Name of Anime: Heat Guy J
Streaming Site Used: Mystery DVD sale from Crunchyroll
Episodes Previously Seen: 8
I have made a terrible, terrible mistake. I have gazed into the abyss, and the abyss is a boring police procedural starring a blank slate automaton with no character traits. His partner is a robot.
When we last left Heat Guy J …
In a dystopian future city-state, a buddy cop drama starring a young, blond cop and an old, girzzled robot bumble through predictable adventures while crossing paths over and over with the psychotic teeange kingpin (Vampire-chan), and then solve problems by punching them with robotic fists.
In the last week of me blogging this show, I’ve begun to wonder about Stockhom Syndrome. (And not just because I watched the new Star Wars movie last night and loved it, which reminds me of how I felt immediately after seeing Episode I in theaters.) Because… these four episodes of Heat Guy J are good. Or at least close enough to good that I didn’t hate watching them.
I’ll give each episode a one-sentence summary, and let’s see if you can notice what’s different about these episodes.
-Blondie and robot break up a passport smuggling ring which is actually a human trafficking ring, and Blondie gets smacked down for trying to “rescue” the young photo girl side character from her alcoholic mother.
-Blondie and robot discover a plot to blow up a clocktower in order to remilitirize a peaceful nation with an all volunteer army which is finally a chance to explain the political situation in the autonomous city state the show is set in.
-The alcoholic stereotype cop side character discovers that a girl he’s pining after might be a brainwashed killer, only to learn she’s actually a hologram (the killer, not the girl).
-The festival to celebrate the aliens whose godlike technology keeps the city running takes a strange turn when an alien overlord takes a vacation to the sewer city, where Vampire is planning on blowing up the city.
The first thing absent from these episodes is that not once is a problem solved with robot punching. This single change ripples throughout the plot. The most interesting fight in the entire series to date happens between Blondie-chan and some human traffickers. The motion is surprisingly fluid, with extensive deformations to limbs to showcase human martial arts, which is significantly more interesting than a robot throwing slow haymakers.
The human trafficking episode is an effective take on the structure of “crime rumor, Daisuki’s personal life, turns out they are connected” for two reasons. The first is that the entire episode brings depth to a side character that was previously just a stereotype. The knowledge that the picture girl is supporting an alcoholic mother brings new depth to all of her previous interactions with Daisuki.
The ending of this episode is the first surprising moment in the show so far. Daisuki attempts to adopt to girl in order to “save” her.
This is how it ends.
The realization that Daisuki does not know best is perfect, because it’s accurate (Blond-chan is a spoiled brat who’s thinks he’s better than everyone), and because it’s not at all the direction the show was heading even moments before the scene.
Also, I got to watch the “likable” character elbow a little girl in the face.
The next episode is actually worth analysis, which surprises me as well. As I said in my Gate article, one of the obsessions of modern anime is Japan’s demilitarized place in global society. This Heat Guy J episode is interesting because, while it is a much earlier engagement with the same ideas, it comes to a different conclusion. (Also, unlike Gate, it separated the sexual entitlement issue from the status of military heroes.)
There’s also one of the first bits of real world-building in the entire show. We learn that that the current demilitarized state of society (and the reduction of the nation into a literal city-state) all occurred because of the last war.
We also see the state of the modern military. There are strong-chinned men who fought in the “real” war:
And everyone else:
Which includes a geriatric Mickey Mouse man. Don’t worry. His ears are never explained.
The actual terrorists in this case are trying to argue for the re-militarization of the nation, and are almost a stand-in for all of the creators and fans of modern military anime shows. That Heat Guy J identifies these tendencies as representing a dangerous pathology years before they would become part of the terminal state of anime reflects a totally different set of value judgments on the part of the creators than the people making anime now. I suspect that the creators of this show spent more of their time being inspired by the world around them, rather than being inspired by other anime shows. As citizens of Japan they probably felt that the demilitarization of both civil and military society was a net benefit for their country.
The next episode is a surprisingly affecting detective story, starring the actual detective who is usually just a unpleasant foil for Blond-chan. He’s in love with a girl with memory problems. Maybe she’s being brainwashed, maybe not.
It turns out that the killer girl is just a hologram, which is effective because the detective still can’t get the girl because of her emotional issues. The reminder that in a work like this all of the minor characters are more than NPCs, that they have goals, hopes, or in this case, a life of quiet desperation, is something that all fiction should express.
Also in this episode, the show’s single creepiest character design gets punched in the face. It’s awesome.
The last episode that I’m watching of this show is the first part of something larger, but actually does enough world-building to make the rest of the show work better.
In the course of this episode we learn that the autonomous city-state gets its technology from weird technological overlords called Celestials.
We learn that Blond-chan and his brother are half-Celestial (on their mother’s side). Which provides a much belated explanation as to why Blond-chan is so good at everything, an explanation that is welcome despite the somewhat nasty eugenics overtones.
We also meet Hot Cat-guy again. He’s now officially a main character and a good guy. Of course, we also learn that the magic sky people can see through his holo mask and that he’s constantly weeping for his sister. This character is a prototype of the dark, brooding bishie type that fangirls squee over.
We also learn that the society of mole people under the city are maintaing all of the technology that keeps the overcity functional. This explanation came several episodes after the sewer adventures, and finally explained why there is an unmolested undercity that cops just ignore.
This episode, and my time with this show, ends with a cliffhanger. Vampire, showing up for the first time in the disc, is dumping explosives into the water, and is going to blow up the city. Vampire, it turns out, follows something of the conversation of ninjutsu in screen time. The less we see of him, the more his behavior as a dangerous psychopath with criminal backing can be menacing. This is unlike the first two discs where watching him monologue before and after every evil deed made the focus on his shitty family life, not the fact that he’s about to crash the stock market, or blow up a highway for lulz.
We have no idea why vampire actually wants to blow up the city from below.
For the contents of the last disc, I’m glad he’s burning this whole thing down.
If the last disc had been as bad as the previous two, I could have maintained my attitude that there was nothing worth saving in Heat Guy J, but that the creators couldn’t have done any better than they did. This disc proved that they had the talent to do better, and didn’t.
So fuck them, and fuck Heat Guy J.