Nonsensical anime are nothing new to those familiar with the medium; often times the stranger a series is, the more it resonates with fans. Perhaps it’s because of the unrestricted use of the animation, with there being no real limits to what can be done, a series without any rhyme or reason to it can often produce some of the most tantalizing visuals afforded to the medium. Or maybe it’s the zany feeling that anything that we as the viewers can imagine is possible. In any case, Arakawa Under the Bridge is just such a series, focusing on bizarre characters and their equally bizarre, albeit humorous, shenanigans.
The series starts off by introducing us to Ko Ichinomiya, a busy body college student who also runs his own business on the side. One day he finds himself plunging into a rushing river only to be saved by the mysterious and beautiful Nino. Naturally Ko wants to repay her for saving his life, however he soon finds that doing so might require a bit more ingenuity.
As it turns out, Nino is an extraterrestrial, whose insists he become her boyfriend and live under the bridge with him, accompanied by a group of social misfits and unstable individuals that characterize nearly every stereotype and joke characteristic of anime, ranging from a man wearing a Kappa costume to a pair of twins sporting Tetsujin helmets.
The comedy of the show springs from Ko’s awkward behavior around this surreal bunch, however as the series progresses he eventually mellows out and learns to embrace the absurdity they bring into his life. Ko’s change in character is a gradual one, turning from an elitist trapped under his father’s thumb into a caring, friendly individual who learns to find the joys life has to offer. Along with the change in Ko’s demeanor, the series itself undergoes a change, becoming a serious examination of society and the choices one must make to conform to the image set down for us.
Don’t let the deeper meaning of the series fool you, Arakawa Under the Bridge is still an absurdist comedy, playing off brilliant humor and quirky characters. The series introduces a new character in nearly every episode, ensuring the series stays fresh and fun throughout. Sadly this method sacrifices character development in favor of laughs. While Ko’s psyche undergoes dramatic change, there’s little room for other character underneath the spotlight.
NIS’ package is up their typical high standard of releases. This is among their first run of Blu-ray/DVD combo packs and the image on the Blu-ray is breathtaking and perfectly complimented by the quality of the animation. The Discs are housed in a pair of slim cases that slide easily into a sturdy box. An art book is also included, with character designs, interviews, and summaries. The extras on the discs themselves include audio commentaries that from the cast for nearly every episode.
Arakawa Under the Bridge is a superb series that dispenses gut busting comedy while sneaking in a critique on the state of society and social acceptance. Beneath the avalanche of irreverent humor and gag characters lies an unexpectedly sweet show bursting with originality and charm.