Here is a list of reasons why you would think Heat Guy J sucks:
- The title is Heat Guy J.
- It aired in the U.S. on MTV2.
- It has girly character designs.
- It has people with wolf heads.
- It has a lot of filler episodes.
- Nobody has ever heard of it.
Despite these apparent shortcomings, Heat Guy J is actually a high quality series. Let’s take a look at those problems and see if they are actually problems or not.
First of all, the title. Heat Guy J. What the fuck does that mean, anyway? It’s a reference to the android character, J, and the fact that when he’s in action he builds up a ton of heat (get it, heat guy, lololololol, sigh, I know…) and needs to expel it at various points. Sounds dumb? Not really. It works well in the context of the series, and it isn’t like the title is all that bad considering it’s anime. The title does actually reference something in the series. It isn’t some crazy-ass, nonsensical title like I My Me Strawberry Eggs, Fruits Basket, Sumomomo Momomo, Pumpkin Scissors, XXXholic, Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, and… well, you get the idea. Overall, a title like Heat Guy J actually refers to the titular character, and isn’t completely fucked. Verdict: not a problem.
Second, it did in fact air on MTV2 during the height of the early 2000′s U.S. anime craze. Everyone was trying to get in on the action, and at that time Cartoon Network was scoring big ratings (for cable, that is) with their late night airings of Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, Trigun, etc. It was only natural for MTV to want to compete. And considering it’s MTV you would think it would be a mindless waste of time. Surprisingly it isn’t, but more on that later. Verdict: not a problem.
Third, the character designs are a bit… off. Everyone looks very rounded and feminine, except for J. They are girly in a way, but not completely. A little research led me to discover that they were designed by Nobuteru Yuki, the same guy who did the character designs for Escaflowne. Once you know that, you can see his designs everywhere. And they don’t look half bad. In fact, the entire design of the series creates a well-crafted, well-thought-out universe that is easy to get enveloped in. Speaking of Escaflowne, its director Kazuki Akane also directed Heat Guy J. In fact, it was a real Escaflowne reunion as a number of other crew members returned to work on Heat Guy J. And voice actors for Allen and Dryden from Escaflowne came on to Heat Guy J to play the roles of Noriega and Shun, respectively. Let’s not forget fan-favorite Norio Wakamoto picking up a small but pivotal role as Echigo. So, this series has a great pedigree. It has a very talented cast and crew. The acting and directing throughout is top notch. Once the story really gets going, you could care less about any “girly” character designs. Verdict: not a problem.
Fourth, yes there are some characters with wolf heads. According to the mythology of the series, hardened criminals are given a cosmetic procedure to look like animals, forever marking them as outcasts, unable to interact with the rest of society. OK, it makes sense in the context of the universe that was laid out. It’s not like a generic fantasy series where there are a bunch of talking animal characters just for the hell of it. The wolf-head people aren’t much of a presence in the series, anyway. They are mostly minor villains. There is one more central character with the same affliction, but his storyline is handled well, and he kicks tons of ass in action sequences so all is forgiven. Verdict: not a problem.
Fifth, you could say that this series has a lot of filler episodes in the same way that Cowboy Bebop has a lot of filler episodes. Sure, a good chunk of the 26 episode run have plots that are self contained and do nothing to advance the overall story. However, they give you a far better sense of the characters, their motivations, their personalities, their morals, and how they interact with one another. Heat Guy J is really a character-driven affair. Series like that are usually better than series that are plot driven with little character development. After all, if you know enough about the characters populating the series, then you are more likely to care about them, and become far more invested their outcomes. That’s not to say there is no story. Trust me, there is. A lot of the intrigue pops up around the halfway mark, and then when there are five episodes left, things really kick into high-gear, and the plot hurtles forward at a quick pace. It is very well-written and well-paced. Plus, it has plenty of action sequences which are long enough to satisfy any action-junkie but not so drawn out that they every become boring. Verdict: not a problem.
Sixth, nobody has ever heard of Heat Guy J. I can’t understand why. It really must be from all of the above mentioned points. The series has a top-notch cast and crew. The character designs fit the universe, the world is drawn with incredible detail, the animation is smooth and they take very few shortcuts, the music rules (J has a very cool, unique Rock/Bagpipe theme song whenever he kicks ass), the story is well written, you get a good sense of the characters, there are appropriate amounts of drama and humor, great action sequences populate every episode, the acting in both English and Japanese is superb, and overall it is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Verdict: not a problem.
This is a fantastic series, and one that certain doesn’t get enough love. Heat Guy J isn’t going to enter the canon of required-viewing anime like Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell. It wasn’t groundbreaking, and it didn’t revolutionize the genre as a whole. Nevertheless, this show is undeniably excellent. In anime’s current, vapid wasteland of no-plot slice-of-life shit, and moeblob madness, a series with a well constructed story, fantastic characters, and incredible animation, Heat Guy J is a breath of fresh air. Sure, it may not have changed the way we watch anime, but it certainly is one of the absolute best examples of the action/sci-fi genre out there. If you watch this one, you will not be disappointed.