Arakawa Under the Bridge, Season 1 – DVD/Blu-ray Premium Edition Review

Review by: Ai Kano

Publisher: NIS America
MSRP: $69.99 US
Running Time: 316 minutes
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Rating: Teen
Release Date: Available Now

Under this bridge you will find life, love and comical insanity.

I have to admit that I have a fondness for anything SHAFT seeing that many of this animation production studio’s titles are not only visually amazing but they’re also a blast to watch whether you fell in love with Negima!? or Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei just to name a few. You can bet that I was definitely on board for Arakawa Under the Bridge as NIS America brings us the DVD/Blu-ray combo Premium Edition of Season 1. Believe me when I say that you’ll find it well worth your time and money.

The 13-episode first season introduces us to Ko Ichinomiya, the young heir to the internationally renowned Ichinomiya Company. Ko puts himself on a hard-to-reach pedestal seeing as he goes to a top university that he himself pays for and lives in a luxurious penthouse. He stands to inherit not only the company but also the prestigious Ichinomiya name that believes that an Ichinomiya must never be in anyone’s debit. Yes, he’s a big shot at his age so why is it that he’s standing on the ledge of the Arakawa Bridge without his pants?

You see, a band of kids stole took his pants and tossed them upward where they are stuck up on a support beam. Suddenly, an attractive girl with long blonde hair tells him she could get his pants for him with her fishing rod but Ko refuses since the Ichinomiya credo makes it clear he shouldn’t owe anybody anything. However, when he falls into the river, this strange girl saves him so he ends up owing her big time as a result. Since she doesn’t want any material possessions, though, her one request is that Ko becomes her lover. While the thought itself is crazy to him, Ko accepts.

The problem is that the girl named Nino lives under the Arakawa Bridge and now he has to live there with her as well since lovers should be staying together. The young man comes to learn another fact about the girl … she believes she’s from Venus. She also tells him that now that he lives with her he should be named by the Village Chief who happens to be a Kappa – a folkloric Japanese river sprite. The Chief, as Ko sees him, is merely a man in a Kappa costume but he seriously believes he’s the last of his kind. It is the Chief who gives Ko his new name so Ko Ichinomiya is henceforth named Recruit or Rec.

Recruit comes to see that Nino and the Chief aren’t the only oddballs living under the bridge as he soon meets Sister, who turns out to be a scarred male military commando wearing a nun’s habit. Sister has a tendency to pull out guns and grenades for just about any reason including holding mass for Arakawa’s residents. Then there’s Whitey who – to Rec’s eyes – looks normal until he reveals that he can only walk on the white lines he paints on the ground.

Living with Nino, Recruit meets the others who include young twins who wear bullet-shaped helmets because they claim that government agents want to get their hands on them and their super powers. Then there’s Maria, an attractive woman who casually dishes out insults that cut to the bone as well a young girl named P-Ko who tends to a garden she booby traps herself. We also meet Hoshi, a talented musician who happens to wear a star-shaped mask and is so deeply in love with Nino that he resents that Nino considers Recruit her lover. In fact, Hoshi becomes heartbroken because of it and becomes the newcomer’s rival.

Life under the bridge slowly begins to change the young man as he becomes a part of this unusual community who does things that really make little sense to him. A big part of his change is due to Nino as both try to discover what it means to be a lover since neither one had experiences dating or falling in love. Recruit tries, though, and it’s not an easy feat since none of the people under the bridge ever wants to leave the riverbank.

Of course, the weirdness gets to Recruit sometimes and who can blame him? For instance, he meets the seemingly super cute Stella whose hugs are really chokeholds and – when angry – turns into a hulking brute in pigtails. He comes to know these people well enough that he notices crushes such as the one P-ko has for Chief or Sister’s unfortunate attraction to Maria, whose insults make his scar reopens in the most comical and bloody way. Oh yeah, there’s even a samurai who cuts hair … using his sharp katana.

Most interesting is Rec’s rivalry with Hoshi as the rock star tries hard to win Nino’s attention. However, things take an even more interesting turn when Rec’s father sends two company representatives to check on his son as he sends Secretary Takai who wants the young master to see him as a father. When he sees his son isn’t interested in returning to his old life. When his father threatens to build something over their home, it is Recruit who summons the courage to go against his father’s wishes for the others but more for Nino.

As far as the story is concerned, you won’t find a cohesive narrative in Arakawa Under the Bridge like many wacky comedies like it but the series makes up for it with its unique cast of characters. They’re not just weird for the sake of weird but they actually start evolving to the point that you will find yourself coming to love them. Hoshi, for example, actually has a back-story that helps us understand him a little more and that makes him a character rather than just a caricature with a star-shaped mask.

The series also has a wonderfully warped and occasionally very witty sense of humor that you will find yourself laughing out loud at least more than once throughout the 13-episodes. The jokes work thanks to the great dialogue and the outstanding performances by the voice-acting cast. Add some gorgeous animation that looks even better on the Blu-ray discs and you have a series that looks and sounds just right.

The Premium Edition of Season 1 of Arakawa Under the Bridge is quite possibly the most rewarding quirky anime comedies that doesn’t disappoint when it comes to doing strange right and still be straight up funny. Add a crazy cast of intriguing characters and an oddball story and you have yourself one of this year’s best anime comedies. This one is definitely right up there on our Highly Recommended list for sure so do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Ko Ichinomiya lived his life knowing he will inherit a great fortune and control his own corporation but he breaks one of his family’s rules when finds himself indebt to an attractive young girl named Nino who says she’s from Venus. Suddenly, Ko’s life changes as he lives under the Arakawa Bridge with an assortment of peculiar residents that include a Kappa, a cross-dresser in a nun’s habit and a cute little girl you do not want to get angry.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Arakawa Under the Bridge is simply a stunning-looking series with beautiful animation so it was a brilliant idea to also include it on Blu-ray and trust me when I say you will absolutely love it on HD. For those who only have DVD players you will not be disappointed either.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The voice acting in the series is topnotch with Hiroshi Kamiya (as Recruit) on the very top of an impressive cast list that bring their characters to life. Even the original score is lovely and both the opening and closing theme songs fit the series perfectly.

EXTRAS: A+
NIS America wins points for including both the DVD and Blu-ray version in one Premium Edition set that also includes a 32-page hardcover book with great artwork, character profiles, episode descriptions and interviews with the cast and crew. The book itself is a Must Have for those who know and love the manga.

The discs themselves contain extras such as the original Japanese TV spots as well as audio commentary tracks for just about every episode in the series with the original Japanese cast (subtitles even) so it’s worth a listen since the cast is a very lively bunch.

OVERALL: A+
A wildly entertaining and genuinely funny anime series, Season 1 of Arakawa Under the Bridge is – simply put – a strong contender for this year’s best anime releases. While it is not quite brilliant, there’s a method to the madness that will not fail to hook you in with its intentionally fragmented storytelling and colorful cast of eccentrics. On top of that the series is downright hilarious at times so if you like your comedies quirky and fun you really should not miss this one. Believe me when I say that you will hope Season 2 comes soon.

Review copy provided by NIS America

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