Heat Guy J is the name of a stylish Sc-Fi anime produced by Geneon. Based on a manga of the same name, Heat Guy J originally aired from late 2002 into 2003. It has since been released to DVD in the US, and the first thirteen episodes have been shown on the MTV2 channel.

At first glance Heat Guy J seems like your average anime action series. Pretty boy Daisuke Aurora is a special agent partnered with the titular android 'J', and the two of them fight crime in the futuristic oceanic city-state of Judoh. What with Daisuke's penchant for beige suits, sunglasses, and incredibly fast motorcycles, and the glitzy, slightly tropical city setting, a casual viewer might think they were watching something produced in some alternate reality, one in which Japan won WW2 and ended up making Miami Vice.

But upon closer inspection, the show almost immediately reveals itself to be much deeper. Despite the sunny locale and seemingly shallow main characters, this show is serious cyberpunk, albeit with a fresh twist.

The Setting

The world of Heat Guy J is much different from the rainy, neon-lit cities that are so common to this genre. The city-state Judoh, built on an artificial landmass, is apparently not uncommon in the series' world. This seems to be ether a logical way to deal with the overpopulation of the mainland, or the result of some sort of Waterworld scenario. In any case, the city architecturally looks like a cross between Manhattan, New Orleans, and Venice, 300 hundred years from now. There are iron suspension bridges crossing stately canals, the sides of which are lined with old world restaurants, 30-story apartment buildings whose rusty wrought iron railings look like they came straight from Bourbon Street, and standard glass and steel office structures that tower (sometimes literally!) above older iron frame buildings that wouldn't look out of place in 1950's New York. This dense maze is cut through only by massive superhighways and large open air markets all of it blending together seamlessly until you look at the individual buildings. Heat Guy J's backdrop is the real reason why you should watch this anime. It is a totally unique take on the oft-repeated standard cyberpunk world.

The Rest

The characters and plots that make up the series are also not the cookie-cutter anime standard that they at first appear to be.

The Special Forces Unit of the City Safety Management Agency, a.k.a., the good guys, is not your standard super spy unit. Rather, it is an under funded, much ridiculed law enforcement agency that consists of two people. Its mission is to try to prevent crimes before they happen, which means a lot of saving the day, but a low arrest record.

Kyoko Milchan, the leader of the 'unit', acts more like an office girl than spy handler. Her job mostly consists of Quartermaster and resident bureaucrat. This basically means that when the mission for Daisuke looks especially dangerous, she presents him with a handgun (with only 4 rounds of ammo) and a waiver for the return of all unfired ammo. Looks like budget cuts are a problem even in the future.

Luckily for Daisuke, he has the very capable J to protect him. J, the only android legally allowed in the city (think Bladerunner) seems to have been assigned to his obscure position out of political pressure. Despite his discretion, J often finds himself an object of curiosity for civilians and a target for criminals. J is completely dedicated to protecting Daisuke, extremely powerful, and possesses a very dry sense of humor that seems to go unnoticed by his partner. He also has an odd relationship with the female scientist that maintains him, and a habit of venting jets of steam from, ahem, various orifices.

Daisuke himself looks to be a flakeheaded prettyboy assigned to his position due to nepotism, but when it comes time for actual work, he is surprisingly competent. That doesn't mean that there isn't plenty of giant-motorcycle-riding, truck-of-napalm-exploding, one-more-stunt-like-that-and-I'll-have-your-badge excitement.

The bad guys do not fail to disappoint as interesting foils for our heroes. Most of the criminal underground consists of a shaky alliance of Mafia families. They are controlled by a young man who is in the habit of tossing grenades into graveyards and people's mouths, among other things. His scenes are delightfully creepy, and being the main baddy, there are plenty of them. The other bad guys that populate the series consist of genetically altered escaped convicts, mad bombers, mysterious hitmen, loads of heavily gunned Mafioso foot soldiers, and that's just in the first four episodes!

The animation is uniformly nice, with colors and shading that always seem to fit the mood, but nothing that's not expected in a modern anime series. Speaking of which, expect to see a lot of CG work that, while not looking out of place or awkward, produces the reaction 'Hey, that's some CG' every-damned-time you see it. Not really annoying, but it takes away your suspension of disbelief every time.

In Conclusion

If you are a fan of sci-fi or general adventure anime, this series is worth at least a test rental. Its unique take on cyberpunk conventions is worth the price of admission. But for those that go into it expecting the next Akira, you will be sadly disappointed. Despite its interesting characters and setting, Heat Guy J is at its core an animated buddy-cop show, albeit a good one.

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