Yu KobayashiMiyuki SawashiroYuichi NakamuraHiroshi Kamiya
Arakawa Under the Bridge (2010)
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2010
Director: Yukihiro Miyamoto, Akiyuki Simbo
Writer: Deko Akao
Original creator: Hikaru Nakamura
Actor: Hiroshi Kamiya, Maaya Sakamoto, Chiaki Omigawa, Chiwa Saito, Cho, Fumihiko Tachiki, Houchu Ohtsuka, Keiji Fujiwara, Miyuki Sawashiro, Rie Tanaka, Rikiya Koyama, Ryoko Shintani, Takehito Koyasu, Tomokazu Seki, Tomokazu Sugita, Yuichi Nakamura, Yu Kobayashi, Yuko Goto, Yuko Sanpei
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 26 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=11188
Website category: Anime early 10s
Review date: 2 May 2016
The occasional episode manages to be good, despite the show's non-sequitur format. I don't like the show, though. It's a comedy that's not funny. We bought the DVDs because we believed what people were saying on the internet. We then slugged our way through all 26 episodes, since I'll watch nearly anything and Tomoko refused to give up after having started.
I think it's mostly a waste of time, but also often only a hair's breadth from being quite cool. I can see why some people like it. Tomoko simply thinks it's rubbish. She prefers the manga, but she wouldn't recommend that either.
It's a show about loons who live under a bridge in Arakawa, Tokyo. They're all candidates for the funny farm and they do almost nothing that matters. A typical incident might involve them trying to make a movie, get a haircut or do a fire drill (by lighting a real fire). These incidents won't even last a full episode. They'll be doing something else in the second half. What killed the show for me was the fact that I was watching these people do random stuff because they've got nothing better to do. Either they're not taking it seriously or it's pointless. Or both. There are occasional episodes that take on some weight for the characters, but they're few and far between. The show isn't aiming for anything like that. They just pop up from time to time amid the inanity, like weeds.
Furthermore, even when there is a plot, the characters won't be interacting with it. The real world tends to pass them by. They either don't care or they're too deranged to connect with it. They're plot bystanders. You could cut out most of the cast without significantly affecting most of the episodes.
The show starts reasonably well. Our protagonist (Kou Ichinomiya, aka. Recruit) joins the bridge-dwelling community and destroys everything he is in doing so. He's always been a hyper-successful go-getting capitalist machine. He doesn't fit, obviously. You couldn't imagine a fundamental clash. They're slackers and losers and he thinks he's perfect. For example, he has a rule never to owe anything to anyone and will have an asthma attack if people show him generosity and he can't immediately repay this "debt". (He'll start by trying to reject their good intentions outright.) Unsurprisingly it takes him a while to grow into being sympathetic, although it helps us that he's getting humiliated by everyone and everything. At this stage I was still moderately interested, since the show seemed to be telling a story (i.e. Kou's personal journey).
The cast also includes:
NINO - Ko's girlfriend, who claims to be from Venus. Comprehension of humans: zero. She's nice, though.
VILLAGE CHIEF (Sonchou) - claims to be a 620-year-old kappa, even though he's obviously a man in a kappa costume. You can see the zipper.
HOSHI - an absolutely terrible singer/songwriter who claims he used to be a megastar. He thus wears a big yellow star on his head. Loves Nino and is jealous of Kou.
SISTER, STELLA and MARIA - British war veterans, spies and orphans, all extremely dangerous. Sister is an enormously tall ex-commando in a nun's outfit. Stella is a little girl with three personalities: (a) darling sweetie-plums who loves Sister, (b) yakuza thug, (c) her post-metamorphosis form of an insanely powerful giant muscleman, like Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star. Maria is a pink-haired beauty who loves humiliating and sneering at men. She'll get withdrawal symptoms and go insane if she goes a few days without causing a man emotional damage.
SHIRO - a 43-year-old man who thinks his wife will turn into a chicken if he's not standing on a white line. He thus pushes a line painting machine everywhere he goes. He hasn't been to work or seen his wife for six years.
THE METAL BOYS - brothers who wear metal helmets to stop the government detecting their psychic powers. They say they can fly and travel through time and space... but the helmets suppress these powers. Allegedly.
...and so on. I actually like this cast, in theory. Lots of anime throw together ghosts, aliens, etc. That's fun and I've often enjoyed such shows, but it's an amusing twist to step back and have a cast that's merely making delusional claims. (Probably. Perhaps.)
It's also been adapted into a live-action TV drama and a movie.
Which episodes did I like? Ep.8 has Kou's employees come looking for him, which briefly injects some real-world context into the under-bridge surrealism. Kou's secretary is also funny, with his hero-worshipping crush on Kou. Ep.16 does something that actually matters to the characters and we learn what Nino does when she's upset. Ep.19 again is meaningful. I enjoyed ep.24 and the delusional romantic aspirations of Amazoness (who'd hitherto mostly just been annoying).
Theoretically this show has all the ingredients for a distinctive, funny comedy. It has potential relationships. Most of the cast are in love with someone. It has lots of ideas. Nino's memory made me laugh in ep.11. I like the girls' fight in ep.21. Kou and the other boys getting sparkly shoujo girly eyes is a funny joke that always works well. I like the alternate opening songs in ep.5 and ep.23. The show also has character development and a pretty messed-up backstory for Kou. However it's all too silly and unmotivated for me to care.
Well, mostly. I care about Kou-Nino. I suppose I'd also be happy if P-Ko ever managed to pluck up the courage to confess to Sonchou. I don't dislike these people at all. I just found, personally, that the show struggled to get over the hurdle of "is there any point in watching this?"