier start to weave together into a far more complex plot.

That plot has its definite ups and its definite downs. To start with the positive, there are quite a lot of surprises and intrigue, with characters’ fortunes rising and falling, and alliances being made between former enemies, only to be broken just as quickly. In the context of the well-established universe of the show, I really felt like something important and epic was about to take place, and it was very fun to watch when it did. On the other hand, the show is not immune to all the flaws that are commonly encountered in action animes. The ending, while it is conclusive to a large degree, seems to come rather suddenly, and the climactic struggle seems too easy for all the dramatic buildup it receives. I felt like the show would have gained a lot from removing a few of the less important episodic stories and shifting into the main plot two or three episodes earlier, which would have allowed for a richer and more satisfying conclusion. It’s not only the pacing that feels rushed—some of the ‘explanations’ furnished at the end have large and obvious plot holes, and seem to require an almost total suspension of disbelief to take them as seriously as they are intended. The ending left me wondering what happens next—partially because I grew to like the characters so much, but also partially because the show seemed to provide only barebones information on their respective fates when I had grown accustomed to much richer development.

Still, all in all, I rather enjoyed the story in this show—particularly the creativity put into fleshing out the fascinating ‘world’ that surrounds the city of Judoh, and all the diversity that emerges as a result of it. Little touches and tidbits of information that seem to be unimportant at first are satisfyingly weaved into the larger story of the city and its surroundings. The story of the Celestials—a technologically advanced sect that governs the machinery that allows Judoh to function—is woven into the story particularly well and ends up a lot more significant than it might seem, in a way that you likely won’t expect.

animation 9/10

Heat Guy J is easily one of the best looking anime TV shows I’ve ever seen. Color palettes are vivid and rich, backgrounds are intricately detailed and animated, and the combat scenes, so crucial to an action anime, are fluidly animated with not a single still shot in sight. And it’s not only a healthy budget that makes the action scenes as good as they are—they are cleverly directed in a way that draws you in even further than the excellent animation alone would.

The backgrounds and locales of the show also mean more here than they would in most. While in many animes, you get the sense that the backgrounds are whipped up with a minimum of thought just so the characters aren’t standing in empty air, the scenery of the city of Judoh, where most of the action takes place, has clearly been carefully planned, and does wonders for the atmosphere of the show, which perfectly compliments the little touches introduced through the plot in fleshing out the ‘universe’ of Heat Guy J.

In addition, the quality of the DVD video is excellent, and those with 16x9 TVs will be in for a special treat, as the show is presented in anamorphic widescreen.

sound 9/10

I watched the DVDs subtitled with the original Japanese audio track. The voice acting was quite good in general. The characters sound like you think they should sound, and their voices and speech patterns fit their mannerisms well. J’s deep, halting voice, while clearly identifying him as a robot, also serves well in developing him a unique personality—something that other animes that spend a lot more time trying to get you to ‘like’ a mechanical character fail to do half as well. Boma’s and brutally direct determination; Clair Leonelli’s tempestuous mood, shifting between chilling brilliance and maniacal fervor; and many others, are also very well accented by the voice acting. The other, more ‘normal’ characters, have fittingly more ‘everyday’ sounding voices.

The real star of the show here, however, is the music. While the rocking OP will appeal to some more than others (I know many who love it; I myself found it somewhat annoying after a while), the BGM used throughout the show, utilizing a clever mix of electric guitars, woodwinds, keyboards, and tribal chants, is absolutely stellar. It’s haunting when it needs to be and frenetically energetic when it’s called for.

It’s clear that no budget or effort was spared in the presentation of this show—Heat Guy J is not only one of the best looking, but also one of the best sounding shows I’ve come across.

characters 8.5/10

While Heat Guy J is primarily a plot-driven show, the character development thankfully receives a lot of attention as well. Even better—the development is not of the "let’s have a ‘personal episode’ about one character where he sits there and has lots of flashbacks" variety so common in even well-known animes. You learn about the characters by watching their actions and their interaction with the many others involved in the show. By the end, even characters which at first seem to be rather one-dimensional are revealed as far more complex, and I developed a real interest in seeing what’s going to happen to them. I particularly enjoyed the vicious and cold yet honorable Boma (think Saitoh Hajime from Kenshin) and the mafia assassin Giobanni—loyal to his master to the very end. The one character that I thought could use a lot more development was Shun Aurora, who is quite important in the show, but whose motivations and desires are only explained in a rather hurried and cliché way compared to the excellent job the show does with other characters.

Those characters, in general, are also relatively mature. Anyone who has experience with action animes knows that an almost ridiculous percentage feature the same common denominator—a teenage protagonist who has to overcome self-doubt and insecurity... which unfortunately tends to lead to a lot of whining, complaining, sobbing, comforting and other melodrama that tends to drive me insane unless it’s handled downright expertly. When I watch an action show, I don’t want whiny, insecure lead characters. Don’t get me wrong, I want the leads to be real people, not macho caricatures, but is a little bit of bravery and determination so much to ask for? Well, the characters of Heat Guy J are thankfully angst-free, and a few are downright badass. You won’t see a single solitary character hunched over crying because he ‘can’t find a reason to fight’ or ‘doesn’t think he can do it.’ Thank heavens.

overall 8.5/10

Heat Guy J came in as a surprisingly low-fanfare show, its one break being a brief stint on the cable channel MTV2. It was therefore a very pleasant surprise when I found it to be one of the best action animes I’ve seen—and I’ve seen quite a few. The rich, sumptuous animation, the driving music and the diverse and interesting characters, as well as an interesting central story, blend together into quite an experience. If only that central plot had started a little earlier and been developed some more, with more care put into writing a few difficult to believe plot points, I think this could have been one of my favorite shows of all time. Still, it’s an excellent show, and I heartily recommend it to fans of action or adventure anime, especially ones who are tired of the melodrama and overwrought emotion that permeates many modern action titles.

Anime Info

In the futuristic city of Judoh, some dangers are too much for the police--they require Special Force agent Daisuke Aurora and his robot partner J! When the city's massive underworld is rocked by upheaval, Daisuke and J must struggle to contain gang bosses battling for supremacy. But is there more going on than meets the eye? Who is behind the sudden rise of a previously minor politican to the top of Judoh's underground? How are the mysterious Celestials, who watch Judoh from above, involved? And what secrets lie hidden in Daisuke's own past--and inside J's memory?

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