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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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06/26/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Heat Guy J, Vol. 1"

Heat Guy J, Vol. 1
by Chiaki Ogishima, Kazuki Akane, Nobuteru Yuki, and Satelight
Published by TOKYOPOP

Review by Tom Good

In a futuristic world, criminal gangs traffic in an illegal addictive drug: tobacco. Travel between cities without permission is also considered criminal. Androids are outlawed, but Special Service Agent Daisuke Aurora has as his partner the most powerful android of all: Heat Guy J. And when Daisuke gets official permission to carry a gun, the agency will only issue him 4 bullets. Interesting twists like this make Heat Guy J one of the most enjoyable new manga I have read this year.

J contemplates the human condition and has a lot of philosophical lines. "A man should not cling to the earth forever" he tells Daisuke. Later he says, "The definition of a man is someone who, no matter what the situation may be . . . will stand up for his friends and those who are weak!!" His formal speech sometimes creates humor, such as when he tells his creator, "Antonia, you are not displeasing to my optical processors." In response, Antonia tells J how much she missed him, and it seems she may have fallen in love with her creation.

Visually, Heat Guy J reminds me of the 80's manga Cobra. (One of the bad guys even has a gun embedded in his arm, which may be a nod to the "Psycho Gun" from Cobra.) And like Cobra, it presents a world where almost everyone is exaggeratedly sexy. The men have six-pack abs, and every woman -- from Kyoko the Special Service auditor to Antonia, the scientist who created J -- looks stunning in a bikini and is eager to prove it. Though basically an action story, this book is also full of pleasing, well drawn eye candy. The visuals also link Heat Guy J to the great hard-boiled detective stories of the past. J's long dark coat and fedora make him look like an android version of Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon.

Heat Guy J has four chapters, each of which stands on its own as a mini-story. I like this format, because it can be rewarding to read a single chapter in a short span of free time, without having to put the book down in the middle of the story. This volume contains a generous 23 pages of bonus material, including character sketches, background information, and an interview with the director of the anime series. I have not yet seen the anime, but considering how good this manga is, I will have to go and find it. Heat Guy J makes great summer reading, and I highly recommend it.

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