Plot / Concept
Arakawa Under the Bridge was a delightful surprise for me and could, without a doubt, be so for many others. I didn’t have high expectations going into yet another anime comedy, but this show hit all the right spots for me. While essentially being a comedy, and a random one at that, it does manage to tap some veins left untouched by other similar shows. I guess a little bit of explaining is in order.
While other comedies focus on comedic events which generally originates in happenings and accidents that goes a bit outside of the normal social conduct, this show turns the entire concept around, and the humour stems from the main character, who is a master in social conduct, being forced into a society where none of the norms apply. We follow the main character around as he slowly works his way in and out of the new environment in which he has been placed. The main character Kou, the son of a rich business man, excels in pretty much everything, be it grades, business, popularity, riches, looks. While he did sacrifice friendship and relationships in his fight for fame and fortune, he is considered an elite when it comes to every other aspect of life.
While this concerned me, and I feared I would be faced with a lot of stereotypical gags and mediocre attempts of humour, the show pulled through. While Kou direly wishes to fall back into the stereotype in which he belongs, the residents under the bridge, who he has been forced to live with, simply don’t let it happen. Kou continuously tries to go about things with his excellence in intelligence, business and negotiation, but it just doesn’t work. The reason for this is that all the traits which he has spend his lifetime perfecting, is useless under the bridge. The residents under the bridge have no interests in money, they don’t care about looks, couldn’t care less about business nor grades. Living in cardboard boxes or makeshift houses, and eating whatever they can grow or fish under the bridge, there are other things that need prioritizing: Friendship, relationship and fun. All the residents under the bridge are, to put it mildly, nutjobs, but even though some of them might think of themselves as animals, nuns, mythological creatures or something worse, they all share their bond of friendship. It is now up to Kou to explore this “underbridge” society, learning their way of life and their values, while dealing with his own, which tells him: “These people are crazy”.
The characters are without a doubt, what makes this show. Beside the main character Kou, all of the characters are residents under the bridge and are completely out of sync with the reality we live in (or chose to?). Even though the characters are widely different in appearance, personality or occupation, they all for some strange magic reason work well together and enjoy their time with each other. Each of the characters are heart warming in their own special way, and while some of them might be a bit rude or sadistic, you know they have their special spot in the society under the bridge. It is hard to find a character not to like. Some start out strange or annoying, but they generally tend to pick it up as it goes along.
Audio / Visual
I have to give credit to the audio chosen for this series, it fits it perfectly. It isn’t a masterpiece or a symphony or anything fancy like that, but instead some light-hearted tune sometimes spiced up with a couple of funky melodies. The audiotrack pretty much reflects the rest of the show, which is a good thing, simple as that.
Much like any other anime made by Shaft, you are in for a treat. Granted the animations are not as smooth as they could be and the characters are not always as detailed as they should be. Never the less, Shaft provides excellent visuals, while the general animation can be lacking at times, the attention to small useless details is there and they generally pull through in the animation when the situation requires it. Shaft also provides a theme, in pretty much every visual aspect possible: Be it the gourgeous surroundings, the fast phased cutting or the choice of the overall colours of the show. It gives the show personality and charm.
Who should watch this show?
While I absolutely adore this show, I acknowledge that this isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. But let me try to give you an estimate, as to whether or not you will like the show.
Personally I’m delighted I found this gem. I enjoyed every second of every episode.