Heat Guy J Vol. #5 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, March 30, 2004

What They Say
Claire's fall unleashes the violent ambitions of Judoh's syndicates. In the middle of the hunt for the fallen Vampire, Daisuke discovers the truth about his father's assassination and Boma's past. Yet the most explosive shock comes when J battles J to the death!

The Review!
After the various events of the past couple of volumes, things slow down a bit here as the direction begins to come in clearer and you can get an idea of where things may be going.

We listened to this show in its original language of Japanese since that's our language of choice. The show is done up in a pretty standard stereo mix but with just enough depth and directionality to service an action oriented series like this. Dialogue is nice and clear and the action sequences provide some good movements. We didn?t notice any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in late 2002 and on into 2003, Heat Guy J is another series that?s using the latest technologies and methods to mesh the anime and CG world together and manages to produce an impressive piece of work. The transfer here is very clean looking, presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for anamorphic playback. Colors are rich and deep and the blacks and grays are very detailed. Cross coloration and aliasing are both pretty much non-existent, which means that there was basically nothing to complain about while watching this show.

While the foil hasn't worked the best overall for this series, it's done well enough with this cover. In a split image with the top and bottom being character pieces of Clair and Daisuke, the center image of the mafia building with the foil works well while a full length shot of Daisuke goes through all of it. It's a bit heavy on artwork of him and doesn't help the balance much. If that part had been left off I think it would have looked better. The back cover uses the foil more with the backgrounds and provides a decent summary of the shows premise and a quick listing of the features. With no volume numbering anywhere, the episode titles and numbers on the back cover is the only way to tell what volume you have. The insert starts off with the chapter listings for all four episodes with screenshots for all of them. It opens up to a two-panel spread that has the front cover artwork but without the foil or logos while the back of the insert just has a piece of sketch work of Boma. The reverse cover, visible here through the clear keepcase, is basically all red outside of the couple of outline sketches done in white of Boma.

The main menu provides a fun menu layout done up in the way that J sees everything through his optical sensors. With small menus floating around and animation playing in the background along with some fast moving music, it?s a slick little piece that reminds me again why I like Nightjar so much. The menus load quickly and access fast without any annoying transitional animations.

The only extra included in this volume is a brief art gallery, but a good one as it has the eight original Japanese pieces of cover art for their DVD run.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the past two volumes have dealt with some of the larger things going on, such as the Eternals that helped give an idea of how the world really works now with the various city states, but also with the fall of Vampire and the changing of the guard in the mafia family of the Judoh city state. Both have been pretty sizeable events that have changed the course of events nicely, so a few episodes to deal with some more subtle material was welcome.

What?s interesting is that even though the episodes aren?t big overarching pieces, they manage to bring more revelations to the plate and help clear up things that have been something of a mystery, so that now there?s some sense of where the show is actually intending to go instead of just a buddy copy style episodic series that it initially felt like. The series has done a job of getting Daisuke into meeting new cultures and groups since its inception and we see one of the more radically different groups once more in this volume as Shun has finally convinced him to go to Siberbia to get a feel for the place.

As Siberbia is a place on the Outside and has shunned much of what makes the city a city, the people there are radically different. But unlike other science fiction shows that would show a community working hard together, what we have instead is a community that?s so set on self reliance that they don?t help each other in any way. If you?re just sitting around and some old woman is having a hard time lugging her kill along, well, that?s her problem. In fact, it?d shame both her and you if you tried to help her. So as Daisuke and J try to grapple with the differences here, he gets to see how the society is different and the key reasons behind it. It?s actually a pretty weak episode, but it leads into the upcoming elements of why Shun has been pushing him to go there among other places recently.

Though Daisuke does pretty much get the idea behind the differences, he?s still not taking it all as seriously as Shun wants him to, because their larger goal of freeing the city from the Eternals involves society collapsing into something unknown for some time before it can all get back under some form of control. Convinced that he has to make a drastic change to how Daisuke is living, he ends up firing him from his job, brings Kyoko back into the main office and basically puts J on ice for awhile. Daisuke is left unemployed, poor and with no direction. All so that Shun can give him one more view into how the world works and to convince him that his plan is the right one and must be taken seriously.

What Shun forgets is that Daisuke is pretty good at what he does, and he?s basically spent his time surviving through all sorts of situations. So now that he?s essentially free and on his own, he gets himself wrapped up in a couple of amusing situations, such as dealing with Clair, the former Vampire. Though the character is likely still going to be someone we?re going to hear from, now that he?s left with just one bodyguard and a messed up head, we see just how low he?s sunk. But the one thing he still does have is the only access key to the fortunes sealed away, and his retina scan is required for it. Without him to control the Families now, and the new Vampire not strong enough to hold all of them together, it?s turning into a massive war in the streets looking for him, something that Daisuke gets caught up in pretty easily.

While things don?t turn out all right in the end, things are definitely not as they started and Daisuke now finds himself in a strange position of power and influence but separated from his brother, probably one of the times in their lives that this has happened. Using it, he brings those he needs back under his sway and influence and sets about living life as he wants to live it. This new twist looks to make an interesting mark on the second half of the series and Shun?s plans as well. I definitely like seeing how Daisuke manages all of this and does it with such a lack of care but with that wink that says he?s really paying much more attention to things.

In Summary:
Though this volume seems set to just play out a few episodic scenarios, what we get instead is a shift in direction across the four episodes and a closing of the gap of just who is aligned with who as the larger plot really comes into focus. Daisuke manages to pull off some rather fun moments here and it all ends on a really fun episode that deals with multiple J's running beating the snot out of each other, providing some good clean robot fighting fun on top of all the politics and intrigue of a city and the mafia families. This series continues to be very much a fun one to watch for its story and a great one to watch visually. Very recommended.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Japanese DVD Cover Art

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Heat Guy J