ANIME & MANGA - Article
15:20 - 20th February 2013, by NEO Staff

Arakawa Under the Bridge

Probably the most distinctive thing about Japanese pop culture is its strange sense of humour. While some jokes can fall flat for westerners - particularly ones based on puns, which obviously don't translate well - there are some which hit our funny bones so hard they obliterate them. One such series is Arakawa Under the Bridge, which opens with the somewhat naive Ko Ichinomiya standing on the edge of a bridge over the Arakawa River. Born into an elite family, he's been raised with some rather peculiar beliefs - chief most being the objectivist family motto, "Never rely on anyone else!". If any of the Ichinomiya clan end up indebted to anyone, they have to repay them in kind, or in whatever way is demanded of them. It's a rule that's been firmly entrenched in the family mindset - one bizarre flashback introduces us to Ko's father, who forced his young son to nurse him in repayment for raising him from a baby.

Ko has ended up on the bridge after a group of delinquents steal his trousers and throw them out of reach. Ko, in turn, complements them for their initiative and go-getter attitude. Clumsily climbing to retrieve them, he hears a voice from over the barrier; a strange blonde girl warning him he's about to expose himself due to a snag catching his boxers. His utter refusal to accept help makes matters much worse - falling from the bridge's support strut, the girl saves him from drowning, leaving him in palpitating fits. And then it gets weird.
Introducing herself as Nino, the only repayment she'll accept from Ko is for him to love her, insisting he lives with her under the bridge, and that if he leaves for more than a day, she'll forget him entirely. That wouldn't sit well with Ko's determination to pay her back, so he agrees to her terms. Of course, he didn't factor in Nino's next revelation, that she's a self-confessed capitalist from the planet Venus. Or the fact that she demands he meet the Mayor - a guy who religiously wears a kappa costume, lives in the river water, and insists Ko change his name to 'Recruit' (Rick for short) - before being officially inducted into their unorthodox community.

From here, the show settles into its routine, constantly challenging Ko's attitudes and extreme independence with relentless strangeness, a series of deadpan jokes and non-sequiturs. The humour is visual as often as it is scripted, backed up by numerous shifting but uniformly beautiful art styles. Who says comedy can't be creative? The series hasn't had a release in the UK as yet, but we hope that one day it might just pique the interest of a distributor, to bring this uniquely Japanese comedy to our shores!

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