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4.0 out of 5 stars A man's robot..., 6 July 2009
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
In the futuristic city of Judoh, androids are forbidden -- all except Heat Guy J, a police android belonging to the special unit that tries to prevent crimes.

"Heat Guy J, Vol. 1: Super Android" introduces a world that is mostly like ours, but just a bit more advanced (gasoline is a thing of the past) and populated by boyish cops, deranged teenage dons, macho androids and convicted werewolves. The first four episodes skimp a little on the character development, but they're an elaborate, action-packed string of procedural mysteries.

On an ordinary day in Judoh, Daisuke Aurora observes the funeral of the Vampire (Mafia don), disrupted only by the don's son and heir, Clair Leonelli, throwing a grenade into the works. Literally.

Then it's business as usual when Daisuke and his robotic partner J investigate a gang of illegal immigrants who have an illicit robot who is gunning for J. Unfortunately, they've also left a dead body in their wake. And when the crazed Clair starts a mob war between the Leonelli and Wei families, Daisuke has to figure out how the Mafia are going to settle this -- and stop Clair's plan before part of the city goes kaboom. And what does the mob war have to do with this funny smell?

Then someone starts distributing illegal "beauty cards" with photos of gorgeous women on them, which causes Daisuke's inspector/receptionist Kyoko to become obsessed with turning up on one. Daisuke is more concerned about the possible connection between beauty cards and a series of bizarre bombings. And at a casino where Russian roulette is the main gamble, Clair recruits a mysterious, wolf-faced man to destroy Daisuke...

"Heat Guy J, Vol. 1: Super Android" doesn't waste any of its time on introductions -- it leaps straight into the action-packed stories in a slightly grimy urban sci-fi setting, and does the introductions on the fly. This leads to some painfully clunky moments ("I'm an inspector; that's my job" -- why not just paint it on her head if you're gonna be that obvious?), but I have to admit it's nice to have no long introductions to Akane Kazuki's world.

And Kazuki comes up with a fairly interesting world -- futuristic but still familiar, glossy and seedy, with a wildly multicultural population (we have Japanese, Russian, Italian, Hispanic...), and ruled by a precariously-balanced set of mobs. And each episode is a tightly-crafted mystery that takes Daisuke from Judoh's underworld to the higher echelons of the police force. Lots of explosions, elaborate gun/knife fights, and a really cool supersized motorcycle that adds to the wild action factor.

If there's a problem with this first volume, it's that the character development is rather skimpy here -- the characters are interesting, but there isn't much clue what makes them tick. Daisuke is a smart, somewhat cynical young cop with boyish looks and a rather tragic past. J has the stiffness you expect from an android, but he's got just enough human warmth to make him seem like more than that -- he's conscientious, very determined, and has iron-clad ideas about how a man should act ("You're such a cute angel," he solemnly informs Kyoko).

The supporting characters are less defined -- Kyoko is the required uptight servant-of-the-government who tries to keep Daisuke from using more than three bullets at a time, and Clair is just a mad brat in a position of power (though Johnny Yong Bosch's mad cackles are brilliant). Boma the werewolf is the best-defined side character -- a convicted felon who carves his way through the city, chillingly asking "Where's my Bunny?" You end up pitying the guy.

"Heat Guy J, Vol. 1: Super Android" suffers from underfleshed characterization, but Akane Kazuki's intricate city and solid police procedurals are worth watching. And maybe the problems will be ironed out later.
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Heat Guy J 1: Super Android [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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