16 October 2006
You're Under Arrest the Movie came out quite some time ago, which means it's probably too late to warn most people about it, but maybe this will catch a few of the stragglers who had thought about watching it and never quite took the plunge. Based on an early manga created by Kosuke Fujishima (better known as the creator of Oh My Goddess), the movie is the latest instalment of a rather long-running license that includes a four-episode OVA, an animated television series, a live-action series and a number of specials. Western anime fans are likely to be well-acquainted with the OVAs and TV series, though most will strongly agree that the OVAs were significantly better than any of the other fare produced.
Just for background information, You're Under Arrest is set in the Tokyo's Bokuto precinct police station. It primarily follows the story of two female traffic cops - Natsumi and Miyuki - and their slightly unusual co-workers. Overall, it's pretty much what any generic cop show would be like if you removed the murders, added more kittens, and turned it into a romantic comedy.
The movie follows on much of the same, but introduces an economic terrorist plot involving the bombing of Tokyo's bridges, which is linked to the chief of Bokuto Precinct Station. Spending any more time talking about the plot would be wasteful because in the end it was loose and very poorly drawn together - at the start of the film you're content to wait it out, expecting that these series of events will be masterfully interwoven at some point, but about halfway through all interest in the plot peters out as it appears that whatever explanations ARE offered will be dubiously linked together and unbelievably convenient. If you're expecting a proper climax or a shocking twist in this script you won't get one. You won't even be left with any truly heart-stopping 'oh-my-god-how-are-they-going-to-get-out-of-this' moments. And can I take a moment to complain that despite the fact that Miyuki spends half the movie toting a massive rifle, she doesn't really ever use it? In all honesty, any of the individual OVA episodes had more drama than what the entire movie managed to deliver.
There are some cool scenes in the movie - fans of You're Under Arrest will particularly enjoy the sequence when terrorists take over Bokuto Precinct Station - but they are sparse and in the end, don't seem to have much motivation. Particularly when it feels that quite a lot of the animation budget was thrown away on the wrong things; it's a little hard to swallow a two-minute bridge-raising sequence animated in stunning detail when not even five minutes before all you had was a still shot that didn't even have lip-synching. I haven't seen such gross misdirection of budget since the days of Violinist of Hamelin. For one, it's a MOVIE, by Production I.G. at that, so you expect the animation to consistently be above the standard of television - and it's pretty rare you'll come across an television anime these days that neglects to provide at least the impression of lip-synching in a shot. Or even an anime that makes excessive use of stills, of which there were lots in You're Under Arrest the movie.
I�d also like to take a moment to let people know that unless you have at least some knowledge of the You�re Under Arrest universe up your sleeves, you�re going to be completely lost. This movie was made primarily for the fans, and there were plenty of characters in it that seem important but never get a proper introduction. Indeed, their need to include just about everyone who ever appeared in You�re Under Arrest makes this already-muddled storyline even more confusing and filled with moments that were ultimately unimportant. There were plenty of characters that didn�t need to appear and seemed to be included simply to please the fans. I�m all for fan-pleasing, but it probably helps to get the basics right first.
About the only thing going for this movie at all is the fact that the soundtrack was scored by Kenji Kawai (some examples of his work include the score to Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence and Vampire Princess Miyu). Even that didn�t seem to quite work, as it felt as though the soundtrack was trying to make up for the drama the movie lacked by informing the audience that something exciting and important was SUPPOSED to be happening. The same was true for the sound effects � they were used too often to try and cover up the fact that you were looking at a motionless shot, such as by adding the sound of screeching tires to a still of a police car careering around a corner. The voice acting was decent at least, the dub being one of the more bearable examples from recent years, with most of the original cast reprising their roles (Japanese and English alike).
In short, there's not much to enjoy about this movie. Fans of You're Under Arrest will be disappointed, as there really was quite a lot of potential for a good You're Under Arrest movie that quite frankly went to waste here. Fans of Production I.G.'s work will also be quite disappointed at the surprisingly poor effort put forth by the normally stellar team. With the see-sawing quality of the animation throughout the movie, a script that feels like it switched writers five times in the course of the story and the amazing lack of �wow� factor, watching this movie quickly degenerates into a tiresome chore. Overall Score: 1,991/1,000,000.