Manga Madness: You’re Under Arrest by Kosuke Fujishima
Earlier this week I rescued a box of treasured books from storage. Contained inside was a pair of books which have been favorites from my manga reading journey for many years. You’re Under Arrest The Wild Ones, and Lights and Siren, by gearhead Kosuke Fujishima, is a story about two police women dealing with extraordinary situations. This dynamic duo serves as a perfect pair for the kind of high octane, completely unbelievable police work which takes place throughout You’re Under Arrest. Natsumi Tsujimoto and Miyuki Kobayakawa are complementary in many ways: one is a gear head (much like the author), and the other a powerhouse daredevil. Unlike Fujishima’s longer and possibly more renowned work, Ah! My Goddess, You’re Under Arrest is an extremely low commitment read, perfect for newer readers. Although there is an ongoing continuity, its importance is overshadowed by extremely episodic narratives. Between the two volumes in English, readers aren’t required to read either book in a specific order; both can be read independently with only a basic understanding of the cast. Fujishima constructs each story to provide enough information about relevant characters to familiarize the reader, even to the extent that a single chapter is enough to understand how the comic will operate.
What set You’re Under Arrest apart from other manga at the time was exactly its ability to tell a story which didn’t require a backlog of reading to jump into. Most other serials at the time, and a good deal of manga titles in general, require reading to start from the very beginning. At the time it was originally coming out, the episodic comedy nature of You’re Under Arrest was a breath of fresh air. And for a kid with limited monetary resources a bit of a blessing. There wasn’t a need to yearn for another chapter, another volume to complete the story; the whole story of Natsumi and Miyuki was always right there for me to devour. What happened before and after the two volumes were completely irrelevant. The fact that two volumes were all that was needed to read a complete adventure hit much closer to home with the style of American comics I was most familiar with.
Beyond extraordinary accessibility, You’re Under Arrest is crammed full of awesome, often hilarious action. Fujishima manages to work in his passion for cars and motorcycles around every turn, and what better than to have two characters who are exceptional at driving, operating, and maintaining both modes of transportation. Because of the focus on vehicles we’re frequently treated with driving or racing scenes that would make drivers from Initial D envious. Luckily Miyuki and Natsumi have no shortage of vehicular criminals to chase down.
What makes these racing sequences so spectacular is not only the way Fujishima controls motion on the page, it’s also in the stunning detail he applies to the vehicles themselves. Combined, the two elements make the racing seem to come off the page, as if the drivers were being filmed instead of drawn.
As if the racing action weren’t enough, Fujishima tosses in a healthy dose of comedy to the action. From the very first chapter it becomes quite obvious Miyuki and Natsumi’s precinct doesn’t handle a run of the mill brand of criminal or deviant behavior. From serial underwear thievery, to a baseball themed vigilante, the Bokuto police station makes odd criminal behavior seem routine. But the abnormal lends itself to the creativity of Fujishima’s cast. With each new criminal the officers of the Bokuto police station come up with new and unique ways to pursue and apprehend criminals. Due to no actual arrests portrayed on page, nor jail cells ever shown in the station, it’s clear You’re Under Arrest takes the Support Your Local Sheriff approach to detaining lawbreakers, that is, imply the threat and criminals will fall in line themselves.
Miyuki and Natsumi clearly have a reputation for outlandish, even dangerous methods to their police work, which means only the most outrageous ne’er-do-gooders would ever think to cause trouble within the Bokuto station’s purview. By giving the police duo such outlandish problems to deal with their rogue behavior always seems to fit into the scene, without necessitating a cliche “YOU’RE OUT OF LINE” speech from their chief. Because the pair have to deal with all manner of strange characters, the action they take can be similarly ridiculous. Of course this adds another layer onto the comedy of the series, as regular citizens around the Bokuto station must see collateral damage or spontaneous street racing as a hazard of living in the area.
To top everything off, You’re Under Arrest stars two extremely strong female characters. Both Miyuki and Natsumi routinely break stereotypical roles by generally being bad ass individuals. Natsumi brings someone to the gun show at least once every couple of chapters (one chapter in particular she lifts a Miata and tows it out of a red zone by hand), and Miyuki tinkers with pretty much every vehicle in the series motor pool generally to the amazement of the other cast members. Without the stigma of having to add sex appeal for the benefit of a male audience, Miyuki and Natsumi are free to completely participate in, and be at the center of all the action. They are the enforcers, and there’s nothing stopping them from enforcing.
It’s always a treat to open the two volumes of You’re Under Arrest back up and enjoy the adventures of Miyuki and Natsumi. It may not be a very challenging read, or one that holds a deep level of analytical value, it’s just plain fun. Every story sets out to be nothing but fun, while telling an action packed police story. And while there’s very little policing that actually goes on, and the action might be a little outrageous, the fun element is inescapable. Unfortunately we’re unlikely to see any more translations, but the two that exist continue to be excellent reads almost 20 years after they were originally released.
You’re Under Arrest is available from used book sellers by Dark Horse Comics.