It's brilliant. It's my favourite cop show, anywhere, ever. It's based on a manga by an ex-policewoman and it completely discards the usual cop show story ingredients. Baddies? They're trivial and throwaway (except in the series finale three-parter). Criminal investigations? Forget it. Action heroes? Anyone who's gung-ho to be a super-cop will also be offensive and annoying.
Instead, this is a workplace comedy, focusing on the weirdness, sexism, quirks and just plain bonkers side of being an under-motivated rookie cop in a small-time police station that's short on basic competence. I just about died at the police sketch artist episode. The protagonists and their colleagues get portrayed as macho, sexist, childish and/or indistinguishable in a line-up from the criminals they're hunting. (They're not bad people, but Kawai finds the Criminal Affairs department scary and Fuji tears to shreds their personalities, excuses and peacock habits the first time we see her in there. "They're just local government employees." "Oh, there it is. The Criminal Affairs speciality: 'we're busy'...")
The manga also has a 2021 live-action TV drama adaptation and that's very good too (in its early episodes)... but I prefer the anime. Trying to understand why was driving me nuts. Theoretically they're the same.
MY FIRST ATTEMPT AT A REASON
The anime subverts expectations that the live-action show can't. There isn't a TV industry in the world that doesn't have live-action police shows coming out of its ears... but this is anime. One expects aliens, ninja, magic or sex tentacles. It's almost startling to find yourself watching an adaptation of a semi-autobiography.
AFTER REWATCHING THE ANIME (yes, I did)
The two adaptations are about different things. Same cast and plot beats, but to a different purpose. The 2021 one's just another live-action TV series about police officers and ultimately isn't really interested in saying anything, except "look, we're funny".
The anime, on the other hand, is actually ABOUT the police. It's dissecting the job. It's addressing the public's attitudes to them, e.g. "look, it's the bloody police, crash and burn, cockroaches!" Naturally, the public are liable to be pains in the neck. Fuji explains that it's their job to be sandbags. The moment you join the police, your family all start bringing you their problems. Our heroes do want to do their jobs... mostly, approximately, often for selfish reasons. But there's lots of dark comment about the kind of people you meet in different departments ("he may look like a gorilla with a pompadour, but...") and about how both men and women are liable to be the kind of people you'd flee from at top speed if you met them on a date. Fuji's male colleagues don't even think she's human.
"Wait, Seiko-chan is beautiful? All I see when I look at her is a mountain gorilla."
"Well, she's only a mountain gorilla on the inside. Appearance-wise, she comes across as a well-groomed human."
Then there's the stress, overtime, sleeplessness and extreme work demands. While the manga's creator was still a police officer, one of her colleagues died of work stress. All versions of this series are highly entertaining and a good laugh, but the anime goes further than the live-action in portraying this dark side.
Work romance is out of the question. Not because it's banned (it's not), but because our heroines would sooner date a wild beast (which is almost what you'd get with the scarier detectives). When one girl gets excited by the men at work, Kawai's reaction suggests a mental health professional.
"Let's get that diagnosed, so we'll have a name for the disease!"
All that I loved. It's funny, entertaining and showing me entire worlds I'd never considered. (When someone dies, for instance, our heroes aren't just cops. They're Buddhist cops.) The regular cast includes:
KAWAI (main character, female) = she's often clueless, she has the worst motivations and she often sounds like a brat. If chasing after criminals, she's usually hoping to get safely punched because the perp she'd chasing could squash her like a bug. In the first episode, she decided to quit the force.
FUJI (super-cop, female) = got busted down from Criminal Affairs for "power harassment", which is probably true. She's brilliant. She picks up on clues that you'll be slapping yourself afterwards for not picking up. She's the best cop on the force and her instincts are almost frightening, but she intimidates and torments everyone.
MINAMOTO (detective, male) = childish, dick-waving, constantly fighting with Fuji... but he actually seems quite good at his job. Except for the bit where he beats up a suspect after catching him. Has the ability to become the best friend of almost anyone, which gives him lots of old lady fans who commit trivial crimes so that he'll flirt with them again.
YAMADA (detective, male) = treated as a butt-monkey by Fuji and Minamoto, despite training alongside them at police school. Usually gets the thankless jobs. He seems like a nice guy, actually.
The show's brilliant. I really think that. I found it educational, as well as hilarious. The season ends with a three-episode traditional investigation (of serial sexual offenders), but the show's usually uninterested in anything like that. It challenged my assumptions on a regular basis and I'd recommend it to anyone.