For pretty much all his life, Kou Ichinomiya, an established businessman who is the future heir to his father’s business, has always lived with the mindset of never being indebted to anyone. But on one fateful day, he lets his guard down. Some random kids jumped him and threw his pants to a hard-to-reach part of a bridge. As Kou successfully retrieves his pants, he accidently falls into the river down below, but ultimately gets saved by a young teenage(?) girl. Nino, the girl that saved him from drowning, is quite an oddball. She claims to come from the planet of Venus, and doesn’t really want anything in return for saving his life, which fills Kou with anxiety. After some deliberation, Nino tells Kou that she only has one request: To fall in love. From that point forward, Kou abandons his life of comfort and prestige, and begins living a new life under the bridge as Nino’s boyfriend and with other strange companions.
The animation of this show was handled by Shaft, a studio that has helped curate quite a few eccentric and avant-garde anime features that I consider to be some of my favorites such as, Madoka Magica, and the Monogatari series. So knowing this beforehand, I was pretty excited to watch this on an aesthetical standpoint. While I wouldn’t say it looks bad, I did find the illustrations and visual aids to be inconsistent in terms of quality. Their were some moments where the scenery exudes a very cinematic and evocative quality that really leaves you in awe, and then their were also times where the environments and fluidity of the action came off a bit flat and left you wanting more.
The soundtrack within the world of Arakawa Under the Bridge was pleasantly implemented. The music doesn’t immediately strike you with amazement, but I liked its subtlety during the more tranquil and romantic moments. As for the vocal deliveries, the voice actors did a solid job of delivering their lines during the comical bits and I think they each suited their characters exceptionally well.
As you might have gauged from the title of this show, the narrative of Arakawa Under the Bridge primarily takes place under a bridge within close proximity of a big city, where a couple of eccentric and loony individuals gather around and live together. While the vast majority of this anime is chock-full of whimsical comedy, (it reminded me of Gintama) it did explore a serious side when it came to the conflicted relationship between Kou and his father. I feel like both the lighthearted and introspective moments were executed and balanced quite nicely overall, but one thing that I would’ve liked to have seen were some backstories regarding some of the other secondary characters before they began living under the bridge since I did sort of get curious on their own personal circumstances that led them to where they are now. I did find the other characters to be quite distinctive and endearing, but they could’ve been developed a bit more (although maybe this is explored in season two).
All in all, I really enjoyed this anime. It does not quite have the visual prowess and execution of some other Shaft productions, but the whimsicality of this show was incredibly charming and never wore thin on me as a viewer. While the premise might sound pretty odd, I’d definitely still recommend Arakawa Under the Bridge if you are fond of absurd comedy with some slight philosophical undertones that might remind you of your own personal experiences.