The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Arakawa Under the Bridge × Bridge

Title: Arakawa Under the Bridge × Bridge aka Arakawa Under the Bridge ×2
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Company: SHAFT
Format: 13 episodes
Date: 3 Oct 2010 – 27 Dec 2010

Synopsis: Ichinomiya Kou is living with his Venusian love interest Nino and has gotten used to living in a community full of eccentric personalities, including love rival Hoshi, former veteran soldier Sister, beautiful sadist Maria and cockatoo-headed Billy. Shenanigans remain to be their daily routine, ranging from playing baseball to holding a sprinting contest. Things become zanier when two new additions hop onto the Arakawa bandwagon: Captain, a self-proclaimed commander of the Earth Defence Force, and Amazonness, a burly woman with goblin henchmen.

The Highlights
Comedy: Still as hilarious as the first season; mostly hits the mark.
Story: Lacks freshness and originality; just a continuation of the funnies.
Kou-Nino relationship: Doesn’t substantially develop from where the first season left off.
Arakawa gang: Their eccentricities are explored rather than their characters.
Takai Terumasa: Deserves his own OVA, or at least his own episode.

When Arakawa Under the Bridge ended, I thought that the ending wasn’t satisfying, as I was hoping for more closure to the romance between Kou and Nino. Then, when the sequel, Arakawa ×2 was announced, I was expecting to see two things: further substantial development between the main couple, and a continuation of the funnies from the Arakawa gang’s kookiness. The former still comes off short, appearing to be no different from where it was left off in the first season, while the latter is fortunately maintained by the plentiful gags adeptly executed by SHAFT‘s signature “boke-tsukkomi”-style humor.

What many viewers would remember from the first season are the off-the-wall funnies. The lack of common sense remains the name of the game in Arakawa ×2, where the brand of humor stems from the eccentric idiosyncrasies of the Arakawa gang that contrast against common human behavior. Most of them hit the right spot due to Shinbo Akiyuki‘s skilful gag execution through Kou’s “tsukkomi” statements, and also the right amount of bite that makes the gags effectively amusing. Moreover, the periodical sarcastic commentary by the narrator complements the comedy and acts as the icing on the cake for each gag. However, not all the gags work to full effect, Amazoness’ jokes being the main culprit towards viewers who may be unfamiliar with Saitama-centric gags.

The humor is driven home by the likable Arakawa gang, which boasts of commendable chemistry between them. Shinbo makes Arakawa ×2 work by selecting the best seiyuu for the characters, a knack he seems to have in his shows. However, although the funnies are delivered consistently in spades, the Arakawa gang’s character development doesn’t really go anywhere. The shows appears to focus more on how zany and bizarre the cast can truly be, rather than seeing their personalities take a step or two towards change. It’s the same case for the romantic relationship between Kou and Nino: apart from episode 3 which briefly puts Nino’s past and personality under the microscope, their romantic relationship remains generally stagnant.

Another drawback of Arakawa ×2 is the lack of freshness and originality, which is something synonymous with sequels. It can’t quite match up to the prequel mainly because the latter has the advantage of exploring the characters’ personalities and origins. Stories involving Kou’s father are deliberately omitted from this show, which is quite unfortunate since there is potential to see Kou and his father reconcile and settle their differences, particularly now Kou’s obsession for paying debts has become virtually nonexistent and thus could have made their meet-up potentially interesting to watch.

To heavily put Akarawa ×2 down even based on its merit is rather harsh. While it pales compared to the prequel’s novelty and freshness, it remains to be one of SHAFT‘s funnier shows. The humor still delivers consistently, and the characters, albeit underdeveloped, are still the likable kooky bunch that viewers have come to like since the first season. I was also hoping that this sequel would more coherently establish the link between the show’s deep and touching vignettes and Kou’s daily life experiences in his new home. Anyway, despite its flaws and shortcomings, this show doesn’t fail to tickle my funny bone and it even has one of the most meaningful open endings in recent anime.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: AC

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