We gotta talk about Futaba Aoi

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 Aoi in a controversial light. She used to be an athletic young man, until her career as a police officer took a turn for the strange. Due to her good looks, Futaba 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 as a woman. Thus she decided to keep living as one, 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. They eventually come around after Aoi makes her first arrest and the other main characters become convinced of her femininity.

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 similar schedule for Aoi’s access to the showers.

Throughout the show, Futaba Aoi proves to be one of the most competent and reliable members of the cast. She also cares a lot about her team, making their treatment of her in return feel particularly mean-spirited. Despite her feminine appearance and expressions, the other characters continue referring to Aoi as male. While her desired identity is constantly played for laughs.


An episode that has the police officers take a vacation to a snowy resort sees an attempted rapist being horrified after assaulting Aoi in her bed. This goes entirely unpunished, as her colleagues rush in and appear sympathetic towards the shocked criminals.

Another episode has main character Natsumi pull down Aoi’s skirt in front of a teenager visiting the bureau, in an attempt 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; hoping 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—remarks about his admiration for her..


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.

3 thoughts on “We gotta talk about Futaba Aoi

  1. I wonder if that’s partially to do with the age of the show. For example, I’ve known older relatives that had no issues with POC but would occasionally crack a racist joke because it was deemed just light hearted in their youth. It never occurred to them that they’d be offensive until it was pointed out to them. This could be the same thing where the jokes were perhaps thought of as OK by Japan’s general public at the time, so he didn’t realise how they could be taken? It wouldn’t excuse them, of course, but it could explain how they crept in.

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