My first thoughts when I started watching Arakawa Under the Bridge were “well, this is a Shaft animation alright.”, and lo and behold it’s just as exaggerated and unique was expected.
I really enjoyed Arakawa. It’s lighthearted, funny, colourful and despite the designs of many of the characters, they all still have things that make them undeniably human; despite all appearances of the guy in the kappa costume, he’s still human beneath it. Understanding the characters plays a huge role in enjoying the show, and if you fail to like, or even relate, to the characters then you might not enjoy Arakawa.
The story is simple – Kou Ichinomiya is the future owner of the grand Ichinomiya corporation, and refuses to accept help from others so he’s never indebted to them, but when the self-proclaimed Venusian Nino saves his life, he’s forced to become her boyfriend to repay his debt; probably not the way I’d go to find romance, but whatever works for strange people living under a bridge! With his business partners wondering where he is, Kou has to choose which life he wants to live and who to spend it with.
The characters are the real reason to stick around though, with its colourful cast consisting of weird people who live by their own rules. Each person has their own job such as the male Sister running the local church, Hoshi holds musical shows for everyone to enjoy, Maria runs the farm and P-ko grows vegetables; their jobs are normal, but the way they handle them is crazy and over the top. Of course, the small town under the bridge holds more people than the ones listed above, and you’ll soon come to think that Kou genuinely belongs down there with his quirk of not letting anybody help him.
If you’ve watched a Shaft animation before, then you’ll be familiar with many of the animated quirks in Arakawa and its unique way of handling facial expressions; yes, the Shaft head tilt rears its neck plenty of time. This show probably would’ve been dead on arrival had the water looked rubbish, considering it’s under a bridge where water is in the majority of scenes, so thankfully it glimmers and ripples like the beauty that it is along with the surrounding lush grass.
Arakawa plays off its exaggerated scenes which is where much of the shows humour derives from. You’ll have many questions as you’re watching the show, not all of which are answered (but there is a season two, the review of which will be up in the upcoming weeks), but the overall season was satisfying. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, especially as the story won’t hold any interest to you if you don’t like the characters, but the eccentric cast and outstanding visuals personally kept me interested episode after episode.
There’s no English dub, although I’m glad the subtitles were great otherwise it wouldn’t be only the characters actions which sometimes don’t make any sense! I didn’t recognise any of the voices, but I felt that the voice actors and actresses did a great job of portraying their characters, more so as they seemed to find a balance between being both normal and crazy. Hiroshi Kamiya as Kou and Tomokazu Sugita as Hoshi stole the show though, with their bitter rivalry over Nino being one of the best things in Arakawa and it was clear that the actors were having fun mock arguing.
The OP, Venus to Jesus, along with the OP’s visuals is a soft-sounding tune, is catchy enough to have me listen to it several times as background music, and it’s one of the more memorable OP’s I can think of right now. The ED is equally as great and is rockier in tone, but as many of the visuals may inspire in you over the course of the series, the ED nostalgically reminded me of Summer and how beautiful it can be. The composers did a good job with the OST as a whole with a variety of relaxing, upbeat and downright outrageous tunes (mostly due to Hoshi being a top musician.)
Arakawa may only last 13 episodes, but they’re each funny and heartwarming as Kou tries to understand the people living under the bridge and also as he decides what he wants in life. It may sound and look shallow, but the show is deeper if you’re willing to give it a go, and I recommend that you do. Both seasons are releasing separately in the UK, and we’ll have our review for season two up soon which seems to be shaking up the current formula quite a bit. Arakawa Under the Bridge is a show I’m glad to have had the chance to review, otherwise I may never have checked it out.
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