Heat Guy J Vol. #7 (also w/box) (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, July 15, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2004



What They Say
Hidden loyalties become exposed as the true criminal mastermind reveals himself and takes over the city! Claire leads the revolt against the new dictatorship, but Daisuke and J fight the most dangerous battles: brother versus brother and machine against machines. The explosive conclusion!

The Review!
Everything moves at a fast pace towards the conclusion as the series hits all the right marks.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
While not the best of the series this is a decent looking cover that goes for the action shot between J and one of his fellow machines as they battle it out in a hallway. It's a fairly dark piece so the foil is relegated to the light in the hallway itself so there's a lot of obscured dark blues throughout here. 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 Antonia. The reverse cover, visible here through the clear keepcase, is basically all red outside of the couple of outline sketches done in white of Antonia.

In addition to the disc-only release, there is also a limited edition mini box release, the second of two. This second box has room for four TV discs. The box itself is the solid kind that I like the best for these types. One panel has the shows logo and the human side of J?s face done in dark colors while it splits with the spine where you get the mechanical portion of his face with the shows logo at the top. The other side panel is done up in a silver border and showcases a really nice large cast shot from how things changed throughout the show.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
According to the box, there's over sixty minutes of footage included in the extras section. We didn't make it through all of it but there's definitely some solid material in here for fans of the show. Starting off, you get some simple and amusing commercials for both the broadcast airing and the first DVD release of the show. Episode twenty five has its own textless ending due to the way they ended that episode. The promo event is a special screening of the show that was done in Osaka where they showed the first episode and did all sorts of the usual things like giveaways and whatnot. The various voice actors and others come out and talk about their roles and the show. They shift to other places where other screenings are done for the fans prior to its airing to help build interest. It's interesting to see how these events are done and how much fun the actors have together. The Special Unit extra has the lead actors all playing off of each other and goofing around as they ask each other questions. The fun of some of them is infectious, especially when they go on about Sugo ordering drinks at a bar in J's voice. As they go through most of the main cast and then the director, there's lots of jokes and gags that they all do. The last extra is a series of question and answer pieces done with the director and character designer during Anime Expo 2003 which helps flesh out some of their thoughts on the genesis of the series and what they tried to put into it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At the end of the series, Heat Guy J has managed to captivate me just as much as any other episode in the series. While these last episodes do suffer from some faster paced material in order to bring it all to a conclusion, such as the last half of the final episode where you wonder how abruptly they're going to bring things to a close, a lot of it does actually fit the feel of the mood that's being pushed. When a huge city like this becomes the object of a coup, a lot goes on fast and without any clear idea of just what is going on.

This final act of the show plays out much like a lot of Asian movies do in the way that all of a sudden things come to a head and those in power start trying to off each other. With Shogun now realizing just how powerful that Shun has come and what his intent is, he calls in his markers and sends off assassins to take care of him. This has got to be a problem for him since he did take care of Shun along with Daisuke when they were younger after their father had died. But Shogun only acts when the city itself is in danger and this only emphasizes just what Shun's up to. Having seen the coup plans that Shun has put into place with some of the like-minded military people he's working with, it's not surprising that Shogun has decided that the time has come to put things right. Shun's past need for vengeance over what happened to his parents is exceeding what he's allowed so far.

As the power brokers behind the scenes manipulate things while those on the ground themselves carry out the deads, a lot is going on here and it moves fast. When the coup actually begins and Shun manipulates everyone to his needs, the public falls into place easily. Just the few scenes where you see how Shun comes across as the savior is both disgusting and electrifying. That's simply how it's done. As martial law starts to get moved into place, areas like Kabuki Road are closed and the low end of the city is kept under control. This takes on a more ominous feeling as the city council and senators are removed from the picture and only Noriega remains. His particular rise and fall is among the more interesting of the final arc if only because he's the only one that really snaps throughout it.

Much of what has been set up in the last half dozen or so episodes with the new Special Unit plays out well here as once the coup starts Daisuke disbands it. With this being something personal with his brother, he can't have anyone else getting hurt. And with the nastiness that's affecting J he can't count on his support. But as you can expect, the way he's drawn them all together from when they hit their lows only solidifies their support of him. It's corny in its own way but it's a logical path for all of them and how things have played out. With the characters, they've all followed their individual arcs nicely and almost none of them are like they were when we first met them. Their growth throughout the show and explorations of their pasts and relationships has been solid and added to the great feel that this cast gives overall.

As the series plays out in these last episodes, the visual look of much of it is just beautiful. So much attention is given to the backgrounds with the skies, different times of day and the way it affects the landscape. There's a gorgeous sequence when Vampire comes to reclaim Mauro that you feel tense about since you can't be sure how it's going to play out considering how they ended their relationship. The look that Shun has over the city, be it rain or shine, is just stunning. But it's the night time sequences that are the most appealing with the dark set blues in the sky as the green from the city rises up to them. There's even a scene where we get to see Edmundo from a low angle and watch as the dark clouds pass overhead in the night sky. There's just something about it since it's so normally not done that is just captivating as it adds so much to the scene.

In Summary:
While it ends faster than I think it should and could have used one more episode to flesh things out, the end of the series plays out both in interesting and unexpected ways as well as going for certain expected paths. Heat Guy J turned into a real surprise of the show considering how much it had been badmouthed by people who saw it prior to its release. I'll chalk it up to different tastes, but there's just something about this show that really appealed not only to me but to my wife who would normally not care for something like this. Presentation is definitely a huge plus in this case as the series animation from character to background design is just gorgeous. With it being an anamorphic show, watching this on our 50" screen in the middle of the night, it simply sucked us in. From the opening song used throughout the show to the very appealing end song by Kajiura during the second half, I can't really think of an episode of this show that let us down. Highly recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Japanese TV Commercials, Episode 25 Textless Ending, Promo Event Coverage,AX 2003 Interview with the Director & Character Designer,Special Unit Interviews

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: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98/39.98
Running time: 75/120
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Heat Guy J