Wednesday, September 30, 2015

:anime: Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: Heat Guy J

Poor J…

[Post Date: Oct. 6, 2015. Intended Post Date: Sept. 30, 2015. ]

Heat Guy J

Official Sites: Japanese, English
Additional Links: ANN Entry, MAL Entry
Video [Free {Streaming}]: Hulu,, YouTube

For some reason—and, appropriately, always unintended—I seem to often find myself doing a set of "commemoration" posts for a particular creator around this time of year (between August and October). It is just one of those strange things that occur, but once I find myself covering topics closely associated with someone or a studio, I usually find myself saying, "what the heck?" and just going along with it with a few additional posts. This time, it has been a mix of studio Satelight and director Kazuki Akane, who directed a number of titles there. It first started with April's bonus Pick of Arjuna (the former's first work), then with Satelight's m3 the dark metal appearing in June's "Manager's Special Mk. II!!: Anime Only This Manager Seems to Love…" Pick special, and in last month's Geneshaft, the second of the studio's work, which was directed by Akane. It even spilled its way onto HardDoor: Screenshot Haven with a capture from Satelight and Akane's Noein.

For September, I thought the best way to signify this "Unplanned Satelight & Kazuki Akane Dual Celebration" was to pick out a certain, particular title. One that was done by both the studio and the individual. One that also happens to signify the venerable animation house's unusually-high number of high-profile, notorious flops and trainwrecks (on- and off-screen…). One that, on a more positive note, represents the latter's propensity for the "different" and the sublime. Yes, there could be only one show that successfully fills all of those criteria.  A show that is legendary (if not a byword) for how big a failure it was; the first, and still one of the most notable, black sheeps in Satelight's barn. An anime that, in actually, is rather good and has managed to receive such acknowledge from the few that have actually bothered to see it.

That anime, as veteran fans might guess (or as this mere post has already spoiled…)…is Heat Guy J.

Poor, poor Heat Guy J. It is the kind of show whose misfortunes you may snicker and make fun about even though you know it is good and deserves better. The 2002 26-episoder focuses on public safety officer Daisuke and his android partner J, as they tangle with a major mafia outfit and its new leader Claire, the unstable son of its deceased head. HGJ followed Arjuna and Geneshaft as Satelight's just-third work (how ironic!) and Akane's second in a row there.And unfortunately, it would also become its first (of a few) major blights.

Perhaps it was the lack of promotional art or the lack of promotional art that was appealing ones. J has a pretty good design, but it fares better in animation. He does not have the most instantly-attractive face, either, and with it prominently appearing on those few pieces main art, it likely presented something of an uphill climb in terms of (positively) grabbing someone's attention.

Maybe it was due to coming up in a pre- Internet-prolific era: where streaming wasn't much of thing. Other venues of advertising (i.e. social media, online video) did not exist in abundance or even flat out yet, yielding few ways that could have helped HGJ's cause, or at least shave some of its stigma off earlier. Hey, maybe even "Heat Guy J" wasn't sexy enough a title for some fans.

The reunion of Escaflowne's director and and its character designer, the legendary Nobuteru Yuki (in what would be the final time to date that he would utilize its particular style) sounded enticing enough, though…until you take into account that title's lack of popularity in Japan, or that its greater success stateside lent it nothing, as well. Geneon USA certainly found out the (very) hard way, paying Fullmetal Alchemist-money on what was largely a speculative deal (two years before the title was completed), and making far (far) less of it back (as recounted in this highly-insightful—and often painful—ANNCast podcast; go to around the 25:00 mark for HGJ commentary).

Maybe, the show was simply fated for failure. The kicker, though, is that Heat Guy J is not at all as bad as its luck implies. The production values are pretty good, the characters are interesting, J—whose given nick refers to his immense generation of heat when in operation—is actually pretty cool, the dynamic between him and partner Daisuke is solid, and the rollicking music's fine to the ears, as well. (Did I mention it is by a group headed by JAM Project's Hironobu Kageyama? As "'nuff said" as it gets…) While I cannot speak for the Japanese performances, the English side manages to lend itself pretty well (featuring Johnny Yong Bosch, voice of many a lead protagonist, in his first villain role as Claire). The best part of all of this is that you can enjoy the enjoyable Heat Guy J in its entirety for free—in both Japanese and English—at Hulu, FUNimation, and at YouTube (sub-only, with first four English dubbed episodes). It may never have gotten any love, but maybe you can do so after watching it, and put in a good word for it, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment