The first season of Arakawa Under the Bridge ended with Ric’s father unable to destroy the Arakawa riverbank and force Ric back home, and that leaves us at the beginning of the second season. In this season a few more characters are introduced including the super-scary Amazoness and her Tengu, and the Captain. Some of the characters just barely introduced in the first season (Billy, Jacqueline, and Last Samurai) also play a larger role in the second season. In fact, in this season it felt like everyone was a part of a family, unlike the first season where Ric was trying to figure out how to fit in.
The shift from Ric’s perception of being an outsider looking in to an active participant changed the way the anime felt. Before all of the crazy things that everyone did was so weird and awkward, but in the second season the viewer comes to expect things that normally would not have crossed the mind of someone new to the series. It’s like the more you watch Arakawa, the more you associate with Ric and how he has moved from being an outsider to someone who understands and knows what to expect from the other characters.
There are still plenty of surprises in hand though. From boy bands to muscle men and gangster chickens, you never know what the anime is going to throw at you next. While this unpredictability keeps things interesting, it also has a downside: lack of a coherent plot. The first season remained plotless until the end with the events surrounding Ric and his father. I thought that they were going to continue with that in the second season, but except for a couple of jokes, Rics father is never mentioned again. Instead, Ric’s relationship with Nino comes to the fore as the two of them try to work out any misunderstandings. Unfortunately, Arakawa Under the Bridge did not stick with this plotline for long as it quickly changed focus to include all of the other characters. Since only a few episodes at max were ever spent on one plotline, it was very difficult to see where the series was heading.
They did manage to develop closer bonds between the characters at the end of the series, but I was disappointed that there was not enough time to develop them any further. The relationship between Ric and Nino still hasn’t moved past the “yay, we’re going out” phase, the Hoshii x Amazoness pairing was only just introduced in the last few episodes, P-Ko still hasn’t gotten anywhere with the mayor, and everyone else’s relationships seem to be the same as before. I certainly hope that this means there will be more episodes coming out, because leaving things the way they are now would not make for a very good ending.
While the plot was lacking, at least the animation was consistent and lacked any major flaws. One of the things I was surprised over was how they could change the animation style in order to reflect the actions of the characters. When it comes to anime, you can usually sort them into the categories moe, non-moe, and scary ugly; Arakawa Under the Bridge managed to switch between all three. Whenever Ric and the other guys would switch into their girly modes, they would turn all big-bright-eyed and would be classified as moe if it weren’t for the fact that they were guys. Most of the time the anime stays in the non-moe category, but every once in a while it’ll move into the scary ugly category for effect. Whenever Stella turns into a hulking giant or when they zoom in on Amazoness are the main examples of when it goes into the scary ugly category. I applaud the animators for being able to switch between these styles.
Arakawa Under the Bridge certainly is unique with its wide cast of misfit characters and wacky plotlines. That awkward feeling that it gives viewers by creating unlikely situations and altering the animation will make it memorable, but it falls short of being a great series. Without a coherent plot or proper ending, the series is simply relying on its wackiness to keep it afloat. Hopefully they will release a third season that wraps up the loose ends (such as everyone’s past regrets) and sees at least the relationship between Ric and Nino go beyond just spending time together.