Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Dec 8th 2009
You're Under Arrest Second Season
Sub.DVD - Collection 1
Having been saved some years ago by Natsumi and Miyuki, the twin stars of Bokutou Police Station's traffic section, Saori Saga enters the police academy and upon graduation gets herself assigned to Bokutou. Where she very quickly has the stars in her eyes tarnished by the behind-the-scenes reality of traffic-law enforcement. The officers of Bokutou's traffic section are a stubbornly weird bunch, a collection of cast-offs and misfits from all over Tokyo who are as concerned with, say mixers and parties in the park as they are with upholding the law. Justice-obsessed Saori is at first horrified, but she soon learns that, in a pinch, there's no one better to have on the side of the law and order than Bokutou's oddballs.
Though Kousuke Fujishima is most famous for his seminal harem comedy Oh My Goddess, it wasn't his only hit franchise; the other one is, of course, You're Under Arrest. With three seasons of anime, a smattering of OAVs, a series of mini-specials, and a live-action television adaptation, the franchise is a sprawling cash-cow. And it's not hard to see why. Funny, more than a smidge dumb, and fluffy to a fault, this seemingly immortal light-action police comedy is undemanding entertainment of the most harmless and yet thoroughly enjoyable type.
That is true for all of the series' many incarnations, but by the time this second season rolled off the assembly line, the series' formula had definitely worn thin. After fifty-plus episodes of fighting incredibly silly crime, watching Natsumi and Miyuki tussle with rogue monkeys and superhero wannabes has lost much of its novelty. Quirky cops and strange criminals (fake cop anyone?) are fine, but eventually you crave more. That is, until YUA tries giving you more. As it turns out, substance is not the show's strong suit. Calling its romantic and familial subplots awkward is like calling zombies "socially maladroit," and its big stab at drama, the two part "Big Panic on the Bokutou Line", is a disaster story so painfully contrived (to see this kind of thing done right, watch the terrifying Tokyo Magnitude 8.0) that the return to puff pieces is a blessed relief.
But neither dumb drama nor recycled plots can keep YUA's long-established cast down for long. They're an energetic bunch, so lively they make even the series' worst episodes a little fun, and so familiar that rejoining them is like visiting old (if slightly simplistic) friends. Saori, with her naive tirades about upholding justice and civilization (via parking tickets, no joke), is a poor addition to the cast, but she gets sidelined pretty early on in favor of old warhorses like bespectacled money shark Yoriko and likeable lug Nakajima. Regardless of relative storytelling quality, it's always a pleasure to hang with the hep cats of the Bokutou Police Station.
It isn't just the storytelling they must contend with, though. To a certain extent Bokutou's hep cats are also fighting the visuals. With the move into season two, YUA undergoes a complete visual overhaul, exchanging warm cel animation for heartlessly shiny CG, and trading the effervescent lightness of Kazuhiro Furuhashi and Junji Nishimura's visuals for something darker, more atmospheric, and entirely less appropriate. Director Shougo Kawamoto also lacks the adventurous spirit and comic timing of his predecessors, as well as their raw skill with imagery. The frequent car chases are adequately executed and no more, and the unabashedly artificial 2D CG saps the cast of much of their visual appeal and renders their movements clunky. The series doesn't just have less fun written into it; on some purely gut level it feels less fun. Plus Miyuki and Natsumi's eyes have changed color. As has Aoi's hair. The gods of continuity quake with rage.
At least Kô Ôtani and Yasunori Iwasaki's score has the right idea. It's a dippy, energetic affair, always ready with a bouncy tune or a blast of action fanfare to set the mood to rights. It isn't used with anything approaching insight, or even for that matter, skill, but it's unfailingly fun to listen to, particularly when it hearkens back to YUA episodes of yesteryear.
Section 23/Sentai Filmworks may as well have sent this series into the world in its birthday suit. No extras (of note), no dub, and thirteen episodes jammed onto two discs in a single DVD case: it doesn't get any more bare-bones. Oh yeah, and they really need to reign in their copy-writer. The back-of-the-case synopsis is plain embarrassing.
Even with its newly-accumulated technical shortcomings, diminishing comic returns, and poor-to-bad dramatic instincts, You're Under Arrest's second season still retains the original's uncanny ability to find and flip that switch in our heads that disables the brain. It may be dumb fun, but with our brains off, who can tell the difference?
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : B-
+ The return of one of anime's most enjoyable ensemble casts; plenty of goofy fun.
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