If you asked most manga fans about Kosuke Fujishima, most of them will admittedly look at you in confusion, offer a quick shrug or "I dunno" and wander away.
If they know the name at all, they probably do so because he's the creator of Oh My Goddess, which we've looked over before and remains a classic in its own right. Those who keep up with modern releases might remember that Kodansha recently starting putting out his most recent completed series and releasing yet another one digitally. What people forget is that he had yet another series released here, one that's mostly been lost to fandom memory with the shift to the new millennium. How could that happen? Let's investigate this case for ourselves.
YOU'RE UNDER ARREST (Taiho Shichauzo), by Kosuke Fujishima. First published in 1986 and first published in North America in 1997.
Miyuki is a hotheaded gearhead with a love of motorcycles and the kind of woman who tends to act before thinking. Natsumi is more calm and more traditionally feminine, but she's also good at coming up with unconventional tactics towards criminals. Together the two of them patrol the streets of Japan to protect it from any number of criminals. Be it a celebrity who trades on his fame to get out of trouble, a panty thief with a very specific fetish, or a mystery motorcycle racer with family ties to the force, these two will bring them all to justice!
You're Under Arrest is not without its charms. Like Oh My Goddess before it, it's got an endearing cast of (mostly) women and an eye for motorcycles. It's also mines a lot of good humor and interesting twists out of its unconventional crimes. So why is it that I couldn't quite bring myself to completely love it?
Also like Oh My Goddess before it, this series is presented out of order. This time, though, it's not to keep pace with an animated adaptation. This volume is something of a greatest hits collection taken from the last couple of volumes, said to have been selected by Fujishima himself. He might have been cherry-picking what he thought were some of the best stand-alone stories, but by doing so he and/or Dark Horse threw continuity out the window. You can pick up most of the basics about our heroines through their dialogue and action, like any good manga should do. Then it just starts randomly dropping other facts and characters into the reader's lap, such as Natsumi being smitten with a fellow officer or the fact that their coworker Aoi is either a transwoman or a transvestite man (the manga is never clear on this point, mostly because it's too busy using poor Aoi as a punchline). Presenting this manga in its original, unaltered version would have prevented this from happening in the first place.
So how are the stories onto themselves? Eh, they're alright. Most of the criminals involved are decidedly goofy and pose no more of a physical threat than your average cartoon goon. Sometimes there's a brief vehicular chase or a clever bit of pursuit, but Fujishima's focus is clearly on the cast and not the capers. He's far more interested in fleshing out Miyuki, Natsumi, and all the other eccentrics around them as characters at his own casual pace. This is fairly consistent with how he's treated the casts of his past and present works, and it's always been one of Fujishima's greatest strengths. There's an effervescent charm to the whole thing that makes it fairly enjoyable to read. That being said, the same effervescence makes You're Under Arrest feel kind of slight, even disposable, and it can't entirely overcome some of the dated humor and oddities of its presentation.
I wonder if Fujishima didn't pick these particular stories because his artwork had evened out in quality by that point in the original run. After all, this series preceded Oh My Goddess by a couple of years and that had some wonky artwork at the very beginning. Gone are the weird diamond heads and heavy brows of those early days, thank goodness. Instead we have a lot of cute, sensibly proportioned girls, even if they do have a tendency to look alike and the way he shades noses tends to make them look like a dark little hole instead of...well, a nose. The supporting cast (particularly the dudes) tend to look a lot more goony and wild in comparison. He also lavishes a lot of love on the vehicles here, be it the various cycles or Miyuki's souped up little Subaru. Sadly, he doesn't bring quite the same flare to drawing them in motion. His panels and pages are nicely put together, but the action scenes aren't terribly dynamic on the page. Fujishima is clearly more comfortable with the character and comedy-driven stuff.
Like most old Dark Horse books, this is flipped. Also like most old Dark Horse book, it's got a translation from Toren Smith and some of the other Studio Proteus staff. That means the translation is smooth and funny right down to the smallest aside in a panel, even if that occasionally means a replacement pop-culture references which has become incredibly dated in the meantime. I mean, when was the last time you heard anyone make a reference to Matthew Sweet?
Going back to my original query, I think the reason that fandom has mostly left You're Under Arrest behind is that it lacks substance. It's an amusing read with a cute cast, but it doesn't have the same sort of emotional attachment that made its predecessor so endearing. Maybe if it too had gotten an unedited release, things could have been different. As is, it's merely a trifle.
This series was published by Dark Horse. This series is complete in Japan with 7 volumes available. 2 volumes were released, and both are currently out of print.