Heat Guy J

TV (25 eps)
2002 - 2003
Fall 2002
3.442 out of 5 from 1,637 votes
Rank #3,671

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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Reviews

Masakari
8.5

StoryThe 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. AnimationHeat 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. SoundI 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. CharactersWhile 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. OverallHeat 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.

Rbastid
8

Heat Guy J, what a surprise. I first purchased Disc One over ten years ago. Due to the lack of fanfare and underwhelming ratings I took this long to finish picking up the other six DVDs, but boy was I surprised when I started watching. Story - 8/10 Due to the packaging and marketing of the show I really did expect a typical robot/android show, where every episode was a copy and paste of the one before it, always having a superhuman-being coming in at the last second to save the day. But from minute one of the show you find out it's a different type of series. Chiaki Ogishima did a great job of writing a series that really is story and character driven. Very little of it feels like filler, just there to pass time. Instead every episode makes sure to at least tell a little bit of Daisuke's back story and the story of Judoh. Despite starting off as a procedural, with Daisuke and J going around and solving crimes, they made sure to have a great over arching story from the start. At first the serial aspect deals with the new leader of one of the more powerful Mafia syndicates in town, Claire Leonelli. He and Daisuke have an interesting relationship, as they are rivals but you can see the mutual respect, or well as much mutual respect as a sociopath can have for someone. As time passes we see that Claire may not be as terrible as he seems, and that behind all the depravity in Judoh sits a leader who wields his power differently than it apears. Within these story lines sit a few connecting threads that piece everything together the best that they can.  Daisuke's relationship with his big brother is the most import of these, as they both we driven to civil service work, crime fighting to be precise, by the assassination of their father. Shun Aurora is the head of the city's Special Services, so essentially Daisuke's boss, and has control over their funding and the use of J, whom he had created for the service. The two brothers have hot and cold moments with each other and often don't seem on the same page. Other subplots, that all tie into the final story, include the city's underground, where the poor are forced to live, but who have made a thriving city that includes many black market accommodations unavailable above ground. The syndicates internal struggles, which are being orchestrated by a very unlikely hand. And the spastic, and somewhat unfinished, story of the guardians who control the resources and fate of the city. Despite leaving two interesting story lines not even slightly finished (the mutated criminals and the guardians) I finished the series feeling satisfied. The show went places I didn't think it would and mixed fun little stories with an excellent over arching plot. Animation - 6/10 While the series was visually beautiful there were some hits and misses in the animation process. The good includes the great and diverse scenery throughout the series. Each area, the main city, the underground slums and the pastoral outskirts, felt like a real place, with unique color pallets and architecture. I really loved how the main city, Judoh, feels like an amalgamation of many different cities, with elements like San Francisco Bay, Tokyo's highway system and New York's Flat Iron building all creating a metropolis only seen in Heat Guy J. The city was also very detailed, with the market place really feeling like it would encompass blocks of a city and multiple home offices for the different factions all having unique touches to it's occupant. We're also treated to a consistency we tend to not get in shows of this scale. Only once or twice did I really notice a change in animation style, but even then the quality was superb. As for the bad, the show tended to reuse a lot of frames. In pretty much every episode we could expect to see the pan down to the market place, the exterior of Special Services building or the still frame of Daisuke's apartment. Once or twice would be fine, but it almost became comical by episode five how it would just be an expected part of series. Finally, while the characters were all animated and colored as spectacularly as the scenery, their design left something to be desired. Outside of J, every character was someone we'd seen before in another series, there was just so little originality. Sound - 7/10 I really enjoyed the voices used in the English version of the series. While some were recognizable (Vice Principal Uchiyamada and Haruko Haruhara's voice actors) they still put a twist to make the voices fit the characters and not be just the usual one voice for all their roles (Same can't be said for our main villain Clair Leonelli, whom Johnny Yong Bosch voiced with the same accent used for Vash, Saku, Renton and every other character he's ever played) As for the music, it really is split into two categories, the themes and the in show songs.  The opening theme and two closing themes used in the series verge on horrible. They're all over the place and have the musicality of a pack of drowning cats.  On the other hand the songs used within the show are top notch. While much like the themes they are all over the place, they've done it in an artful way. Some songs, including J's theme, meld together so many styles, jazz, middle eastern, Italian folk and Scottish bagpipes, in a seamless manner.  For me the best music in the series comes from the episode Brother, they basically made an episode to show off some great music that was attributed to characters Blues Dullea and Kia Freeborn. Pair those songs with ones often played in the series, yet who's name I can't seem to find anywhere (It's the nice piano tune that possibly leads into, or is a variant of Midtown Blues) and you've got a soundtrack that can break right in to the top ten (though lacking that strong theme hurts them) Characters - 9/10 For a series who's title character is literally an emotionless cyborg (No he's a Android, there's a difference….) there's character development out the wazoo. The writers made sure to keep the main cast small over the course of the series and it paid off. Instead of having the constant revolving cast we see a bit too often, they stuck to about two main characters (And J who can't have much of a back story as he's not human) and four to five important minor characters. The two main characters, at least in my mind, are Daisuke and Claire. Both get extensive back stories which are the main driving forces behind the show. While Daisuke is a pretty standard "good guy" character, albeit with an interesting story, Claire is the much more complex and interesting of the two. And how can you not be slightly interesting when you start the series off by trying to blow up your own father's funeral with a hand grenade. Claire goes on to show many sides, most of which were a product of his rather unconventional upbringing. The pool of minor characters also play a big part in the series. The most prominent being the manager of Daisuke's division, Koyoko. At first she's there to keep everything running smoothly, but time and time again she gets dragged into having to help the guys out. Similarly Daisuke's police friend, Edmundo, is often called upon to work with the guys, despite the fact he at first is rather dismissive of Daisuke and his position. Finally there are two characters who play important roles, but are left slightly incomplete. Boma is one of the mutated criminals  who, after first being tasked with killing J, joins Daisuke's version of special services, similarly Shogun is Daisuke's main source of illicit information, but we only find out bits and pieces of his past. Overall - 8/10 As I stated in my intro, I was very pleasantly surprised with the series. They could have easily made this a run of the mill cyborg show or lazily turned it into a weekly procedural, but instead they made something very entertaining. The only reason I can see it ranked so low is that many people judged it by how it looks, but as someone who is very particular with what I like, I can't see many reasons it should be out of the top 100.

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