Heat Guy J Anime Review
US Release By
Futuristic Martian Starsky and Hutch
26 25-minute episodes
2002-10-01 - 2003-03-25
What's In It
- Violence: 2 (moderate)
- Nudity: 2 (moderate)
- Sex: 2 (moderate)
- Language: 2 (moderate)
In the future on Mars in some mega futuristic city, the mafia is really hitting hard. The city has laws against the building of androids, but decides since the crime problem is so bad to break their own law and build an android policeman named J (who amazingly, is not a pretty girl but is instead a hulking male). They team him up with Daisuke Aurora in a new special unit, and together the two of them fight crime (and if he had been a pretty girl, he would be in love with Daisuke. But luckily he is neither a pretty girl nor in love with Daisuke, especially since the latter without the former would be extremely creepy).
I've done something horrible. No, I remembered to do the dishes. No, I turned in my homework. No, I didn't assassinate John F. Kennedy. I watched MTV.
Okay, only I think that's horrible, but man do I think it's horrible. I'm not gonna cash in my chips because anime becomes a teeny-bopper trend, but I sure don't fancy having to sit through a bunch of dumb frat boys using the three brain cells bouncing around the insides of their heads to put forth their idiotic and unsolicited opinions on my favorite hobby. It is MTV, more than anything, which causes me to believe that there is no hope left for humanity. And no, I don't think the faithful will go to heaven. We'll all be stuck together as society sinks down the crapper. Yes, I know I'm an old curmudgeon.
But this isn't a review of MTV or of my analysis of American society. This is a review of Heat Guy J, and I want to ask what TechTV was doing licensing that pile of #$%* Geneshaft when this was sitting in, um, Geneon's product lineup. In fact, that question became even more relevant when I found out that not only was this published by the same company as Geneshaft, it was also made by the same director (Kazuki Akane) and the same animation company (Satelight). I can find only two differences between the production of Heat Guy J and that of Geneshaft: One had character designs by Escaflowne's Nobuteru Yuuki (maybe he was the real brains behind Escaflowne). And one is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
What Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop, and Trigun do for westerns, Heat Guy J does for police shows. That is basically to take the conventions of the genre and plunk it in the future, adding some more anime-like characteristics on the way. The episodes are all pretty self-contained and most simply exercise modern-day crimes the way they would be in the future, many having to do with the mafia I mentioned in the synopsis. A few focus on more futuristic crimes, such as the guys who make guns (which is illegal) and the man who coaxes people into leaving the city so he can steal their identities and give them to illegal immigrants (that's sort of modern, I guess). Daisuke even has a nickname ("Dice") and visits mysterious informants to get word from the streets.
All the characters in Heat Guy J are given the same type of personality as those in Last Exile: basically, you can explain it pretty simply, but it's still original and never gets blown out of proportion. Daisuke is a slacker, but he's very competent and you can tell he really does care about his job, he just doesn't liking working very much. J acts even more like an android than Dorothy in Big O, and is always spouting platitudes that sound very much like what someone would program into an android. Kyoko, Daisuke's superior, is harried, rigid, and demanding, but not the screaming chief of most cop shows (especially since she isn't really the chief; Daisuke's brother is). The informants all have unique motifs (of course there's the mysterious old guy in the dark warehouse), and most of the bad guys are unique too. Of course, the most unique is Clair Leonelli, the young leader of the mafia that Daisuke and J spend most of their time fighting against. He's a weird-looking transvestite with an absurd amount of body piercings and a personality lifted right from Dilandau (unlike Sora from .Hack or the Beyblade Kid from Geneshaft, Heat Guy J actually manages to pull this off, so I won't pan it).
The dub is also extremely well-done. Clair Leonelli's and J's voices are the two best, and some of the best I've seen since... well, Last Exile, I guess. Clair Leonelli is played by Johnny Yong Bosch, the same former Power Ranger who did Claus in Last Exile, but here he's completely different. Crazy, insane, whacked out, creepy, the same magical transformation Joshua Seth did in Last Exile to play Dio. J's voice was a low, deep bass, done monotone so that it actually sounds like an android, rather than monotone so it sounds like the actor can't act. It sounds exactly like a computerized voice that the programmer attempted to put some emotion into. Everyone else's voices were well done too; Daisuke sounds like a believable slacker, and Kyoko is played by the same actress who did Miyu Menazure in Gatekeepers Full Throttle, except much less grating and more natural.
The animation is on a level just below Last Exile, but the computer animation is quite a bit below it. It wasn't integrated nearly as well, and some of the vehicles done in it (like Daisuke's motorcycle) look silly. Whenever a fight breaks out, however, everything stays together, and I'd say the martial arts battles are equal to Cowboy Bebop's. J's fights are also good; since he's a robot, he can fight various freaks of nature like wolf-headed guys with swords and other robots, which helps break up the monotony of the common street thugs. Since Daisuke practically never has a gun, there isn't much in the way of gunfights, which is probably a good thing. There's a type of magical bullet like the Caster shells in Outlaw Star, but whenever one is fired it's shown going towards its target in a lame slow-motion CG sequence.
Since I hadn't seen Last Exile yet when I first watched this, it was a really nice surprise to break up the monotony of all the crappy Dragonball Z reruns on Cartoon Network. I didn't expect anything MTV was licensing to be worth crap, but this was worth a considerable amount more. But since it is on MTV, why don't you go buy the DVDs instead? Please?
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Notes and Trivia
The official Heat Guy J webiste has plenty of info and a number of video clips to browse.
There is a short comic adaptation (available in English from Tokyopop) by Chiaki Ogishima, but it's based on the anime, not the other way around.
Being on MTV, you'd expect this to be unedited, and it is, as far as content, but I'm not terribly impressed with MTV's efforts. The opening was cut and replaced with a lame montage of scenes from the show, along with a voiceover, and they show commercials right afterward. Aside from that they only show commercials one other time, which is better than TechTV, but I don't really like seeing a minute of show, opening, then right to commercials. Also, a purely personal nitpick is that the majority of the commercials on MTV are even more infantile than those on other channels.
I'm reticent in calling Pioneer by their new name because it seems like the reason they changed their name is because the new one is more "extreme", possibly anticipating a day when anime is a teeny-bopper fad. They certainly seem to doing their best in trying to make it one, since they probably offered this to MTV, but apparently MTV doesn't agree since they shoved it off on MTV2 and only show it at noon on Saturdays. I know a lot of people think anime fans are just being nerds when they try to exclude new people from getting in on anime, but I really think we're better left alone. If other people want to become fans, that's fine. But they should go to the anime, not the other way around. Anime should not become the twenty-first century version of disco. Like I said, I'm a curmudgeon.
US DVD Review
The bilingual DVDs feature some additional artwork, anamorphic widescreen video, and two seperate artboxes, one for each half of the series.
Almost exactly on a level with average network TV; 13-up.
Violence: 2 - A few humans die in explosions and gunfights, and J whacks apart some robots.
Nudity: 2 - Some super-skimpy outfits, but like I said no worse than network TV.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - A few brothels, strip clubs, and prostitutes, but no acts beyond bikini-clad dancing.
Language: 2 - Clair drops a few F-bombs, but MTV beeps them out.
Staff & Cast
English Dub Cast
Kyoko Milchan: Kay Jensen
Clair Leonelli: Johnny Yong Bosch
Director: Kazuki Akane
Character Designs: Nobuteru Yuuki