I often talk about how the early 00s, in the era before mega hits like Death Note and Code Geass came along in the holy grail years of 00s anime (’06 and ’07) there’s a veritable ‘lost era’ of digipaint shows that are now mostly lost to time – ill remembered and ill loved.
Heat Guy J is one of those shows. Although it’s acquired something of a reputation of being a bit of a bomb, I hear it actually sold half decently when released by Manga UK over here a few years after its original Japanese broadcast. Maybe it was the expectations – after all, Heat Guy J was directed by Kazuki Akane, best known for Escaflowne, and co-penned by Hiroshi Onogi, who was behind the script/scenario of some of the biggest shows in anime like the original Macross and Zeta Gundam, as well as working on RahXephon on 2002, the same year Heat Guy J started airing.
The Escaflowne connection continued in the form of Nobuteru Yuki, the self-same character designer from Escaflowne – and it sure shows in the pointy nosed character designs, for me one of the biggest sells of Heat Guy J, along with the highly Kanno-esque soundtrack.
In short, Heat Guy J – produced by studio Satelight – was every bit the spiritual successor to Escaflowne. And yet, in so many other ways, it wasn’t. Gritty, grimy and dark to Escaflowne’s rolling fantastical feel, many of the same storytelling qualities were present (a mix between an episodic and more long-running story style), but let down by the classic feeling of bloat that afflicted many two cour shows in the early 00s. Whilst Escaflowne was lean and clean-cut, Heat Guy J lumbered in its muscular urban setting, never quite realising the sheer power and charm of its predecessor.
And yet, I still feel it’s a show ripe for re-assessment at some point. With the recent re-release by Funimation of another classic early 00s shows – Wolf’s Rain – I think people are starting to come round to the idea that the early 00s wasn’t all digipaint horror. And while Wolf’s Rain was always a much better show to begin with, I think it too shares many of the same stylistic and storytelling hallmarks present in a show like Heat Guy J.
Those looking for a bargain, the whole series in box-set form can be had for around five quid at the time of writing, second hand, on Amazon.