An anime DVD boxed set.
Heat Guy J is one of those properties I’ve encountered in my travels but always seemed to disregard in favor of titles that were hotter, cheaper, or just better promoted. The idea of a law enforcing android sounded interesting enough to this self-proclaimed mecha fan boy, but until now the show has managed to fly below my proverbial radar. Let me just say that after completing the show tonight, I shouldn’t have waited so long to get involved! But before I get ahead of myself, let's take a look at the cold hard facts, shall we?
Heat Guy J The Complete Series comes in at a runtime of 650 minutes and contains 26 episodes spanning four discs. The DVDs come packaged in a pair of thin packs within a simple but effectively decorated cardboard outer slipcase.
The show wears an appropriate TV 14 rating due to some slightly adult slanted themes of violence, criminal activity and just general conflict. There is no nudity or rough language to worry about.
Speaking of, language options are typical sub and dub, which means the viewer has the choice of running either the original Japanese dialog track or an English dub (either of which are in stereo) and the option of displaying English subtitles beneath either dialog choice.
Extras include an interview with the show’s creator and a crop of upcoming Funimation anime previews.
The story, which is nice and gritty in its presentation, goes like this: The unlikely duo of young loose cannon cop Daisuke “Dice” and steam powered android J are the (fictional) city of Judoh’s last line of defense against a whole host of criminal bad guys which include feuding mobs, illegal immigrants, and androids sent in from other districts.
The plot structure of each show is a bit formulaic but this isn’t to be mistaken for simplicity. In truth there is an undeniable “cool factor” associated with the title character even if you aren’t impressed with his gray-hair, pony-tailed persona upon first glance. To begin with the art work/ animation segments designed to show the world through J’s eyes is very good stuff. His calm and business-like demeanor is offset by swiftness and precision once the scene turns ugly (and it will, take my word for it). In all the dynamic between the two lead characters works really well and lends some genuine humor to the formula. Dice is kind of reminiscent of a cross between Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers and Crockett (Don Johnson) on Miami Vice while J is equal parts Robocop and Steven Seagal.
Sure the story arcs are merely glorified retellings of the “two underdogs against the entire criminal underworld” scenario, the show’s production team wisely created an antagonist interesting (and challenging) enough to make for some really slick episodes. The bad guys in Judoh are mob families, the likes of which could almost work in a show like The Sopranos. I say “almost” because a perfect fit would demand more violence and cussing than you’re going to find here but the politics, motivations, and friction between gangsters is both well developed and intriguing.
Pacing is nice and fast with very few episodes (even in the middle) that find themselves bogged down with unimportant details or story thread tangents. Rare but certainly welcomed for a 26-episode run.
The artwork is gritty and moody just like a criminally infested city should be. Nobuteru Yuuki's character designs are both simplistic and alarmingly complex through their mannerisms and fluid animation. A few of the CG elements don’t mesh quite as well as they could have with the dark background work but in all the art is easily on par with the remaining production value (which is to say well done).
Voice work, as has been the case with Funimation’s sets of late, is equally powerful in either language option. The Japanese track offers a bit more emotion but the English harkens to many personas (bad guys especially) right out of American pop-culture. Truly one of few properties that can be called equally enjoyable in either language (which of course is the polite way of suggesting you watch it in both).
Conclusion: Slickly developed lead characters, plots involving believably criminal minds, intense action sequences and spectacular voice acting all add to a highly recommended package. Crisp visuals, tight production, and dark gritty environments are the icing on the cake.
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