Arakawa Under the Bridge X Bridge Complete Series Premium Edition

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, February 14, 2013

Arakawa Under the Bridge was one of stranger series that NIS America has released, as it established a cast of eccentric characters living under a bridge in Japan and ran wild with ideas. While it was mostly a comedy, there was an overall plotline establishing Recruit’s adjustment to life under the bridge and the battle with his father. For the second season, Bridge X Bridge, Shaft has chosen to go with some shorter subplots rather than one that spans the entire show and has upped the weirdness of the scenarios even further. If you’ve already found an appreciation for these quirky characters after the first season, it’s definitely worth diving in to experience even more insanity.

Part of what made the series work so well in Season 1 was that all of the characters felt appropriately fleshed out to a degree, even ones like Billy, Jacqueline, and Last Samurai who literally got one episode of screen time. The episodes seemed to spend equal amounts of time establishing situations just for humor’s sake and others explaining a particular character’s quirks, and now that most of them have been established the creators were able to go even crazier with the humor. There are new characters, the Amazoness who looks big and foreboding but often adopts a voice like a teenage schoolgirl (and falls in love with Recruit), as well as Captain who is a manga artist/Earth Defense Force member who briefly declares war on Nino. As far as plotlines go, a fair bit of the second season is dedicated to Nino’s desire to return to Venus and take the residents of Arakawa with her. There are some side sections that focus on Whitey’s white line competition and towards the end of the season things suddenly shift into a battle royale tournament for no specific reason, but the rocket to Venus line is what drives the little plot there is forward. Although I don’t always find shows that skip overall plots in favor of moment to moment comedy to stay interesting for their entirety, the way it was handled here worked quite well. Since the first season really established these characters and what they stood for, I already liked their personalities and it led to better setups for the funny situations. Plus the writing definitely made the humor stand out even more, particularly the scenes where Recruit, Hoshi, and Last Samurai succumbed to “Beaver Fever” (and the moe parody at the beach was hilariously terrifying). Overall, I enjoyed both seasons of Arakawa Under the Bridge but felt that more of the scenes from this second season stood out in my memory.

The animation is largely unchanged from the first season, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as there was quite a bit of detail and bright colors packed into every scene. After watching both seasons, I really get the impression that Shaft was really able to run wild and come up with some of the craziest ideas they possibly could. There’s plenty of moments where the characters transform into larger caricatures (just wait until the muscle overload that happens a little ways into the seasons), and at one point the Captain illustrates an entire manga based on the Arakawa residents set in outer space. Like the previous release, this one comes as Blu-Ray/DVD combo but if you’re able to watch it on Blu-Ray I’d recommend that option as the animation really pops off the screen. For this season there is also a brand new opening theme and several ending variations, each with different animation styles. The first ending is live action that is similar in style to the episode previews from the first season, while the second takes on a completely different art style from the show. It really felt like a lot of attention to detail was put into the series as a whole, and this is evident the most during Bridge X Bridge. Although I wasn’t as crazy about the new opening theme as it was just a bit too weird sounding with its pseudo talking/singing, the new ending songs stood out and I also found the special opening featuring Takai to be quite amusing. The background music remains the same as well, but the voice actors for the new characters retained the same level of dedication to the eccentric nature of the show (although I should point out that I’m starting to notice that Tomokazu Seki who voiced Captain sounds almost exactly the same in every role he does).

Bridge X Bridge contains the same amount of extra material that its predecessor did, and that’s a great thing as it remains one of the most complete packages that NIS America has offered to date. On the first disc there is audio commentary for four of the episodes, and listening to these you can get a sense of just how much fun the voice actors had working on this show. The art book/episode guide offers plenty of additional interviews that talk to crew/cast members that weren’t interviews the first time around, and if you read through the episode guide you will notice that NIS has also taken care to point out some of the small references that the creators snuck in throughout the course of the show. I know that the price may make some people hesitant, but I really believe that if this is the type of anime that appeals to you the wealth of bonus material offered in this particular package is worth it.

While it doesn’t quite make it into my all-time best list, both seasons of Arakawa Under the Bridge have been enjoyable to watch and I suspect that at some point I will want to return to them for some zany fun. In particular, the second season seems to have taken some of the character eccentricities and crazy situations and taken them to extremes and that’s part of what makes the series stand out. Anime can sometimes be pretty weird in general, but you’ll see things in Bridge X Bridge (and the season that preceded it) that will make some of what you’ve seen before seem completely normal by comparison. During my research of the series I also discovered that the anime spawned a live action movie and television drama in Japan, and while it’s unlikely these will get officially licensed in the U.S. I’m going to have to see if I can track them down somehow as it’s bound to be entertaining.

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