Arakawa Under the Bridge Review

arakawa under the bridge harimoji ichinomiya kou nino ric recruit

Arakawa Under the Bridge is certainly an odd but fascinating anime. The premise is deceptively simple. Kou, a successful, brilliant young man, is saved by a mysterious Venusian, Nino. Because of this favor, Kou becomes Nino’s lover. He is then inducted into Nino’s weird community under a bridge, where he is renamed Ric (Recruit). Threaded by the cute romantic love between Ric and Nino, Arakawa is a comedic look into a ridiculous world through the eyes of a perfectly normal man.

hoshi ichinomiya kou kappa last samurai sister

Under the bridge is an outlandish society with its own culture and its cast of nonsensical characters. The series does a wonderful job of impressing upon Ric all the silliness. From Kappa to stars, Ric is forced to accept the quirks of this society. Further, details, such as each person’s job or the rules of tradition, draw us into this community. After a few episodes, I fell absolutely in love with this little village.

arakawa under the bridge ichinomiya kou nino recruit ric nino-san

The carefree attitude makes this community so attractive. The lack of common sense, the unfathomable traditions, and the lovable characters [1] make this place seem like a fantasy far away from our life crises and worries. Watching the inhabitants go on with their daily lives and Ric fall in love with Nino feel a bit like playing house. There is a lot of childhood playfulness in Arakawa. Indeed, this is quite an escapist anime.

arakawa under the bridge screencap

arakawa under the bridge screencap recruit ric

arakawa under the bridge screencap nino fish

The whimsical mood of the series is nicely complemented by the animation. Arakawa Under the Bridge has incredible visuals. The anime employs a lot of still shots and lends itself easily to some gorgeous images. I love its use of psychedelic colors, patterns, and textures. Some shots are picturesque sceneries; others resemble print media designs [2]; still others remind of drug-induced trips. Further, the opening is just one of the best sequences I have ever enjoyed. [3] The artwork really gives Arakawa a very unique personality.

arakawa under the bridge screencap venus nino

Yet, despite all the unreal playfulness, the story is still rooted in reality. Soon after Nino and Ric meet, the tension behind Nino’s past seeps through. Likewise, Hoshi’s past is a bitter tale of jaded talent. Even Ric, our relay to normal society, has some serious daddy issues. However, we never know for sure what is actually real and what is just nonsense conjured up by the characters. Does Nino actually think she is from Venus? Was Hoshi really once at the top of Oricon charts? Arakawa does such a beautiful job of blurring reality and absurdity.

arakawa under the bridge ichinomiya kou ky692 nino ric recruit

Similarly, the series integrates serious commentary into its comedy. It raises questions about normality, freedom, and society. It also offers interesting discussions on human relationships and class differences. For example, Ric’s dad says, “Freedom. Rights. Living Space. All of these are what only people with money can enjoy. I’ll teach you that there are things that people of your class could never attain.” So much truth is revealed in that sentiment. Besides that, there are many more themes explored in Arakawa. [4]

arakawa under the bridge screencap nino recruit ric date princess embrace

Althought this is an anime that inspires thinking and encourages reflection, it is as easily enjoyed only through the light humor. The jokes are really funny! I especially love Nino and Ric’s first date.

Arakawa Under the Bridge is a beautiful blend of comedy, silliness, and profound reflections. There are so many layers and so many ways to approach the anime; it is at once driven by the characters, comedy, romance, and themes.

I am so excited to see what the next season will bring.

arakawa under the bridge screencap Maria

"Push your face into the ground more and say you wish to become an earthworm!"

  1. The way Nino catches and eats fish is just too adorable. Also, I would love to be abused by the S Queen, Maria. She brings out the M in me.
  2. More on the use of typography in Arakawa
  3. Yakushimaru Etsuko did the opening for Arakawa and Tatami Galaxy, both of which I absolutely loved. Here are two random posts on my love for the irresistible Yakushimaru Etsuko/ Soutaiseiriron:
    A Relative Listen to Japanese Music and Soutaiseiriron
    Sleeping on Tatami
  4. More on escapism and homelessness in Arakawa Under the Bridge

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge Review
More anime and manga reviews

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57 Responses to Arakawa Under the Bridge Review

  1. Mystlord says:

    Certainly whimsical, and I have to say that the anime itself was a good pick by SHAFT to animate. I think that they nailed the execution and animation, though I have to say that, like a lot of SHAFT works, the quality really varied episode to episode, and I almost considered dropping it at points. I kept with it though just because I wanted to see how the plot line with Kou and his Dad would work out, though I was a bit disappointed by that.

    Other than that, I think I’m rather disappointed with season 2. I can’t say for certain why, but it’s probably because I don’t really see the propagation, continuation, or development of the themes that I saw rampant in season 1. And that pretty much led me to drop it because of time constraints. I’d be glad to pick it up again when it gets good (as seems to be the case with many other titles this season!)

    • Yi says:

      I agree with the inconsistency. There were a few episodes in the middle and near the end that I thought disrupted the flow, but overall, the execution is nice. I didn’t actually expect Kou to work out his issues with his father, especially given that the anime does not seem to want to resolve anything with the characters. I get the feeling that under the bridge is a safe haven where the characters go to escape from their problems, and tackling issues head-on is not on their agenda.

      I’m kind of sad to hear that season 2 is disappointing. I actually really liked season 1, so I have fairly high hopes. But…

      • EmperorG says:

        Basically in a nutshell, Arakawa is Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei 2.0. At least that’s how I view it. In my eyes, the style and humor is similar, plus both have a sequel that has a weaker sdelivery than the previous one. Then again, I don’t care as long as I laugh my head off. To me, AUB isn’t a series where I particularly care that much for plot development. If something major happens, let it be so. If it doesn’t, it better make me laugh or at least have an interesting subject matter in each act.

        • Yi says:

          That’s the wonderful thing about Arakawa. There’s a lot of ways to love it, and the comedy is one.
          I can certainly see the comparison to Zetsubou-sensei… I’m a bit disappointed to hear that second season is weaker though.

  2. Hogart says:

    Being essentially a gag comedy, Arakawa seems to either tickle one’s funnybone and win them over, or just leave them wondering what those people find so mind-blowing about it. Having not read the manga, I can only assume that Shaft was a good choice – there is very little material here that isn’t slapstick zanyness and overreactionary humor, though it presents that material well enough to seem like it has some substance.

    Which is good, because Monty Python it ain’t.. and there isn’t enough variety in the humor to carry itself on comedy alone if it doesn’t suit your sense of humor. So the little bits of introspection, mystery, and social commentary might just tide a viewer over if they’re not completely turned off by the comedy.

    Just don’t expect it to transcend it’s humble roots, so to speak.. Arakawa more or less steers the course through it’s first season, and the non-comedy “serious moments” are pretty weak – it’s just simple sentiment with very little exploration or payoff, because it isn’t that type of anime. It sprinkles just enough in there to add some variety, but not enough to be worth the time investment on it’s own merit.

    So ultimately it’s your typical Shaft presentation – worth a shot to see if it wins you over, but if you’ve seen enough Shaft shows you can probably guess whether you’ll like it or not without even watching it. It’s certainly one of their better ones, even if Shinbo worked his “dramatic facial expression” artists nearly to death on this one (sooo many eyeball shots…)

    • Yi says:

      It is mostly just gag comedy with overreactions and slapstick, but some of my favorite moments come from Nino and Ric. There the humor comes from the awkward interactions and clash of common sense. It worked for me, but yea… It goes without saying that comedy is subjective. Without the laughs, Arakawa loses a lot of its charm. So I’m not too surprised to see that a lot of people didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.

      Although Arakawa didn’t go in depth with its commentary, I think it did a lovely job opening the doors. It encourages us to reflect on things by ourselves. It doesn’t have a message per se, but it does show another lifestyle/ class than what most of us are accustomed to. What direction we go after presented with this is up to our liking. I guess that’s one of the things I’m most impressed about this series.

      “worth a shot to see if it wins you over”

      Anyways, thanks for the comment. ^ ^ It filled in a lot of holes my review didn’t address.

  3. Jo says:

    I actually dropped it after 2 episodes in the first season. Being new to watching anime, I found the Shaft style of animation a bit jarring. Was convinced to give it another shot this season, and I’m glad that did. The quirkiness of the characters, the development of Ric and Nino’s relationship, and the mystery about Nino’s background makes Arakawa something I look forward to watching every week.
    It’s just something fun…

    +1 for Yakushimaru Etsuko


    • Yi says:

      Arakawa has a very unique style, and it does take some getting used to. At the same time though, it was very refreshing for me to see something different from the myriad of anime released every season.

      The quirkiness of the characters (especially Nino!) is definitely my favorite thing. That, and Yakushimaru Etsuko. ^ ^

  4. Valence says:

    The OP is definitely one of the defining pieces of animation for SHAFT – crazy, surreal, and over all, awesome. Their OPs are all brilliantly animated, even if the show itself wasn’t as spectacular, you have to give them credit when it’s due.

    However, Arakawa Under The Bridge 2 seems to lack something from Season 1, I just can’t tell what it was…

    • Yi says:

      The OP itself deserves a lot of mention. It’s just such an artsy sequence combined with a beautiful song. A fitting OP to a fanciful series.

      I actually really enjoyed Arakawa S.1, but with anime that take a chance to be quirky, there is always a risk of turning off a large percentage of viewers. 😦

      Anyways, I haven’t started watching Bridge x Bridge… But from what people are saying, it doesn’t quite match up. That’s unfortunate.

  5. kluxorious says:

    Season 2 has phailed me, so far except for ep3 and 6. Where’s the consistency of the first season?

  6. shinra says:

    Season 2 is just too awesome, and the recent release of ep 6, we can confirm that she’s not human. ( I wanna see the Nino standing underwater scene for 1 hour too XD)

    Maria is probably my most favorite character in Arakawa. also brings out my M too. But too bad Season 2 shows more Piko than her. T_T

    And not too mention the opposite proposal scene, (also on Season 2 ep6) that is probably one of the best laugh I ever had. ^^

    • Yi says:

      That’s a bit more comforting to hear someone like S. 2. So far, the comments have all been fairly negative about the sequel.
      Anyways, I haven’t started S.2 yet, but I’m going to be expecting some cute Nino action as well as some laughs.

      Maria is just too sadistic not to like!

  7. The first season could have used a bit more Nino/Recruit relationship development but I guess that’s what season 2 is for. The gang is back for more silliness that, underneath it all, still possesses a sharp criticism at Japan’s lack of innovation and willingness to embrace new ideas. Especially when you look at Recruit, who’s supposed to have graduated from the best universities but still can’t adapt to life in this autonomous commune.

    • Yi says:

      I agree. I didn’t care too much for some of the side characters that got more attention (P-ko). I’d rather that space be used to develop more Nino/ Recruit. Still, the side characters are so necessary to the series; they need their moments. I’m relieved that there’s a second season to expand on Nino/ Recruit’s romance.

      “The gang is back for more silliness that, underneath it all, still possesses a sharp criticism at Japan’s lack of innovation and willingness to embrace new ideas. ”
      Oooh, interesting. I didn’t think of that at all when I watched it, but very valid insight. Thanks!!

  8. Fai D Fluorite says:

    Nice review ^_^
    I’ve been seeing a lot about this anime in many blogs.Haven’t seen it yet.
    Hope I’ll get to enjoy it when I do see it!

    • Yi says:

      Yea I think the first season was pretty popular, but it’s since trailed off. As with artsy anime, opinions are usually pretty divided. I enjoyed it, but I think you might have to try it out to see if it works for you. I hope it does though. ^ ^

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  11. lovelyduckie says:

    hahaha I feel kind of embarassed that I seem to say the same think over and over but…I liked the look of this anime and it’s high on my “To watch” list. I read so much more manga these days than I watch anime. I still love anime but I just haven’t been in the mood to try out something new in a while.

    • Yi says:

      Don’t worry about it!! I’m the same way everywhere. People would write about a manga or an anime or a figure, and I’d be totally fascinated. It would go “high” on my overflowing watch/read/buy list…

      Anyways, there’s always some risk to watching anime that’s a bit “out there”. You won’t know for sure if you’d like it until you get into it. Arakawa’s kind of like that. And from what I’ve read, opinions are fairly divided.

  12. fathomlessblue says:

    Love, love, love it! Definitely in my top three anime of the last few years, even if it took me a few episodes to “get” it. Humour, heart, social commentary and damn good characters have me sold, I mean a giant in a nuns outfit with post-traumatic stress disorder; what’s there not to like?

    The visuals are also fantastic. Bar Eden of the East, this was the first Shaft show I’d seen and I fell in love in the designs and scene directions. I’m now looking up more of their stuff, such as Bakemonogatari which was also pretty decent (but boy, dialogue heavy!). Think I’ll give Dance of the Loli tits/Vampire Bund a miss though, your related posts are as far as I’d like to get to that particular show.

    I guess I can understand why some are disappointed by season 2, the first felt like such a complete package, at least for Ric’s character, that you could argue a second season was unnecessary. Not me though, I’m happy theres more. The humour may have fallen a bit flat in places but I found that no different to season 1. Plus episodes like 3 and 6 show the drama side can even surpass the previous offering.

    ps. I love how the show subverted the role of Ric playing the straight/normal guy, by slowly revealing that his quirks make him possibly the most deranged character in the group, to the extent he freaks the others out. Still, at least he doesn’t have to marry a white cornish if he steps off a white line XD.

    • Yi says:

      Yea seriously. How can I not love the characters!! It’s pretty rare for me to actually like everyone, especially for a cast as diverse and as large as the one in Arakawa. I’m a fairly big hater… But I couldn’t hate any of the characters. They’re all just so weird, funny, and lovable.

      I’m fairly smitten with Shaft productions. They have quite a few series that have fascinating animation, and are just refreshing to see. This was one of them. I have yet to watch Bakemonogatari, but I really want to. I also liked Vampire Bund, but it has some serious flaws. I really liked their work on Kino no Tabi movie too.

      I’m going to start watching season 2 soon… I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m prepared for some disappointment, as well as some awesomeness.

      “I love how the show subverted the role of Ric playing the straight/normal guy, by slowly revealing that his quirks make him possibly the most deranged character in the group, to the extent he freaks the others out.”
      Yes yes yes!! And because of he’s our eyes into this world, our common sense are easily broken down once we start seeing his quirks.

  13. MBaka-Raptor says:

    Maria brings out the M in all of us.

    It’s a good show, but I’m not watching season 2 yet. I’m not sure what a second season would add to the show. First come final reviews, then I’ll decide if I want to continue.

    • Yi says:

      Haha, that’s the power of sadism. I want to be abused!

      I thought there were a few unresolved issue left at the end of season one. Who saved their home? What’s to happen with Ric’s daddy issues? What’s up with Nino? I do hope the second season will answer these questions.

      p.s. Is there also an SBaka-Raptor?

  14. EmperorG says:

    When it comes to gag comedy, it’s the same as moe. You either like it or don’t. That simple. I love weird things that take some thinking in order to understand the humor. That’s why Shaft’s shows rock. Arakawa, Zetsubou-sensei, Bakemonogatari, Soredomo, Pani Poni, Lucky Star etc.

    You were talking about fears of disappointment in the 2nd season. Don’t worry about it, think of it as possibly the same as the 3rd season of Zetsubou-sensei. Not as good as the previous 2, but not bad either.

    • Yi says:

      Nice comparison!
      So many mixed opinions on S.2. I guess I’ll just have to watch it to see how it is.

      • EmperorG says:

        BTW, considering that you’re a masochist, does this mean that you like MM! ? I most certainly don’t. In fact, it hurts me every single week. Why do I continue to watch it? because I plan to destroy it for every single cent it’s worth when I review it later on.

        Besides, after my generally positive Red Garden G-View, I’ll show MM! absolutely NO MERCY.

        Sorry for going off topic, it’s just that your statement intrigued to ask that question comrade Yi.

        • Yi says:

          I didn’t pick up MM! because I pretty much expected it to be terrible. Good to know that I’m right. ^ ^

          Be sure to send me the link to your review of MM! after you’re done. I’m curious as to how you’re going to rip it apart.

  15. EmperorG says:

    Don’t worry, this will be my very last off topic comment for this discussion. Just for fun, check out some of my latest reviews from 64-72. You never know, something new might pop up. I doubt it but heck, give it a look just in case.
    Ok, it’s a promise. Once I’m finished enduring the pain of MM!, I’ll be sure to inform you of my painful journey and how much of a thrashing this show received by my hands.

    • Yi says:

      Thanks for the link. I’ll be checking it from time to time. ^ ^

      • EmperorG says:

        Star Man and Brother “Sister” are my #1’s on the show. Of course Nino’s the best female character.

        Anyway, I’m sorry but I guess I can’t find any other place to discuss this with you. Forgive me for going off topic so many times.
        This is directed toward your latest Twitter post. Might I ask why a math genius Squid Girl and another confrontation between Squid Girl and Saori isn’t epic enough? I can understand the first skit being not so funny, but I couldn’t contain my laughter in regards to the other 2 skits.

        • Yi says:

          Hm… I don’t know. That sketch is fine. I had a few chuckles, especially when Ika showed her math solving secrets. But I just felt that overall, the pacing is too slow. The set up to the punchlines in all three sketches ran too long for me.

          “I’m sorry but I guess I can’t find any other place to discuss this with you.”
          Yea, I’m pretty inaccessible outside of blog and twitter. Please don’t worry about leaving off-topic comments. I love talking to you anywhere. ^ ^

          You can always email me via hsieh.yi[a] . I’m on gchat too… sometimes.
          If you want to talk off topic about anything, just shoot me an email. ^ ^

  16. ~xxx says:

    Arakawa was a good show to begin with… then after watching episode 6 I realized that she is not human after the discovery of the mangaka-commander.

    Well, I was looking after the love story of Ric and Nino.

    The show is funny, the show is very good and I want to finish it no matter what changes happens.[especially the schedule of classes]

    • Yi says:

      So Nino really isn’t human?! I guess I’ll have to watch season two to find out.

      Anyways, I’m going to finish this series no matter what too, and I’m hoping it won’t be a total let down.

      • fathomlessblue says:

        I wouldn’t make any conclusions about whether Nino’s from Venus or not just yet. I’m up to date with the series and theres nothing in the show that confirms it or not. People seem to to be reading a lot out of something pretty insignificant (a manga artists picture no less!).

        Also, regarding your earlier question over the unresolved identity of the individual who saved the groups home; it’s not been confirmed but most people believe they know who it was. Watch ep 12 of the first season again and you might figure it out.

        • Yi says:

          “Watch ep 12 of the first season again and you might figure it out.”
          I’m guessing it’s the Kappa.

          As for Nino and Venus, I was actually really surprised to see those comments about it. The series has been fairly grounded in the real world without going into the realm of the supernatural/ pseudoscience. So if Nino is really an alien, that’d be just awkward in relation to the rest of the series.

  17. Fabienne says:

    Good review 😉
    Arakawa under the bridge is awesome, I nearly love every aspect of it.
    Like ~xxx said I also expected abit more love story of Ric and Nino in the beginning.
    to me it appears as no story real driven show, nevertheless the characters are very cool and unique and with the crazy kind of humor of SHAFT I can say that the show entertains me a lot.

    I also like the ending song from Season 2

    • Yi says:

      Yea, there isn’t too much on Ric and Nino’s romance, but I’m kind of assuming we’ll get more of that in the second season. For most of the first season though, I had a hard time seeing what direction this anime will go. But I guess I’m fine if there isn’t any story at all since the comedy is entertaining enough.

      ❤ season 2 ending! ^ ^

  18. This is something I think I would enjoy and nothing has truly caught my fancy. I’ve been on a dry anime streak, weeding out what’s not yuri since I only have a couple hours each night to filter priorities.

    *puts it on her to-watch list*

    • Yi says:

      Hi Sapphire Onee-chan! ^ ^
      I think Arakawa is a nice light thing to pick up.

      Truth be told, I’ve been on a very dry anime/ manga streak too, having only picked up two series this season. I’m mostly just trying to finish past series that I’ve started.

  19. Reltair says:

    It was good, but I dropped it midway due to the lack of common sense. I guess I wasn’t in the mood for it. :/

    • Yi says:

      I have periods when I am just not in the mood for ridiculous comedy too. That’s part of the reason it took me so long to finish the series. I actually started it when it came out. Then I went through a depressed phase. I just wasn’t in the mood for this. But recently, I came back and found this really enjoyable again.

  20. Nopy says:

    The way Arakawa is able to tie in societal problems such as acceptance and homelessness with light humour is the one major aspect I enjoy about the series. Few anime nowadays hardly give a second thought to anything else besides moe characters and fanservice.

    • Yi says:

      Yea, that was definitely something I really appreciate about the series. I don’t particularly mind that Arakawa doesn’t tackle it head on nor make direct social commentaries. It merely raises awareness, and that’s enough for me.

  21. Shin says:

    The thing I like about this series is the potential backstory to each and every one of the cast members. For example, Nino herself may have been some sort of LSD junkie who suffers from schizophrenia who was sexually abused at one point during her childhood or something, whereby her whole Venusian shtick is a way for her to cover up those awful memories.

    • Yi says:

      I’m glad you mentioned that. That’s another really strong suit of Arakawa. I’m very curious about Nino’s past, as well as Kappa’s background. If I assumed correctly, then I have to wonder why such a powerful man is living in this strange isolated community.

      I would not be too surprised if Nino went through some seriously tragic things. The way the series has been, it’s hard for me to whether they might just drop a huge bomb like that.

  22. reo 2040 says:

    This anime is great anime
    it is funny and there is some sweet romantic it is the best i loved this anime
    thanks for the Review

  23. Pingback: Typography Under the Bridge – Wordplay in Arakawa | Listless Ink

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