Some honesty on my part here: I didn’t finish the You’re Under Arrest! franchise in its entirety. I did intend to, but ultimately decided against it because I was getting increasingly uncomfortable with the show’s treatment of Futaba Aoi. A character that had the potential to be the most interesting member of the cast, were she not so consistently mistreated.
Note: due to the series’ own inconsistency, I will be referring to Futaba Aoi by female pronouns as this seems to be what she prefers.
Following the series’ OVA, the very first episode of its TV series immediately introduces Futaba in a controversial light. Futaba used to be an athletic young man, until she underwent a lot of changes after becoming a police officer. Due to her good looks, Aoi was tasked with cross-dressing to lure out and arrest sexual predators who harass women in public transport. Through this line of work, Aoi discovered that she felt more comfortable living as a woman and stuck with this lifestyle even after transferring to a different station.
Her introduction to the force is a rocky one, with the first episode being mainly focused on conflicts surrounding what facilities at the office she should use. The women immediately reject her and don’t want her using their changing room or toilets. Predictably, when Aoi then switches to the male alternatives, the men complain that it’s making them uncomfortable and hurting morale as well. They eventually come around after Aoi makes her first arrest and the other main characters notice her female mannerisms. The episode closes out on them giving Aoi her own locker in the women’s changing room and a separate schedule for when she can use it, only for panic to ensue when the girls realize they forgot to set a separate schedule for access to the showers.
Throughout the show, Aoi proves to be one of the most competent and reliable members of Bokuto’s force. She also cares a lot about her team, making their treatment of her concerning and revealing that author Kosuke Fujishima likely didn’t have a lot of knowledge about trans people. Despite her feminine appearance, the other characters continue referring to Aoi as male and her physique is repeatedly played for laughs while her desired identity is mocked.
An episode that has the Bokuto officers take a vacation to a snowy resort sees an attempted rapist being horrified after assaulting Aoi in her bed, which goes unpunished as her colleagues rush in and appear sympathetic towards the shocked criminal. Another episode has main character Natsumi pull down Aoi’s skirt in front of a teenager visiting the bureau to deter her from pursuing a career in the police force. Then, in the mini episodes, the girls plot to debunk a legend about a female ghost by making Aoi strip for curious onlookers until her genitals are revealed, in the hopes that this would scare people enough to stop the spread of the urban legend.
It really is just one thing after the other. The show takes every chance it can get to make a big deal out of Aoi’s otherness and force her in situations where her transsexual nature is emphasized. There are storylines where this is done well, such as those involving Aoi’s romantic life. One touching episode has her confess her sexual gender to an admirer, who takes this in stride and, even though the romance between them goes off the table, he remarks about his admiration for her and they separate amicably.
Episodes such as that lead me to believe that Fujishima wasn’t deliberately aiming to upset trans people. He probably felt that his jokes at her expense were goodhearted and I do get the impression that he liked the character himself. Sadly, the jokes are not always innocent and Aoi’s inconsistent reactions to these is tragically misguided. There was a real opportunity here to tell a progressive story and make You’re Under Arrest! a beacon of positivity. Instead, I had to drop the show after the umpteenth time it found a way to turn Aoi’s “thingy” into a plot device.