I was very excited when I first saw this show. It has that unusual comedy that I always have a knack for. Was it original? Well, Akiyuki Shinbou is the director for Arakawa, the same man who directed Bakemonogatari, Maria+Holic and Zetsubuo Sensei. All four kinda have similarities: dark comedy and colorful cast of characters. But yes, I do think Arakawa has that originality to it. I mean, I haven't seen any other anime having a story about the people who are living under a bridge.
So, kudos to SHAFT.
The story: Kou Ichinomiya comes from a family that does not rely on anyone, no matter what the circumstances are. To inherit the family business, he has to prove that he can do just that. All that change when he met Nino who thinks she's from Venus and the rest of the denizens who reside under the Arakawa bridge. One thing lead to the other and Kou is suddenly Nino's lover much to the irk of (almost) every male under the bridge. There wasn't really a strong plot to Arakawa. They attempted to do one but it was half-ass.
Towards the end, Kou initial intend to inherit the family business kinda dead. Well, he does ended up a changed man although still very whiny about everything else. All that bullshit about not wanting to rely on anyone disappeared with every episodes as he developed and learned few things from the wacky denizens.
In the end, I think Arakawa Under the Bridge is an unusual love story. I feel like it sending all kind of deep beautiful messages such as
- it is okay to be different as long as you love who you are
- true love transcends everything that is normal
- love is accepting the other half of you and allow him/her to complete you
- you don't need words to express love. Action speaks louder than words
- there is all kind of loves
It is through the characters that Arakawa is given life. Well, I have already introduce Kou and Nino but they are boring. Lets move on the the more interesting characters. Allow me to introduce my favorite character of the series:
There are several reasons why I like him the most
- Sugita Tomokazu is his seiyuu
- He plays the guitar
- He can sing
- He lives in a trailer
- He is a shooting star
- He is a potato
- He is in fact a very successful pop-star in the normal world
- He is good looking
- He never gives up on his love
- He is cool as fuck
We can't talk about Arakawa if we didn't mention the mayor who wears a kappa suit but refused to admit that fact. He might seems useless but at one point, he did save the people from being chased out from under the bridge in episode 12. Everyone except Kou seem to sincerely love the mayor. Sister in particular kinda over doing it as can be seen in episode 10. The mayor is responsible of giving the resident their name. This is how Kou ended up as being "Recruit" or "Ric".
Then there is Sister who isn't really a sister but a fugitive foreign man wearing a Sister outfit. He runs the church and responsible for the mass. As expected from a man with his caliber, he solved every problem either using gun, or more guns. He's so hopelessly in love with Maria, the super-sadistic bitch that runs the farm. He also has a disciple. A kid named Stella who can grow as big as he whenever she wanted. She is evil and has successfully recruited the Tetsujin twin who believed the alien are after them. Let's not forget the Liner who walks around with a white-line-drawing thingy in front of him. He only walks on the white line he had make. In the last episode they re-introduce the samurai guy, Billy (man with parrot head), Jacqueline and the Amazon woman. All to gear up for season 2.
Credit to Tatsuwa Naoyuki for the OP and ED video. I was a fan of the OP at some point because it reminds me of Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu. It is fresh and I like the theme that he used. It was also pretty telling about the romance between Kou and Nino. The OP song itself (Venus to Jesus by Etsuko Yakushimaru) wasn't that appealing to me. It was good but nothing special though I think I can recognized it when I heard it somewhere else. The ED (Sakasama Bridge by Suneohair) on the other hand sound more interesting to me. Maybe I am biased about it because Suneohair did the ED for Honey and Clover too.
In term of art and animation, credit has to be given to SHAFT for once again coming up with something that is visually attractive and unique. I actually have read people complaining about it but too me that is the most endearing part of SHAFT's anime. I love the art direction of the show. The extreme close-up on the facial expression really captured the emotions that the character has. That in my opinion, is one of the strongest point of this show. Guess what it reminded me of... Yep, Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu. Again.
Like I said earlier, the characters in Arakawa are the one that made this show enjoyable. This is made possible because the seiyuus did a good job. Sugita obviously. But through Arakawa I begin to take notice of Kamiya Hiroshi and Amigawa Chiako, the seiyuu for Kou and P-Ko respectively. Kudos to them for getting into the character so well.
The humor in Arakawa are entertaining and craftedly done but I think because it focuses a lot more on the comedy, the series doesn't create a strong lasting impression. It was enjoyable to watch, but it is hard to give the show high praises because it did not leave this heavy impact. The characters were superb, the animation and music decent, the comedy golden, but something was missing that could have made this show much, much stronger.
Having said that, I am looking forward for season two. Bring it on!
(Edit: I've seen the first couple of episode from Season 2 and it's going down hill atm.)
Final verdict? Less than what I initially gave it.