Sentiment is Capable of Mass Murder
Yes, Arakawa! Yes! This is how you handle these sentimental, touchy-feely moments you so desire. You don’t smother us with whale metaphors and sappy epiphanies that sound like they should be in a Lifetime movie-of-the-week. No, you smother us in chloroform, attempt to eat us alive, and rain down upon us with the mighty Hokuto no Ken.
The problem with sentimental moments in stories is that the writers feel they need to handle it with the utmost seriousness. Even when a story is a comedy like Arakawa Under the Bridge, if they feel a “tender moment” needs to be inserted to further the plot, they grind everything to a halt to get their point across. It’s like those old “a very special” episodes from 80’s sitcoms (See? There’s that comparison again. Arakawa is an 80’s sitcom.). Yeah, we don’t mind that you have something on your mind, but do you really need to tell it to us in the most sledgehammerish of ways? It gets the point across, but it also pisses some of us off that you’re breaking from the rhythm of the story.
That’s how I felt about the past few episodes of Arakawa. It was getting at these sentimental bits (Nino’s just longing to break away from her life, etc.) in the most abrupt and intrusive way possible, whether it was with the opening segments or having Ric go off on some internal monologue. But they got it right with this episode. They wrapped up Stella’s “coming of age” crushed romance story into a brilliant Fist of the North star homage. They never let go of the joke’s throttle to slow down and explain everything by means of Ric’s inner thoughts or any of that bullshit. We didn’t need that because everything was being told to us by means of Stella and Maria duking it out like a couple of post-apocalyptic martial artists.
This is the way to go at it, Arakawa. Keep at it, or else Maria will shank you with her assassin sheep shears.
I’m also digging how episode nine shows just how far gone Ric is in terms of is sanity. He’s become so accustomed to the freakish nature of the river that when he’s confronted with the mundane (Star really does wear a mask and knows it.), he not only refuses to believe it at first, he concocts an insane story on par with the batshit insane crap he’s used to hearing come out of the mouths of the river residents.
It’s like the “insanity” of the river is infectious. Once you join the group, it slowly eats away at your sanity, to the point where you can no longer function in regular society. Ric’s “common sense’ from the real world is slowly eroding and being replaced with the “common sense” native to the river. He isn’t so much acclimatizing to his surroundings so much as he’s being assimilated into the hive mind. Or something like that.
If you look at the river as a microcosm of the “real world,” it’s again playing on the idea that in order to function in any society, one has to become insane to some degree. You have to accept some degree of ridiculous, absurd ideals in order to pass in whatever society you live in. The only reason why we don’t see certain things as fucked up is because we’ve been assimilated into our own little hive mind-like world, and any perfectly functioning but foreign society will look crazy from our perspective.
Ric’s accepting of the river’s “ways” nails that idea home. The more he thinks like the others, the more he becomes accepted. Not a new angle from which to look at the series, but it’s an idea that’s getting reinforced. It does make me wonder who, exactly, created this river community, and if it was their “original madness” that paved the way for everyone who lives there to skew in a certain way towards what we’d perceive as insanity.
My money’s on Nino being the originator. Sure, Mr. Kappa is the Mayor, and he gives people names and stuff, but I bet Nino’s the one that brought this little society together piece by piece. She “converted” Star and Ric to the flock, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we learn that others were drawn in by her charms. Maybe she’s trying to build a surrogate family/neighborhood to replace whatever it is she lost in the past.
Dammit! Here I was saying P-ko’d totally be the Zangief of the Arakawa fighting game, since her “clumsiness” would totally be an awesome close-in grapple style, and Stella goes and usurps that role. Damn you, Stella!