Bagpipes

The premise of Heat Guy J doesn't exactly stand out in a crowd, nor does it have a very strong allure: A special unit officer with an android partner investigates possible crimes - I just yawned while typing that sentence. Odds are you will not be hooked by the end of the first, second, or even the third episode. However, it will manage to hold your attention, and once the story picks up you may need to clear your schedule for the day.

The show follows Daisuke "Dice" Aurora, who comes off as a younger, blonder, friendlier reincarnation of Cowboy Bebop's Spike Spiegel. Dice and his android partner J make up the investigation team for the City Safety Management Agency. This special unit is tasked with the duty of investigating "signs which indicate that future crimes may be committed." Kyoko Milchan is the third and final member of the team; her responsibilities include managing day-to-day affairs, handling the budget, and nagging Dice about submitting his activity reports. The early episodes follow the daily ins and outs of the agency while introducing us to the new Don of the Leonelli crime family. Organized crime is ripe in the city of Judoh and the Leonellis are the front-runners.

Heat Guy J reminds us that the art of storytelling is not dead. The plot begins with humble origins, but Dice's investigations lead us to a different place altogether. The progression isn't complex or confusing by any means, it's just plain good. While the main story arc isn't easily predictable, some elements are foregone conclusions like an interoffice romance between Dice and Kyoko. The interaction between all the characters is wonderful, it not only adds to their relationships with each other but also with the viewer. We really get a real sense for who these people are, a feeling that is not limited to just the lead roles.

The animation is both excellent and not-so-good. There are moments when "camera" movements (e.g. panning and zooming) over static scenes are heavily relied upon - perhaps the studio had its own budget problems. However, the animation is top notch when it counts.

At this point you may be thinking "well, gee, this may be a pretty good show, but... I'm still not sure I want to watch it, is there anything else?" one word - bagpipes. Heat Guy J has 100% more bagpipes than your average anime. The OST, Burn, has joined the elite ranks of the Cowboy Bebop,GiTS:SAC, and Hellsing OSTs on my PMP. A predominately rock sound with wailing electric guitars is infused with a Scottish influence, tribal chanting, downtempo rhythms, and an ineffable concoction of noises creating a soundtrack like you've never heard before.


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