Tuesday, December 17, 2013

You’re Under Arrest (OAV) (1994)

In the mid 1990s North American anime fans got a steady diet of sci-fi action adventures and fantasy sagas. Most of these were ultra-violent and brutal. But there were plenty of other types of shows out there and some anime distributors wanted to prove it. So along came Animeigo and their release of a cop drama. It focused on high-speed chases, rescues, natural disasters and of course, cute girls. Sounded like a sure fire winner. There was just one small catch…

Natsumi Tsujimoto (Tamara Burnham Mercer) has just joined the traffic police of Bokuto Precinct in Tokyo. She’s outgoing, fun loving and has a bit of an attitude. So of course she gets paired with the quiet, focused and serious Miyuki Kobayakawa (Jo Ann Luzzatto). At first Natsumi is convinced this is match is doomed, but fate forces them to work together to thwart a mad bomber – and they make a great team.

Soon the gals find themselves in all kinds of scrapes, including bringing a critical patient to a hospital during a typhoon, attempting to quell a raging fire during a marathon and even navigating office rumors that could get them both fired. Life as a traffic cop is never dull. Even though these gals look cute, they will have no problem telling you, “You’re Under Arrest”.

Good Points:
  • Some excellent and detailed animation for the era
  • Has plenty of likable characters
  • The typhoon episode balances and thrills and laughs really well
Bad Points:
  • An early dub that is really hit or miss
  • Never gets too serious about anything
  • Ends up being more of a light comedy than an action or drama
You may find this one entertaining, or too light and fluffy to write home about. The characters are fun, and the writers come up with some interesting situations to put them in. But the thrills are mild and the focus is on how the girls become friends and how their partnership helps them become better cops. Breezy entertainment? Sure, but the animation is solid (and impressive in the chase scenes), and the theme songs are catchy. Worth checking out for a change of pace.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 3
Acting: 3
Script: 3
Music: 3
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  3

In Depth Review
Natsumi has her doubts about her new partner.
This series is based on the long running and popular graphic novel series of the same name. Kosuke Fujishima is known for his appealing character designs, entertaining cast and his love for all things with motors. His most famous work has to be Ah My Goddess (or Oh My Goddess in some circles). But You’re Under Arrest was his first popular creation, and the characters of Ah My Goddess are actually a spin off of the cop series.

This Original Animated Video (OAV) series is four episodes that focus on Natsumi and Miyuki. The first episode brings them together, the second puts them through their most challenging assignment, the third deals with their personal lives and the final one threatens to break up their partnership. Its compact arc keeps the storytelling simple, and straightforward, but it also keeps the characters fairly static as well.

Ken says he's known as "The White Hawk of Bokuto",
but I always suspected that he was the only one who
used that name.
In many ways the five key characters are sitcom tropes. Nastumi is the wild girl with the heart of gold. Miyuki is the serious one. Ken Nakajima (Marc Matney) is a big burly motorcycle cop who is fond of Miyuki but acts like an idiot when she’s around. Yuriko Nikadou (Pamela Weidner) is the gossip of the police station. She spends most of the episodes hearing only half of a conversation and then telling everyone the wrong thing. Still she’s got a good heart, and is never malicious about it. Finally there is the Captain (Dave Underwood). He’s the laid back leader who is looking out for his folks. This involves making tough decisions, like promoting Natsumi to a different unit, or attempting to get Ken and Miyuki on a date.

That brings us to the main element of You’re Under Arrest that will end up losing some viewers. It is cute. For a series about cops, high speed chases and natural disasters, the overall tone is one of breezy fun. The most dangerous villain turns out to be a typhoon or a fire. Drama comes from getting a pregnant cat to a vet so she can deliver kittens, or making sure the local marathon goes smoothly by diverting traffic. There are no gunfights, no death of any kind. Instead, bad guys are arrested, people are saved and dates are enjoyed.

A great example of the lighting used in this series.
The focus on getting Ken and Miyuki together takes up a whole episode, and ends up popping up in all four of them. It is all handled is a very sitcom manner with mistaken feelings, wrong turns, and Yuriko not hearing the whole conversation. It ends with a dating montage in which the whole police precinct is monitoring the date to make sure Ken doesn’t screw it up. Like I said, that is a whole episode, and it’s the weakest one.

But the Typhoon in episode two does a great job of building tension, and testing the characters to their limits. In addition to the deadly storm, there is a crazy driver who enjoys racing around in the downpour and running other cars off the road. He’s appeared during the last few typhoons and Ken vows to catch and arrest him this time. But with Natsumi and Miyuki trying to transport the pregnant kitten to a vet (and having to navigate flooded roads and other perils), Ken has to make sure the girls don’t run into crazed motorist first. It’s all handled well, with great pacing and some excellent animation.

Natsumi and Yuriko stakeout Ken and Miyuki's
date. Great use of tax payer funds.
That is one of the big plusses with You’re Under Arrest; the animation is really handled well. Since Fujishima is such a fan of cars and motorcycles, his works often contain chases and races. Each episode features some kind of chase scene and the animators do some great things with them. In the first episode the girls chase down a red Mini Cooper that leads them on a scavenger hunt to a bomb. The chase goes through all kinds of urban terrain and locales. Most of the animation is fully rendered without the still frame cheats. The typhoon sequences in the second episode are even better, with the dark skies, pelting rain and flooded streets. Japanese animation always handles water extremely well, and this episode showcases it. The girls navigate some dangerous streets and Ken faces the crazed typhoon racer. The third episode has Natsumi and Ken on a road trip that has some nice scenic moments. The final episode has the force springing into action during a marathon when a fire goes out of control and traffic has ground to a halt. Each episode has a different feel with these chase/race scenes and handles them well. This isn’t quite the same level as Gunsmith Cats and the freeway chase, but it is no slouch either.

Cars and movement are realistically drawn and
animated, especially in the typhoon episode.
Fujishima’s pleasing character design remains intact here. Things seem a little closer to the AIC style that Tenchi Muyo! made popular, but Fujishima’s influence is obvious. We also see it in all the detail in the modified vehicles.  In addition the color palate is light and bright. Even the darkness of the Typhoon seems like a brief spot compared to the bright bookend sequences. There are also plenty of scenes have some great lighting to them, often using pastel colors or leaf patterns as shadows. For a hand drawn series, and an OAV (which were notorious for variable quality), the series looks really good.

Sound and music both fit the series. The score is a bit over the top at times, but it works well enough. The opening and ending J-pop songs are a lot of fun and catchy as hell.

"Shaa, I'm totally part of the biker brigade now. Most
The English dub is a mixed bag. This is an early dub from Animeigo, and for the most part it is solid. Some of the supporting cast goes a bit overboard at times, but that is typical of dubs from the era. Two things may annoy some viewers. The first is that the dub script is not a direct translation, and in fact throws in a lot of American slang and pop culture references. In many cases it adds humor to the series and reminds me a bit of the dub script for El Hazard (my gold standard for comedy dubs of the era). For a show so focused on humor, it makes sense to tailor the script a bit. Many times Japanese puns and cultural jokes don’t translate well. The sub script is very faithful, something Animeigo prided itself with.

But one of the main complaints with the You’re Under Arrest dub script is the way Natsumi is portrayed. For some reason she talks like a California surfer girl. She doesn’t sound like an airhead, but she got that So-cal twang that drives some folks up the wall. It’s a bit exaggerated at times, and she even uses some dated 90s slang like Wayne’s (of Wayne’s World fame) exclamation of “Shaa!” I think this was done to contrast her with Miyuki and her very straight speaking style. The result is that Nastumi has some of the funniest lines in the show, but I know some folks can’t stand the dub because of this dialogue choice.

Each episode moves at a good pace, with only the third episode feeling a bit on the slow side. For the most part all the characters get some time to shine, and the animation gets some nice moments to show off. It’s put together pretty well and remains entertaining throughout.

The final episode turns the tables on the first, with
Miyuki wondering about their partnership.
That’s the key here. You’re Under Arrest is a nice fun time, perfect for some lazy weekend viewing. It doesn’t strain your brain, it makes you laugh a bit, or smirk at how cute it gets at times. The OAVs were popular enough to spawn two television series, a few made for TV specials and a full-fledged theatrical film (which actually does get serious). In it’s first form it keeps things simple and fun, but never leaves a lasting impression. It never gets violent or nasty. It has some great animation and fun characters. But compared to the action packed adventures of the Gunsmith Cats or the more romantic and magical Oh My Goddess, it seems a bit plain. The television series evolved the characters a bit (and include some character from the original manga). But these episodes are considered the “pilot” of sorts to the show. I admit it is a bit of a nostalgic favorite of mine, because it is one of the first anime I watched with my wife. You’re Under Arrest, Oh My Goddess and Ranma ½ were enough to get her hooked on anime. So this show is a great one to start off folks who may not be into sci-fi or fantasy sagas, and want something a bit more light and comical. 


  1. Hi Roman.

    That's a very nice review of a series I missed. It looks terrific. It certainly has that vintage Patlabor-era animated look but quite good.

    Story-wise it looks like a pleasant enough law enforcement anime series that I might actually give it a look some time.

    Well-covered my friend.

    1. Thanks! It's a cute one, I think I enjoyed "Oh My Goddess" a bit more. I'll be covering that one later this month. :)

  2. Sounds like fun, and I can see how the nostalgia factor would make it special for you.

    1. Yeah every time I revisit this series, it takes me back to a warm July weekend when my wife and I watched these at her house. I can taste the lemonade. :)

  3. I haven't seen You're Under Arrest, and I'll admit, I'm drawn more to the SF anime rather than anything slice of life. I wanted to mention, however, that the Cartoon Network on Saturdays around 11pm (depending on your time zone) have been showing a few anime. This week they plan on showing Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa. Why they would show this one, which was a sequel, over the original movie is beyond me--don't shoot the messenger as they say O_o.

    But also I was just over at Hulu, and they have it to stream online as well, if that works better for someone. They have a few other anime on there for streaming as well.

    1. Yeah Hulu has a great selection of anime. I've got a ton of stuff in my queue and haven't watched much yet (been enjoying some classic Doctor Who). I did watch "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex" a few months back. I had missed that in its original run. Really enjoyed it. An interesting take on the series, and a bit closer to the manga than the film series was.