‘Arakawa Under the Bridge’ is one of those anime series that is so bizarre that it makes absolutely no sense, and yet there’s some deep hidden meaning behind the insanity that it actually makes a great amount of sense. Does that make any sense at all? I thought not.
Right from the beginning, this show is crazy. The scene opens with Kou Ichinomiya, self-proclaimed ‘perfect’ heir to a great family business empire, standing on Arakawa bridge and having a long inner monologue about how he owes his success to his family motto: never be indebted to anyone. The shot pans out and we learn his trousers have been stolen and a girl has hooked them on her fishing line to save them, but he won’t take them back because then he’d be indebted to her. He then falls off the bridge and is saved by the girl, who says he can repay her by living with her under the bridge as her lover.
Welcome to ‘Arakawa Under the Bridge’. Leave your sanity by the door because you won’t need it.
This is really as far as we go in terms of plot, excluding the last few episodes which I won’t spoil for you, but this really isn’t a bad thing as what makes ‘Arakawa’ so great is its bizarre range of characters. Kou’s new girlfriend claims to be a Venusian, and therefore has no idea what having a boyfriend actually entails and seems permanently spaced out. The ‘chief’ is a kappa, at least we think he is until we see he is wearing a zip-up costume, but he continues to insist he really is a kappa. Hoshi has a bright yellow star shaped head, plays guitar and wears a tshirt that has ‘ore no tshirt’ on it (that more or less translates to ‘my tshirt’). ‘Sister’ is a war veteran dressed as a nun, and is in love with the beautiful farm girl Maria, who is an absolute sadist. Add to the mix two twins with tin cans on their heads and have escaped from a laboratory, and a man who can only walk on white lines, and it’s clearly pretty mental under the bridge.
However, the show actually made me question whether the people living under the bridge were all simply nut cases and outcasts of society, or whether Kou had stumbled across a fantastical world where the guy in the suit really is a kappa, or Nino really is a Venusian. The show never really tells you and you have to decide for yourself. There is an actual community down there and everyone has a ‘job’, from catching fish (monstrous Moby Dick sized) to running the bath house (which is actually just a tub) and Kou, ever the hard-working salary man, chooses to become a teacher to educate everyone. You can guess how well that goes.
‘Arakawa Under the Bridge’ is originally a manga series created by Hikaru Nakamura, and the Japanese animation studio shaft adapted it into an anime in 2010. The company has some pretty good credentials and is behind other popular shows such as ‘Maria Holic’ and ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’, although I’d say ‘Arakawa’ is a cut above these.
Unusually, there’s no English language dub for the ‘Arakawa Under the Bridge’ anime series. You’ll get the original Japanese dub with the DVD and you’ll definitely like it, as the voice actor line-up is very strong and well-suited to the characters. Hiroshi Kamiya (‘sensei’ in ‘Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei’) voices Kou, Maaya Sakamoto (Ciel Phantomhive in ‘Black Butler’), Takehito Koyasu (Sasuke Sarutobi in ‘Sengoku Basara’) voices Sister and Tomokazu Sugita (Gin from ‘Gintama’) voices Hoshi.
This is one of those shows I’d show to someone if I wanted to demonstrate anime at its wackiest. My sister joined me for the odd episode as I was watching it over the Christmas break, and her reaction was pretty much “what the actual *expletive deleted* is this?” even though she kept coming back to watch some more. The madness of ‘Arakawa’ is definitely what makes it so magnetic.
If ‘Arakawa Under the Bridge’ sounds like your kind of watch, both it and its sequel series are available to buy from MVM Entertainment now! It’s a great one for the collection.