Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 13 and Wrap-up

After an epic battle that pitted Sister’s brute force against Maria’s devastating psychological warfare, Maria prevails. But when she becomes Queen, her decree surprises everyone with its lack of evilness. She’s shorn her sheep, but wants the girls to turn the wool into clothes while the guys herd the sheep and learn the sheepdog’s stare. It’s a very whimsical, if unresolved, finish to a series where you never knew quite what to expect from week to week.

Everyone else’s decrees/wishes are sent down the river, like resolutions for New Year’s being burnt in a Weber Effigy Grill (or thereabouts). Ric reiterates to Nino his devotion to staying with her forever. For while life under the bridge may seem static and insulated to some, another way to look at it is living life for its own sake and its own terms. Nobody under the bridge need know what tomorrow will bring, except the fact they’ll face it together.

The post-credit sequence portraying the gang as a circus troupe was also pretty spontaneous. Was Arakawa simply inside Ric’s head while he was watching through opera glasses? Ah, just kidding…Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.346 (Ranked 10th out of 15 Fall 2010 Series)

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Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 12

The mayor institutes a Battle Royale under the bridge, with the prize of being crowned “King” and having your (pre-decided upon) decree granted. Aside from the Amazonness faction (who I’ve frankly seen enough of), everyone is involved and has a few moments to shine.

Notable performances include Billy’s rescue of Jacqueline at the cost of his own elimination (you gotta love that guy), and P’ko’s own sacrifice in the name of love, which both isn’t and is an act, as it knocks both her and Mayor out of the running. This series is always strongest when it uses the peculiar quirks of its characters to drive the narrative (and the comedy), which it achieves this week.

The last two standing are Maria and Sister. Recruit fear what it would mean if Maria wins, but on the other hand, there’s not much he can do to help, as Maria is Sister’s Achilles Heel. We’ll have to wait until next week to find out. Rating: 3.5

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 11

A Bon dance; comrades in unrequited love; Nino surfing upstream; guys acting like girls on a river beach. These were some of the things that went on. None of it made much sense as usual, but that’s okay. I went with it as usual and simply enjoyed the manic comedy.

The Amazoness returned and played a crucial role: Ric’s rejections steered her towards Hoshi; though apparently Hoshi was her target all along. She’s a tsundere, you see…a seven-foot-five tsundere. As for the other thing that stood out most: Last Samurai, Hoshi, Ric and even Sister talking and playing on the beach as girls would; disturbing and hilarious at the same time. Rating: 3

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 10

Everyone going to Venus has to go in order to meet the rocket’s weight limit. But the group splits in three and do it in that many different ways: Ric and the Mayor get a relaxing spa and shiatsu from Jacqueline; P-Ko, Stella and Nino go on a strawberry-only diet, and Sister puts the brothers, Last Samurai, and Hoshi through hellish boot camp that awakens their muscles.

The muscles theme takes over the weight-loss theme (which is fitting, as muscles weigh more than fat), as everyone but Tetsuro loses all their bulk quickly after not working out. He continues, however, leading to hubris and arrogance that gets him into a battle with Stella, who is no slouch even before she transforms into Mega-Stella. Everything about this absurd battle and its faux-drama was hilarious, and the fight animation wasn’t bad, either.

Rating: 3.5

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 9

The ninth week of Arakawa 2 begins with a mysterious letter for Whitey. When he goes to deliver it, Ric finds Shimazaki with him, and has the first of many misinterpretations of what’s going on in front of him. The letter isn’t divorce papers, but a entry form for an Autralian line-drawing contest; Whitey isn’t hitting on Shimazaki, he just wants to be doubles partners; et cetera. Ric always presumes the worst before learning the whole story, and his reactions are hilarious.

The second segment was a little harder to follow, but regardless of the esoteric way-of-tea and wabisabi parody, I understood the gist of what was being lampooned, which is stodgy traditions in general are kept pure by keeping out noobs. In this case, P-Ko’s western tea party totally turns off Mayor and Last Samurai, who set up their own tea ceremony outside under a cherry tree.

Ric and Hoshi follow them, eager to impress, but they’re looked down upon for their ignorance and berated for their naive submissiveness and failure to create results. As such, the peaceful atmosphere usually associated with a tea ceremony is replaced by an atmosphere of fear, loathing, and general negativity, which is awesome. Unfortunately no Billy this week, but at this point it doesn’t really matter which combination of characters is featured any particular week – it’s sure to result in hearty laughs. Rating: 3.5

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 8

The Amazoness returns with a new personality: that of a saccharine-voiced, speed-texting, high school flirt. Kou is the target of her fancy, and her tengu minions facilitate her conquest by hypnotizing him. This has the effect of him becoming totally infatuated and devoted to protecting a woman twice his size.

This is a concept that invites hilarity on its own, but when Nino finds out the Amazoness is trying to steal her lover, she gets pissed and decides to duel her. Not with weapons, but with stick drawings in the ground visualizing the extent of their love for him. Nino wins out because she’s healthier (and has less mass to move around), just in time for Kou to snap out of his hypnosis and realize his folly.

Another interesting tidbit: before Kou helped himself, Star considered helping him, even though it meant his chance of snagging Nino on the rebound would all but dissipate. This is a classy move, since Star is above all interested in Nino being happy, which seems to be when she’s with Kou, as detestable as that is to Star. Finally, Nino’s “marriage” pun is also pretty funny.

In all, a very solid episode that stuck with one story for its full length and strengthened the bonds of Nino and Kou, and embellished the Amazoness, definitely one of the more mysterious, bizarre characters living along the river. Rating: 3.5

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 7

This week involved a thorough evaluation of the general health of everyone who lives under the bridge. This, after a firendly chat over health between Mayor and Whitey – two middle-aged men – got out of hand. Hoshi and Kou prove they will compete at absolutely anything to get Nino’s attention, right down to who’s sicker. Sister also tries to develop symptoms in the hope Maria will dote upon him. All men like to be worried about by a beautiful woman; these weirdos are no different.

It’s then decided that in preparation for a trip to Venus, everyone will separate into men and women and sit in Sister’s bunker for a week to test their ability to cooperate in sustained close quarters. Neither Billy nor Jacqueline will participate, as it would mean they’d be separated for a week (his likening her to a wireless signal was priceless). The ladies do fine until the sixth day, when, having not insulted anyone for all that time, Maria snaps, lays into P-ko, and all hell breaks loose from there.

The men fare no better until Kou finds P-ko’s logbook and strikes up various conversations in her manner of speaking. Most of them involve the Mayor or some other cute guy, so continuing to use her ideas slowly turns Kou, Hoshi, and Last Samurai insane. The “locked up together” theme was a great way to focus the comedy on these intense characters’ interations. Rating: 3.5

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 6

This week, all segments of the episode were devoted to one story: Nino is apparently going to return to Venus. It begins with the most dark and serious prologue of the series: someone who sounds suspiciously like Mayor Kappa approaches Kou’s secretary from behind and threatens to kill her if she bothers Nino (the secretary is digging to find out who Nino is). This wasn’t a fantasy or a dream; it happened. I guess Mayor (if it was indeed him) means business when it comes to protecting his citizens.

Kou is the one Nino first informs of this move. She’s distraught because she doesn’t want to leave him. But before Kou can man up and offer to come with her, she asks him first. Kou starts to think about marriage, but again, before he can say anything, Star, who was eavesdropping, slips a ring on her finger, as if reading his mind. Not only Star, but Whitey, P-ko, the Iron brothers also agree to come with her, totally ruining both the intimacy and seriousness of this prospect.

That’s alright though; Arakawa is good when it’s not being serious, and even better when it’s pretending to be serious, leading you on as long as possible before dropping the punchline. After all of the dubious things Nino has said to him, Kou isn’t sure whether she really means Venus, or even if she really means to move, and I have no idea if this story will be picked up next week, but if it is, that would be a first. Also: the new second-half ending sequence retains the song but has new animation. I like it, though the way Nino’s eyes are drawn is a little creepy. Rating: 3.5

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 5

I just wasn’t feeling last week’s epsiode, but thankfully this one was frikkin’ hilarious from start to finish. In a nice but obviously unintentional nod to Bakuman, Captain reappears and makes friends with everyone by drawing them in manga. Ric googles him and confirms he’s a famous mangaka who went under the bridge to get away from it all. He also summons his editor, and when Kappa finds out he has a home, he politely banishes him. Still, the resulting absurd sci-fi imagery involving alter-egos of the cast was more than welcome.

The rest of the episode details Billy’s past and present dealings with the bird mob; as I suspected, he was once a feared member of the yakuza. When it’s feared he’s gone off on a suicide mission to eliminate his nemeses, his bee-lover Jacqueline resolves to kill the mob leader with her sting, even if it kills her. But Billy shows up in the nick of time, and the only sacrifice made is clipped feathers that may or may not have ever existed. Weird, wild stuff. But as the narrator indicated: “enthusiasm often leads to complete absurdity.” Rating: 3.5

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 4

Homemade films and haunted houses are the order of the week under the bridge. Specifically, P-Ko recruits…Recruit to direct a film using a script she’s written, and hilarity ensues. Unfortunately, Billy the pigeon-headed hitman declines to participate, which is a shame, because I love that guy.

The haunted house segment pits Ric against the best efforts of his underbridgemates to frighten him, with mixed results. His scariest encounter turns out to be an accident, when Nino puts glasses on him from behind and he ends up in a mirror, and thinks he sees his father.

At the end of the day though, this episode kinda seemed to be in cruise control. I just wasn’t feeling it. It was funny enough, but not nearly as engrossing as last week, when Ric upset Nino. This seemed more…static. It didn’t innovate the way I know it can. Rating: 2.5

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 3

Arakawa 4 serves up a hearty balance of tenderness and genuine knee-slapping comedy. It marries the intimate and the absurd. It’s characters may be eccentric, bizarre, and even clinical, but they’re also honest and surprisingly believable. For seemingly the first time, Recruit seems to genuinely anger Nino when he catches him listening to her cassette tape.

Rather than leave it there in the first eight minutes, the entire episode covers Recruit’s many attempts at damage control, to coax Nino down from her electric pole perch, and then from all of the girls who form a conclave around her and initially refuse to let him state his case.  However. the ladies can’t stand in the way of love. Rating: 3.5

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 2

This episode deals with two outsiders: an amazon woman and her three tengu assistants, and a representative of Earth defense forces. Neither are serious threats to Recuit’s crew, but rather turn out to be just as nutty. The entire episode is nutty, in fact.

Recriminations are made, ice cream novelties are eaten, and various sea life is shoved into the mouth. Billy, the romantic with the pigeon head, had some of the funniest lines; I am constantly amused by the weirdo and his lover. The ending sequence was all live-action with Hoshi and Kappa, which was quite surreal and a little unnerving. Rating: 3

Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 – First Impressions

Arakawa returns, and is pretty much pro forma, with the notable exception of bookends inside Nino’s dream, which adds an entirely new dimension to the series. The entire first season was composed of self-encapsulated scenarios, but I’m hoping this new, more serious angle gets explored more. A lot of Nino’s appeal has been in the fact that much about her is a mystery, including her real name and what led her to the riverbank, but learning a bit more is an interesting proposition.

The rest of the cast is its usual ludicrous self, while Recruit remains exceedingly innocent when it comes to romance. We also saw more of the two latecomers to the previous season, the man with the pigeon head and the bee-woman. There’s something hilarious about how he’s basically the most romantic, smooth-talking guy around, only he has that ridiculous head.

The majority of the episode, as stated, was the typical collective engagement in carefree time-wasting and lack of responsibility, in this case with a marathon. Other notes: the opening credits unfortunately aren’t nearly as good as season one’s…and the live-action preview Mayor has been replaced with an arguably creepier live-action Hoshi. Rating: 3.5