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Manga / Arakawa Under the Bridge

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Kou Ichinomiya, heir to the prestigious Ichinomiya Company has only one mission in life: to not owe a favor to anyone. He's lived that way for 21 years. Until one day when, his pants hung up on top of a bridge, he ends up falling, with the bridge pillar, into the river down below. Nino, a girl who lives under the bridge, saves his life. Kou wants to pay her back, but Nino desires nothing except for a boyfriend; so Kou winds up living in strange community under the bridge with Nino, who also claims to be from Venus, now under the name of Recruit ("Rec" for short).

Arakawa Under the Bridge is a manga by Hikaru Nakamura (not to be confused with the chess Grandmaster of the same name) which was serialized in Young Gangan from 2004 to 2015 and compiled into 15 volumes. It has an anime adaptation which first aired in the spring of 2010, animated by Studio Shaft. It was followed up by a second season, Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge (or Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2), that aired in the fall of that year.

There was also a TV Drama adaptation followed up by a movie in 2011 and 2012, which starred Kento Hayashi as Kou, Mirei Kiritani as Nino and another bunch of familiar actors of the medium (Shun Oguri, Yuu Shirota, Takayuki Yamada, etc).

Not to be confused with Hiromu Arakawa, creator of Fullmetal Alchemist, who presumably doesn't live under a bridge, though she may live in a nearby field...

Provides examples of:

  • A Day in the Limelight: Lampshaded in the final episode of the first season, Last Samurai, Billy and Jacqueline, the only members of the bridge who the audience had not seen at all, get some screentime.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Billy is considered the manliest man in the riverbank’s village, though he is already taken by his "queen bee", Jacqueline. They both were in the yakuza, and Jacqueline was actually the wife of Billy’s mob boss. Even men cannot resist Billy's manliness (including birds).
  • Arkham's Razor: All the ridiculous claims that can't possibly be true? Probably are.
  • Art Evolution: The manga experiences a whole art lift in the eleven years it was published (from 2004 to 2015), it also helps that Hikaru Nakamura was working with Saint Young Men simultaneously in the in-between.
  • Art Shift:
    • The fifth episode's opening. Even without the apparent rotoscoping, the art has a rather different look than the usual.
    • Every once in a while, Rec's form shifts into a very shoujo manga look. For example, when he's imagining being Nino's bride (yes, not the other way around), or when he's under "Kameari-tis" — along with Hoshi and Last Samurai.
  • Artificial Riverbank: The riverbank's village takes place in the aforementioned (artificial) Arakawa riverbank. However, the place is divided in two territories –- in one side, there's the main village, while Amazoness and the Tengu Brothers live more in the south. Below the Arakawa's riverbank, there's a refuge shelter that is also a space shuttle to Venus.
  • Author Avatar: Nakamura draws herself with a plain face that is similar to the Mayor. He even mentions that she looks like him in an extra non-canon chapter, that much that she could be a "distant family member".
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Hilariously averted in the case of Mayor, who is highly respected among the riverbank's village with Rec only pointing out he hasn't got any qualifications for this. Also played straight with Sister and invoked by Stella.
  • Banana Peel: In episode 5, this trope is averted by Rec but played straight for P-Ko. Rec does not slip on a banana peel even after deliberately stomping on it.
    P-ko: No way! They're clearly just broken! Usually, as soon as I set foot on one... (sets off banana-peel Slippery Skid chain reaction)
  • Berserk Button:
    • Calling Rec a leech is the only thing that has managed to make him really rage, causing him to slip into a Kansai accent.
    • Every single time that Sister's tongue slips when he is remembering his times in the military (more specifically when he remembers his affair with certain female former spy...) he gets attacked by a pair of scissors that comes across the riverbank.
  • Be Yourself: The bridge dwellers seem to center their lives around this rule.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Maria, bonus points for keeping actual sheep in her farm. She doesn't bother too much with hiding it, though, as her looks and warm smile work at people who should know better...
    Rec: I'll believe her one more time.
  • Bland-Name Product: In the second season's episode 6, the brand of Shimazaki's phone is "NAKIA".
  • Booby Trap: P-ko tries them around her vegetable garden, but apparently cannot make them work on anyone besides herself. At episode 11, Sister sets some on the riverbank with more success (and the credit going to Ichinomiya Company).
  • Brainwashed:
    • Rec throughout most of episode 8. Maybe those "tengu" aren't just weird guys in masks.
    • Shimazaki, after she finds out that Shiro was still a married man, she becomes an easy target for an organization that was researching about Nino's and the riverbank's secrets and then she becomes The Mole for them.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • In the manga, there's a moment where Nino mentions that "some people appear on the volume covers and other don't", looking straightly to the reader and making Rec very uneasy.note 
    • Theare are moments that Nino mentions something out of importance, and Rec is capable of reading her thoughts (in parenthesis), like that one time she told him that she wants to be with him forever (so she doesn't forget about him). It's obvious that he didn't take it well.
    • There's the arc where Nino must go to Venus, and the characters joke in all ways possible to the sudden serious plot's changes. Captain even becomes self-aware that their lives and their world (the manga itself) is "80% Comedy", and when "time suddenly moves on, the plot thickens, and the final chapter is close". Except... the manga continued by then, by averting this "serious subplot" as Rec is the one that got sent to Venus instead, and he eventually returns, anyways.
  • Butt-Monkey: Most of the characters get their share...
    • Rec, as the outsider of the riverbank's village and Only Sane Man, gets the prize. He is always the center of all jokes, because he is too Comically Serious for them.
    • P-ko becomes the unfortunate target of Maria's wrath.
    • Hoshi finds himself in arguably as many painful situations as Rec. That and the girl he likes is interested in the later just tells you how his luck is going.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: Perhaps to distinguish their own "quirks" and characteristics from each other, each one of the characters has a significative different design. From the guy who uses a star mask to hide his "famous former self", to the ex-military soldier who is crossdressing as a nun, to The Stoic woman who could be a Human Alien, or a former yakuza mob's woman as a cute "bee queen".
  • Confessional: Between Rec, Hoshi and Sister, though it's closer to an interrogation if anything.
  • Cloudcuckooland: The Arakawa riverbank's village.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: All of the characters. Is up to you to believe in everything they say, though.
  • Crazy Homeless People: Though they're friendly crazy homeless people... mostly.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass:
    • Believe it or not, the Mayor, who has his own dark secrets below the kappa cosplay suit.
    • Shiro, from all people in the village, especially in the marathon episode.
  • Cross Counter: Between the Mayor and P-ko of all people in Episode 12 of Season 2.
  • Debt Detester: Rec has always lived by his family's own principle, paying all debts as quickly as possible, but he finds himself in a quandry when a crazy woman (or not) who lives under a bridge saves his life.
  • Do Wrong, Right: When Stella is mercilessly beating up Rec, which she thinks of as a game, Sister steps in... to inform her she can only get a 3-move combo in. Anything else would be overkill.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Rec's morning narrative in episode 8 talks about two toothbrushes (one blue and one pink) "lining up cozily on the window".
  • Drum Bathing: It's the only kind of bath available to the bridge-dwellers. A Modesty Towel is recommended, in case the police come by.
  • Expressive Mask: The Iron Brothers', the Mayor's and Hoshi's masks. Incidentally, Rec later wonders how facial expressions work in Hoshi's mask.
  • Fanservice: Episode 4 had the girls in pajamas. And in Maria's case, had them changing into pajamas.
  • Fauxlosophic Narration: Rec starts most episodes with one of these.
  • Feed the Mole: If the Mayor claims to be who he really is outside the riverbank, he already knew that Shimazaki was going to keep her game of spying on them. Especially if he knows that the majority of villagers are Cloudcuckoolanders, no one would dare to put a finger on them...
  • First Kiss: Rec and Nino in Episode 8, much to the dismay of Hoshi and Takai.
  • Fun T-Shirt: Hoshi is his own T-shirt's designer, and some of them can be as obvious as "Ore no T-Shirt" (I am a T-Shirt).
  • Giver of Lame Names: The Mayor has the power to "baptize" a new villager with whatever nickname or name he comes up with. It can be something as obvious as "Sister" (for a guy crossdressing as a nun), or "Nino-san" (her school/P.E. jersey's jacket has a tag that says "2-3", "Ni no san"). This is put on test once Rec gets into his role as the village's mayor, once he is provoked by Hoshi to do it so.
  • Gratuitous English: Stella. She is from England.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Both played straight and inverted with Sister and Stella. Sometimes even in the same scene.
    • With Sister's height, this trope works even with Maria, not to mention putting him next to Nino or P-ko...
  • Human Aliens: Nino, that is if the venusian thing is actually true. And it really is, at least on Earth, if Rec's Venus trip diary is to trust by, since her parents are portrayed as jellyfishes in his drawings.
  • Imagine Spot: Rec is sometimes hitting Hosaka's level with his. Especially wild one occurs in episode 6 of the second season, granted with Combat Tentacles.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: Back when Shimazaki was spying on the villagers, some cameras were rather TOO obvious to not notice they were cameras.
  • In the Blood: Rec picked up most of his habits from his father. Whenever his father did something for him, he would always make him pay it back.
  • I Owe You My Life: This is basically how Rec's and Nino's love relationship started.
  • Jerkass:
    • Hoshi acts like rather petty and visibly ineffectual Jerk Jock from high school and Rival-wannabe towards Rec.
    • Maria, though her case is justified since she is more of a sadist.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Justified since the villagers live in a riverbank as "homeless" people. Though Hoshi and P-ko are the only ones who change their clothes regularly, and since Sister provides some seasonal's clothes to all of them... everyone washes their clothes in a regular frequency.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: How the Mayor names people. For example, "Nino-san" comes from the 2-3 on the tag of her track outfit (2 is ni, the dash is no, 3 is san).
  • Maintain the Lie: Rec has told representatives from his company that he's set up a power generator under the bridge and started a new company around it. The problem begins when the representatives come to check on him.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Nino fills the role, though her personality doesn't fit very well.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Rec and Nino to some extent fit as such in a romantic context, as she is The Stoic and he has a Shoujo heroine's heart. In chapter 162/episode 7, Rec has an Imagine Spot with Nino wearing a tuxedo and himself wearing a bridal dress, wondering how he came to that conclusion.
  • Medium Blending: Every On the Next (and the first preview of the anime) has a real stuntman in a kappa suit, and, as of Season 2, a man with a star for a head.
  • Modesty Towel: Nino, much to Rec's surprise.
    This is no time for common sense!
  • Moment Killer: Almost everyone can ruin their moments. Hoshi is considered one of the main ones, even involuntarily, in serious moments of the plot such as that one time he recorded one of his songs in one of Nino's old tapes (which revealed her venusian roots).
  • Not a Morning Person: Maria changes from a happy Jerkass to a monster when woken up too early.
  • Nun Too Holy: Sister, a man in a nun's habit with a large scar who holds Mass at gunpoint. He also acts pretty close to a nun too, save for the idiosyncrasies.
  • One Cast Member per Cover: All volume covers have a different character and they're all given a unique style to fit the featured character.
  • Only Sane Man: Rec plays this role in the series. However, he can't really be considered "sane" if you consider how far he'll go to avoid debts.
  • Out of Focus: Although the concept of the series is based around Rec and Nino's relationship (they even get their voice actors' credits in the OP sequence, which is rare in an anime), the series tells us more about the rest of the villagers than Nino herself. This starts to change when the question about whether she is or not a venusian comes at hand.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Sister, though Nino barely avoids this status.
  • Phenotype Stereotype:
    • Sister and Stella are blond and blue-eyed (Sister is also very tall).
    • Nino, though it may be a Venusian phenotype...
  • Phlebotinum Rebel: It's hinted that the Iron Brothers are this.
  • Post-Kiss Catatonia: Rec was completely frozen and beet red at first from his First Kiss. The next few scenes he's running and jumping and screaming like crazy.
  • Pretty Freeloaders: Nino regularly stays the night at Rec's place, which Hoshi immediately mistakes for being something else.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Deep inside the riverbank's cloudcuckoolanders, they have many reasons why they want to live in there.
  • Real-Place Background: The bridge and its surroundings are based on a real bridge in Tokyo's Arakawa ward, with some shots in the anime even showing the Tokyo Skytree while it was still under construction.
  • Rescue Arc: At the moment where Rec and the other Arakawa villagers find out that Shimazaki was brainwashed, Billy decides to help to get her back. That is, he and his comrades become severely torturated until Captain helps them out.
  • Rule of Funny: This is how entire series runs, because at the end, it's also a gag manga series.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Rec's father. So scary, that one time, Rec ends up scaring himself by accidentally looking at the mirror when bespectacled.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: Jacqueline accidentally hits a beehive while she was waiting for Billy, for their anniversary's date. Hoshi and Rec go to save her, but Nino remarks to them that "bees cannot attack a bee queen".
  • Skepticism Failure:
    • Inverted, at their first meeting, Rec believes, at least for a few minutes, that the man in the green suit is indeed a kappa.
    • He comes up with the idea of Hoshi being a star-shaped monster feeding itself with heads of young men to posses their corpses and control it, rather than him being a young man himself and wearing a mask. Arakawa Riverbank's logic sank into him indeed.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely:
    • You give any kind of dress to Nino that is not her jersey's jacket and she will look incredibly beautiful (especially in Rec's eyes).
    • Amazoness, though her is a case of literally cleaning off her makeup.
  • Ship Tease: Think about dream man bare minimum Maria's looking for in episode 3 of second season.
  • Shout-Out: Several, such as to Doraemon (Rec's imagine spot during Nino's bath is similar to the series' Running Gag of Shizuka taking a bath...)
    • One particularly noticeable one was in the first episode in regards to Ace Attorney.
    • In the first episode of the second season, Hoshi's head becomes an invincibility star.
    • Sister apparently owes some thanks for his knife skills to an old snake.
    • From his commentary during P-ko and the Mayor's fight, apparently both Rec and the Mayor are fans of Tomorrow's Joe.
    • When Amazoness displays the box containing "treasure" in the second episode of season two, Rec wonders if there's any O-Parts inside.
      • Also from the same episode, Amazoness says "And doesn't this makeup make me look like Avril?"
    • There's also a The Moomins reference involving P-ko.
    • The title itself it's a reference to "Under the Bridge", of Red Hot Chili Peppers, from whom Nakamura is a fan of (even the clothes of Hoshi are sometimes influenced by the fashion sense of the band during that time the song was released). Maybe the title is much more of a Meaningful Name too.
  • Souvenir Land: Never trust the Arakawa bridge community to build a theme park.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Taken literally in the second season OP.
  • Squeaky Eyes: Frequently, especially when the focus is Rec's eyes. P-ko used the "plonk! plink!" sound usually found in Western animation.
  • Straight Gay: Underneath that manly suit, Takai's actually very crazy for his own boss, Kou Ichinomiya.
  • Surreal Theme Tune: The OP sequence, par for the course for Studio Shaft.
    A princess in clown's lipstick wakes you up from your nap...
  • Team Dad: Surprisingly, the Mayor can show his wise side from time to time.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Lampshaded in the marathon episode. Shiro races out way ahead only to turn back because he's run out of white powder. Rec warns him that he shouldn't say that out loud in case a policeman hears him.
  • We Have Ways of Making You Talk: Used in the Rescue Arc, when Billy and his comrades tried to get Shimazaki back from the Humus organization. Since Billy and the others think of themselves as BIRDS, what is more torturing than making them repeat phrases as if they were parakeets? Or, well, seeing a video of your fellow birds comrades go to migrate? Or even listening the story of The Happy Prince? For us they are mere such unusual punishments, anyway.
  • With Friends Like These...: Maria is considered a valuable member of the bridge community, providing everyone with dairy. She'll also insult anyone at the drop of a hat.

Alternative Title(s): Arakawa Under The Bridge