To want to do everything under your own steam and not owe anything to anyone is an admirable trait to some. But there are times when it can backfire, and this is such a case. A long-time favourite amongst manga/anime fans thanks to its well-regarded anime adaptation, the original Arakawa Under the Bridge manga finally makes its English language debut courtesy of Vertical.
Kou Ichinomiya, a young man born with a silver spoon in his mouth and raised with the mantra “never owe anyone” suddenly finds himself deeply indebted to a young homeless woman, Nino, who lives on the Arakawa river bank and claims to originally be from the planet Venus. When Nino rejects all of Kou’s mundane offers of money or housing, Kou is at a loss for how to repay his debt, until Nino suddenly asks him to teach her about love. A daunting task, but the over-achieving Kou is determined to return Nino’s favour. And so begins Kou’s life under the bridge, along with a band of eccentric characters who have formed their own little community outside the boundaries of typical Tokyoite life…
Hikaru Nakamura’s debut manga is a title that many manga readers (myself included) have been waiting to sink their teeth into and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s not an uncommon trope to have a no-nonsense character thrown into wacky situations but this series takes the cake in that regard. Kou’s single minded dedication to not letting himself end up in any form of debt from the very beginning creates all sorts of chaos (the sheer lengths he goes to in order to retrieve his trousers after they get stuck on a bridge is what leads to his bizarre situation) and he makes other strait-laced characters look tame in comparison. As a result, he is the perfect straight man to all the insane characters that Nakamura throws at him. Nino is a particularly great foil as it would have been easy to use an off-the-wall type character but the blunt subdued approach Nakamura takes with her gives the series as a rather unique feel as she often ends up coming across as more level headed than Kou (living arrangement and questionable memory aside).
Then there are the other villagers that reside in Arakawa who definitely fall into the bizarre category. Whether it be a supposedly 620-year-old kappa that acts as mayor, star mask wearing singer Hoshi who is seethes with jealousy over Kou’s relationship with Kino or the male nun/army veteran Sister, their interaction with the by-the-books Kou makes for plenty of humorous moments.
Nakamura has a brilliantly fun art style which is a perfect fit for this type of story. There’s some really strong character designs and visual works on display here. She truly nails both the mundane and eccentric aspects of Kou’s character whilst enhancing them for comic effect. At the same time, she downplays Kino’s claims of her identity by giving her a rather subdued appearance which acts as a great contrast to the more off-kilter residents.
Fans of the anime will of course be delighted to finally read the original manga version, but any fans of top notch comedy manga will find plenty to enjoy as well. With a brilliant sense of humour and perfect artwork, this a new series well worth picking up.
9781945054419 – P/B – £14.99
Post by Leo