Anime Review: Arakawa *2: Under the Bridge x Bridge

Arakawa *2: Under the Bridge x Bridge
Studio: Shaft
Publisher: Nippon Ichi
Genre: Romantic (?) Comedy
Release Date: 02/07/2012

Perhaps the hardest part about reviewing the second season of Arakawa is deciding what to call it. The box and DVD Profiler says Arakawa *2 Under the Bridge x Bridge. Rightstuf.com just calls it Arakawa Under the Bridge Season 2. Nippon Ichi refers to it as Arakawa Under the Bridge X Bridge (Season 2). So on and so forth. I ended up choosing the only one that had two different sites using the same naming convention. So there it is.

I absolutely loved Arakawa: Under the Bridge. It was my favorite anime of 2011. Because the second season didn’t even hit Japan until a little over a year ago, I really didn’t think we’d see it stateside until 2013 – or later. So I was pleasantly surprised when Nippon Ichi announced the second was coming out only seven months after the release of the first. How awesome is that. Of course as much as I loved the first season, it took me a bit of time to write this review. The set arrived on Feb 10th, right as I was leaving for Barbados for an extended vacation. Still, as soon as I came back and my plate was cleared of all prior obligations, this went in my PS3 and I watched all thirteen episodes over a three day period. I can happily say this the second season was just as good as the first and it’s currently my front runner for the best anime release 0f 2012. Sure it’s only been two months, but this is going to be hard to top.

If you haven’t seen the first season, then you really should wait until you have to watch and/or purchase this. The season just goes right into things under the assumption you know what is going on and who everyone is. For those that are being introduced to Arakawa from this review, I’ve included a quick synopsis of what’s going on here.

The main character of Arakawa is Ichinomya Ko, the 20 year old heir to the international corporation known as the Ichinomiya company. Ko is good looking, smart, rich and good at just about everything he does. He’s also extremely arrogant because of all this. One day he gets pantsed by some thugs on a bridge in front of a girl fishing off of it. Ko, who refuses to accept favors or help from anyone causes a girder of the bridge to collapse under him when he tries to climb it and get his pants down. Ko is trapped under the girder as it falls deeper and deeper into the water, but the girl saves him. Ko finds himself in debt to the girl who saved his life and he learns not only that her name is Nino, and that she is a squatter in a homeless village by the Arakawa River. Nino says no to a new home as repayment and instead asks Ko to be her lover. She also says that she is from Venus. These two things combine to help convince Ko that Nino is not quite right in the head. Well, more that Venus thing than anything else.

As Nino’s “lover” (it becomes apparent that she doesn’t quite understand what that term means), Ko has to move into the ramshackle community and to his dismay, Nino appears to be the sanest of the crew. The village chieftain is a man in a kappa costume, another man named Hoshi wears a star shaped mask, a girl named Maria is as psychotic and sadistic as she is beautiful and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Ko, now renamed Recruit (or Rec for short) by the Chief, has to adjust to life amongst the sane, going from the lap of luxury to well…as luxurious as he can make a section of the bridge into, and try to live up to his end of the bargain as Nino’s boyfriend.

Season Two leaves right where Season One left off – by which I mean non-stop total madcap insanity. Although there is occasionally an over-arching plot thread that connects a few episodes together (like preparing for a trip to Venus or a battle royal), the series is basically crazy people doing crazy things in such a way that you can’t help but laugh out loud. You’ll encounter new characters like The Amazon, who is a giant muscular woman who is in love with Rec. Don’t let her massive girth fool you though – she talks and acts like a Japanese teenager. She’s also accompanied by three “Tengu,” which are just people wearing Tengu masks, but who are totally devoted to serving the Amazon. You end up getting a love rectangle due to her loving Rec who loves Nino who loves Rec back but who is loved by Hoshi, the Star-headed rocker. It gets even weirder when Hoshi and Amazon start…some sort of relationship as well. You’ll also encounter The Creator/The Captain who is a manga artist with a penchant for dressing like Captain Tylor and stalking Nino. Those are the only new characters but they do add me new elements to the ever growing insanity that is Arakawa.

One of the most unusual aspects of the anime is that each episode is broken up between five and seven segments. Sometimes they are connected to the previous one, but sometimes not. It’s a striking way of doing the series and I would assume these segments correlate with the original manga, but as I don’t have any issues of that, I can’t be sure.

All in all, Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge is just as funny, charming and entertaining as the first season and if you’re a fan of anime at all, you’re going to love this series – as long as you’re okay with subtitles. I know some people want their anime dubbed, but unfortunately for them, that isn’t an option here. Trust me though – even if you strongly prefer dubbed anime, this should be your exception to the rule.

So you know I love the series and that I can strongly recommend it. However, it wouldn’t be a proper review of a Nippon Ichi series without discussing what all you get in this special edition. Like all Nippon Ichi sets, you’re getting two Blu-Ray discs along with two DVDs. So if you haven’t upgraded to HD entertainment, you can still watch the series on a regular old DVD player. I can’t emphasize how great it is that Nippon Ichi does this. It’s a wonderful bit of fan service and a great bang for your buck. In the words of Ron Popeil though -“Wait! There’s More!” You also get an oversized hardcover DVD case that holds both thin-pak DVD cases along with a hardcover art book. The hardcover case has some beautiful art on each side that features the characters of Arakawa. Once side has all the original characters from the first season while the flip side has the new characters introduced in this one. The art book though is the real prize. This thirty-two page hardcover coffee table style book has glossy oversized pages that contain artwork, still shots from the anime, episode synopsis, character biographies, interviews with the creators and staff behind the series and more. It’s honestly the best art book Nippon Ichi has put out so far and I was thoroughly impressed with it.

Across the board, Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge is the best anime set Nippon Ichi has ever put out. Sure, you have to have the first Arakawa series to truly appreciate it, but luckily that’s a pretty great set as well. For only $55.99 over at Nippon Ichi’s official website, you’re getting two DVDs, two Blu-Ray discs, a hardcover slipcase, and a hardcover artbook. That’s an amazing deal compared to a lot of other anime releases that are put out by other companies. It’s an even greater deal if you’re an old geezer like me who remembers when a VHS tape of something like Tenchi Universe cost between twenty and thirty bucks for THREE LOUSY EPISODES. Do yourself a favour, purchase Season One and if you aren’t completely won over by those thirteen episodes, then you either lack a soul or a sense of humour. I’m not sure which is worse. Arakawa: Under the Bridge x Bridge gives you thirteen great episodes and Nippon Ichi has outdone its usual great job in the artbook and slipcase department. It’s going to be hard for another 2012 anime release to top this one. Now go buy this already.

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