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[Arakawa under the Bridge]
AKA: 荒川アンダー ザ ブリッジ
Genre: Slice-of-life comedy
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Nippon Ichi Software America
Content Rating: 13+ (suggestive themes, innuendo, animated blood)
Related Series: Arakawa Under The Bridge x Bridge (season 2)
Also Recommended: Excel Saga, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Notes: Based on the manga by Hikaru Kanamura, currently running in Square Enix's Young GanGan magazne.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars

Arakawa under the Bridge

Synopsis

Kou Ichinomiya, the son of a wealthy businessman, has never relied on anyone for anything his entire 21 years of life. But when his pants are stolen and then throw on top of a bridge, As he tries to get them, he falls off the bridge and nearly drowns. He is saved by a strange blonde-haired girl named Nino, the first person who ever did anything for him his entire life. He asks how he can repay the favor - she says to be his lover. And thus starts Kou's live under the Arakawa, Tokyo bridge, which is brimming with weird people.


Review

The problem with liking one specific genre of anime like I do (quirky slice-of-life comedies) is that after a while, they tend to look the same. Especially if they involve a high school cast - how many series have you seen have the usual beach / festival / New Year's / birthday episodes?

But then comes Arakawa Under the Bridge, who gives those kinds of series a big raspberry.

The Arakawa village is made up of quite a few eccentrics. You have twin boys who wear robot helmets because they're in fear of being "caught" by scientists. You have a little blonde girl who, when enraged, talks like a yakuza boss as well as grows to look like something out of Fist of the North Star. You have a cross-dressing nun who packs heat wherever he goes. There's even a guy who walks around with a liner, only walking on the white lines it makes, and a guitar player with a star for a head. And their mayor is a man who dresses like a kappa and swears that he is one.

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried, believe me.

And for the most part, the series works. Very rarely does Arakawa Under the Bridge fall into the typical tropes of slice-of-life anime - cultural references are minimum, and even a carnival in the last half of the final episode is pretty screwed up for slice-of-life standards. It also works because Kou, for all his strengths (smart, handsome, rich), has a lot to learn about common sense and courtesy around his new neighbors. While outside of the village he is a respectable businessman, here he is seen as an outcast and a leech. (Even Nino, who he thought did nothing, fishes for the village.) It takes him quite a bit of time to adjust to his new surroundings and neighbors, but when he does you'd swear he was there from the start once he gets adjusted to it. (At least most of the time.) Once he does, the humorous situations somehow feel more so.

Kou's love interest, Nino, is his complete opposite. While Kou is down-to-Earth and believes in only what he sees, Nino is fascinated by the simplest of things and believe in things like ghosts and such. For the most she's quite funny and likable - kudos to Maaya Sakamoto for her great performance as Nino.

The Arakawa scenery is captured very well here. One would think what is little more than a long stretch of grass near a river would be hard to make look visually appealing, but Shafts animators prove that they are up the task of doing just that. The coloring scheme is also quite appealing, though the animation isn't anything special. The opening theme is trademark trippy Shaft - catch it out on youtube whenever you find the time. Like all Shaft series openings, it's worth at least one glance at.

Unfortunately, much like other Shaft series such as Sayonara Zetsbuou Sensei and Maria Holic, jokes repeat themselves way too often. Chief among them is the series' resident bitch Maria, whose (incredibly harsh) criticisms start to get old really quick. Stella (the token little girl) isn't much better, especially with her ear-piercing squeals provided by the unfortunately popular Chiwa Saito. The kappa mayor's oft-repeated insistence that he is a kappa is also quite annoying. (And I won't even start on one of Kou's employers, whose antics are creepy even the first time around.) Also, near the end of the season Arrakawa Under the Bridge has an on-going plot concerning the possible evacuation of the cast being from the Arakawa river. For a series as episodic as this (all the episodes are divided into 7 to 10 mini-episodes!), the fact that they spend near three episodes seems somehow sillier than most of the antics that go on over the course of the series.

Still, at the end I was surprised by Arakawa Under the Bridge. A third through I was worried if I could continue watching the series, especially when its two most despicable characters (Maria and Stella) both made their debut around this time. But I'm glad I stuck through it - this is quite a nice show. Not a classic by any means, but certainly worth a watch for those who like comedy.

Somewhere between mediocre and good, Arakawa Under the Bridge is like a grab bag - some might like what they get, others will not. Add a star if you're among the former.Tim Jones

Recommended Audience: Recommended for teenagers and up. The innuendo, suggestive themes, and blood (mainly from Sister) makes this unsuitable for kids.



Version(s) Viewed: Pre-license fansub
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Arakawa under the Bridge © 2010 Hikaru Nakamura / Square Enix / Arakawa Under The Bridge Production Committee
 
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