Arakawa under the Bridge is another one of those series that has a light-novel “feel” to it, but this one actually has its roots in a manga authored by Hikaru Nakamura and published by Square Enix. The story is about a young man named Ichinomiya Kou, future successor to the wealthy Ichinomiya family whose single motto is “never be indebted to anyone.”
Through his many years of rigorous training, Kou has taken this motto to heart. At the age of three, his father, dressed in a baby outfit, requested that Kou learn to spoonfeed him to repay the first three years of his “debt” to his parents. “If you don’t hurry and put that pacifier in my mouth, I’ll begin to cry,” he told him sternly. Kou has grown up taking pride in his family motto and is now a self-sufficient, stylish knockout.
…then he finds himself on a bridge without his pants — stolen by some pranksters — one day. To top that, in the process of getting them back, he very nearly drowns and is saved by a homeless girl named Nino, who lives under the very same bridge. To his horror, he is in debt. Following his family instinct, he begs her to allow him a chance to repay her for saving him…or else, every time he eats delicious cake, it would be because of her. Bad move.
Nino’s — who believes she’s from Venus — not-so-simple request is that Kou fall in love with her. Which naturally involves living with her under the bridge and hanging out with the equally crazy “Chief” of the river, who names Kou “Recruit.” And so the mind-boggling insanity begins.
Arakawa under the Bridge is produced by SHAFT, and it shows right away. The camera angles and a lot of the animation itself is very reminiscent of Bakemonogatari…with an added emphasis on people’s ankles for some reason. The dialogue and the way the characters scream — even the voice-actors — are right out of Zetsubou Sensei.
Before I’d actually watched the show, I was a little wary of Arakawa. A series about a homeless girl living under a bridge with the successor to a well-off business family just screamed “shoujo drama” to me. And while I have nothing against shoujo at all — I read or watch my fair share of it — I can’t stand depressing melodrama. Fortunately, Arakawa is anything but. It sets up its jokes fabulously and throws punchline after punchline at you. I cackled silently to myself throughout the majority of the pilot episode.
Sure, the art can look a little off in places — especially Kou’s character design — and there’s some blatant self-theft of stylization from Bakemonogatari and Zetsubou Sensei, but it’s entertaining and genuinely funny all the same.