I’d normally kick off a review by giving a brief overview of the plot and where the story’s headed but for this DVD I’m not going to bother. Manga Entertainment have crammed nine whole episodes into one box — a gesture that deserves considerable gratitude from fans — and being the last nine, it brings everything to its conclusion so any synopsis I give would only spoil it. The story covers a heck of a lot of ground here and the case-of-the-week format that the series followed for much of its length is in fact the setting up for one big finale.
Everything that has gone before may have seemed random but served to move the players into place: the rift between Daisuke and his brother Shun, exacerbated by the visit of the Celestials in the second volume, turns out to have very significant consequences of the fate of not only them but the whole city. The characters we’ve met in previous episodes, even if it was for a short while, all have a part to play in the larger scheme of things. Edmundo, Antonia, Clair, Boma and the rest of the supporting cast make their respective contributions to a conclusion that gives the impression of the show’s producers pulling out all the stops.
There are multiple plot threads and themes presented in Heat Guy J, in a way not dissimilar to the likes of GitS: SAC. Like Production I.G.’s sci-fi thriller series, Heat Guy J presents mysteries, conspiracies and character interactions, all wrapped up in crime-busting action with a polished CGI-rendered backdrop. At first J was a taciturn machine but towards the end he begins to exhibit human personality traits that influence the events that unfold; this was a deliberate move that affects the outcome of the story as well as giving the viewer food for thought about the nature of androids and their place in Judoh’s society. The whole series combines this and other character-driven elements with exhilarating action scenes that culminate in an explosive showdown on the streets of Judoh between the various groups.
That said the final scenes that tie everything up feel a little rushed. Parallel to the all-guns-blazing final confrontation there’s a more personal one in which Daisuke and Shun finally come to terms with the problems they’ve faced — after the tension is raised so high, the final scene feels like an afterthought and a hurriedly-conceived one at that. Because it’s a show with numerous quirks and odd plot devices, it would have benefited more than most from some explanations concerning the background themes and resolving the more minor subplots.
The third volume makes for an explosive and satisfying end to the series with only minor issues concerning the pacing and explanations in the final moments. It manages to include action, emotion and good old-fashioned detective work effectively while bringing the seemingly separate plot threads together in a resolution that delivers on many levels.
Perhaps because of the high episode count of each volume, I initially thought that this series would be enjoyable but rather shallow entertainment. Furthermore the bold visuals, including CGI that was rather obvious and intrusive at times, gave it a very unusual feel; the Kazuki Akane/Nobuteru Yuki partnership that gave Escaflowne its complex plotting and distinctive character designs makes its mark though and as a result it ends up being unusual in a good way. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see everything come together towards the end, exceeding my expectations in the process: taken as a whole this series is a lot more intelligent than it first appears. When released at the price that it has been, fans would be doing themselves a disservice in passing up on this show.
||8 out of 10
||Mon, 20 Nov 2006