New Anime Series Police in a Pod Might Not Fly With Western Viewers

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Police in a Pod Episode 1, “Unbox & Punching Bag,” now streaming on Funimation.

The newly-released anime series Police in a Pod (also known as Hakozume: Kouban Joshi no Gyakushuu) is a slice-of-life comedy show based on the seinen manga of the same name. Largely inoffensive on paper, it follows rookie cop Kawai Mai, who is on the verge of resigning from her post when a new instructor, Chief Fuji Seiko, is assigned to her, breathing new life into the job with her unconventional ways.

Made up of several different sketches, the premiere episode quickly establishes its lead characters and breezes straight into the comedy aspects of its premise -- small-time criminals with big mouths, relatable office politics, and having to give presentations to young and impressionable school kids. However, Police in a Pod stumbles in a few ways, and in the current climate, the content itself may not be what some Western viewers are looking for.

One of the biggest issues with the show lies in its sense of comedic timing, or lack thereof. Some of its sketches contain good ideas, particularly those that any viewer who’s ever worked in an office or group setting can likely relate to (Kawai’s complaints about having to call the crime specialists to question a prolific thief, given that they have a high-and-mighty attitude and look down on beat cops, is a good example of this).

However, the sketches that rely less on natural-seeming situational comedy and more on action or punchlines don’t land anywhere nearly as well. The pacing is too uneven for these jokes to be delivered in a way that feels organic or even very funny in their own right, and certain lines come off as downright bizarre (such as the thief’s assertion that he targets towns with higher rates of crime -- like people riding double on bicycles -- because the people who live there are less likely to look out for one another).

Nonetheless, it’s the general tone and overall premise of Police in a Pod that may rub some Western audiences the wrong way, especially given the real-world social-political climate and contemporary conversations regarding the role of the police.

Kawai is a police officer on the verge of resigning because the nature of her work gives her a bad rap, but she only joined in the first place because her father wanted her to be a civil servant… and it was the only exam she was able to pass. Meanwhile, her new supervisor Fuji was allegedly fired from her detective role for workplace bullying -- and while she appears outwardly kind, one of the episode sketches, where she mumbles a string of bleeped-out curses under her breath at passing motorists, makes it clear that she has something of a temper and plenty of pent-up aggression.

Of course, the position and scope of police officers in Japan -- at least, those stationed in small neighborhood police stations (kouban) -- may be quite different from the images of police officers elsewhere in the world, particularly in the U.S. Nonetheless, it could be difficult for non-Japanese viewers to laugh off the kinds of jokes that Police in a Pod seems to be offering, especially when it comes to gags that either intentionally or inadvertently touch on social commentary.

It’s obvious that Police in a Pod does not set out to be offensive, and for many, that might be enough, not least because they are not the target audience to begin with. However, for other watchers, the anime could come across as slightly insensitive at best, or tone-deaf and even potentially triggering at worst.

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