Heat Guy J Vol. 3: Sins of the City
Maybe it isn't that hard to come up with quirky characters. Perhaps it isn't even that hard to envision an interesting, yet relatively believable future. A respectable budget can help fund an impressive soundtrack and good animation.
Shows like Heat Guy J - with high quality production values in all areas of content - really make animation look easy. However, taking this entertaining series for granted is a oversight that J would not appreciate, despite his gentlemanly ways.
This volume of the 4-disc series sheds some light on the political workings of the futuristic city of Judoh. For the most part, the citizens of this isolated region live happy, simple lives. They know not where their water comes from, where their sewage goes, or who provides their electricity. Much like most people today, the inner workings of the devices that they use to maintain their standard of living are a mystery that no ordinary citizen is interested in solving.
So long as things work, people are happy.
However, sometimes things don't work. Additionally, sometimes people have problems that go beyond technical difficulties with everyday appliances - problems such as theft, murder, or the growing threat of organized crime. Judoh has a police department, but what few people realize is that quite a few of the worst criminals of the town are stopped by a small team of two young humans and a cyborg - before the crimes actually take place.
J, the titular robotic hero of the tale, works alongside his partner Daisuke Aurora under the supervision of Kyoko Milchan to stop crimes before they're committed. To do so, they comb the streets looking for gossip and suspicious characters, and just like any city, there's plenty of both to be found in Judoh.
Not unlike Satelight's other productions (Geneshaft), Heat Guy J uses quite a bit of CG in practically every scene of this show. While it is apparent, it's not distracting, and it actually adds to the style of the show. We're given a gritty future to behold, and yet Heat Guy J is a very colorful and vividly illustrated show. Character designs are markedly different from most other anime series, with rounded out noses and unique hairstyles, visually setting this show apart.
The dialogue is snappy and energetic, largely due to J's character. His mechanically dry lines are brilliantly delivered by Takayuki Sogo, his Japanese voice actor, and the words of wisdom he pulls from his database of proper manly behavior is really amusing. The dub is better than average, as well, which is extremely important, seeing as this show is getting a stateside broadcast, thanks to MTV.
Speaking of MTV (which once, long ago, played music videos, I'm told), the music in Heat Guy J is a really nifty mix of techno, rock, and... bagpipes ...that works a thousand times better than I thought it possibly could. The soundtrack is available domestically from Pioneer (which now goes by a new name from outer space, Geneon), and it is well worth getting if you're into the show.
The extras are limited to 27 pieces of non-animated conceptual art (that is, you can flip through them as you'd like), though this is a nice release from Pioneer / Geneon. The case is clear, with artwork on the flipside of the cover, the insert unfolds into a mini poster, and the show is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The outer image of the case is printed on shiny foil paper, such as found on the covers of Last Exile and Betterman, and thus, it's guaranteed to grab the eye of those of us who are unable to resist shiny objects. It's a curse, really. Both language tracks are in Dolby Digital 2.0, but the creators did well with a standard stereo soundtrack, so I don't mind the lack of a true surround sound mix.
This is yet another series that throws you into a world and a story without really explaining what's going on. By the end of episode twelve, I still don't know who made J, why there's a law outlawing other androids in the city, and a whole bookload of other information that I'm interested to learn, but that doesn't mean the series isn't enjoyable. Part mystery, part sci-fi, with a little bit of noir (the genre, not the show with the girl-assassins) injected for style, Heat Guy J is something different and altogether very entertaining. If you've seen it on TV and liked it, do yourself a favor and pick it up. You'll be quoting J-isms in no time.