Hein (fub) wrote,

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Finished series: Arakawa Under the Bridge

We've finished watching Arakawa Under The Bridge. My first episode review is here.

Ichinomiya Kou is a succesfull and rich -- still in college, but the chairman of a few powerful companies. He did it all on his own, because his family motto is to never be indebted to others. So one day, due to a prank of a few kids, he falls into the river and nearly drowns, but is saved by a homeless girl called Nino, who claims to be a Venusian. He wants to repay her (so as to be debt-free once again), but she doesn't need anything. Except maybe one thing: she wants him to be her boyfriend. And that means he has to live under the bridge as well.

The people who live at the riverbed are a colorful bunch of characters. The 'village chief' is a guy in a kappa suit, who claims to be an actual kappa. (Everyone politely ignores the zippers on his back.) There's Sister, a former commando who dresses like a nun, Hoshi, a washed-up musician who wears a star-shaped mask, and so on. The lack of common sense is staggering: these outcasts do whatever they like and go with the flow of their whimsy.
Obviously, this sits ill with Kou (or 'Recruit' as he was named by the chief) who is used to people living in proper houses, wearing pressed suits and working in the daily treadmill of the salarymen. But his attempts to 'help' the inhabitants fail because they simply don't want (or can't) be part of that (anymore). They have their reasons, but nobody ever talks about that.

At first, I had feared that this would turn into some kind of validation of the current practice of ignoring homeless people (who also tend to camp out near riverbeds) and assuming that this is the way they want to live. But underneath it all there is the message that these are people, too. And the absurdity of the salarymen ratrace, where nobody is truly happy, is also pointed out. Even though all of the inhabitants are 'damaged' in one way or the other, the portrayal is almost tender. And Kou really wants to make his relationship with Nino work, which is cute.
And Kou, who is supposed to be the pinnacle of Japanese society, is damaged too: he has all sorts of weird neuroses and issues -- and when he is at the riverbank, he can relax and simply be accepted for who he is (though of course the kappa and Hoshi tease him).

On top of that, there are some pretty funny situations. The cast is colorful enough to create lots of zany situations -- I cried tears of laughter at some episodes.
Visually, the series isn't great -- but since that was never the aim, it works quite well for what they wanted to do. The voice acting is quite good: the timing is impeccable and there's a lot of character in the voices.

Good things:
- Funny;
- Handles the themes of homelessness quite well.
Bad things:
- Visually uninspiring.

If you're into slapstick sitcoms, then you'll really like this. Otherwise you'd do best to stay away from it. I liked it a lot, and I will give it a 7.5.
Tags: anime, full review

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