While Arakawa Under the Bridge has often enjoyed employing slightly touching yet ultimately meaningless little introductions to its episode, this third instalment of x2 starts out with some random platitudes that actually turn out to be at least a little prescient, via an episode that is perhaps the most important in developing the relationship between Kou and Nino yet.
The whole thing begins as Recruit and Nino return to their original rooms after their ineffectual swap a couple of episode ago (not that this stops the latter using the former's room to dry out fish, mind you), a switch which leads to Recruit finding a cassette player and a bunch of tapes belonging to Nino (complete with an amusing reference to the Voyager spacecraft). Of course, knowing as little about Nino as he does he can't resist listening to this new discovery, only for Nino to walk in on him just as we're about to reach a crucial moment. The shock of this is enough to send even the normally placid Nino into what seems to be a rage, as she races away to sulk and fume at the top of a bird-infested telegraph pole, and try as they might Recruit and friends simply can't find a good way to coax her down, until Ric finally says what seems to be the right thing before suspecting that he's actually made things worse.
Anyhow, Recruit finally gets to listen to the tape in question, only to find that it's been recorded over by Star (of course, I should have seen that coming a mile off), but Nino is still seemingly in a daze from the whole experience, and the other female under-bridge dwellers group around their friend to protect her seemingly fragile feelings, suggesting a pyjama party to cheer her up. With P-ko in charge we certainly learn quite a lot (too much, you could say) about what she likes in a man, but Nino remains silent throughout until Ric returns with a tape of his own embarrassing moments which proves to be shameful for entirely different reasons.
By the end of all this, we reach a surprisingly touching and actually quite emotional moment, as Nino explains the reason for her actions and Recruit apologises profusely, while still leaving us none the wiser about her past - that said, she does at least finally reveal that she does indeed have a past that she's afraid to tell people about, not least Kou for fear of losing him; surely that alone can be considered progress? It appears we may also have ourselves a major focus for the rest of this series... beyond making me laugh like an idiot, that is.
After going for outright hilarity for its first two episodes, this was actually a welcome change of pace for Arakawa Under the Bridge x2 - that isn't to say that this instalment wasn't funny, but its gags were far more targeted and were thus perhaps all the funnier for it. Beneath all the laughter however, there was a real current of development running through this episode in terms of Ric and Nino's relationship, which again is arguably much needed after allowing it to drift on following the end of the show's first season. It's easy to forget there are so many unanswered questions about Nino when you're simply having a ball watching the series being zany and downright hilarious, but a gentle reminder that we still no next to nothing about the "real" Nino was much needed; all of a sudden, this show has got me thinking and musing over one of its main characters again.