Arakawa Under the Bridge – 11-13 [End]
I’m very late, but have to finish up blogging this series – it would be a crying shame not to because Arakawa Under the Bridge was so damn good! So here are my quick impressions of the final three episodes.
This episode was mainly about Ric having to leave the riverbank in order to put his plans to save the land from his father’s clutches. It was really amusing to see that Nino really does forget people’s faces if she doesn’t see them everyday, as she struggled with the face of a sketch of Ric, half choked a Ric look-a-like with fish and then glomped Takei when Ric finally returned to the river! Despite the hiccup of forgetting what he looks like, it was really nice to see how the Bridge residents have really come to rely on and value Ric as one of their own. They all turn up to welcome him back (although Ric should be glad that his look-a-like received some of their well-intentioned gifts rather than him!).
Other highlights were Sister dressed as giant bear (complete with gun disguised as a honey pot!), Sister’s casual declaration that Ric’s da seems to be scarier than nukes and the residents utterly selfish responses to Ric’s public park plans. Then there was Ric’s complete terror at the prospect of finally calling his Da, only to bottle it at the last moment and call the talking clock! The flashback to a young Ric being really excited about getting a mobile phone and putting his daddy’s number in it for the purpose of always being able to reach him, only for Daddy Ichinomiya to cruelly inform the child that he does not want to be bothered with trivial matters; was a bit tragic.
Once again I felt terribly sorry for Ric; sure its irritating when a child constantly calls you when you’re busy (as a colleague of mine discovered when her husband loaned their 7-year-old his mobile), but scaring the shite out of your child so that calling you is the last thing they’d ever do is just depressing. That brief conversation in the car, seems to have caused lasting damage to parent and childs relationship and the act of exchanging phone numbers actually establishes a block on their ability to communicate.
Episode 12 marks the end of the main plot in Arakawa Under the Bridge as daddy Ichinomiya arrives on the scene and has a chat with Nino under circumstances amusingly similar to her inital meeting with Ric. I loved the mirroring of father and sons meeting with Nino, and how they both come away changed by her – although Seki’s change is much more subtle than Kou’s. Seki seems to accept that Kou has found someone important to him in Nino, and quietly wishes his son more luck in love than he himself had. I still dislike Seki, but that scene was a nice touch.
The trigger for Seki’s arrival on the Bridge is his bid on the riverside land falling through and his automatic assumption that Ric is responsible (since Ric is the only other party really interested in the land to his knowledge). However it turns out that a mysterious man in a kimono is responsible for saving the day! A mysterious man in a kimono who sounds exactly like the Mayor – coincidence? I think not. The Mayor has always been an odd character and I’ve often wondered just what it is about him that’s so special……..and now I’m even more curious about his real world identity! Someone with enough power and money to outbid the mighty Ichinomiya corporation is definitely a force to be reckoned with – so why is he living under a bridge pretending to be a Kappa!? 😆
The other amusement of the episode was Maria’s provision of shooting stars to wish upon for Nino and the other Bridge residents. Of course this being Maria, the shooting stars are actually Ric and Hoshi being forced to jump off the Bridge over and over again for Maria’s amusement! However the real highlight for me, was Ric’s indirect confession to Nino through his da’s mobile phone. Since Seki adheres completely to the family motto, he ends up leaving his trousers (and therefore his phone) with Nino. Ric finally gets enough courage up to call his dad (unaware that the riverside has already been saved by the Mayor) and splurts out his wish to be with Nino forever. I d’awwwd – such a lovely moment.
So this is it – the finale of Arakawa and one of the best comedy series in recent years. Since episode 12 wrapped up the main storyline, episode 13 is just gravy. The first half decides to introduce three of the other Bridge residents who have been floating about in the background since the start of the show; hairdresser Last Samurai and the odd couple of Queen Bee Jacqueline and parrot-head Billy. The scene at Last Samuari’s hair salon would have been pretty boring, if it wasnt for Nino’s epic bedhead hair and Sister’s amazing reflexes when faced with anything remotely threatening (like a hairdresser using a katana to cut your hair!). Jacqueline & Billy just turn out to be odd – glad they didn’t really feature much in the show.
Focus then switches to Ric’s promise to take the kids to an amusement park, but when they refuse to leave the riverside he then devotes all his time and energy into researching amusement parks so he can build one! His reflection on what an amusement park designed by Takei would look like had me in stitches. Thankfully the other bridge residents come to the rescue and put together some attractions to save Ric from his own perfectionist side. Amusements designed by the Bridge residents are suitably deranged – Maria’s merry-go-round with authentic (insane) animals, the 3D theatre with real guns and Sisters Iron-maiden attraction all had me in fits as did the Mayor’s rather frightening mascot outfit.
The Nino x Ric moment was my favourite though, as Ric recalled a rare happy memory of his dad once taking him to a carousel. It was a really lovely moment, and I really liked the music and animation – it’s really nice that at the end Ric recalls something good about his miserable childhood. Daddy Ichinomiya has been a pretty horrible character throughout the series so its refreshing that in these final episodes he was given another dimension – that of a father unable to properly communicate with his child.
Final Thoughts: I remember going into Arakawa with great trepidation. SHAFT’s past few series have been a bit iffy (with Dance in the Vampire Bund being the studios real low point) plus the synopsis for Arakawa seemed like it could either be brilliant or crap with no real middle ground. To my great relief SHAFT pulled it out of the bag, and really delivered something special in Arakawa Under the Bridge. SHAFTs signature quirky animation style and Shinbo’s unusual directing choices were practically made for Arakawa – really no other director/studio could have done this series any better.
What really surprised me about Arakawa was how much soul it had. I was expecting a irreverent gag comedy series with all the depth of a puddle, but what I got was a really funny series with hidden depth and great character development! Sure the philosophical intros were sometimes hit or miss, but when they hit they were inspired. However without doubt the real charm point of the show was Nino and how she changed Ric from high-strung, self-centred yuppy into a much more chilled individual who goes out of his way to help his friends (although just how much he realises that these people are his friends is up for debate!).
However for pure comedy, Sister stole the show. A huge blond man with a sweet-tooth and unlimited arsenal in a nun’s habit; who would have thought he’d be the source of so much entertainment value!? In a cast filled with colourful characters Sister shone brightest for me – whats not to love about a man who’s only fear is nukes and only weakness is the pink-haired sadist, Maria!? 😆
Thankfully Arakawa has been greenlit for a 2nd season, and I am really looking forward to seeing what else with wonderful series has to offer.