animefringe january 2003 / reviews

You're Under Arrest DVD Box Set 1
Format: 4-DVD set, bilingual, 12 eps., 300 min.
Production: AnimEigo / Fujishima Kosuke
Comments: You're Under Arrest is charming, funny, and full of excellent characters. It's about time we got this on DVD.
Animefringe Reviews:
You're Under Arrest DVD Box Set 1

I have to warn everyone before getting started on this one - I'm a big fan of Fujishima Kosuke's work. Oh My Goddess (or Ah! My Goddess, Ah! Megumi-sama or whatever name you prefer) is the first manga I read, and it was good enough to make me want to read more. Sure, I'd been exposed to anime before, but I never really had much of a drive to read Japanese comics until I laid eyes upon Fujishima's beautifully illustrated series.

A few years and 300 graphic novels later, here I am. Though if you're reading this, you know where I am. Now, however, you also know where I'm coming from.

Despite my consistent lack of funds, when I heard that AnimEigo was accepting pre-orders for the first box set of You're Under Arrest (YUA), I slapped the $70 fee on my credit card before I knew it. I've never actually read the manga, as it is currently hard to find, and I have so much media to go through (video games, anime, movies, music) that I never bother looking for fansubs - I already have enough stuff "off the shelf." I dived into this series without knowing a single fact about the show, and I'm pleased to say it did not disappoint me.

YUA is, first and foremost, a lighthearted comedy. It follows the exploits of two female traffic officers in the Bokuto Precinct (who, despite the title, rarely arrest people) as they protect their fellow citizens from various lawbreakers, including crazed vigilantes, dangerously determined old ladies on scooters, and kidnappers. Kobayakawa Miyuki is the more reasonable of the two; she displays Fujishima's love of all things mechanical, for she's the motorhead of the show. Most of the time she is calm, cool, and logical, though occasionally she lets her emotions get the better of her. Tsujimoto Natsumi, on the other hand, is an excellent foil to her partner. She's as subtle as a bull dressed in drag, with an equivalent potential for destruction. Miyuki usually arrives at work on time and ready for action whereas Natsumi arrives at work...eventually, and frequently when she does, she's battling a massive hangover.

The show moves rather quickly, jumping from chase scenes to amusing office interactions between the primary characters. As I said before, the main characters may be police officers, but the focus here is not on the gritty realism of the streets. More often than not, the biggest challenge of the department's team is handing out parking tickets or helping people of various ages cross the streets of Tokyo. If you're searching for an animated version of NYPD: Blue, then keep looking - this isn't it. However, the situations presented in the show had me and my girlfriend laughing out loud very often. We liked the show enough to finish the box off in two days - not an easy task for a 12-episode set. This is brain candy at its best - quick, upbeat, and fun to watch. The characters are distinct and believably written, comedic exaggerations notwithstanding. On the other hand, however, it seems that the authors of The Anime Encyclopedia didn't get into this show nearly as much as we did, warning potential viewers (on page 457) that "This pretty, innocuous, and astoundingly sanitized cop show takes the mismatched-partners cliché, removes almost all jeopardy, and hopes to muddle through on infantile foolery, female flesh, and an anal attention to audio effects - particularly engine noises." Ouch. I'm not quite sure what was so astounding about the sanitary nature of the show, but as I warned, this is not a harsh show exhibiting the bitter chill of reality. If you want something depressing, check out my credit card bill. Otherwise, this show is so cute it requires cat ears on top of the television in order to watch it, lest its inherent charm damage the stoic black box it's viewed upon.

Visually, this is a sight-pleasing series. The first four episodes of the set are OAVs, directly followed (plotwise) by the next eight episodes that actually comprise the first eight episodes of the YUA TV series. Despite the difference in production costs, the TV series holds up rather well compared to the OAVs. The women in the series tend to have it better than the men, as is typically the case in a Fujishima product, but that's fine by me. His female character designs are some of the most attractive I've ever seen, with fine lines and graceful curves. His attention to details is as evident with his mechanical designs as with his character designs. The animation isn't quite top-notch, but the outstanding artwork more than makes up for the lack of extreme fluidity of movement.

The Japanese voice acting is spot-on, with each character's voice being appropriately cute or humorous depending on the situation. Nothing is too saccharine, and the interactions between Miyuki and Natsumi are conveyed believably. Yoriko's voice is perfect for the character, helping to show her zest for gossip as much as her naiveté. The English voice acting is above average, especially when Natsumi's actress, Tamara Mercer, is called upon to speak in ultra-fast English to match her Japanese counterpart's speed. Most of Miyuki's personality is successfully carried across from the Japanese version thanks to Juliet Cesario's respectable job voicing the character. Yet, as is typical of too many dubs, the show's actors and actresses in English frequently replace emotion with volume. When a character is feeling angry, excited, or happy, he or she inevitably starts yelling monotonously.

My biggest beef with the dub is the numerous cultural changes or just plain script alterations that become apparent after watching the show in both languages. It's weird to have characters reference American pop stars when a story is set in Japan. Also, Yoriko's voice actress (Pam Weidner) adds a level of whininess that wasn't noticeable in the Japanese version, somewhat lessening the appeal of the character. But it'd take God as a voice actor to really impress me, so if you like dubs, this one should be good enough for you.

Music in the show is catchy and peppy, going right along with the overall theme of the series. Horns are used quite a bit, with some rock guitars here and there to accentuate the action when necessary. It's not a soundtrack I'd buy, but it performs well in the background.

One of the best things about this box set is the fact that one fourth of it is extras. The fourth disc contains an outstanding collection of bonus materials including boatloads of artwork, sketches, and a huge assortment of in-the-recording-booth footage of each English voice actor and actress. It offers insight to the process of creating a dub that is rarely seen and is certainly a nice bonus, even given my distaste for dubs. Still, the extras enclosed in the set make the box set easily worth the $70 price tag.

The box is very well-designed and stores the discs cozily while displaying the attractive silhouettes of the main characters. Sadly, marring this release somewhat is a couple of technical issues that pestered me a bit while I was making my way through the series. First of all, after each episode, the language of the show switches back to the default settings - in this case, it swaps to the English language with no subtitles after each episode. That means plenty of remote handling following each episode, when I still believe that the Japanese language with subtitles should be the default setting in the first place. Nothing like a reminder after each episode that there's a poor version of the voice acting also available on the discs. As a reviewer, I always watch the shows in both languages. As a consumer, I'd like to pretend I'm the bald boy in The Matrix and claim, "There is no dub."

The most significant technical complaint I'd like to voice here is the unbearably long time it takes from powering up the DVD player to actually seeing an episode. There are far too many unskippable production credit screens, and an amusing but ultimately annoyingly long copyright warning. Nothing on DVDs should be locked down; viewers should be able to see whatever scene they want whenever they want to. It's a shame that one of the best features of this kind media (random access) is essentially beat up, tied down, and locked away in a dark hole. Producers have to go out of their way to code enjoyment barriers like that, and while I do appreciate the people who brought the discs to me, I didn't buy the set to see their names, but to see the show itself. I wouldn't mind if it were possible to see more information about each producer for the disc so long as it was in a spot I could choose to visit rather than have stuffed down my throat. Let's face it, though - I just turn on my DVD player and walk away until the menu pops up anyway. I'd be more inclined to care about the production houses if they changed the way they were touted on the discs. And that's all I have to say on that issue.

If you're in the mood for something light and cheery that the whole family can enjoy, then this is a great show to pick up. Though, due to AnimEigo's sometimes-goofy distribution methods, you'll have a hard time finding the series anywhere but from the publisher itself. The quality of the character designs and the entertainment value of the characters themselves elevate the show beyond the level of a mindless romantic comedy, and I can honestly say I look forward to the next box AnimEigo will release, even if my credit card fears it.