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Aliens Living in a Van Down by the River

April 6, 2010

Arakawa Under the Bridge may be the greatest 80’s sitcom that never existed. Until 2010 that is.

Something that gripes me about modern audience is how they’ve convinced themselves that certain formulas and clichés are somehow  inherently bad. Anime fans don’t like the “monster of the week” format because they think there’s something intrinsically wrong with a story that has some sort of pattern to its narrative. And modern fans, whether they’re anime fans or TV fans or internet porn fans, don’t care for high concept sitcoms.

Arakawa Under the Bridge is such a high concept sitcom that you’d expect to have seen during the 80’s. Take a yuppie dude who refuses to owe anyone anything and force him to live with a bunch of nutjob homeless mental freaks and expose his yuppie lifestyle as being just as fucknuts as their illnesses. I’m surprised no one actually made this sitcom back in the day. It’s like someone cryogenically froze the staff of one of the big three networks around 1986 and thawed them out sometime last year and forced them to make an anime with SHAFT.

The very concept seems to turn off some fans, and it’s a shame that they feel “superior” to such a canned concept. It isn’t inferior to the other stuff that’s out there, it’s just different and awesome in its own right.

I love the very concept of this anime for this reasons. Such a high concept is rife with comedic potential. The whole “living with the homeless crazies” opens the doors for all sorts of awesome supporting characters. We’ve already seen a dude dressed as a kappa that genuinely believes he’s the last of a dying breed of mythical creatures. I really dig his world-weary, put-on attitude. Promo art also shows some dude with a star on/for his head, so I’m sure the whacked-out side characters will continue to issue forth.

In my little mental anime dream world, I envision Arakawa taking place in the same “universe” as Cromartie High School. Both series have a similar dry humor punctuated with “WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT” moments when the “normals” see something totally freaked out and messed up. The kappa totally needs to hang with Mechazawa. And at the same time I see both series taking place in the same universe as Astro Fighter Sunred. Again, they share a similar sense of humor and the characters would totally mesh. Nino can join in on Vamp’s cooking lessons and teach him some homeless person fish recipes or something like that.

Not much else to say here, since there’s only so much you can say about a straight-up comedy without completely dissecting and ruining the humor, but I think this is going to be yet another awesome series. This season’s shaping up to be pretty damn cool based on most of these first episodes.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Topspin permalink
    April 6, 2010 7:49 PM

    Good point, but it’s not always the CONCEPT that bothers people, but rather the execution. For me, it was an interesting premise that got bogged down in random humor that didn’t quite click (others will happily eat it up though).

    For the lulz, I’ll do a half-assed deconstruction of why it fell flat for me. Both Sunred and Arakawa share the same “confused manzai” humor, where you can’t tell which characters are the boke and which are the tsukkomi. Is it Sunred that’s the straight man? Or is it Vamp? You can interchange them, because in their world they’re both equally weird, yet equally normal (the townsfolk are so delightfully deadpan about seeing monsters and superheros, for instance). Sunred and Florsheim both just want to be professionals in their “boring day jobs”, but they can’t see eye-to-eye. So it’s funny to me when the “normal” action seems “crazy” to the other party, and hence the manzai magic works.

    In Arakawa they try the same humor, but I’m totally lost as to what’s supposed to be normal. There seems to be no common ground between the characters, and they’re just too insane to have any real sense of “normalcy”. The girl and kappa-dude are clearly not normal, but then neither is the businessman.. they’re all insane. Since I don’t know what’s supposed to be normal, it all ends up feeling mostly random and I focus on the lamer running gags instead. There’s a clue or two as to what I should expect to be normal, but it’s so far-fetched that I can’t relate to it as readily as I could in Sunred.

    The bottom line is that I’m either too dumb or too smart for Arakawa’s sense of humor, and since I just wrote all of this I clearly can’t be smarter :D
    So I just end up feeling slighted ;)

    • Landon permalink*
      April 6, 2010 8:35 PM

      I can dig that people aren’t going to find the show’s humor funny. Humor’s about as subjective as you can get. It’s the outright dismisal of the concept that I’ve read from skimming a few other blogs that irks me. Especially when said people are all too eager to embrace something as formulaic as K-On!! or Kaichou Maid-Sama. Don’t hate the formula, hate the resulting concoction.

      • Topspin permalink
        April 6, 2010 9:25 PM

        Agreed. Just felt the need to purge my mind for a bit, and your blog happened to be the (un)lucky recipient ;)

        I sincerely hope that Shinbo impresses me (even a little) with Arakawa. I haven’t been very happy with his works the past couple of years. It’s like the anime with the most out-there premises get wrung through the Shaft machine and end up all feeling the same to me.. like Shinbo just sticks to his own formulas and hopes the stories are strong enough to overcome the barriers themselves.

    • April 7, 2010 4:05 AM

      But that’s exactly what makes it great! You don’t know who is normal because they muck about with it. You think Nino is the nutter until she throws out a line that totally turns the other guys logic on its head. That is the very beauty of the comedy of the show.

      Although Landon is right. I should stop dissecting comedy after the first episode. Stops being funny then

      • Topspin permalink
        April 7, 2010 10:09 AM

        Yeah, I already over-analyzed it for the sake of being an ass, so I don’t want to turn into a troll or something :)

        But that was my point entirely – I don’t know what normal is with this anime because they’re all completely insane. That removes a layer of funny (for me) and makes it something that seems purely random-funny. That’s not to say that I can’t enjoy it anyway, just felt going in the over-analyzing :)

  2. April 6, 2010 10:50 PM

    Your post had me LOL.

    “Arakawa Under the Bridge may be the greatest 80’s sitcom that never existed.”

    That is an excellent way to put it.

    “I envision Arakawa taking place in the same ‘universe’ as Cromartie High School.”

    Spot on, dude. Spot on. I’m really enjoying this show.

  3. April 6, 2010 11:27 PM

    There wasn’t too much in this episode that made me laugh, but I do like the way Kou is being screwed with all the time and being made to see — but not realize — how insane his life is. I mean, of all the characters in this show, isn’t his dad the craziest?? And he passed on that crazy to his kid.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the other characters, too. The guy with the star for a head looks pretty boss.

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