Heat Guy J: Volume 2 Review
The previous volume of Heat Guy J settled in the viewer with ease, thanks to the 2-disc offering which ensured that we were able to get to know our characters on a friendlier basis and become intrigued by their environment. For a series that seemed all too clichéd to really work it certainly proved any preconceptions wrong, managing to evenly distribute its action, humour and dramatic elements. In volume 2 we get much of the same, but now the character arcs are truly beginning to form. And so here we have a volume focused on several episodes that do well to flesh out existing characters further, giving us some indication of where things are headed, whilst maintaining an air of ambiguity.
Without taking much of a break, the first five episodes strategically deal with Heat Guy J’s main characters. It kicks off with an episode devoted to Monica and the mother whom she always bangs on about. Until now we’ve known very little about Monica, other than she earns a living in order to look after her sick mother, who is in fact an alcoholic. Monica, being a young girl isn’t all too clued up on adult life, and she takes her mother’s situation as being an illness, which it is of sorts, though her mom isn’t exactly doing much to rectify things. Monica’s relationship with Daisuke has been touch and go; she doesn’t want his help or concerns because she feels that she can take care of herself, and yet we do see the little girl in her, one that does need help and loving in equal measure. Daisuke eventually shows a side to him that reveals just how much he cares when he contemplates adopting her. The episode deals with the story sensitively and in turns adds a little more depth to characters such as Monica, who initially seemed like just a gag character from time to time.
Kyoko is also given a bit of a seeing to (oo-er) during episode two when Daisuke manages to inadvertently intrude on her family life, after her militant grandfather invites him to the house. Not only does it show us Kyoko’s home environment but it also coyly sets up a future romantic subplot between she and Daisuke. Episode seven also sees her take centre stage when she does a spot of stealth infiltration, which proves her to be more than just a desk clerk. And in episode three inspector Edmundo gets a personal story that has him face some past demons when he becomes involved in a case with a loved one. These moments bring out the characters in ways that we probably shouldn’t have expected them to. After all the series is primarily about Daisuke and J, but it’s nice to know that Kazuke Akane has a great fondness for each of his creations.
But Daisuke does have plenty of reflective moments during this volume. His background ties in with the introduction of the Celestials in episode four, who appear in Judoh once every eighteen years. It’s here that we learn of Daisuke’s mother, Nona, in this two part storyline which deals with a missing Celestial and Claire’s hunt for him. Daisuke’s lineage is touched upon enough to generate viewer interest, while still being relatively low-key, presumably saving itself for a later time; although a key development takes place which reveals a link between Daisuke and Claire in relation to the death of Daisuke’s father. Also present is the ongoing rift between him and his brother Shun, and during episode eight a critical turn of events brings them closer than ever. By this stage Heat Guy J starts to introduce some very interesting and quite shocking twists, which in all honesty you won’t see coming. We now have a roster featuring some intriguing characters, some of whom have yet to reveal their true intentions and remain a mystery. But I aint gonna spoil any of that for you.
As the storylines open up so too does Judoh as we’re drawn further into its seedy underbelly. The city is rife with illegal organisations; once these things were all taken for granted, just as they are in our world today, but now that certain rules outlaw anything that might be considered a pollutant, those who are all too addicted find their needs elsewhere. Interestingly enough Judoh’s state of being appears to mimic today’s society and in many ways it parallels our way of thinking for the future. Only recently the topic of smoking being banned in public places started to cause a fuss, and with that added to air pollution and economic struggles it makes for something worth reflecting upon. There’s also the whole immigration laws and cases involving forged passports and offshore communities which surely can’t be coincidental?
You’ll have noticed that I’ve not even mentioned J or any other androids, and that’s because not much really happens. With the series being titled Heat Guy J you’d expect plenty of emphasis on said character, but other than his usual “A man should/shouldn’t” routine he isn’t required to do a great deal. He still aids Daisuke and learns a little here and there; he even gets blown to pieces for his trouble, but for this volume he most definitely is not the star of this piece, and anything that might have hinted at his creation before isn’t picked up here. Perhaps the third and final volume will begin to look at J in more detail.
Daisuke learns that Monica’s mother is living with her and using her daughter’s earnings to fuel her nightly drinking binges. She meets a seemingly kind man who offers to take her away from her pitiful life, but there is far more to him than meets the eye, and it might just tear apart her family for good. Meanwhile Daisuke contemplates adopting Monica.
When a bomb threat is made on Central Tower Daisuke and J get on the case. Nobody knows who is behind the threats but Daisuke is soon led to a now defunct military base where he tries to secure information about the purchasing of explosives. Soon he meets a captain who turns out to have closer ties to Daisuke than he thinks.
Edmundo meets up with an old acquaintance named Elisa. She tells him that recently she’s been suffering from memory loss and receives strange messages on her phone every day. At the same time a string of murders have been taking place and the police believe that they’re each connected to a single culprit, who also might be a woman…
When the Celestials arrive at Judoh for their festivities they soon run into trouble when twelve members are killed, despite Boma’s attempt to safeguard them. While the rest of the Celestials flee one goes missing and Daisuke and J must search for him. But there are mysterious people who want this Celestial, Ryan, not to mention Claire who wishes to show him around town.
Claire starts a fire which soon sees the citizens of Judoh take to the underground, while Daisuke and J head to the water pipes in an effort to put it out. They soon meet up with the doctor who informs Ruma not to go near Ryan. He also tells Daisuke that he once knew his mother and of how she met his father. When they get word of Ryan’s whereabouts Daisuke and J are led to Claire Leonelli, who has a couple of secrets up his sleeve.
When Shun gets a lead in regards to the death of his father, Marius, he tells Daisuke to head over to Siberbia, situated offshore from Jodoh. There he will find an important witness, but as he leaves he runs into a young woman who is on her way to Judoh trying to find her grandfather who is trying to track down the killers of her parents. Daisuke decides to help her in the search, putting off his brother’s orders in the process.
Daisuke tries once again to head to Siberbia, but is soon caught up with by Claire, who is now very pissed off with Daisuke after their previous encounter. With Daisuke and J now out of action Kyoko heads to Leonelli’s casino for a self appointed rescue mission.
Shun is shot by a sniper whilst in his office, but luckily the wound isn’t life threatening. Daisuke accompanies him to the hospital and keeps a close eye on him, while J and Edmundo try to find some leads. They discover that the Vampire organisation has some kind of tie with the assassination attempt. Meanwhile Claire learns of a traitor within his company and seeks to capture them.
Daisuke and J finally make it to Siberbia, where they run into several villagers whose way of life intrigues them. Elsewhere on the island an elderly man awaits for Daisuke, knowing that after eighteen years he will be punished for his involvement in the death of Daisuke’s father – but not before sending out a few robots to take care of some business first.
Manga Entertainment presents another 2-disc release with volume two of Heat Guy J. There is a slight error on their packaging from what I’ve found online (I only receive check discs) which states that the volume contains episodes 9-16, however this should in fact read 9-17.
As things aren’t any different on the visual front I’ll go with the same as before.
The series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Digital banding, Edge Enhancement, ghosting (which I take to mean NTSC-PAL) and compression artefacts bring the quality down. The transfer nicely compliments the series’ extremely bright and colourful surroundings, but it’s during action scenes that a tiny amount of break up occurs. The series also has a lot of diffused animation, which brings out that soft and hazy look that seems to be all too popular in anime lately. It holds up well and should be taken as a sign of the source material.
A choice of three audio options accompanies Heat Guy J. Both the English and Japanese tracks have DD 2.0, DD 5.1 and DTS. I decided to check out the DTS option and for the most part it’s quite similar to its 5.1 counterpart, with some added bass. Some decent separation fleshes out the action, while rounding up the overall feel good factor of Heat Guy J is a great score built up of an assortment of light jazz, rock, techno, new age and even Scottish overtones. The music here is often used subtle as it underscores a lot of moments involving dialogue. The tracks here don’t bring it out much more than need be, but they are solid and there aren’t any glitching problems. In terms of dubbing, both tracks are particularly strong, with the English dub having fine actors in place of their Japanese counterparts. A lot of Pioneer’s dubbing here is faithful to the Japanese actor’s portrayals, particularly with its primary characters. In general I usually find Pioneer dubs to be better all round efforts when compared to other dubbing houses, but then this stems back to my fondness for early Pioneer series such as Tenchi Muyo and Moldiver.
Optional English subtitles are included and these read fine. Can’t say there are any grammatical errors to report this time around.
I’m really liking Heat Guy J; it continues to offer some very entertaining episodes, and it’s great to see it progressing nicely. I also wish that more anime distributors took the plunge and put out eight or nine episodes per release; it’s far more rewarding, and I’m now finding it more of a chore to sit through three or four episodes a time for regular anime on DVD and not having a lot to say about them. With a bit of luck Manga will continue this trend of theirs.