Arakawa Under the Bridge (荒川アンダー ザ ブリッジ) is a manga series written and illustrated by Nakamura Hikaru since December 2004. The manga has since been adapted to anime and airs from April 4 to June 28, 2010. The series has been renewed for a second season in Fall of 2010.
The opening and ending themes are:
1. Esuko Yakushimaru’s “Venus and Jesus” (ヴィーナスとジーザス Vīnasu to Jīzasu)
2. Miyuki Sawashiro’s “Think up a title yourself” (タイトルなんて自分で考えなさいな, Taitoru Nante Jibun de Kangaenasai na)
3. SuneoHair’s “Upside-down Bridge” (逆様ブリッジ Sakasama Burijji)
Ichinomiya Kou, has only one rule in life, “Never be indebted to anyone,” and he lives by this rule until he almost drowns from an accident. He is saved by a strange girl who believes she is an alien living under a bridge. She refuses his money to repay his debt, but instead, asks for his love. Unable to reject this request, Kou begins his new life under a bridge and meets weird individuals who later are known as “denpasan” – for people living under the bridge.
It is a comedic, romantic and supernatural series about a well-to-do young man who is brought up with the philosophy of never being indebted to anyone. However, in the course of loosing his pants and trying to retrieve it, he almost drowns because of his stubbornness of not needing help. In the end, he ends up owing his life to a strange girl who saves him. The girl, a bystander, fishing at the edge of the bridge, insists she’s an alien from the planet Venus and lives under the bridge by the Arakawa river. To “repay” her, he offers him to buy her a new home, or even to lavish her with money. She rejects the offers, but instead, asks him to be her boyfriend. As the debt sinks in, his throat closes in on him, as he agrees to her deal. Nino, named by the resident Chief of the river, a human-Kappa dressed in a tortoise suit, then requests the Ichinomiya Kou live with her – as a “boyfriend” should. The Chief Kappa then proceeds to name Kou the “recruit.”
Having slept a night under the bridge, in the cold, with nothing but a blanket Kou insists on seeing Nino-san (she got her name from the numbers on her jacket: 2-3) “house.” In there, he finds a velvety sofa bed, which she doesn’t seem to use, but instead, crawls into one of its drawers to sleep. With each “debt” his asthma attacks takes over until he agrees on the “payment.” Kou also realizes that Nino has a lapse of memory or is forgetful, as he had to retell the previous day’s occurrence to her again.
April 11, 2010 Episode 2:
Kou returns home to retrieve some of his “necessities.” He then proceeds to “build” a room of his own fully equipped with sofa, plush rug, even hangs picture and installs a door underneath the bridge. Nino brings him his meals, of fish, as his girlfriend. Suddenly he realizes that this is the first time he has ever had a girl in his “room” – even though it’s a make-shift one. He goes on to make small talk, intending to ask about her likes, dislikes, favorite color, band, movie, actor – when he realizes she probably doesn’t understand what any of these things are and have no need for it. Maybe broaching the weather in Venus will be safer.
Kou/Rec is thrown a “welcoming” party by the residents and meets the rest of the weirdos. There’s Hoshi – the man with a star face, a guy who draws white lines and walks with it, and sister, who’s a gun-totting brother of the church. When he is introduced as Nino’s boyfriend, he starts getting evil stares. He may have to start watching his back…his window.
After a long day, Kou/Rec realizes he needs a shower. Lo and behold, Nino is taking one, in an oil drum. He decides to be chivalrous albeit with one opened eye peering through fingers. But she is more prepared than him in covering her chastity. Lost opportunity. He takes his bath next, and Nino shampoos his hair for him – with what smells suspiciously like public toilet cleaner. All the same, he begins to tear from her kindness. But then it hits him, the last time someone showed him kindness like this was when his father washed his hair and in returned asked for his own hair to be washed thereafter. Thus begins the teaching of never being in debt. He proceeds to ask Nino if she wants him to wash her hair in return. She says, “No, I did it because I wanted to and not because I expected something in return.”
April 18, 2010 Episode 3:
The residents of Arakawa begin spying on Kou after learning that he has claimed Nino as his girlfriend. Nino, innocently, seems to always end up in a cozy spot when the night turns cold. Unfortunately, the nights are always cold and the cozy spot is Kou’s “apartment.” After seeing Nino leaving Kou’s “room,” Hoshi, the star head, kidnaps Kou to Sister. There he forces upon Kou a confessional with Sister as a lie detector. After learning that the pair hasn’t even gone on a proper date, Kou finally asks Nino out. He has the entire day planned, all meant to impress and awe. First up, dressing to kill, and picking her up with his Lamborghini, then driving them to the Rainbow Bridge that is completely cordoned off just for them. The night continues with dinner in Roppongi Hills with the President of Japan and his wife, and finally an aerial view of the Bay in a chopper with fireworks going on as the night draws to an end.
However, Nino just claps at the presentation and leaves, stating that doing any of those things would mean leaving the river bank. Then she falls back on her, “I am from Venus,” speech, which to Kou, looks like a safety mechanism for her. To soothe her fears, he decides that their date will be anywhere she chooses, and she chooses the river bank. He agrees, and gives her a present in a form of a dress. She finally comes out, looking ravishing in a pinkish strapless gown, with a huge flower on one side.
Classy and beautiful, just the thing to take the breath off of a prissy rich boy.
April 25, 2010 Episode 4:
Kou and Nino are finally off to their first date together. They walk for three hours by the river bank. Nino unabashedly asks Ric if this is what people do on dates – just walk? He answers that this is only just the hors d’oeuvres and that the main course was coming up. Kou, who has never been on a date before, had to read up on what dates are. One suggestion was distance makes the heart grow fonder. So, they literally kept their distance. This goes on for a while and they begin to play a demented version of hide-and-seek and running. The first part of the “date” ends as they began, not understanding what do to next.
Next, is to hold her like a princess. He goes on bended knee, but instead of sitting on his lap, she sits with her back facing him. He tells her, “You’re wrong. This is the way it should be,” as he proceeds to hang her by her arms and legs like a skewered pig led to roast while walking. As he walks, he kicks her on the sides and swings her. She tells him, “I don’t think I like being held like a princess.”
They end up sitting by the river, where Kou asks and wonders aloud how Nino was able to put on that dress by herself. Surely this means that she has once lived a life outside of the bridge. She asks, “Why? Why do you want to know about my past?” He replies that, “I want to learn more about my lover.”
“I am a Venutian now. Is that not enough to know?” As she says that, they spot Nino’s grassed ship stuck to an entanglement, which she released earlier. She sadly tells him that she released the boat hoping it would make it out to sea, as she would never be able to. This is all the prompting he needs, as he jumps into the river to try to retrieve the ship, but ends up falling in, which washes it off to the horizon (and hopefully the Pacific Ocean). That’s about as exciting as it get around the neighborhood.
As the pair return from their date, a new girl, Stella, appears. She is introduced as an orphan from Sister’s old orphanage. Since everyone has their work cut out for them, or the men who carefully slip away to deflect responsibility, Kou is instructed to watch her while Sister contacts the English orphanage. They begin to play with each other, as Stella pleads with Kou to let her fight with him. She limbers up, as Kou still thinks that they are play-fighting. He ends up being pummeled by this super-human fighter with a Kamikaze neck-lock. After he is released from the grip, he tells her she can play with her “older brother” anytime she wants to. She corrects him by saying that she is now his older brother and he is at the bottom of the totem pole. Wrong place, wrong time.
Sister comes to Kou to asks him for help in getting ingredients for a cake meant for Stella’s party, as Stella is left with the twins. A farm immediately appears infront of them as they progress further down the bridge. Kou swears off meeting weirdos until Sister introduces him to a beautiful lady with a kind face whose name is Maria. “For once, the Kappa got the name right,” Kou thinks to himself. Before he even speaks, Maria says, “So this is the useless person wasting our oxygen. He should just breathe carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen.” After this insult, Kou hides behind sister, afraid of what her words will further do to him. She quickly changes her tune as she tells him that she only teases cute people like him.
While collecting their ingredients, Sister seems unaffected with her string of insults, telling him to stop casting a shadow on her farm as they need the sun to grow, that he was a transvestite, an old hag and inhuman. That is until he is told he is boring. He collapses from the indignity and spews blood.
Well, I never!
As Sister bleeds profusely, Maria tells him to disappear from her sight. Sister tells Kou they are ready to return. Kou asks the reason for bringing a trolley when all they needed was just a basket for the ingredients. He soon realizes the trolley is for Sister and not the groceries. He carts a bleeding Sister back from a sharp-tongue Maria, and asks if it’s really that bad being called boring. Sister spews more blood and promptly pulls out a grenade.”Sore wa nani?” (What is that?) Kou asks as Sister throws it and creates a huge crater. Sister jumps into that hole and hides in it.
Kou is later instructed to get some vegetables from a young girl named Piko, who at first glance looks like the only “normal” person in the place. His opinion of her quickly changes when she comments that he must be a ninja as he avoided all the banana peel “traps.” He tells her that is an old trick and no one will every trip on something like that. She shows him how deadly the trap is by trying it out herself and ends up hitting a wall. He soon realizes she is a klutz and not “normal.” P-ko surmises that he is indeed very sly to have made her fall for her own trap. Kou wonders why he has never seen her earlier as she explains that during winter, she travels around looking for sprouts. She then compares Kou to a rotten eggplant.
When all the preparation is completed for Stella’s welcoming party, Kou/Ric suddenly realizes he still doesn’t quite fit in with the “villagers.” He doesn’t have a “permanent” job like the rest of them: Nino’s the resident fisher, P-ko the green-thumb, Maria the farm owner, Hoshi the entertainer and even the two young metal brothers have a job. Maybe he’s like Shiro-san, the man who draws white lines. The extra who does nothing useful. The thought of being associated with someone who inept and unproductive makes Kou swear that he will get a job, especially after they start telling him to live like a gigolo at the darkest corner of the earth.
The next day, Hoshi climbs up to Kou’s residence and begins making up a song about gigolos. Hoshi announces that he will have a concert, where everyone will attend, including Nino. “Women do not reject music talent,” Hoshi boasts. With that, Kou goes into his room, changes and retrieves his violin. He returns suavely dressed and begin to play the violin beautifully. It’s a showdown!
May 9, 2010 Episode 6:
It’s Hoshi vs. Kou. The winner of the music battle will be determined by Nino’s expression. Hoshi begins with his out-of-tune music about hair (something he knows much about). The crowd cheers, probably because no one else knows better. Then Kou steps into the limelight with his violin. With the first note, he captures the entire audience. Nino is utterly entranced, as she closes her eyes and enjoys the music this relaxed environment. “I win,” Kou declares. From now on, he will be in charge of music under the bridge. Hoshi begins to howl about being a loser, and soon enough, that one-word song becomes a hit! He gives up.
The next day, Kou begins an earnest search for work as Nino shows up by the river in a swimsuit. The metal brothers (lecherously – as Kou sees it) cling on to Nino’s leg, as she tries to teach them how to swim by example. She dives in to the river; the seconds becomes prolong minutes, as Kou readies himself to jump in to save her, Nino emerges. After 8 minutes underwater, Nino surfaces with a school of fish, one in each hand and a huge one in her mouth. This is definitely not the way to teach by example. Kou takes over the lesson. He starts them slow by teaching them how to float. They end up sinking, head first, with their metal helmets leading the way. Asking them to remove their helmets is like asking them to lose their “superpowers.” Kou produces styrofoam boards from P-ko instead.
As the children begin to float, Nino comments in awe that Kou is really a good teacher. Even Kappa, the Village Chief agrees. As a teacher, maybe Kou can beat some “sense” into the residence under the bridge – starting with the children first.
The universe is made of different beings. Life spans overlap, but there is only a 1% chance of love. That is a miracle.
May 16, 2010 Episode 7:
Classes begin, but only Nino and the Metal Brothers show up. The villagers should have gotten the memo about class, but no one shows up. How about teaching rules and manners? The class goes in an uproar. How about common sense? Nino imparts her common sense.
1. Don’t walk around naked. Otherwise a black and white car will come and get you.
2. On dates, distance is the key.
Kou stops her there. The Metal Brothers share their common sense, ala Stella. If you betray your brother, you will have to cut off your finger. On cue, the Kappa and Hoshi appear. Kou is relieved that more students are showing up, albeit very tardy. As Kou catches the Kappa for a lesson, the Village Chief makes a mad dash away from school. Hoshi begins to take leave too but questions Nino’s attendance. She replies that as long as Ric is in school, she will have a perfect attendance. After Hoshi leaves in disgust and defeat, Kou asks Nino why she really is in school.
“I’m your lover. I’m interested in you.”
Kou turns beet red, as Hoshi (who is spying from afar) tells him to “f-ing die.”
The ruckus slowly quiets down and Kou gets the boys interested in science by showing them the attraction of magnet to metal, even as Nino falls asleep in class. He even makes a rocket out of plastic bottles until Stella shows up to destroy the projects. How dare he set up shop on her turf? Eventually, Kou realizes that it’s her playmates/underlings who he has taken away from her for her to react so violently. He begins to draw her into class by creating a wish list for her to set in the rocket, which they will deploy. She begins with, “World Domination” as her first wish. As Kou pats her head gently, her calm nature turns violent. If looks can kill, he would have drop dead in a heartbeat.
As he readies the rocket to be launched, he realizes something amiss. Sister has taken out the “fuse” aka a straw to launch the rocket. Sister reasons with Kou that launching missile rockets are very dangerous!
Kou goes searching for P-ko but ends up ensnared in her traps. As she tries to release him, she strangles him further in the net. He realizes her clumsiness is a hazard to others around her, as she tries to dig a hole to plant new seedlings, but her hoe ends up almost taking Kou’s life. She has to quickly finish the garden, because she won’t be around come Winter, since she will be taking classes and a driver’s license then. Kou tries to dissuade her. Driving will be detrimental to the life of others on the road. “Don’t worry, I already have a motorcycle license,” she offers optimistically.
Kappa strolls along and gets pulled into the argument, which soon changes to the Village Chief getting a new look. He elongates his hair with a few twists of the hat atop his head, and P-ko begins to swoon. After he leaves, P-ko realizes she has to stop other girls, like Maria and Nino from seeing him. Otherwise, they will fall in love with him, too. Too?!
Just what is common sense? Especially when it comes to the residence under the bridge. Maybe he’s the one who needs to relearn the common etiquette under the bridge. Just as he ponders on that, his subordinates from his company spots him under the bridge. “Kaichou! (President!)”
May 23, 2010 Episode 8:
Kou has new visitors, his secretary Takai and assistant secretary Shimazaki. Kou gets the residents (Maria, Sister and Shiro-san) to pretend they are employees of his new company, a company that generates electricity using the Arakawa River. Maria bargains for more than her D&G suit and ends up stepping on Kou as both his secretaries look on. Kou then introduces Sister as the company’s linguist. As Takai tries to pull out his business card, Sister upon seeing this, draw his gun, thinking that Takai is pulling out a weapon. Just as well, in walks Shiro-san, the one surprising person in the group who actually blends in. Turns out, he used to be an ex-corporate man. As he thinks that things can only get better, Kappa, Hoshi and Nino show up. Kou explains that Kappa is the company’s mascot and introduces Nino as his secretary.
Nino refuses to play the part of his secretary, insisting instead that she is Kou’s lover. Takai remains with Kou, unable to believe that this group of oddities are Kou’s new employees. A jealous Hoshi makes up stories about Kou and Takai, going to great lengths to besmirch Kou’s character by even calling the two men (Kou and Takai) “butt buddies.” Yes, he said it, “Ric is a fag.” Just to prove him right, Hoshi and Nino enter Kou’s apartment with the two men staring at each other’s wide opened mouth, as if they are about to kiss. Turns out, they are giving each other cavity checks. Finally, Takai blurts out that he doesn’t believe that either of them are a couple since they can’t even share a kiss upon seeing each other.
Nino surprises everyone, including Kou, when she kisses him. For the first time of his 21 years, Kou has just received his first kiss. He turns beet red and becomes momentarily stoned. Takai sees this, and remembers his first meeting with the young master. He has recently been divorced, and the young Kou replies that he is lucky to have freed himself from such a useless contract as a marriage. Takai cries in relief at this authentic relationship. He tells Nino to never leave Kou’s side. Takai leaves with Shimazaki. Takai intended to save the young master from loneliness and be a surrogate father to him. It looks like Kou has found his new life.
Meanwhile, Sister tells Nino that he has been watching Kou since the first day he was introduced. His finger was always on the trigger ready to pull if Kou did anything to harm or hurt Nino. But he can see now that Nino is truly happy. And so is Kou, the delirious boy jumps from his apartment up on the bridge to the river below.
Shimazaki, however, runs off to Kou’s father, Seki, to share her findings. Kou will not be allowed to dishonor the family’s name.
May 30, 2010 Episode 9:
Hoshi mopes around after the kissing incident, but ends up a guinea pig/ingredient for Stella who wants to cook for Sister. Sister bought her a bra, and she shows it to an unwilling audience, Kou. Turns out, it’s only a bulletproof vest. Unfortunately for Stella, Sister is attracted to Maria and cares for Stella only as his charge. This secret becomes known when Hoshi blabs about it. Stella in turn vows revenge on Maria. In their battle, Stella, who has now turned into a giant ripping man in girl’s clothes, is soon overwhelmed by Maria’s surprising speed and skills. Even Sister is afraid of Maria. As he tells about their past together, and is about to reveal what Maria was once to her country, he is stopped by a flying knife that barely misses him. Maria smiles sweetly at the silent message sent to Sister. Stella realizes she is no match against Maria, and she tries to commit seppuku only to be stopped by Maria. They soon become fast friends in their admiration of each other. This is the birth of Team Terrible.
One day, Kou sees a strange but surprisingly good-looking man carrying a guitar entering Hoshi’s mobile home. After investigating, Kou realizes it is Hoshi. A moping Hoshi tells Kou about his previous life outside of Arakawa as a famous musician, meeting Nino and eventually putting on the mask. Four years ago, his album was third on the Oricon charts. He had no talent in writing or composing music, only singing it. His producer did all the work, and when he left, Hoshi went to the dumps too. He don on a moon mask at first, but after meeting Nino, who told him he’s not a moon but a sparkling star, he was in love. Kou listens only halfheartedly wondering if any part of the story is true, especially when he brings up speaking to Lennon and Elvis recently. Both have long met their maker.
The residents under the bridge “practice” their yearly fire drill with a real fire blazing by the river. The frazzled residents handle the fire the only way they know how – weirdly. Kou is the first to arrive at the scene of the crime with sister “protecting” Kappa. Hoshi comes later, but as he nears the fire, his mask begins to melt. Their team effort consists of a bucket line from the river to the fire, but by the time the water gets to Kappa, he douses himself instead of the growing fire with the water.
Shimazaki continues her back-stabbing reporting against Kou. Freedom, according to Seki, belongs to those with money. Kou realizes his father, Seki, has bought up the land under the bridge for “development.” He warns the Kappa and Sister, but neither take him seriously. In fact, Sister quote the Bible to him to “Love thine enemy.” Eventually, the official notice from MLIT arrives, evicting all the residents of the riverbank. The MLIT messenger, Suzuki, heads out to Maria’s farm, after dropping in on Kou and relaying the message. However, Maria teaches the paper shuffler a lesson in civility.
The Chief insists that there won’t be a problem moving, as they will just be nearer to the river source. However, Nino does not want to move. This is her home.
June 14, 2010 Episode 11:
Kou surprises himself when he realizes, after everything that his father had taught him, he is still able to learn from Nino.
Nino adamantly rejects the Chief’s idea of moving. She does not want to be chased away or move from her “home” anymore. Seeing her resolve, Kou is aware that his father is the cause of this uproar and turmoil, and he is the root cause of his father overtaking the bridge. If that is the case, he will remove himself from the equation and everything will return to normal. But Nino will not agree to that arrangement, as he has become one of them.
“I want you to stay. You are my lover.”
He immediately formulates a plan. He will fight dirty with dirty. He uses one of his companies (GOES Company) to compete for the rights of the bridge. Meanwhile, his father’s contractors are doing their preliminary scan to prepare the area for demolishing. As Shiro fakes them out into thinking that he’s a higher up telling them to leave for the day, they spot a Kou look-a-like but don’t realize it’s not him. Stella takes him, only to finally realize that it’s not Kou, as the man is out cold – maybe for three days, according to Stella. Even Nino is forgetting Kou’s face.
Kou’s father is watching his every move. Takai wonders why he doesn’t just call his father to speak to him. Are both the father and son afraid of direct contact with each other? Kou finally returns “home” to the bridge with Takai to share the good news. Nino is so happy to see him, and leaps into his open arms. Not really. Having truly forgotten Kou’s face, she embraces Takai instead. What a downer!
Suddenly, he gets a call from his contractor. It seems he had gone out to the bridge to do look at it himself, but when he learns that Kou is up against his father, they pull out. It doesn’t help that sister had booby-trapped the place, making the contractor think that it’s the father who did it.
Kou has his back against the wall. He remembers the number his father once gave to him as a child, a direct number to reach him. He begins to tremble as he dials the digits. He finally makes the call. A talking clock telling him the time of “2:45” picks up instead.
He’s been had!
June 21, 2010 Episode 12:
Kou is too apprehensive (and scared) of calling his father. While the rest bullies him for his fear, Nino comes to his rescue and assures him that everyone has their own fear.
Meanwhile, Seki learns that the project at the bridge is canceled. Someone has stopped the project with the minister himself. Seki takes things in his own hands by visiting the bridge himself. He ends up in a similar situation as Kou when he first stopped at the bridge, with his pants stolen and placed at the top of the bridge. He meets Nino, who easily retrieves his pants for him with her fishing rod and offers the pants back to him. He refuses her gesture of goodwill and chants his motto of never relying on anyone. That gets her thinking that this man not only looks like, but talks like her lover – Kou. Of course, Seki already knows who she is. She tells him that as long as Kou is full (happy), so is she. The villagers are being chased off their home, but he is working very hard to stop it from happening (not knowing that they have been saved with the cancellation of Seki’s project).
Kou finally gets the nerve to call Seki, but his phone is in his pants pocket, which he refuses to ask back from Nino (thus being indebted to her). Seki leaves but he realizes that Kou is the one calling him, and sees that his son has truly changed for the better to have the courage to call him. Nino answers the phone instead. Kou confesses over the phone that he will stay with Nino forever, she finds him, and promises him that they will stay together forever.
Seki is picked up by the cops for walking around in his underwear. Shimazaki bails him out – does that mean he owes her now?
June 28, 2010 Episode 13:
After Nino sleepwalks into Kou’s room and waking up with horrendous bed-hair; Kou suggests a shorter cut only to be dragged to the Arakawa barbershop. The shop is run by a samurai, aptly named, the Last Samurai. Kou has been avoiding him, afraid that he too will get a topknot on his head. The Last Samurai lines the gang up, pulls out his scissors and in no time, finishes everyone’s cut in no time. Of course, Sister is no easy customer when it comes to sharp objects attacking him and gives the Last Samurai a hard time.
Kou also meets Billy the talking parrot and his lover, the queen bee.
During class with the children (Stella and the Metal brothers), the children are distracted by thoughts of an amusement park under the bridge. He promises to build one for them and three days of planning later, he comes up with naught as he has never been to one himself. Instead, the residents of Arakawa build one for the children in his place. Of course, this amusement park is filled with dangerous attractions, from a crazy pink mascot rabbit, an animal carousel ran by Maria, a 3D theater with real guns to a torture chamber called the iron maiden coaster ran by Sister. Of course, the children had fun, and Kou suddenly realizes that his father did bring him to an amusement park once.
Nino promises, as the day ends, that they will make their own memories together with everyone under the Arakawa Bridge.