Arakawa Under the Bridge Volume 1 Review

Arakawa Under the Bridge:

Volume 1

Reviewed by: Linny

And he was traumatized for life.

And he was traumatized for life.

Synopsis: Kou Ichinomiya is the heir to a rich and prosperous family whose motto is to never owe anyone anything. So strict is this policy that even from the age of three, Kou had to pamper his father like a baby as repayment for his own infant years. When a series of accidents and events leads to Kou almost losing his life and being saved by a mysterious girl who calls herself Nino, he realizes that his debt to her is immeasurable.
Nino turns out to be a rather odd young woman who claims to be from Venus and lives under a bridge. As repayment for her heroic act, she asks Kou to not only be her boyfriend and teach her about love but asks him to move in with her claiming she would forget all about him otherwise. Kou agrees to do so but soon comes to find out that the river bank is filled with people far more loony and ridiculous that constantly out-crazy Nino no matter how insane her own actions get.

Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):

Do you enjoy eccentric comedies that make little to no sense and derive comedy from the absurdity of its characters and the crazy situations they get themselves into? Then Arakawa Under the Bridge is for you. The story starts off somewhat sombre with what reads like a voice over remarking about human nature or rather earthlings and our desire to have a special someone over images of our for now unknown female protagonist. We then cut to Kou, who has his own little monologue about the proud heritage he comes from but all serious notes are immediately dispensed as we zoom out to see he is standing on a bridge pantsless. The change in tone is rather quick and efficient, immediately giving the readers a sense of how silly this story is about to get. There’s a complete change in the mannerisms and expressions of Kou as he goes into pants recovery mode and the humour only gets sillier as he begins to tell the readers precisely how independant his life has been so far.

I'd say those kids were less eccentric and more just plain evil.

I’d say those kids were less eccentric and more just plain evil.

Despite all the information and backstory we get in Chapter 1, it moves very quickly which is something you will notice in the rest of the story as you keep reading. The mangaka, Hikari Nakamura efficiently dispenses anecdotes while moving the story forward in an entertaining manner. We not only get a good grasp of the kind of person Kou is and how he came to be so, but also get to see why and how he came to be in Nino’s debt without the chapter feeling rushed or cramped. One could also possibly jot it down to Arakawa Under the Bridge being a bizarre comedy, the kind that moves fast while delivering plenty of chuckles so the reader rarely feels burdened.

Arakawa is a series that’s best enjoyed by lovers of random comedy who enjoy the element of quirky surprises being the main punchline.While the story does have an underlying note of romance, there isn’t much to be seen of it for now. It seems fated that Kou will fall in love with Nino eventually but for now he seems to be dating her solely as a means of paying back his debt. So for now, the series feels like a good read for people who prefer their romance subtle and their comedy bizarre.

Sounds more like a fish than a cat to me.

Sounds more like a fish than a cat to me.

As the story continues more and more characters join the main cast in the form of other wacky residents of Kou’s new neighbourhood. If Kou and Nino weren’t weird enough for you, there’s the Mayor of the area, a self declared Kappa who is clearly a man in a costume but refuses to admit or acknowledge the blatant truth. Or a sister who is actually a man dressed in a nun’s outfit, armed with a gun that he constantly shoots, and claims to not believe in anything that he cannot pierce with his bullets. The list of characters is endless as the story goes on to add more and more characters.

As someone who has watched both seasons of the anime adaptation, I can assure you that even though there are a lot of side characters, thanks to the eclectic personalities, they all manage to stand out on their own instead of blending into a mess. Almost every character seems to be completely and stubbornly deluded, completely blind to logic and reason and operate on a consciousness that is all of their own invention. Therefore, there is a chance that they might start to feel frustrating with how aggressive and brash they can be regarding their delusions, that their stubbornness starts to feel predictable and stale.

That's one heck of a denial.

That’s one heck of a denial.

If you have never heard of Arakawa Under the Bridge before this review or are only vaguely aware of it, you could give the manga a try if you have enjoyed comedies like Nichijou where logic and common sense are tossed out in favour of the zany and illogical. There is a serious message lying in wait under all the wacky daily life shenanigans as our protagonist, Kou learns to accept and appreciate all kinds of people and lets go of the stress of leading a perfect and vain life if you read the story all the way to the end. It might feel a bit intimidating to approach this series which has two anime adaptations and 15 volumes of manga that contain 410 chapters in total. However, as it is a fast paced comedy, experiencing the story and reading won’t be as tiresome a task as one might fear as it will have you constantly chuckling or grinning at the unpredictable eccentricities of its cast. As quirky comedies go, Arakawa Under the Bridge deserves a chance for having some really interesting and peculiar characters that help to deliver a deep message with rib tickling humour every step of the way. Just be aware that with comedy as it core element, the story progression and character development will most likely be at a pace that is either too slow or even puzzling at times.

 

Arakawa Under the Bridge is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.

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