Heat Guy J Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • 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: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Heat Guy J

Heat Guy J Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     July 04, 2003
Release Date: July 29, 2003


Heat Guy J Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Android J was secretly built by the government as a special agent to combat crime in the oceanic city-nation of Judoh. While J initially appears to be human, the illusion quickly disappears in clouds of scorching steam when he fights. Together with his partner, Daisuke Aurola, the most dangerous criminals will soon find themselves on the run- from the underground legend known as the Heat Guy!

The Review!
The far future city-state of Judoh brings us into the lives of the Special Forces Unit of the City Safety Management Agency. Big words, but what it comes down to is this is a rather enjoyable detective show.

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:
Pioneer’s gone to the clear keepcase well again but didn’t do a reversible cover exactly. The front cover harkens back to the foil covers I don’t think we’ve seen recently from Pioneer, with the front image having the half and half visage of J’s face with one side being mechanical and the other close to human. With a mixture of flames and cityscape in the background, it’s a decent cover and portrays J right, but almost looks too cartoony. 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 page spread with a full cast shot set against the brighter streets of the city while the back of the insert just has a piece of sketchwork of J. The reverse cover, visible here through the clear keepcase, is basically all red outside of the couple of outline sketches done in white of J.

In addition to the disc-only release, there is also a limited edition mini box release, the first of two, to hold the entire series. This first box has room for three TV discs and the supplemental disc that comes with it. The box itself is the solid kind that I like the best for these types. One panel has the shows logo and the mechanical side of J’s face done in dark colors while it splits with the spine where you get the “human” 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 the opening episodes with the city in the background.

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:
None.

LE Extras:
With the first mini box, there is also the inclusion of a supplemental features disc that provides a nice selection of extras. This volume comes in its own full clear keepcase and setup much like the disc-only version, where you have some good full cast cover artwork using the foil paper while the reverse side is the full red with some character designs. The back of the keepcase is pretty similar, with a mix of red and silver showing off some more character designs while the red stripe lists all the extras.

And there’s a fair bit of them here at that. The first section is the behind the scenes clips, which is made up of three programs. The first shows some of the physical requirements the actors took to be able to express themselves during the action sequences, such as being shoved and fighting. Then there’s two separate segments focusing on Saeko Chiba and the recording of some of the Heat Guy J radio drama bits. All of these extras range from five to seven minutes long and are full frame.

The next section contains the opening and ending sequences as well as a music video. The opening and ending sequences, anamorphic, are done in two styles; with the original Japanese text or as a textless version. The textless version also has a selectable karaoke feature so you can sing along. You’re also able to toggle the audio off and on during the karaoke piece to give you the authentic feeling. The music video, “Face” by Tryforce, is a mix of animation and live action and is done in full frame mode. Thankfully, this is nowhere near as bad as the Soultaker video. But part of me wishes it were so I’d have yet another video to inflict upon people.

The next section is the commercials, which has the TV spot and DVD release announcements (in full frame). These spots run just under two minutes or so. Listed separately is a single TV spot for the show that was done in anamorphic. Making the comparison to the non-anamorphic one is fun!

The outtakes section is rather interestingly done. Running about five minutes in length, they provide not only the outtakes themselves, but the intended lines as well on the other track, so you can flip back and forth to see what should have been said. Of course, with a guy like J, expect some obvious Ahnold lines.

The conceptual artwork galleries are broken down into three sections. You get some character art, a mechanical section and a look at the city itself. What’s interesting is that in the mechanical section, you break it down further into things such as J or the motorbike. When you look at J, you get to select which part of the body you want to check out and go from there. There’s lots of pieces throughout this.

And to cap it off, the generically titled “other extras” contains the Japanese language versions of the “FBI” warnings for the Japanese release as voiced over by J and Kyoko, bringing that to full circle.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As this show kicked off, my initial impressions of it was that it’s just the latest tough guy show. Heat Guy J is pretty blunt when it comes to the fact that there’s some muscle behind at least one of the characters, named said Heat Guy named J.

This impression changed a bit as the show progressed and started to really expand upon what’s going on here. If anything, some aspects of these early episodes just move too slowly, but there’s a nice style to it and as I grow older, I’m enjoying shows that tease out the information like this as opposed to dropping a brick of it on you and then spending a ton of time on filler.

Taking place in the future, some several hundred years from now at least, the world has changed dramatically. Only large city-nation states exist now and our focus is on the one called Judoh, one that’s managed to retain many of the familiar signs and locals of New York City. Of course, it’s a floating city-nation that’s expanded greatly with lots of looming silvery buildings and its own sense of architecture that just gives the city a life of its own.

As with any city, there’s the underworld that wants to control things from the darkness. We encounter this right off as the don of the Leonelli family has just died and we see his funeral. There’s only a handful or two of suited men in attendance, but there’s also his half(?) crazed son named Claire. Claire’s somewhat unbalanced and has a penchant for carrying live grenades around with him, such as at the funeral where he tries to blow the casket up because he knows his father love fireworks. Claire’s life in the underworld is a key point early on, as he’s soon named the new don and has to deal with the potential of a guardian family attempting to absorb his own. Add in the inability to really trust anyone and being set off by the tiniest of things and you have a very unpredictable figure here.

To offset this particular villain, you need the good guys. Enter the Special Forces Unit of the City Safety Management Agency. This big and powerful segment of the Agency is… well, scratch that. It’s actually made up of three people, mostly because their mission is quite different. Their objective is not to deal with existing crimes or problems but rather future crimes and their prevention. The unit is somewhat of a castoff by the main Agency and is looked down upon by the regular officers and detectives we come across. It’s hard to say who leads this group, but I’d end up nominating Kyoko Milchan, the administrator and main sufferer of the trio.

She’s the one that has to deal with the other two and all the destruction they cause, she keeps control of the weapons and bullet allotments, and she’s the one that has to continually insist upon getting the reports done. In the field though, it’s pretty obvious that the young fair haired Daisuke Aurora is the one in charge. He fits the bill of the almost ivy league detective with a flair for living, the way he moves about and his way of both ruffling and smoothing over feathers with different people. Daisuke is the one that generally does the talking and puts together all the disparate pieces that everyone else brings to the plate.

That of course leaves our title character, J. All machine under a layer of skin, J is a rarity in the city, partially because machines like him are outlawed. The design of J isn’t quite the same as everyone else’s, as his look is a touch more angular and a bit more out of place. With his monstrous frame, full black look and decided mechanical eyes, he stands out wherever he is. His style is also fairly amusing, as he talks about the way a man should be, usually in regards to something foolish that Daisuke is about to undertake. J is definitely the muscle here, but there’s something inside there that hints at the mechanical soul.

The series for the opening four episodes are pretty straightforward in setting up what we need to know of the world and our lead characters. There’s some good interplay between them that’s mixed with some excellent fast paced action sequences. The animation for the series continues to show just how far the digital age is making good in the anime world as there are a number of sequences throughout here where the depth and feel of the city really comes alive in a way that’s just about impossible to do otherwise. These motions manage to avoid feeling like badly done CG. There are a few shaky areas throughout, but with each new year, they get less and less problematic.

Each of the four episodes here is pretty much a standalone but there’s enough subplot material that’s carrying through each episode, mostly from the Leonelli standpoint, that there’s hints of the larger storylines to come. These opening episodes do a solid job of setting things up and providing some engaging stories. I’m not terribly surprised considering whose behind the show. With Kazuki Akane picking up the directing chores here, and my having enjoyed not only the opening arc to Geneshaft but also to the Escaflowne movie and TV series, I simply find his style and methods appealing. Add in Yuki Nobuteru, the character designer from Escaflowne, to this series as well and you get some amusing similarities (but no pointy noses!).

Heat Guy J was something that just did not seem like it would appeal to me at all when I first saw the cover artwork. It simply looked too cartoony. And then I saw the trailer, which is really just the opening sequence. The hook was in there and they’re now reeling me in after the first four episodes. I’m intrigued by what I’m seeing here, with the history that’s pretty much open to interpretation to the interesting characters and their surroundings. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of this show.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Action Scene Choreography,Radio Drama (2 segments),Creditless opening and ending with Karaoke feature,Music Video,TV Spots,DVD Announecments,Outtakes,Conceptual Artwork,Warnings

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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