No matter how much Akiyuki Shinbo shows might feel like Akiyuki Shinbo shows you cannot mask the quirky trademark humor of Hikaru Nakamura in Arakawa Under the Bridge. I did notice after a while my enjoyment of segments really depended on which characters were in them. Scenes with Nino, Hoshi, Sister, Stella are usually excellent where as Maria and P-ko usually fall flat. Everyone else is hit and miss. I did notice in reflection Nino does not show up nearly as much as you think she would especially in the second half of the anime. I know some people found Kou annoying but I thought it was an excellent straight man to the rest of the cast. Episodes 10,11, and 12 have a story that has a decent conclusion with Kou having to confront his father over the development of the land under the bridge. There is a big confrontation with nothing really changed. But that is usually how you best deal with an ongoing comedy series like Arakawa. Also after episode 13 they announced a second season so they had to maintain the status quo. Overall I enjoyed every episode and always looked forward to watching the latest episode. Arakawa Under the Bridge is not as spectacular as Saint Young Men from what I have seen but always made me feel good after watching an episode. I hope the 2nd season can continue that feeling.
I had mixed feelings going into Arakawa Under the Bridge, while I thoroughly enjoy the humor of Hikaru Nakamura (also the manga-ka of Saint Young Men), Shinbo makes me wary. However, I found myself laughing heartily for most episodes and feeling an overall satisfaction with the show. The wacky premise of a colony of misfits living in a community under a bridge combined with the neurotic Kou joining their circle almost makes you feel at ease in the bizarre. Eventhough much of the humor relies on unexpectedness, the series has the ability to keep taking bigger leaps which allows for fresh moments to appear despite knowing characters’ schtick. Though some of the humor begins to fall flat at moments that rely too heavily on Kou being surprised. The first half is better than the second mostly because some of the resued jokes start to lose their luster and the later half deigns to tell us a semi-serious story which isn’t very compelling. The attempt to insert a plot to cap off the show was valiant but could have been better served by just bringing Kou and Nino closer together without all the rest. In fact, many episodes have just a moment of poignant brilliance (“We want to know who you are not what you have.”) which struck a better balance. The strange humor of Arakawa is certainly worth checking out even if it does ebb and flow at the end.
I received a copy of Megatokyo book 6 from DC. It has been a few years since I read any Megatokyo but I was curious to see what had happened since I stopped reading. There was a gap in between where I stopped reading and where this book picked up but I was able to remember enough and piece together the rest without trouble. I now being an older and wiser anime fan can definitely see the influence of Key games on his work. There is a distinct examination of the nature of how fans react to broken characters and real women in Key games but Jun Maeda’s influence of the storytelling is unmistakable. I will admit it took my brain a few pages to read it properly like a web comic instead of like a manga. It’s interesting how my brain processed things different when I realized that each page was it’s own entity as opposed to every chapter being it’s own arc. I am curious how Narutaki would say this series fits into his theories on OEL manga. Overall it has the same slow but deliberate pace I remember. There is a sense in movement in everyone’s relationships but never a burning urge to move forward quickly no matter how much mayhem is going on around everyone. And there is often quite a bit of mayhem going on. Overall I enjoyed the book but it is hardly go to win over any new fans. Largo is still delightfully over the top and frantic, Piro is still very inward and mopey, and the girls still feel like they were former cast members of Clannad. That alone should be your litmus test of enjoyment for the Megatokyo series.
Blade of the Immortal volume 22 is a transitional book into what is supposed to be the final arc. This is also the first book that has ever felt like it was starting down a shonen fighting tournament path as a new group of killers have appeared and they have less than a month to accomplish their mission. But it is somewhat in line with previous happenings, it just gave me a little chuckle. This volume also highlights some of the growing relationships on the canvas most notably and obviously taking Rin and Manji much further but also having some tender scenes between Makie and Anotsu. But don’t imagine there aren’t some blood and guts spilled in this installment as Manji gets mistaken for an Itto-Ryu who took out a group of guys at the beginning of the volume. The game is set to take off in the next few chapters to what I imagine will eventually be a bloody and tragic end.
I have completed another leg on my journey to be a true man of anime by finishing Fist of the North Star with episodes 69 to 109. After watching Raoh Gaiden I was inspired to finish the series where I had left off. With Souther taken care of it is all build up to the fight between Raoh and Kenshiro. We have some time wasting with Ryuga and the we finally get to gee the final South Star general and their purple and pink Shredder armor. The five Chariot generals who are protecting the last South Star general mainly exists so Raoh can finally kill some guys with skill other than Rei. Mostly so we remember what a powerful guy he is. The actual real deal final fight between Raoh and Kenshiro is much shorter than I expected it to be but that was not unwelcome. I did notice that all the major bad guys in Fist of the North Star do a 180 just before they die where we learn they were not AS BAD as we originally thought. Except for Jagi. And they usually do some super horrible act that turns out to be just a fake out to get Kenshiro into a frenzy. Fist of the North Star is sort of a silly show but if you accept the melodrama it is an amazingly gripping and entertain show. Is there any reason to watch Fist of the North Star Part 2? The ending with Raoh seemed to finish things perfectly and everything I hear about Part 2 makes me feel it is utterly the Shonen Jump editors forcing a series past when it clearly ended. But if nothing else remember Kenshiro defeated the Terminator with the power of compassion.
I read through my first collection of Edogawa Rampo short stories entitled Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Rampo is considered the foremost mystery writer of Japan and the father of the modern Japanese mystery, but has had very little of his work translated into English. In this collection you can feel the immense influence that Edgar Allan Poe (Edogawa Rampo is the Japanese pronunciation of Poe’s full name) had on his work as his stories often delve deeply into the macabre and psychological. The stories are compelling with their quick pace and bizarre turns. Many times I found myself chilled but just desperate enough to see how it would end. Few of these yarns involve true mysteries as we are often being told confessions or just a tale so I would really like to read a full-length mystery novel of Rampo’s before deciding how I feel about him as a spinner of mystery.
A nice little cast picture of the strange people from Arakawa Under the Bridge: