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.
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.
The carefree attitude makes this community so attractive. The lack of common sense, the unfathomable traditions, and the lovable characters  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.
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 ; still others remind of drug-induced trips. Further, the opening is just one of the best sequences I have ever enjoyed.  The artwork really gives Arakawa a very unique personality.
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.
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. 
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.
- 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.
- More on the use of typography in Arakawa
- 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
- More on escapism and homelessness in Arakawa Under the Bridge