Giant rampaging monsters! Invading aliens from outer space! Time traveling geneticaly-inhanced super humans! Angst-ridden schoolgirls in robotic battle suits! Traffic control! Parking violations! ...Wait a minute! ..Traffic control? ...Parking violations? Who could possibly have a highly popular manga and anime series about traffic control?
Kosuke Fujishima - that's who!
In You're Under Arrest! (Taiho Shichauzo! in Japan), traffic control officers Miyuki Kobayakawa and Natsumi Tsujimoto have their hands full dealing with bad drivers, quirky criminals, and office hijinks in the fictional Bokuto Precinct of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.
Being his first published series, You're Under Arrest! showcases Fujishima's development as a writer and artist. During his starting job as an editor for the comics news magazine Puff, one of his assignments was to conduct an interview with Tatsuya Egawa. In a bold move after the interview, he asked Egawa if he would be interested in an assistant. After reviewing Fujishima's work, Egawa had himself a new assistant!
When Egawa's original manga Be Free! was to be released as a live-action movie in 1986, Kosuke Fujishima created a manga-style report called Making of Be Free! for Comic Morning. Considered his professional debut, the two policewomen characters that he created caused Comic Morning to receive fan mail asking to see more. Inspired by the fan response, the series You're Under Arrest! appeared in Morning Party Extra in 1986.
To promote a 1988 reader contest for various You're Under Arrest! merchandise prizes, he created a four-panel gag short showing Miyuki and Natsumi praying to a goddess - trying to influence their chances of winning prizes. Pleased with the goddess that he had created, she became the model for one of his most well-known and loved characters, Belldandy, and the inspiration behind the creation of the Oh! My Goddess series! It debuted on September 25, 1989 in Comic Afternoon.
Recently, Kosuke Fujishima has done character designs for various video games, such as Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars) and Tales of Phantasia, and the recent OVA series eX-Driver (eX-D). He also draws illustrations for various magazines in addition to his Oh! My Goddess! works.
Fujishima's You're Under Arrest! manga series led to a four part OVA series, a 47 episode TV series, a 17 mini-episode special TV series, a theatrical movie, and a new ongoing TV series beginning April 7, 2001 on TBS.
To explain the popularity of You're Under Arrest!, one needs to look at the characters that started it all. The heroines of the series, Miyuki Kobayakawa and Natsumi Tsujimoto, are police officers assigned to the traffic control department. At first glance this unlikely team appears to be the Dirty Pair of the 20th century - minus the collateral damage. However, instead of foiling galactic conspiracies, evil geniuses, and malfunctioning robots, these two Lovely Angels have the unenviable task of keeping the streets and expressways of modern day Tokyo running smoothly.
Miyuki qualifies as the brains of the duo with her research skills and mechanical genius. Her levelheadedness and rational mind are offset by her shy demeanor and emotional frailty. She prefers to work in the background, but when challenged she fights back with a ferocity that leaves all adversaries reeling in defeat. Miyuki hates to lose, especially when it comes to driving. Reckless drivers beware! As she says, "If they run, I chase them. It's my job, and I'm very good at it!" Legendary in the police department, Miyuki's driving skills rival those of another famous female anime driver. But this is Tokyo, not Chicago, and car type, horsepower, and physical size are highly restricted by the government. What's a girl to do? Break out the toolbox! Her personally modified Mini-Patrol Car, a Honda Today, boasts a turbocharger and a custom-made nitrous-oxide injection systems and exceeds 100 horsepower. In pursuit of lawbreakers Miyuki is fast and furious, but her pursuit of love seems to be crawling at a snail's pace. The target of this affection is one Ken Nakajima, but she can't quite work up the nerve to tell him how she really feels.
Natsumi on the other hand provides the brawn to the team. Thanks to inherited strength from her father, a professional wrestler, she performs almost superhuman feats of strength on a regular basis. Her most notable include carrying her motorbike on her shoulders and using her feet as emergency brakes for their Mini-Patrol car. My personal favorite is in Special File 3.3 when she makes balloon-animal figures out of steel bars, deflating the ego of a street performer and amazing the large crowd of onlookers! Natsumi's strength is matched by her quick temper, voracious appetite, and total lack of fiscal responsibility. Ready to fight, eat, or party at a moments notice, she usually leaves her opponents in tears, restaurant owners in shock, and Miyuki's wallet empty. While Miyuki prefers automobiles, Natsumi's vehicles of choice are motorcycles. Though she owns a larger, more powerful bike, Natsumi is better known for riding a Honda Moto-Compo. This small, folding motorcycle fits neatly inside the back hatch of their mini-patrol car and is considered Natsumi's secret weapon. Many unsuspecting lawbreakers have felt the humiliation of being bested by her "baby", thanks to agile driving and Miyuki's custom engine upgrades. While being a terror on two wheels, Natsumi is an absolute nightmare on four. Her total lack of car knowledge is made apparent in the manga and first TV series when she decides to get a auto drivers license and buy herself a car. There are some things that a motorcycle can do and a car can't, but she tries them anyway!
The interaction between these two personalities is what makes this series so loved by the fans. When developing the characters, Fujishima intentionally set them up as opposites (Natsumi being a summer name and Miyuki a winter name). As the series progresses, we see their relationship evolve from a simple partnership to a close personal bond, but they never lose the quirks and personality traits that the fans love.
The manga started out with the partnership of Miyuki and Natsumi firmly established and ran for a total of 79 issues, with each issue labeled as a "File". Any similarity to the way actual police files are numbered is strictly intentional, and this system was retained when the series was chosen to be animated. The 79 files were later compiled into 5 paperback volumes. When the series was licensed by Dark Horse Comics to be published in the US, the company decided to start with issue 53, due to the release of the OVA's by AnimEigo. Since the following issues were used by the character designers to develop the anime, the characters would be most recognizable to the readers. The OVA's also provided a suitable background on most of the characters, including the story of how Miyuki and Natsumi's partnership began - a topic not covered in the manga story line. Dark Horse Comics published You're Under Arrest! as an 8 issue series from December 1995 to July 1996, followed by The Wild Ones and Lights and Siren!, two trade paperback compilations published in October 1997 and December 1999 respectively. As of today, there is no word if any more issues will be translated and published in the future, but Dark Horse still retains the option to do so.
As the manga story evolved, so did the character designs. Early versions of Miyuki and Natsumi can hardly be recognized by those who started reading late in the series. The changes reflect the development of Kosuke Fujishima as an artist, as well as influences from his other works.
While the early stories dealt mostly with our heroic duo dispatching various criminals, perverts, hotshots, and morons, later issues rounded out the cast with the addition of fellow police officers and a variety of reoccurring characters.
At the top of the duty roster at Bokuto Police Station is the Chief (also know as the Captain or Kachou). Due to his rank, everyone refers to him by his title - so we never find out what his real name is! His air of authority is tempered by a devious streak, and he always knows how to get his officers to do what he wants. Especially Natsumi, who falls for his sneaky tricks due to her attraction to authoritative middle-aged men. Miyuki suffers from no such handicap and catches the deceptions, but usually not before Natsumi has agreed to whatever odd duty the Chief has in store for them.
Miyuki's attraction leans toward fellow officer Ken Nakajima. As one of the top motorcycle patrol officers at the station, he always seems to arrive on the scene whenever Miyuki and Natsumi need a little extra help. His patrol motorcycle, a Suzuki GSX-R750, has been personally updated by Miyuki and is a perfect match for the riding style that he learned from his father, a local cycling legend. Known as the "White Hawk of Bokuto", Ken's macho facade crumbles in the face his feelings for Miyuki. His constant fumbling of any attempts to ask her out, often after threats of bodily harm by Natsumi, provide ample fodder for office gossip.
The one spreading that gossip is usually Yoriko Nikaidou, a excellent source of personal information, as long as accuracy in not a high priority. Her hobby of eavesdropping on conversations around the office and her uncanny luck for being at the right place at the right time provide many humorous misunderstandings. Although her rumors and stories are a constant source of frustration for the officers of Bokuto Station, she's just to kind and sweet to hold a grudge against. More of an office lady than a crime fighter, Yoriko usually pulls the lighter duties and would rather help children cross the street than chase down criminals.
The perfect partner for Yoriko arrives in File 52 of the manga (File 5 of the first TV series). Aoi Futaba, the most feminine and refined officer at the station, is also the most controversial. Before being assigned to the traffic control department, he was assigned to the undercover rape prevention squad. No, that's not a typo, Aoi is actually a guy! His assignment was to be a "decoy" to catch perverts and rapists. With an intense devotion to duty, Aoi decided that in order to be a better decoy he needed to study everything about being a woman. During his course of his decoy assignment, he realized that he had become accustomed to it and felt more comfortable as a woman. When his assignment came to an end, it was decided that duty as a female traffic officer was most suited to his current "situation". His arrival causes a temporary logistics crisis for both the male and female officers at the station, but after an adjustment to the locker room schedules he becomes a welcome member of the team. Referred to as Aoi-chan by the other characters, he is now considered one of the gals. Aoi and Yoriko develop a close friendship and a natural partnership results.
On an almost equal footing with the people, the vehicles that appear in the series have gained character status with many mecha fans. Kosuke Fujishima's personal love of motorcycles, cars and other mecha is apparent in the look and feel of the series. In a world devoid of magical girls, alien technology, and mad scientists, great steps were taken to portray actual vehicles and props. Most details are painstakingly accurate, from the police cars to the regulation uniforms that the characters wear. Even the procedures that are (usually) followed by the officers at Bokuto Station are based on actual guidelines from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Agency. However, some alterations were made to enhance the look of the show, such as relaxing the requirement that all female officers are to wear hats when on duty.
With a team of police officers like this, they are bound to pitted against some equally unusual adversaries. From a maniacal bargain-obsessed grandmother on a scooter to a bumbling wannabe crime fighter dressed as a baseball player, there is no rest for those who's job is keeping the streets safe for the good people of Tokyo.
Next time, we will see how this popular manga series was made into an 4 file OVA series and evolved into 3 television projects and a big-screen production. As Natsumi would say, "So, you're gonna fight me on this? 'fraid not! If you don't tune in, you're under arrest! "