Monday, July 5, 2010

Final Thoughts: Arakawa Under the Bridge

Not if the Last Samurai can help it

For a show that's basically about the random events that happen in the random lives of random characters, Arakawa Under the Bridge has managed to piece together a, if not cohesive, then coherent plot. But for those looking for something deeper, you're looking at the wrong place. Scratch that. I meant, wrong season. That's right, folks. The final episode has announced that the series is going to be picked up for another season.

[cue happy dance]

I guess that means we get to find out what made Nino believe that she's from Venus as well as more relationship development and more fun with the side characters. In the meantime, quick recap of the final episode:
Now, now...don't get too carried away

As always with Arakawa Under the Bridge, this episode is basically random. If not, even more so than the previous 12. With the conclusion of the Ric's Father Attempts to Take-Over the Bridge subplot also came the completion of Ric's growth from an uptight, single-minded, focused carbon copy of his father to a more open-minded, relaxed and self-made man that his time spent under the Arakawa Bridge made him. The anime should have ended right there with no complaints from me. However, Shaft decided to extend the comedy by formally introducing minor characters, who are irrelevant to the plot but who, we are all made to believe, have been going through their daily routines while we're busy paying attention to the main characters.
forbidden love between a parrot and a bee

The first one to step up to the plate is Last Samurai, the hairdresser, to whom Ric and the rest of the Arakawa residents go to for a solution to Nino's hilarious bed hair and also for a hair cut. The sitcom moment comes when Last Samurai uses a katana to cut hair. Sister, with his ninja reflex, keeps instinctively dodging all of Last Samurai's attempts, making a simple haircut a very trying experience indeed.

Next is Jacqueline, the queen bee, and Billy, the parrot-head. Both are apparently involved in a forbidden love triangle with Jacqueline's 10,000 husbands. Aside from that, the episode didn't really focus on them too much and the whole scene just came out weird.

In the second half of the episode, the Arakawa residents all work together to put up an amusement park right there under the bridge. Unfortunately, this being an eccentric group of people with questionable sanity and backgrounds, the amusement park turns out to be quite horrible and even life-threatening.
that's a big BUT!

Ric, who professes never to have been in an amusement park before, joins in the fun, only to receive the worst treatment. First, from the creepy mascot outfit of the Village Chief. Next, from a merry-go-round set up by Maria, which included real, wild horses. Next is a 3D theater, featuring real swords and real bullets. And finally, the park's highlights: Sister's Iron Maiden ride.

But despite the insanity, the kids enjoyed it and Ric suddenly recalls a time in his childhood when his father brought him up to the rooftop of a building and there were all kinds of rides for him. Nino soon joins Ric and he tells her all about this forgotten childhood memory.


I came into this show for the laughs. And in that regard, Arakawa Under the Bridge delivered. However, something else that that this anime quite unexpectedly manages to deliver: some soul. This might essentially be a gag show but there is some depth here, hidden under all that randomness.  
All through the episodes we can see the main character Ric develop and grow from a self-serving man to someone more willing to give more of himself with no thought of return or favor. The other characters are also sufficiently dwelled upon though I suspect their stories are only there for comic relief. Nino, on the other hand, remains a mystery, a minor snag which I think the second season will resolve. 
That said, this was a very entertaining anime filled with crazy, hilarious and ultimately endearing characters. The animation isn't amazingly superb but it is inspired and perfect for its style and content. I'm not a huge fan of the OP and ED themes but I rarely am so hey. And the subtle background music is subtle. I can't remember how the tracks sounded but that's usually a good sign.


Arakawa Under the Bridge is an entertaining, surprisingly deep gag show of an anime. Looking forward to the second season.