What They Say:
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any weirder by the banks of the mighty Arakawa, they go ahead and get weirder by a whole lot. Rec, Nino, and the rest of the riverside residents return, and with the addition of another batch of nutty citizens the insanity gets turned up to eleven… thousand.
Now Rec has to deal with a sci-fi loving comic nerd who’s convinced he’s a captain in the Earth Defense Force, and the less said about the Amazon woman living upstream with her demonic “female” Amazon followers, the better. On top of that, Rec struggles with the pressing issues of romantic expression, media obsession, weight loss, weight gain, beach parties, haunted houses, interplanetary travel, and the ever-present threat of global thermonuclear war!
Contains episodes 1-13.
This set contains both the DVD and Blu-ray discs of the series. For our technical review, we’re covering only the Blu-ray discs.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good for the single audio track that’s here as we get the original Japanese stereo mix in PCM encoded at 1.5mbps fixed. The series is largely dialogue driven and it has a very good feeling to it as it has solid placement when required and some good depth as well when there are multiple characters on screen talking. The series doesn’t stretch itself all that much but it works the material well and the music sequences help let it stand out a bit more. The opening sequence in particular has a good bit of music that is well served by the lossless presentation. The release didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. The encoding here generally runs in the low twenties for the bitrate but hits some highs in the thirties when things get a bit more active. There’s a lot of stills in this show as it uses wide shots with the characters conversing within it, so while the characters may move, they’re generally a small part of the frame and the majority of it is still. There’s a lot of great colors here that are solid and well represented, often with more real world colors but also a lot of vibrant pieces as well that stand out wonderfully. There’s a lot of detail to the character designs and backgrounds as well and it all holds up very well and looks quite appealing. The one main flaw that many will point to, and I can certainly understand it and it is frustrating but hard to factor into a grade, is that the subtitles are locked on for the video, so you can’t toggle them off. You either get the commentary subtitles or the full subtitles.
NIS America essentially hits it out of the park again with this release when it comes to the premium edition as we get a heavy chipboard box with the full hardcover book included inside. The box art for this one is similar yet different from the first as it works in the stars a plenty but has more of the cast shown together and a darker look with the greens used. It’s definitely appealing on the front cover with what it offers and it’s good to see a lot of the cast here. The back cover does a similar kind of layout with a few softer colors coming into the mix while using the new characters as the primary focus. While the colors are darker overall than the first set, the spines are kept light and matches well overall. The hardcover book uses similar color design as well and is chock full of more good stuff. The episode looks are good, the liner notes about key things to watch, character data and plenty of artwork and interviews makes it a great read for those that are deeply into the show.
Also inside the box we of course get the two clear thinpak cases that hold both the DVD and Blu-ray discs. They’re kept together, so the first has the first of each format and the second has the other half of the series rather than keeping them together by format. The artwork is similar to the box set overall, though one cover goes for darker colors overall, but it brings in more of the supporting cast and gives them their chance to shine on both sides. The back covers do have a fair bit of information on them though with the breakdown of what episodes are on each by format and a few shots from the show. There’s also a lot of production credit information here which feels like a bit too much but the technical grid is well done as it details both formats well. No show related inserts are included and the reverse side is made up of either pink or yellow for the background with little white stars.
The menu design for this release is cute as it has a background with lots of little stars and the like, using elements from the opening sequence, while on top of that we get a trio of main characters floating about a bit to some upbeat music. It has a cute look to it and is definitely bright and colorful without being overwhelming. The navigation along the bottom is straightforward with the basic selections that you normally get and it all loads quickly and easily. Submenus have a good font to it and chapter access within episodes is also available, something we don’t always see in general.
The extras are again pretty good here and similar to what we saw of the first season as we get another four episodes worth of commentary tracks by the Japanese production staff. In addition to that, we get a couple of TV spots for the series and a separate look at the end cards used in the series in gallery form.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first season ran in the spring of 2010, the second season got underway in the fall of 2010 and essentially brought on more of the same. For many shows, that’s definitely a good thing as it means the team didn’t miss a beat over the break between seasons. But if the show didn’t click well for you in the first, it’s not exactly a huge selling point. My experience with the first season of Arakawa Under the Bridge wasn’t bad in a strict sense as it was technically well executed and went in right with the way it handled the humor, word play and references. But the structure of the show didn’t click for me nor did the characters, which meant that everything else just kind of fell flat.
The first season went through the basic introductions and the kind of situation that Rec found himself in that got him “under the bridge” and in with this strange group of individuals. While his reasons were a little tenuous when you get down to it, his getting there has definitely been a positive for him as he needed to break free from the way his life has gone and the way things were planned out for him. During one segment here where the gang is going through their medical exam to see if everyone is healthy, Rec realizes that his asthma isn’t anywhere near as bad as it was, he’s lost some weight but gained tone in place of it. The outdoors and simple living with all of its activity has been a very healthy positive for him.
But it’s just about the only positive for him as otherwise he’s regularly frustrated, abused and on the run from what’s happening. A baseball game at the start goes awry when the ball is hit too far and it takes him down river to Saitama where he ends up coming across part of a group similar to theirs. Execpt it’s just smaller and, well, a little less strange as it’s headed by a tall blonde Amazon woman who has a group of shorter men wearing tengu masks, white shirts and black pants. Amazon and her gang aren’t a huge part of the season, but they do make a couple of appearances and throw things off balance in a few ways to run with the comedy. They’re not a bad addition, but it feels a bit superfluous.
One thing you do tend to get with shows of this nature in its second season is something of a more serious storyline as it progresses. Arakawa Under the Bridge avoids this for the most part though as it keeps to a regular run of wacky comedy and unusual situations with the last episode going mildly big but not in a way that really threatens the status quo all that much. The stories are pretty much all over the map as you can expect based on the first season though there are some cute ones. There’s even one where the gang tries to lose weight but a bunch of them end up bulking up instead and the twins become hugely muscular and pretty intense. Hoshi has some good stuff as well as he continually tries to find ways to mess with Rec and get closer to Nino.
The show does pay a little service to the relationship between Rec and Nino over the course of it, but it’s still not something that’s a driving force behind it even though the pair are sort of dating. Things get a little serious when Nino reveals she’s wanting to go back to Venus and take him with her, we get a couple of space related instances over the course of the season as a backdrop but it’s severely underutilized. The relationship between the two has some cute moments, largely when Hoshi gets involved to mess with Rec, but overall it just doesn’t go anywhere or really achieves anything. I never felt they really worked well together and though I got the point of it all, it never went further than making the point and expanding on it in an interesting way.
The second season of Arakawa Under the Bridge brings more of what we’ve seen before and it does it as well as it did before. There’s no real drop in quality here but it also doesn’t try and take things further with its story or where it wants to go with it. With the setup of the series as a whole, I wanted to like it a lot more than I did but a lot of it just continually fell flat for me. There are moments where the wordplay and the puns hit just right as well as the physical comedy, but most of the time it just kind of flows over you. The characters have amusing quirks but they’re mostly defined by that and little else. NIS America has put together a fantastic release here across the board in a technical sense, from the great premium packaging to the solid high definition presentation, but the content itself is lacking for me.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, TV Spots, End Card Gallery, Audio Commentaries
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: NIS America
Release Date: February 7th, 2012
Running Time: 316 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.