Arakawa under the Bridge – episode 01
April 5, 2010
This is the first in a series of posts about Arakawa under the Bridge, a comedy/romance title for the Spring 2010 season. The basic premise is that a self made salaryman (Kou) falls into a relationship with a strange girl (Nino) and ends up living under a bridge on the Arakawa river. The show has a couple of great seiyu in the lead roles:
- Kou – voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya (e.g. Izaya from Durarara!!, and Nozomu, that is Sensei, from Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei).
- Nino – voiced by Maaya Sakamoto (singer of many great anime themes including, Hemisphere, the OP for RahXephon, for which she also voiced the role of Reika Mishima. She has worked with Yoko Kanno on many, many projects, and voiced Haruhi Fujioka in Ouran High School Host Club).
Shaft’s animation is not the most beautiful I’ve seen this season, but its intensity, such as the variety of styles, lends itself well to a comedy title. Also, since it was directed by Shinbo, expect writing to appear in all sorts of places.
This show has a lot of close-ups of eyeballs in it. That’s kind of weird, huh?
Character Comedy: the odd couple
One of the main sources of comedy used in the first half of this episode is the fire and ice nature of the principle characters. Kou is a respectable business man, who will inherit the family business one day, Nino lives under a bridge, and claims to be an alien … no, a space alien.
But they are also temperamentally very different. Whereas Nino is laconic, often remarking, simply, “Is that so?” Kuo runs his mouth a mile a minute. Where Nino seems detached, almost emotionless, Kou is perpetually strapped onto an emotional roller-coaster. His family motto is never owe anybody anything; since Nino fished him out of the Arakawa River, Kou is taking it pretty badly.
It takes a good voice actor to pull this off, and Hiroshi Kamiya is up to the task. Occasionally a role like this comes off gratingly obnoxious, but the performance really helps us laugh at Kou’s antics, while feeling a measure of empathy, as he struggles against his fate, only to find himself ever deeper enmeshed. Nino’s deadpan responses also give us a glimpse into something you want to see in a situation like this: although Kou is outwardly successful, and well-adapted to society, Nino brings an emotional stability (despite the peculiarities obvious on the surface) that Kou evidently needs.
The only other character we meet this episode is the Mayor (voiced by Keiji Fujiwara — Ladd Russo from Baccano!), an interaction that gives Kuo an opportunity to prove it isn’t only Nino that he has a hard time relating to. This episode includes neither the OP nor the ED, so it seems quite packed, and by the end of the episode Kou and Nino are an official couple.