Heat Guy J Vol. 1
Adaptations of manga into anime (and vice versa) are very common in the industry. If a book is especially popular, than it's bound to be produced as an animated series. Likewise, if an original series has a loyal following, a manga tie-in will eventually trot along.
Sometimes, manga editions of animated series are produced to promote an upcoming (or in-progress) show. The manga incarnations of Cowboy Bebop, Wolf's Rain, and the various cine-manga that have been released (such as Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, one lonely Akira volume, and Ghost in the Shell 2) serve as an example of this sort of production. They're often strongly connected to the series that they represent, but they aren't usually as complete as their animated inspiration. Typically, one or two books can summarize an entire television season.
Personally, I enjoy these releases less when they're a word for word reiteration of the series that they're based upon, and more when they supplement it, instead. The manga incarnation of Heat Guy J does well at showcasing the world featured in the anime without simply summarizing the events of the overall plot.
The tale is primarily set in the futuristic city of Jewde. Isolated from other major population centers by a vast ocean, Jewde has a very exclusive immigration policy. For the purposes of the story, the most important detail to note is that humanoid robots of a particular build are altogether illegal, save for one exception -- Heat Guy J.
J is a somewhat atypical title character. Even though he's an android, he has a fatherly personality that holds honor and obligation to his loved ones before any other worldly need. He's not too talkative, however, which is where his partner in the Special Services Division comes in. Daisuke Aurora works as J's energetic young partner, and the two law enforcers are managed by the detail-oriented (but undeniably cute) Kyoko Milchan.
It's the job of the Special Services Department to stop crimes before they take place. Thus, they seek out and investigate odd events that transpire in the city. Rumors and gossip are often all they have to go on, although crimes tend to find them as frequently as they find a crime that's about to take place.
Whether Daisuke has good or bad luck is unclear, but he does have a knack for finding himself in the center of criminal activity.
Many of the main characters from the anime series make an appearance in this one-book release, and the interpersonal dynamics between them all are touched upon briefly, at least. From Kyoko's unrequited crush on Shun, Daisuke's older brother, to Daisuke's unrequited crush on J's exceedingly attractive creator, Antonia Bellucci, a lot of little details seep into the quickly told story presented in the manga.
The artwork matches the look of the anime quite well, which is fortunate. The series boasts imaginative and attractive character designs which fall somewhere between the more realistic modern anime styles used today, with the slight exaggeration of classic artists, such as Osamu Tezuka and Shotaro Ishinomori. It is as pleasurable to see them in print as it is to see them on the screen.
For those who care, there are no honorifics included in the text, but the sound effects are left untranslated, and in general, the book reads well. At the very least, nothing struck me as poorly written, and the characters' speech mannerisms mimic that of the Japanese version of the TV show as I remember it.
Included in the release is a large section of supplemental material that explores Heat Guy J more than what a single manga volume can do on its own with only artwork. It's enough to make up for the brevity of this release, although this book isn't really meant to replace the TV series. Its true purpose is to generate interest in the anime version of Heat Guy J. Given the interesting setting that it provides, along with some sexy character designs and engaging action sequences, it should serve well in its intended capacity.
If you haven't yet seen Heat Guy J on MTV or DVD, perhaps you should give the book a try. If you like what you read, I think it works even better as an anime series. However, the manga edition works well as a supplement for people who have already seen the series, and who want to see J from a slightly different perspective. As a tie-in, it's a good book, worthy of being read as a stand-alone work. Now we just need a sequel series.