Let's imagine Aoi's backstory in a little more detail!
This storyline is based on the Japanese-language version of the original animated series, in which Aoi's earlier assignment had not been to catch a serial rapist, but for anti-chikan duty. "Chikan" refers to sexual molestation taking place on trains.
Names are given in the Japanese style - family name first, given name last.
Dawn of a New Aoi
Jonan Station: 14 Aug
"Itadakimasu! Bon appetit!"
Kudo Takara, commander of Jonan Station's anti-chikan unit, raised her chopsticks in salute to her girls. Anti-chikan work could be lonely - working solo all day, going undercover from one train to another. That's why they valued gathering back at the station at lunchtime, all the girls together: Yoshida Hitomi, Fujii Ren, Oonishi Izumi, and her.
"Here, I brought rice balls to share."
"Ooh, Aoi-chan! You're wonderful!"
Well, all the girls, plus Futaba Aoi. Hitomi had invited the cute young policeman to join them at lunch when he first arrived - she was trying to flirt, of course. Aoi stayed, and somehow having him there felt right - not at all like having a man intruding. Of course, only an ogre could take offense at Aoi. He was kind, modest, and polite to the point of chivalry. He cooked well and shared generously. His looks didn't hurt, either - slender, with perfect features and perfect skin and a thick brown ponytail, he looked more like a teen pop idol than a policeman. As for Aoi, his relationship with his patrol partners and his male colleagues at the station seemed polite and professional, but no more. Maybe the male officers resented his beauty. It seemed that his real friends were all here in the anti-chikan unit.
"Takara-san? Is something wrong? You seem down."
He's so considerate! Tanaka had entertained more than one daydream about dumping her fiancee to run off with Aoi. That was a ridiculous fantasy, of course. Aoi would never take part in something so unfair and irresponsible.
"It's the open slot in the unit. The chief said we can't get a transfer, we have to fill it from within the station. He suggested Officer Inoue."
The officers groaned. Aoi tilted his head, puzzled. "What's so bad about Inoue-san?"
"There's nothing wrong with Inoue-san," explained Takara. "I like her, personally, and she's a good officer. But she's..."
Ren supplied the uncomfortable words. "She's grey-haired and overweight."
"It's not a passing of judgement," Takara explained quickly. "It's simply a fact that young, attractive women are far more effective at anti-chikan duty - it's due to the nature of the criminals. Inoue-san will do her best but she simply won't be able to accomplish very much."
"Well, there must be alternatives", suggested Aoi.
"There aren't many women in the precinct in the first place, and most of them are as old as Inoue."
"What about Nakamura-san?", asked Hitomi. "Couldn't we get her, instead?"
Takara shook her head. "She did a tour in the unit a few years ago and doesn't want to do it again."
"Sato-san has already refused. The fact is, we're not a very prestigious unit. We're not a rapid path to promotions. That, and getting violated by perverts isn't very appealing to most women."
"Yeah, but dragging them off to the slammer sure feels good", grinned Izumi.
Aoi shook his head. "You should be a prestigious unit. Every chikan who doesn't get caught could traumatize dozens of women! You do some of the most important work in the precinct." He sighed. "I wish I could help."
"Well, you'd be a better anti-chikan officer than Officer Inoue!"
The group chuckled and ate silently for a moment, but Ren was staring thoughtfully at Aoi.
"He could, you know!"
"He could be an anti-chikan officer. I bet he'd be really pretty as a woman."
There were giggles.
"You're talking about me like I'm not here", observed Aoi. "This can't be good."
"No, seriously, why not?" Ren grabbed Takara's hand in sudden eagerness. "Look, back before there were policewomen, didn't policemen go undercover disguised as women all the time? We don't have enough young policewomen, so why shouldn't we do it, too? If any man alive can pull it off, it's Aoi-chan."
Takara gave Aoi an appraising look. "Try letting your hair down, please, Aoi-san."
Aoi looked around the table; every face was urging him on. "Well, OK..." He undid his ponytail band and shook his hair free.
The women gasped.
"You're like a shampoo commercial!"
"I've been told it looks unprofessional...", said Aoi, recapturing his thick mane and returning it to its ponytail.
"When they say 'unprofessional'," Ren interpreted, "they mean 'you're prettier than my wife and it makes me feel weird.'"
Takara held out her hand toward her officers, to hush them, and gave Aoi a steady look. "Aoi-san? Would you be willing to join the unit in an undercover disguise?"
"We're not joking?"
"We're not joking."
Aoi exhaled. "I... I'm afraid I wouldn't be effective. I can't catch anybody if I'm a walking joke."
"Then let us find out. Let's make a bet. The girls in the unit will make you up as a woman. If we can make you look real, you'll join the unit.'
Aoi bit his lip. His gaze flickered around the faces of the women at the table. Their pleading eyes formed a circle of hope focused on him.
"You really need me?"
"Desperately, Aoi-san. Incidents were up 17% last year and we have no budget for extra officers. Our only hope is to get someone really good in the one open slot we have. I think that person is you."
He thought another moment, then offered Takara his hand. "In that case... I hope I lose this bet."
The tension around the table broke into excited babble as they shook hands. "Ladies," announced Takara, "meet at my apartment at 7 PM tonight for an extremely important mission. We have a new officer to recruit."
Jonan Station: 15 Aug
"Where have you been, Takara-san?" asked Hitomi. Lunch was almost half over.
Primly controlling a smile, Takara drew a piece of paper from behind her back and read in a formal voice. "By the order of the Chief. Effective 1 September, Officer Futaba is assigned to plainclothes operations as a member of the Anti-Chikan Unit."
Squeals and cheers burst out around the table, drawing curious stares from the rest of the lunchroom. Every woman of the unit grabbed Aoi by a hand or arm to give a welcoming squeeze. "We did it!"
"When I showed the Chief the pictures from Aoi-san's dress-up session, it wasn't hard to convince him. But wait, it gets better." Takara read on. "Recognizing Officer Futaba's need for new wardrobe appropriate to the assignment, the precinct allocates 150,000 Yen for reimbursement of clothing expenses."
"You get to go shopping on the Chief's Yen!" exclaimed Izumi.
"Aw, no fair!", whined Hitomi. "I want to be a man in disguise, too!"
Izumi pleaded, "Can we come shopping with you?"
"The budget is ONLY FOR FUTABA-SAN," scolded Takara.
"Actually, I was going to ask," put in Aoi, "if all of you could come with. I, um, think I need you for moral support."
"Perfect!" said Ren. "It's OK, we all end up borrowing clothes from each other anyway."
"This Sunday? And, uh," Aoi half-glanced shyly over his shoulder for male eavesdroppers, "could I borrow clothes from you for the trip? I want to try things on, and it'll be less awkward if I go as a woman in the first place..."
Takara set her hand on Aoi's shoulder. "You have the unit's heartfelt support. Everyone meet at my apartment at noon!"
109 Department Store: 17 Aug
Ren lifted up a black off-the-shoulder top in a stretchy knit. "Do you think this would work on him?"
"Don't call her a him!" scolded Hitomi.
Takara nodded. "Yoshida-san is right, Fujii-san. It's the first rule of undercover work: never blow another officer's cover."
"But... won't Aoi-chan be insulted?"
"Why don't you ask her?" Takara turned to point to the striking brunette emerging from a changing room.
"Well?" Aoi twirled slightly, making the folds of the white-accented mint skirt flare out around her knees. "What do you think?"
Hitomi nodded. "You're right, Aoi-chan. That is nicer on you than the pencil skirt."
Izumi shook her head in wonder. "You've got such a good eye for clothes, Aoi-chan. Are you sure you haven't done this before? Dressed as a woman, I mean."
"Well..." Aoi leaned against a rack of blazers and got a faraway look. "It's been a long time. But my aunt would babysit me a lot when I was, oh, about ten years old. She had one child, a daughter my age. I would wear her clothes and we'd pretend we were sisters." Aoi smiled. "One time, we even snuck out and went to a roller rink that way. Some boys bought us melon sodas."
Abruptly, her face darkened and her brows drew down. "Eventually, my father found out. He was... really angry. He told me I had to live up to my responsibility to be a man. So that was that."
Takara rested a sympathetic hand on Aoi's arm.
Aoi drew a deep breath and put back her shoulders. "But - the Chief is my father now. He's the one who tells me what my duty is." She looked around. "I think I want to look for a twinset to go with this. There were some nice ones over this way..."
"Aoi-chan?" called Ren after her. "Is it... all right if we call you 'she'?"
Aoi looked back, puzzled and bemused. "Well, of course! What else would you call me, silly?"
Jonan Station: 18 Aug
Takara was spending her Monday morning at the station, working on the anti-chikan unit's paperwork instead of riding the trains. She looked across the room to Aoi's desk. The young officer's nose was buried deep in a book. After yesterday's shopping spree, followed by a chick flick, it was a little unsettling to see Aoi dressed as a man again. She stood and walked over to her incoming recruit. "Aren't you supposed to be on break, Aoi-san?"
Aoi looked up to her. "I only have two weeks to get ready to join the unit, and so much to learn."
"What are you reading?"
Aoi held it up so Takara could read the cover: Our Bodies, Ourselves.
"Isn't that a book for adolescent girls?"
"Right... girls on the verge of entering womanhood, who need to understand what they're heading into. Just like me, right?"
Takara smiled, and looked at the other books stacked on Aoi's desk. Cindy Crawford's Basic Face. The Homemakers' Handbook. The Art And Science of Floral Arrangement. Three Black Skirts: All You Need To Survive. She picked up The Tea Ceremony. "You just need to catch the chikans, Aoi-san. You don't need to serve tea for them, too."
Aoi lowered the book and leaned back. "Yesterday, I had a great time, but... I felt superficial. I felt like I looked like a man in women's clothing."
"You didn't. You looked gorgeous."
"But there was some awkwardness, wasn't there?"
"A little bit, I suppose." Takara shrugged. "I woudn't worry about it."
Aoi shook his head. "No, I can't tolerate that awkwardness. If one chikan avoids me because he senses something is not quite right, if one of them slips past me because he notices the superficiality, dozens of women could suffer."
"Aoi-san, be reasonable with yourself. You're doing magnificently, better than any man or practically any woman could be expected to. I'm sure the awkward feeling will pass with time. Goodness, don't you think I felt awkward the first time I got on a subway intending to have a man molest me?"
"In my case, the awkwardness comes from the feeling that I'm a man inside." Aoi lifted the book. "I can get rid of it by transforming my mind, learning womanhood from the inside out."
Takara gave Aoi a skeptical look. "Your reputation for thoroughness is well-earned, I see..."
"Consider, Takara-san - a martial arts sensei doesn't just tell you where to swing your arms and legs. No, he begins by teaching you the philosophy and mindset of the art. Then knowledge of techniques flows smoothly from a foundation of deep understanding. That's what I'm going to do with womanhood. I'm not going to imitate a woman, I'm going to be a woman. Oh, and that reminds me." He held up a newsprint booklet. "There are bride-to-be classes at the university extension, designed for career women who feel like they've neglected their feminine skills and want to improve them before marriage. I was hoping to arrange my work hours so that I could enroll..."
Jonan Station: 20 Aug
"Aoi-chan? What happened to your face? It's all blotchy." What lousy timing this would be, Hitori thought, for Aoi to lose his perfect complexion.
"Oh - I had a laser hair removal session yesterday afternoon. Don't worry, makeup covers it up well, and it's healing quickly anyway."
"Laser? Isn't that... permanent?"
"Mm-hmm!" Aoi nodded cheerfully.
"But Aoi-san!", protested Takara. "Isn't that a little drastic?"
"No, I've never worn a moustache, or wanted one. And I've never really had enough facial hair to grow a real moustache anyway. This was just a little shadow on the upper lip. I really never liked it as a man, and I certainly don't want it as a woman."
"Was that... are you practicing feminine speech patterns, Aoi-san?"
Aoi nodded shyly.
"You're really doing this all-out, aren't you?", said Ren.
"It's the only way I do anything."
Jonan Medical Appliances Supply: 20 Aug
In one sense, reflected Sasaki Emi, it was a nice change to have a young woman come in for a fitting. Most of her clients were in their fifties or older. In another sense, of course, it was awful for such a pretty young thing to be struck so terribly. Bilateral, too!
Still, the girl seemed quite healthy. Hopefully the surgery was completely successful. She certainly wasn't suffering any hair loss! And, after today's fitting, she'd feel better about herself.
"Here you are, dearie." Emi brought two silicone forms to the girl. "Let's try these on you."
"Thank you", the girl said. Blushing, she slid slipped her blouse off and pulled two lumps of wadded socks from her bra cups.
"Oh, goodness, dearie, we can do better than that! These will feel just like you. Here we are." Emi slid the forms into the girl's bra, settled them into place, and helped her slide her blouse back on. "Now have a look at yourself." She placed the ingenue in front of a mirror.
The girl put her shoulders back and smiled sincerely. "Wow!"
"As much of a woman as ever, aren't you?"
"More than ever, I'd say!"
"That's the spirit, dearie!"
Futaba Aoi's apartment building: 22 Aug
"Thanks so much for helping out with your car, Izumi-chan." Aoi smiled widely as she leaned the cardboard carton against the elevator's wall. "I'd never get this all to the thrift store without it."
"Sure... glad I could help." Izumi gazed at her friend: peach T-shirt snug over her bosom, denim miniskirt showing off her long legs. "I didn't realize you'd be, um, a woman tonight. You must have changed right after work."
Aoi nodded. "I've been doing that all week. In fact, starting right now, I'm all done with men's clothing." She nodded down at the box she held. "Here it goes! I needed the closet space for my new things."
"You're getting rid of your men's clothing?"
"How much of it?"
"All of it!"
"But Aoi-chan! Won't you want to be a man at all - at home, or on weekends?"
"Nope! Trying to switch back and forth like that would only confuse me. I'd never keep myself in the proper mindset that way. And anyway, what's the point? Why would I want to spend time as a man?" The elevator doors chimed and opened, and the pair walked out into the apartment building lobby. "I said I was going to be one of the girls, and I meant it."
"This box doesn't feel like clothes," said Izumi, lugging the heavy carton toward her Honda.
"Oh, I did some redecorating, too. I didn't want to feel like I was living in a man's apartment."
Izumi shook her head as she set the carton in the hatchback. She leaned on the car, catching her breath. "Wait a minute - that vacation you're taking this coming week - aren't you keeping any men's clothes for that? One last week to enjoy being a man before you start with the unit - that's what we thought you were doing."
"Pff - what's to enjoy? No, this is one last week of intensive practice before it counts. My cousin and I are going on a cruise."
"Your cousin? Is this the same cousin you used to play dress-up with?"
"You're pretty perceptive." Aoi smiled thoughtfully. "Maybe there will be some melon sodas in it for us."
Jonan Station: 1 Sep
Oonishi Katsu glanced up from his morning paperwork at his new patrol partner. Koga Seiichi reminded him somehow of a sleepy bullfrog. His one passion seemed to be tracking his time until retirement. ("854 days!", he'd announced that morning.)
It was a far cry from his old partner. He and Futaba Aoi had done good work, caught plenty of criminals. Still, maybe with Koga he'd be able to kick back and relax a bit. Futaba was always so damn focused.
That wouldn't be the only advantage to getting rid of the prettyboy, either. Katsu always liked the way the public looked at him when he went out in his uniform - admiring, respectful. But when he was with Futaba-san, he might as well have been invisible. Every eye would fall on his bishounen partner instead. Katsu chuckled to think of where Futaba-san's looks had landed him - right in a pair of high-heeled shoes. There was some justice in that, he thought.
"Here comes Aoi-san!"
Every officer in the station abandoned their desk and crowded around the front doorway. Everybody was dying to see Futaba-san on his first day at his strange new assignment. Katsu squeezed his way to the front.
And there she was. She wore a red turtleneck and a long black skirt over tall boots; a high slit gave a glimpse of smooth, elegant leg. Soft brown curls tumbled gloriously around her perfect face. Her wide green eyes flickered, startled, over the faces of the crowd. The gasps, murmurs, groans, whistles, and cheers added up to a roar. She took a step backward and stood with one hand cupped over her mouth, trying to make herself small in the face of the entire station's attention.
"A man", Katsu told himself. "Futaba-san is a man. I've ridden patrol with him hundreds of times." But his throat went tight, his pulse boomed in his ears like a kettledrum, and a bullet train of crazy thoughts shot through his head. Maybe the anti-chikan unit won't be ready for her today. Maybe they'll send her out on patrol with him instead. Maybe they'll be on foot patrol together, and something will startle her, and she'll grab his hand and press herself against him, and he'll wrap an arm protectively around her...
Aoi spotted Katsu among the crowd and uncovered her mouth, relieved to see his familiar face. "Katsu-kun!", she cooed, smiling at him with delicately painted lips. She lifted one hand and waved with her fingers. "Good morning! I'm glad to see you!"
Now the station was quiet. From down here, the ceiling tiles looked like they could use a cleaning. The floor was hard beneath Katsu's back. Someone had given him a folded-up jacket for a pillow. Katsu propped himself up on an elbow and mumbled, "Aoi-chan?..."
"Ah, there you are!" Koga loomed above him. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
"Good. Guess you're back with us." Koga reached down to help Katsu to his feet. "Aoi-san went out on duty. She left an apology note for you." He handed Katsu a folded slip of pastel note paper; it smelled faintly perfumed. "She's going to have to be careful with that smile. It's dangerous, eh?" The old man breathed deeply. "Lovely thing, isn't she? She reminds me of my own daughter at that age."
Katsu steadied himself on the edge of a desk and rubbed his eyes. I am not in love with Aoi-chan. I am not I am not I am not.