Anime Review: Arakawa Under the Bridge Episode 4

(Originally published on Livejournal on 5/29/10)

Anime Review:
Arakawa Under the Bridge Episode 4

tl;dr review: Recruit and Nino go on their first date. Recruit attempts to babysit Sister’s cute little friend Stella, but gets totally owned. He also meets Maria: sweet on the outside, acid on the inside.

About The Series: Kou Ichinomiya has it all: a bright future, a spot at Tokyo University, a penthouse suite. But his life is turned upside-down when he is saved from drowning by Nino, a homeless girl who lives under a bridge. To repay the debt, he becomes Nino’s lover at her request and moves in to live under the bridge himself. As the newcomer, he is renamed Recruit by the ‘Village Chief’ (a man dressed in a kappa suit), and does his best to retain his sanity among the unlikely group that makes their life along the riverbanks.

In This Episode: Recruit and Nino head out on their first date, walking along the riverbank to the mouth of the river. Despite Nino’s weirdness, even *she* is able to sense the awkwardness of the situation, and inquires whether this is how a date is supposed to go. Recruit is totally a virgin at this as well, but can never admit that. Instead, he studied up by reading various manga, and declares the key to a first date…is distance! Nino, not knowing any better, enthusiastically agrees as she plays along in a game where they keep different types of “distance” from each other…physically rather than emotionally. But in the end, the situation remains just as awkward as before. Nino spots one of her grass boats in the river, Recruit wades out to free it from the reeds so it can continue on its journey. He then pledges his heart to Nino, winning her over.

The next day, Sister is visited by a cute little girl he cared for in an orphanage back in England named Stella. Despite his initial misgivings, Recruit is recruited to babysit her, and the first game she wants to play is a one-on-one duel. He plans on taking it easy on her, since she’s just a little girl, but she totally whups his ass in a multi-hit combo. Dazed and confused, Recruit says that he is willing to be her big brother any time she wants to visit, but when she hugs him, she privately switches into a deep yakuza voice telling him he’s not worthy to be a big brother, and that she is now his boss, then switches back to all sweetness and light for her public face.

Sister and the shellshocked Recruit go down to the riverbank farm to get some ingredients for a cake, and Recruit meets up with the beautiful Maria. But the first thing Maria says to him in greeting is that he a waste of air, and that he should really be dead. Totally scared that such a divine creature could be so vile inside, he hides behind Sister, but soon learns that Maria just spits the acidic comments with a smile on her face to get a rise out of people. A quick volley of insults at Sister leaves him unfazed…until blood spurts from his scar.

My Thoughts: Like previous episodes, the show is divided into eight subtitled parts, but this episode is really two major parts. The first being the date between Recruit and Nino, highlighting the awkwardness of the situation as neither of them know how to behave in such a situation. The silly little games they play where they interpret the meaning of “distance” to mean physical distance rather than emotional distance are amusing — mostly because both of them take it so seriously. Mentally, at least, Nino truly is from Venus, acting and behaving worlds apart from Recruit. One wonders what dark events in her past have led to the mental break that put her in this unusual situation, and whether Recruit can help bring her “down to earth” before he himself loses his mind. But the sweet pledge he makes towards her shows that he is able to break through that enigmatic barrier, so perhaps there is hope after all.

The second part of the show goes from emotional humor to slapstick humor, as Recruit has to deal with two sweet characters who are really not as sweet as they seem. The cute-as-buttons Stella is suitably strong to be an opponent on Street Fighter, handing Recruit his ass on a platter in a matter of seconds. But more disturbing is her secret yakuza-boss attitude, dismissing him to the lowest-of-the-low. Down on the farm, Recruit thinks he may have found a “normal” person who he can relate to, until he discovers that Maria can only speak in sugar-coated insults. One wonders how long Recruit can survive the craziness before going batshiat insane himself.

(Women are from Venus, Men are from Tokyo)

A surprisingly decent balance of wacky comedy and light romantic comedy, especially coming from a show that I thought would be nothing more than an endless parade of quickfire jokes. The humor is the basis of the show, of course, but as long as they maintain the underlying theme of the slowly building relationship between the otherworldly Nino and the too-worldly Recruit, it maintains my interest.

The Verdict:

My review of Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3.
Random Curiosity review of Episode 4:

Up Next: Giant Killing and The Tatami Galaxy.

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