Man and machine partner up to keep the city state of Judoh safe in a far flung future.
What They Say
Super criminals and mafia families have become more powerful than any police force in the oceanic city-nation of Judoh. That's why the government built Android J, a cybernetic crime-fighting machine destined to rid Judoh of the criminal element. Together with his partner, Daisuke Aurora, the most dangerous criminals will soon find themselves on the run. The mob won't take this sitting down, though, and as the criminals toughen up and the stakes keep rising, J finds himself matched in more than one battle.
Contains episodes 1-26.
Heat Guy J retains its original bilingual presentation by using the two stereo mixes for the Japanese and English language tracks which are encoded at the basic of 192kbps. The mix for it is rather standard, though it does have some good full moments throughout it when the action hits. The majority of the show does tend to focus on dialogue and atmosphere and then ramps up with the music and sound effects when things kick into the next gear. The dialogue is generally well placed when needed and there is a sense of directionality to it when appropriate. It’s not a dynamite mix but it is one that is competently done, serves the material well and gets the job done. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2002 and early 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This edition of the release is done across four discs, a drastic change from the original eight disc single volume release, with a seven/seven/six/six layout for the episodes. The visual design of the show is somewhat standard Satelite fare from this time period which means lots of vibrant colors, fluid animation and a good mix of CG included as well. The transfer captures this pretty well with a smooth look and an appropriate amount of intentional noise/grain. There are scenes where it’s upped more intentionally for style purposes, but overall I find the look of the series appealing and the presentation of it here to be good. There’s no cross coloration to be found and only a minimal amount of line noise during some of the panning sequences.
Heat Guy J is given the standard FUNimation packaging for this release which is definitely much smaller than the two mini boxes made by Geneon back in 2003. The artwork used here is difficult at best with the front cover featuring both Daisuke and J together, but with J in the background and heavily shadowed which gives him a Terminator feeling, but also a bad kind of starkness with the white background. Daisuke looks almost too goofy in the foreground and poorly blended with J, though I do like the logo overall. The show has a certain design to it with J that makes it a hard sell and this makes it even worse. The back cover features more of a black and white riff but it works better here with J getting some flesh tones and a bit more color overall. There’s a number of colorful but dark shots from the show and a very brief listing of what the series is about. The episode count and runtime is given a good push though which helps. Inside the slipcover are two clear thinpaks, the first showing J with his façade coming off and the second with J and Daisuke riding fast on his cruiser. They’re colorful and decent pieces, but still aren’t the best pieces out there. The back covers are all black with shadowed versions of Vampire and Daisuke as the central pieces which look really good. The discs are broken down by listing episode numbers and titles for each of them. Another plus is that the reverse sides feature artwork as well, with Ken and Kyoko getting their cover nods.
The menus are kept simple but well done by using various elements from the packaging as the main attraction. Each menu is different with a black and white background where the left side features a particular character piece blended into it and the right side has the navigation with the sketch design of Judoh far in the background. The navigation is very minimal with only play, setup and scene access available and no top level individual episode access. Submenus load quickly but the discs didn’t read our players’ language presets so we did have to actually use the submenus instead of just hitting play and it starting up as we instruct every disc to start up.
The only extra included here is the creator interview done during Anime Expo 2003, which runs about sixteen minutes. The original release didn’t have a huge amount of extras, but the lack of even clean opening and closing sequences for this is highly disappointing.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of Satelite’s first original TV series projects that they brought to the table back in 2002, Heat Guy J is a twenty-six episode show that has a bit of notoriety about it here in the US. When the show was brought over, it was one of the more expensive licenses to date during the bubble with plenty of conversation indicating that it was practically impossible to recoup its expense, especially as the show did not fare well in Japan and didn’t have much of a following here either. It was also one of the rare shows, back when eight volume releases were still common, to have two mini boxes made in order to up the ante on collectability for people and to let it stand out more.
Much like when I first saw it, I still find this to be an utterly charming and engaging show that gave me all that I wanted. One of the big criticisms of it at the time was the CG work that Satelite employs, such as what we’ve seen in other shows like Geneshaft and Aquarion, simply wasn’t what people wanted. The title character alone has a retro look about him which pushed people away as well, since it was a pretty male heavy show overall. Something about the series simply didn’t click for many people, but it’s one that worked well for me as a straightforward buddy cop kind of show taking place in a future that I found to be really interesting and full of potential. Some of it was tapped which made it all the more fun to watch – and rewatch all these years later.
Heat Guy J takes place in a future where it’s been decades since there’s been a war. When conflicts were raging out of control and humanity on the brink, a pact was established and a series of city states were established which have all their main functions administered and maintained by a group of people called Celestials. They come to each city every eighteen years or so for maintenance but also to make sure the city hasn’t fallen to corruption or depravity. Should it, they cease maintaining the functions of the city and it doesn’t take long for the society there to collapse entirely, as they don’t know how to survive without all the things that they’ve known.
The series focuses within the city state of Judoh and more specifically on what’s called the Special Unit. This offshoot of the government is very small as it’s made up of two people and one android. The android, named J, is the only one of its kind allowed in the city by law due to an incident some eighteen years prior. In the Special Unit, he works with Daisuke Aurora, a young man who has a certain way of looking at the world and old-style cop instincts that allows him to work outside the system a bit to be a proper detective. Working with J, the two are the epitome of the classic buddy cop routine with J espousing the way a man should be at least once an episode while Daisuke lives a bit of a carefree life, though he is heavily invested in the city that he lives in. The two play well off of each other and it furthers the idea that J is who he is because of his interactions with Daisuke.
With a large city to play with, there’s a small group of characters that flesh it out in intriguing ways that eventually all tie back to each other. In the Special Unit, Daisuke works with a young woman named Kyoko who has ties to the military, which in turn provides a larger worldview for Daisuke during one story dealing with the past of how the wars ended. Daisuke makes a lot of friends along the Kabuki Road section, which is like a giant open market of sorts, so he gets to know cooks and whores alike. He’s also something of an adversarial friend with Ken Edmundo, a city detective who can’t stand the way Daisuke seems to operate out of the system. And with J, he gets help from Antonia, a machine specialist that has quite the close connection to what she’s helped create.
Within the city there is a lot of ground to cover, and the upper levels play into it as well. Daisuke’s older brother is a city administrator with plans of his own that become key to the show as it progresses. The mafia is present as well as the series opens with the death of the current leader of the groups that’s known as Vampire, which means his son has now staked out that position as he intends to change how things work in Judoh. There are other government types as well that move between all positions of power. There’s also an underground world to the city where those who don’t fit into the upper city thrive as well as a group of people who live far outside of the city with the mindset of not wanting help in any form once you come of age. The diversity to the show is a big selling point, though I would have liked to have seen more characters that straddle these lines rather than the clear cut placement of so many of them.
Heat Guy J works an overall storyline throughout the entire run, though it does spend a lot of episodes doing standalone stories that build up the overall theme. The idea of a city that’s essentially out of the hands of people and in that of the Celestials offers up the chance for a revolution of sorts, but to be able to tell it effectively you’ve got to see the lives of the people. And through Daisuke, we do see a lot of that and it ends with a way in which Daisuke is shown to really understand this because of his new mission. As all the characters are introduced, their stories and those they know help to build the framework of the series as the real details start coming out. Once the Celestials are introduced and we get the material with the military, everything starts to come into focus and Daisuke’s path takes an admittedly easy turn but one that often does happen in the world of politics. It comes together too easily, but it’s such a fun and engaging ride that I can’t help but to enjoy it overall.
Because of the style used for J and some of the CG, I keep thinking that Heat Guy J gets a bad rap. In a lot of ways I find the CG use here better than a certain other company did for a couple of shows during 2008. CG aside, the story and characters of Heat Guy J are a lot of fun and I enjoyed revisiting this show after nearly five years from its original release. It has a good look to it, fun characters and a world that is built well and successfully over the course of twenty-six episodes. It’s the kind of show I’d love to see a sequel to with a trip to the future to see how it all works out. This release is spot on outside of the lack of extras that were in the previous editions, but it’s the show itself that counts. And here, it’s well packaged and done at a sweet price to get it out there to more people. It’s several years past its original release but it’s a show that looks just as good as many other shows out there right now. It may not get much positive recognition from folks, but it’s like a little gem that people pass by that I can’t help but to smile and adore.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Interview with the Creator
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.