"Don't be too cool!"—Theme Song
The city of Judoh, which looks suspiciously like New York City, is overwhelmed by crime. Fortunately, the chief of police seems to have a decent budget: he can afford to hire his lazy brother to investigate "possible future crimes" for the city's Safety Management Agency. He can also afford a very expensive android.
Heat Guy J floats on a thin premise, often threatening to topple into nonsense. It stays buoyant by virtue of its lively art design, whose rounded, almost cartoony shapes (by the team from Escaflowne) recollect Osamu Tezuka, or at least Rintaro's Tezuka-inspired Metropolis. The genre should be familiar to most anime fans: detective show in which a jokester is paired with a serious, and often unstoppable, sidekick. Throw them in a cyberpunk environment and mix well. Daisuke Aurora is the jokester, tooling around town on an improbably chopped motorcycle that would probably scare the cast of Akira. Each episode more or less stands alone, but there are a number of recurring plot threads—the insane mob boss Clair Leonelli (who has a penchant for tossing grenades for fun), the mysterious Shop (out to capture J for its own)—and a modicum of plot development before each episode's stylish fight scene. Daisuke's frustrated brother Shun, perky assistant Kyoko, and sultry programmer Dr. Bellucci (modeled after actress Monica Bellucci) round out the regular cast. The hard rock soundtrack with a touch of jazz flavor (meant to sound like Yoko Kanno, I suppose) spices up the action.
It is hard to know what to make of Heat Guy J this early in the game. Pioneer has imported the show so fresh from Japan you could serve it for sushi (it only just finished its 26 episode television run and is still in the midst of its video release there). So I cannot say whether the plot threads are actually going anywhere, or if this is just one of those show's that is all dressed up but with no destination. As a brand new show, clearly targeted for the Adult Swim demographic that made Cowboy Bebop such a big hit over here, Heat Guy J is a technically accomplished production, its first four episodes packaged in anamorphic widescreen, although with only a 2.0 soundtrack (in English or Japanese). There is a deluxe edition that apparently has a number of extras, but since Pioneer did not send a screener of that version, I cannot tell you if it is worth the additional ten bucks.
Pioneer is pushing hard for Heat Guy J as the flavor of the month, hoping some of that Bebop magic will carry over. But is this flavor worth savoring over the long haul, or is it just a bunch of tasty but empty calories? Heat Guy J looks entertaining enough, but I will reserve final judgment until this series has more time to develop.
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