Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Arakawa Under the Bridge - Episode 12

After Kou well and truly revealed the extent of his fear of his father by the end of the last episode, it would perhaps have been asking too much for the residents under the bridge not to give him a hard time about it, and lo and behold he soon finds himself to be something of a laughing stock with everyone... aside from Nino that is, who points out that everybody is scared of something - If only we could get a handle on what Nino herself is afraid of.

Of course, with Ric showing a moment of weakness Star sees an opportunity to muscle in on his territory with the smooth-cum-cheesy line of telling Nino to wish upon a star to make everything better - A suggestion that she eats up, of course. The trouble is, saying pretty much anything is dangerous in Maria's company, and after she clarifies that it's a shooting star you're supposed to wish upon you can probably guess where things are headed; before we know it, both Star and Ric (with the latter borrowing the former's mask) are repeatedly thrown from the top of the bridge to allow those below to wish on whatever they desire.

Still, this appears to be more effective than you might think, as we soon see Kou's father informed that his contruction project and the entire bidding process for it has been stopped, with even Mr. Ichinomiya's threats to cut off funding to the ministry responsible falling on deaf ears. This seems like a huge risk to take in the face of such a powerful man, but it appears that there's someone even more powerful who has entered into this particular political sphere. The weird thing is, he sounds a bit like a certain Mayor who lives under a bridge wearing a kappa suit....

Of course, Kou's father knows nothing of this, and so goes to confront his son, only to be left suffering a similar fate to Kou at the start of the series. This state of affairs, complete with a run-in with Nino, gives us some brief yet clear glimpses into the mindset of Kou's father, why he has distanced himself from everybody around him and even why he was determined to break up Kou's life under the bridge. When that mask slips for a moment we get to see a more human side to Kou's father - Not that it lasts long though. Still, this entire chain of events leads to a sweet finale to the episode, as Kou's feelings towards Nino are honestly revealed in an unexpected fashion.

Once again, while Arakawa Under the Bridge's focus has been upon its over-arching story and resolving aspects (if not all of) that story, the humour has taken a back seat to a certain degree, retaining its sense of the absurd but not really pushing it to the same hilarious heights as we've seen earlier in the season. In its place, we've found ourselves with more of a study of some of the key characters of the series, and more specifically the fears which both drive and disable them. In a way, the scene between Nino and Kou's father was a perfect example of this - At the end of the day, these are two people whose entire life (and indeed lifestyle) has been driven by their fear, albeit in very different ways; Kou's father has dealt with loss and the fear of losing something precious again by relying only upon himself and nobody else, while I get the feeling that Nino's life under the bridge came about for the exact same reason. Yet, despite this, both individuals have very deliberately left chinks in their proverbial armour in the hope that it will let somebody in - In Nino's case this has now clearly succeeded, but for Kou's father the future is less certain.

Regardless, it's nice to see something with a little depth which can provoke a little thought coming from a comedy series that can equally delight in simply being daft or obtuse - It's a tough blend to pull off, and Arakawa Under the Bridge hasn't always managed it perfectly, but overall it's done a fine job with only one episode left to run.

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