I went to Blockbuster this evening (well, Friday evening) to rent Witch Hunter Robin, a recent anime series, and, oh my GOD! They had the first three DVDs of You're Under Arrest, on of my favourite anime series, and two DVDs of the subtitled-only 1982 (Super Dimension Fortress) Macross TV series, which was re-formatted for North American TV as the "Rick Hunter" episodes of Robotech (with two unrelated series, Genesis Climber Mospeada and Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, the other two components of Robotech).
While I already have the first three DVDs of You're Under Arrest, I'm very happy to see it at the Pincourt, Quebec branch of Blockbuster along with Macross because it's a definite sign that, at long last, AnimEigo has overcome its crappy disribution problems in Canada, especially here in the province of Quebec, so, at long last, I no longer have to order stuff directly from their website. I mean, please don't misunderstand me, I love AnimEigo dearly and it's pretty much my favourite North American anime distributor, since they mainly do older titles which would only appeal to a small niche within the anime fandom niche which ADV and Pioneer wouldn't touch and, their flagship title, Urusei Yatsura, is still about my favourite anime series overall. However, if I can purchase AnimEigo stuff locally in Montreal now instead of off their website, I no longer have to worry about getting a money order and paying for the shipping and paying the stupid fricking border fee along with the sales taxes to the postman when I receive their goods.
AnimEigo DVDs at the Pincourt Blockbuster; honestly, I never thought I'd see the day. I suppose it's still a pipe-dream that my local Blockbuster would get Urusei Yatsura and Kimagure Orange Road, though.
As a super happy funtime bonus, I'll post my review of the first three DVDs of You're Under Arrest in a review I had originally written for a review website which is now defunct.
YOU'RE UNDER ARREST
DVD 1-3 review
You're Under Arrest (Japanese title: Taiho Shichau Zo!) is basically the adventures and comic
hijinks of two young, female traffic cops, Natsumi Tsujimoto and Miyuki Kobayakawa, and their colleagues at Bokuto precinct somewhere in central Tokyo. It is based on the manga series by Kosuke Fujishima (who went on to create Oh My Goddess!) which ran for seven collected paperback volumes in Japan, of which only two, volumes 5 and 6, have been published in English by Dark Horse/Studio Proteus. A popular rumour is that Kosuke Fujishima was embarrassed by the quality of the early You're Under Arrest stories, which featured much simpler looking versions of Natsumi and Miyuki, so he asked Dark Horse not to print the early stuff, although I have all seven volumes translated into French by Pika Edition (formerly Manga Player), so, if that rumour's true, he apparently didn't care so much about what his French-speaking fans thought of it. The You're Under Arrest manga has been rather fruitful as source material for spin-offs; as of this writing, there has been a four-episode OVA ("Original Video Animation"- cartoons animated specifically to be sold on video rather than airing on television) series, two animated TV series, a series of seven-minute long shorts (which are heavier in terms of T&A and "fan service" than the other animated adaptations) which aired on the popular variety programme Wonderful, an animated movie, and, starting very recently, a live action "dorama" series (with a theme song performed by, of all people, Mariah Carey). AnimEigo's first DVD box set of You're Under Arrest contains the four OVA episodes as well as the following eight TV episodes (the four OVA episodes were slightly edited to air as the first four episodes of the TV series).
The main menus for each disk are animated, although, thankfully for those of us that like to fall asleep in front of the TV, there are no short, looping segments of music playing in the background to pervade our dreams. Though, I have to say, myself, I really don't mind the static, no frills menus of AnimEigo's Urusei Yatsura DVDs, especially considering I'd rather AnimEigo spend what limited resources they have on getting the best quality picture and sound possible out of the masters and, in this case, good quality dubbing. (On the same token, I'm afraid I don't personally see the point of the "bonus" disk; the galleries and the little video clips of the Coastal Carolina dub actors trying to get the timing and "lip flap" right are worth a look, don't get me wrong, but there's nothing there that couldn't have easily been spread out over the three other disks in the set.) One minor annoyance about the menus is that there IS a "Play All" option, except it's semi-hidden; highlight the horizontal "traffic light", which is the "Play All" icon.
Perhaps the single most annoying annoyance about this presentation is that before every disk (including the bonus one) you have to sit through the legal warnings (with animated intro?) and then the EMOTION logo, the Kodansha Video logo, the TMS Animation logo sequence (which is really cheesy, with a giant hand that looks like it was drawn with cont� and a cherry thing that morphs into a mascot) and the "rainy" AnimEigo logo sequence; 1 minute 18 seconds worth of warnings and logos that you can't skip, although you can "fast forward" through them, or at least you can on the two Toshiba units (SD-2107 and SD-1600) I tried them on.
I don't think the picture quality of the OVA episodes looks too much better than the old CLV "hybrid" (one side dubbed, the other subtitled) LaserDiscs did, but that's more a comment on how good a job AnimEigo did on the LDs back then, not a comment on how bad the DVDs look now. The colours are bright and the lines are sharp. I can't find any major problems with the image on the TV episode disks, though I don't have any LDs of that to which I can compare; maybe just that the lines on the characters look a tiny, tiny bit "fuzzy" in some scenes, though that may just be the anti-aliasing (the effect used to minimize "jagged" diagonal lines). One thing that doesn't bother me one way or the other but might annoy some of the more "purist" fans, is that, unlike most other AnimEigo DVDs, the You're Under Arrest TV episodes do not have the credits written in Japanese, not even as an "alternate" angle track. It does have an option to remove the English language credits, so you can watch the opening and closing credits animation "clean".
I think the animation quality of the OVA episodes is superb, far above normal OVA quality in terms of overall detail. Also, I don't think I've ever seen automobiles animated as well as in the second episode, "Tokyo Typhoon Rally", at least not in anime, the way the cars are never distorted, even as the perspective changes as they careen around corners. In the same episode, I find the darkness of the typhoon and the halo effects around the lights and the way the rain-slicked street reflects the headlights and the way the Lancia kicks up water and splashes the "camera" and we see the scene refracted through the water to be just so perfect in capturing the look and the mood and the ambience of a rainstorm. I also love the opening sequence of the OVAs, particularly the 180 degree shot cited by Gilles Poitras in his book Anime Essentials as something that is relatively easy to do in animation but almost impossible to shoot in real life, with the "camera" zooming up a hillside towards Natsumi and Miyuki as a 747 appears overhead and then the "camera" closes in on Miyuki, framed by the belly of the 747, and the "camera" turns around Miyuki and closes in on Natsumi, in profile, and then pulls back so that we can see Miyuki and Natusmi from the opposite angle as the beginning of the "camera motion" with the rear of the plane in the distance. (We were lucky to get the original OVA opening and closing included in this set; AnimEigo almost used the edited TV versions of the 4 OVA episodes with the TV opening and closing because the OVA versions of the same episodes would have had to been licensed separately, except, somehow, the opportunity to use the original, uncut versions of the OVA episodes "fell into their laps", as AnimEigo chief Robert Woodhead himself put it on the AnimEigo mailing list last spring.)
The downside to having the original 4 OVA episodes and the following 8 TV episodes together in one box is that the drop-off in animation quality is very noticeable, though I don't think the quality of the TV animation is quite as bad as some people will have you believe. The biggest difference is that the animation of the automobiles doesn't look nearly as nice, nor are the cars drawn quite as detailed or as accurate. They still look pretty good for cars in an anime TV series though,
and I'd still rather look at these sort of hand-drawn cars than the cheap looking CG ones of Initial D anyday. The character designs are pretty much the same as the OVAs, though you don't get quite the amount of complex shading on the characters, especially with their hair and eyes.
Most of the main dub cast from AnimEigo's OVA dub from the mid-90s returns to dub the TV series, the one exception being that Juliet Cesario, who is probably best known as being the dub voice of Belldandy in AnimEigo's dub of the Oh My Goddess OVA episodes, replaces Jo Ann Luzzatto as the voice of Miyuki. The one minor problem I have is they say "Aoi" as "Ah-oy" (rhymes with annoy) when it should be pronounced "Ah-Oi-Ee", otherwise the new dub is about as non-cringeworthy as English dubs get, aside from the Disney Ghibli dubs, and is consistent in quality with the older dub. However, one thing I really liked about the older dub was that, for the Kindergarten kids, they used kids with fairly heavy Southern accents in the dub; I admit I wasn't comfortable with that at first until it occurred to me that there is no good reason why all dubs should use actors with non-identifiable accents, so I quickly found the kids' accents to be adorable. Unfortunately, the kids from the original dub would be well into their teens by now, so they used different kids, this time with generic accents. But they didn't re-dub the original 4 episodes, so you can hear both dub casts in this set and compare for yourself. The dub does take some liberties with the original script, like, when an old classmate of Aoi's talks about Aoi giving her his "button" in the original Japanese, the "button" becomes his "varsity jacket" in English, but they use colloquialisms in order to make it make more sense with an English-speaking audience. I don't particularly have a problem with that, since they didn't make the subtitles "dubtitles", so you can still see the original meaning of what was said. The Japanese cast includes Sakiko Tamagawa as Natsumi, Akiko Hiramitsu (Bloodberry in the various Saber
Marionette series) as Miyuki, Issei Masamune as the Chief, Bin Shimada (the Japanese voice of Krusty the Clown, apparently) as Ken, Etsuko Kozakura (Ryo-Ohki on Tenchi Muyo) as Yoriko and Rika Matsumoto (the woman that does the voice of Jim Hawking on Outlaw Star) as Aoi.
The opening theme song from the OVAs, "Courage at 100mph", is one of my favourite anime songs out there, and I like the closing theme song of the OVAs almost as much, and both songs are sung by Sakiko Tamagawa (Natsumi) and Akiko Hiramitsu (Miyuki), though the TV opening and closing songs are from J-pop acts Flying Kids ("To Be Myself") and Keiko Terada ("Thank You, Love") respectively. The background music, composed by Yuki Otani, is upbeat and cheerful, though fast and exciting when called for during the chase scenes. It's mostly videogame-ish "synth pop"; although there are musicians credited for playing instruments besides the synthesizer in the booklet for the OVA soundtrack CD (American edition, JVC-1006-2), it sounds mostly synthesized to me. Some of the pieces of background music also have a
vaguely "tropical" rhythm. The background music from the OVAs is re-used in the TV series, though there are a few pieces original to the TV series.
Natsumi is the tough one, being stronger than most of the men on the force, even to the point of being called a "gorilla woman", known for being able to pick up improbably large objects and stop Miyuki's patrol car with her feet. She tends to have a short fuse in high pressure situations and acts brashly, though, unlike a lot of other one-dimensional "tough and short-fused" characters you see in anime, she does have a soft side and isn't angry most of the time. Miyuki is much calmer and is a mechanical genius who customizes vehicles and can also defuse most explosive devices (including Natsumi). She's also an expert driver, though she can be shy around men she likes. Although Natsumi and Miyuki are mainly traffic cops, they seem to find themselves involved with all sorts of petty criminals, as well as the odd vigilante or two (who may or may not be people they know). Ken Nakajima is a motorcycle cop who often gets the girls out of tight situations; he's big, handsome, hunky, and painfully shy. Yoriko Nikaidou is another female officer who seems to be younger than either Natsumi or Miyuki; or maybe she's just small. She's the station's unofficial matchmaker and rumour mill, interfering in everyone's life, but she means well. She's not quite as "clueless" as she may appear, though everyone, including herself, underestimates her abilities. Aoi is a male cop who dressed up as a girl to catch perverts on the subway and found that he enjoyed being "female", so he remains a transvestite; his "disguise" is so convincing that most men can't tell the difference. The chief usually keeps quiet; in the manga he's a little bit more important a character than he is in the animated TV series (and in the live-action TV series, he doesn't even appear, the chief being a woman!). Something else that is as much of a "character" as any of the people is the Honda Today mini-patrol car that Miyuki "hot-rodded" herself (complete with nitro), so that, despite appearances, it's as fast and furious as those more sporty Hondas that you see Vin Diesel driving in the movies. Miyuki also put together Natsumi's "Motor Compo", which Natsumi uses to get to places the Today can't.
One criticism I recall from one of the critics of a certain anime magazine when this was new in Japan (1996) was that, although the main characters are police officers, it could take place in any office setting. I disagree. Obviously, they wouldn't get into car chases if they worked in an office, and that would be a major difference, but I also think that, while I am no way under the delusion that this is some sort of animated documentary of the lives of Japanese police officers, it does show a lot of the sort of work Japanese police officers do trying to stay a part of the community and not apart from the community, since many people in North America are accustomed to thinking, rightly or wrongly, that the police are there just to catch the bad guys. The thing that impresses me the most is that, not only are the Kindergarten kids not intimidated in any way by the police officers, female, male, or Aoi, they actually know their local police officers on a first name basis. While a lot of what you see on any comedy anime is exaggerated, I've read enough on Japan to know that this is pretty much accurate, at least in many neighbourhoods, as the police really do go around schools to get to know the children and not just pass around the see-through plastic tray with the joints and the LSD tattoos with the little pictures of Superman. We also see the cops being helpful, giving directions and helping people across the street. Don't expect to see a lot of gunfire, other than on the practice target range, since these are Japanese criminals we're talking about here, and guns are relatively hard to come by in Japan. The main vigilante in this series seems to be spoofing Batman, though not in the way you might expect, as nothing in You're Under Arrest can remotely be considered to be dark or brooding (not counting the movie). (Hint: think of an alternate meaning for the word "bat" and you?d be on the right track.) Besides the vigilante, in these episodes, Natsumi and Miyuki have to deal with a motor-scooter riding mama who breaks all traffic rules to get to sales a few seconds faster, Santa Clauses that take rather than give.
For the most part, this TV series stays fairly true to the manga, with some elements added to pad up the manga stories, which, at first, were very short. However, in the manga, a lot of the petty crime involved panties, bras and bathing suits, though this element was toned down for this particular anime series (though toned back up again for the "specials"). Another major, major difference between the manga and the anime is that, in the original manga, there actually never was a "how Natsumi and Miyuki first met" story, which is what the entire first episode is about. (In fact, very little that happens in the original 4 OVA episodes is taken from the manga, other than the characters, the vehicles and the general premise. "The Fox" subplot did come from the manga, but the identity of "The Fox" is completely different.) One thing I really like about the anime is that, although Bokuto precinct itself is totally fictional, a lot of the series takes place on real streets and highways in and around Tokyo, so you can actually follow along using a Tokyo map or atlas.
The "liner notes" for all 3 volumes are included with the first volume, and the lyrics for all the songs are with the second volume. The liner notes aren't nearly as extensive as those for Urusei Yatsura, but they don't need to be, since there aren't all the references to Japanese folklore and religion you'd find in Urusei Yatsura.
So, with the release of a newly dubbed series, the first original dub from AnimEigo since, I believe, Crusher Joe about 5 years ago and the first TV series to be fully dubbed from them since, well, ever, AnimEigo is now officially out of their coma and off life-support and sitting up and eating solid food with a series that will appeal to more than AnimEigo's core "preorder" fanbase. Not that this series is for everybody, as it is a comedy much more than it is a cop show, but Natsumi and Miyuki are one of the most dynamic female duos in all of anime and this is the perfect anime for those of you looking for something pleasant, light and charming with lots of warmth.
Just keep in mind that you're watching it that it is an anime, like many of the brutal hentai titles, and, technically speaking, ALL anime/manga is of the "same roots", and you shouldn't replace life with this anime/manga hogwash, because, no matter how many of you DEFEND anime/manga, you NEED to realize that this genre of entertainment is nothing short of witchcraft, REGARDLESS of the messages/storylines presented. At least according to Todd H. and he should know a little about anime, since he, too, had what could be called a "phase" where he would occasionally watch some of it.