It took me a while to get through this series. Not only because I lack the time to just sit down and watch a series from one end to the other right now, but also because it’s not a series I could have watched like that anyway. It’s really funny and weird, but also hits hard sometimes. Besides, although it’s an on-going story, every episode is neatly wrapped up, and the need to watch the next one right away simply isn’t there. Is that a bad thing? No, it’s not!
It all starts off on top of a bridge, where Kou is standing without his pants, as some naughty kids stole them from him, and placed them further up on the bridge. As he is the son of a wealthy businessman, who has been taught to never owe anyone anything, he decides to decline the help of a girl who is fishing nearby, and climbs up a pillar to grab the pants himself. As he even refuses to listen to what the girl has to say, he finds out the hard way that the pillar is broken, and in the next second, he is falling into the river with both pillar and pants.
As he is being dragged towards the bottom of the river by the heavy metal pillar, a hand stretches out towards him, and pulls him out of his misery. It’s the girl who was fishing just seconds ago; who now saved his life, and thus Kou feels that he owes her something now. That feeling is making him literally sick, and he wants to pay his debt right away, for him to move on and not owe her anything. The girl doesn’t really understand why he owes her anything, as she helped a person who was in danger, and finds that to be quite the normal thing to do. Kou keeps insisting though, and the girl decides, that if he really owes her anything, then it’s to be her lover.
Baffled by that kind of wish, but unable to refuse it because of not wanting to owe her anything, Kou agrees, and stays with his new lover under the bridge. It turns out that the girls name is Nino, and that she actually lives under the bridge, together with a lot of other people, who must now welcome Kou into their ranks, whether they want it or not. As he meets more and more of them, he realizes that not a single person seems to be normal in any way. Nino is a girl from Venus, the mayor is a man in a Kappa costume, and the nun is a huge man with a gun they all call Sister, just to name a few of them.
To top it all off, one of them is a musician named Hoshi, who is already in love with Nino, and is bound to cause trouble for the new citizen under the bridge. After a while of living in this new society, Kou realizes that every single one of them has their own purpose, and contributes to the system in their own way. Desperate to find his own place among their ranks, he becomes a tutor, and tries teaching the kids how the real world works. To them though, living under the bridge is the real world, and Kou will soon have to settle with that thought, especially since he wants to stay with Nino, who would never leave the bridge for any reason.
As he finally finds himself at home with the people under the bridge, he is found by his assistant, and an employee of his father, who is not amused by the way his son is living his life. Determined to get his son back on track, he decides to buy the rights to build along the riverbank, and thereby forcing the people who live there to move, hoping for his son to move back home again, and be the businessman he’s supposed to. That’s not what Kou has in mind though, and he starts a fight with his father where he has to show his businessman skills, not only to save himself and his new friends, but also to show him that he has indeed learnt a lot about his father’s trade.
While Arakawa Under the Bridge is a comedy, it also touches some of the more serious matters in life. Like Kou’s issues with his father, who never gave him the attention and love he needed, or Nino hinting towards coming from a broken home. All characters seem to have a background that leads them to living under the bridge in the end, but we never really get to know them. Sure, they tell a little about themselves now and then, but we never really know if it’s a lie or not. From the events we see though, they all seem happy with their lives, and wouldn’t want to trade their way of living with the one we call reality.
One can watch the series as it is, and see a bunch of colorful people running around, having almost no care in life, while teasing poor Kou until he becomes one of them. I’ve always seen Kou as the narrow-minded everyday guy though, who was raised to become what his father decided, not asking any questions, because he doesn’t know any better. He is the outsider among outsiders, and has to learn acceptance more than anything else at that point in his life. He is not used to people being different, or not even living in the city, like he always has.
The people around him are disturbing, and he tries his best to fight their system, because in his mind, it’s not right. His only gateway into their world is Nino, who is also just a lunatic in his mind. Right until he becomes a teacher, he does his best not to fit in, which only makes it harder for him to live under the bridge. As soon as he realizes that the people are actually very friendly, he decides to open his heart towards them, and even becomes one of them, which in the end improves his life.
If you are tired of the mainstream characters that seem to populate animes nowadays, take a step back in time to this little “old” gem, and dive into a world that makes no sense, but has so much more to offer than you might think.
Have you watched it already? What do you think about it? I’m looking forward to watching season 2 already, and will start doing that this week for sure 🙂