ANIME & MANGA - Review
16:00 - 30th December 2013, by David West

Arakawa Under The Bridge x Bridge - Season 2

Ko Ichinomiya was a successful young salaryman before he joined the denizens of a strange community living under Arakawa Bridge. Ko, nicknamed Rec - which is short for Recruit - now spends his time desperately struggling to whip some common sense into the likes of Chief, a man dressed as a kappa, Sister, an awfully masculine, gun-toting nun, Marie, whose beauty belies her sadistic streak, and Nino, a somnambulant girl who claims to be from the planet Venus.

This second collection delivers another dose of the same wacky gags as the first season. Ko may be the only sane person amongst the cast, but he does not take the traditional role of the straight man in this comedy. Instead, everyone else around him plays it straight and serious while Ko provides the over-sized reactions and freak outs, so while Chief sternly refuses to admit he's just a man in a costume, it falls to Ko to flail about and obsess over it.

The series works best when it parodies anime genres and conventions. The tournament storyline is an effective spoof of battle anime clichés, and Stella, a diminutive schoolgirl who can transform into a massively muscular warrior, is clearly a poke at the macho heroes of shonen series like Fist Of The North Star. It is less compelling when the comedy falls back on having Ko lose his cool over and again. Given the amount of time he has spent amongst these characters, he ought to be a little more accustomed to their eccentricities by now.

If the series has a centre, which is debatable, is it the relationship between Ko and Nino. He is clearly more than a little smitten by the strange (possibly) Venusian, although it is harder to get a clear reading on where her head and heart are at on the subject, as she remains strange and unattainable. The closest this batch of episodes comes to any coherent storyline is when it appears Nino will leave Earth to return to Venus. This news sets up various scenarios involving the characters trying to lose weight so everyone can fit onboard the spaceship, but, eventually, both characters and plotline end up going nowhere.

New faces join the roster of wacky lunatics, including an Amazon warrior queen that Ko meets while searching for a lost baseball. While some of the humour can feel contrived and Ko's endless over-reactions to everything can be tiresome, the show is not without a certain unhinged charm. It doesn't match the rapid-fire slapstick of Baka And Test and it lacks the note-perfect deadpan delivery of Cromartie High School, but it still manages to tickle the funny bone with enough regularity to keep you at the very least grinning if not laughing out loud. The artwork is bright and lively, able to imitate the style of other genres for the spoofs, and with respectable animation. The Japanese voice cast attacks the script with enthusiasm, particularly Hiroshi Kamiya who voices the highly stung Ko, but there is no English dub.

How best to summarise this series? The gang decides to make a film - wackiness ensues. The gang all try to lose weight - wackiness ensues. The gang have a battle tournament - wackiness ensues. There is a great deal of wackiness in Arakawa Under The Bridge x Bridge. If that tickles your fancy, just dive on in.
SCORE: 3/5
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