The Vision of Escaflowne is one of the greatest anime ever to be put to celluloid. With its beautiful animation, rousing music, incredible pacing and excellent character development, it's little wonder why the series is considered a bonafide classic. Kazuki Akane made a name for himself with it, and it stands the test of time as one of his greatest works. However, anime series directed by him years later, while worthy of attention, has unfortunately been left by the wayside.
Released in 2002, Heat Guy J is a sci-fi crime drama set in the fictional city of Judoh. It centers around the adventures of two police officers, Daisuke Aurora and J. Daisuke is a human agent, whereas his partner J is an android made specifically to fight crime. The two of them are tasked with protecting Judoh and getting to the bottom of the activity of the Vita Crime Syndicate -- a powerful organized crime family.
The most striking quality of Heat Guy J is the animation and character design; it's a gorgeous-looking anime. Every character in the show has a unique flair and style, making them stand out from other anime titles. One of the most common complaints about anime that some people have is that the designs of anime characters are "cookie-cutter," but in a series like Heat Guy J, such gripes are thrown out the window. The world of Judoh is vibrant, and the entire city has a unique soul and style, as though it's a living and breathing entity. The character designs by Nobuteru Yuki are just as striking as his work on Escaflowne. Still, the monetary investment here is higher and more polished; closer to the love and care put into Escaflowne's movie adaptation rather than its TV series.
Plot-wise, while Heat Guy J does not have the same epic scope as The Vision of Escaflowne, it's still a well-written crime story with some buddy-cop elements thrown in for good measure. Heat Guy J is a wild departure from its fantasy predecessor, but a welcome one that proves that the creative range of Akane is boundless.
Another departure from Heat Guy J's fantasy counterpart is the music. While not as memorable and striking as the score of The Vision of Escaflowne, the music of Heat Guy J is still good, especially when it comes to its catchy opening theme, "Face," by Try Force. The theme is bombastic, with a rocking beat and some ridiculous vocals. While the opening tries to exude a sense of coolness, it comes across as unintentionally funny. Between fans feeling pumped up when listening, the broken English lyrics and the singer sounding like he's out of breath the entire time, the whole song will likely make audiences giggle.
In short, Heat Guy J is an underrated gem. With its unique visuals, funny yet catchy theme song and an intriguing plot that combines crime drama with some well-written characters, it's a shame it doesn't get more attention. However, in the age of the internet, it's still possible that the series will earn more fans as audiences stumble across the title and decide to give it a try.