This episode really pushed the story forward a lot, though I didn’t necessarily enjoy all of it. It’s just that learning of the mechanics of Riku’s plans to stop his father isn’t all that interesting. The resulting character development and deepening of relationships are what are fun to watch, and that was largely missing. Saved for the next 2 episodes, no doubt. Still, there were some nice scenes showing how close Riku has become to everyone under the bridge, especially Nino, and the comedy was as strong as ever.
The pre-OP scene was pretty personal once again, kind of like that flashback to Riku’s only rebellion against his father a couple episodes back. At least, the visuals were. Riku’s monologue was more general and philosophical, though when coupled with the visuals, they perfectly described Riku’s life up to now. Being pulled away from his mother, dragged into the harsh world at a young age by his father. It was a good way to prime us for the rest of the episode.
After watching Rebuild of Evangelion 2.22, I felt like rewatching Rebuild of Evangelion 1.11 over the weekend. So bad fathers are on my mind. The thing that caught me about Gendo was that he wasn’t just neglectful or distant. That could at least be understood, if not excused (5 points if you can tell what mid-90s movie I was thinking of with that line). No, he was downright malicious and sadistic to his son and actually seemed to enjoy watching him suffer.
Well, Riku’s father is kind of like that. From that opening monologue to him watching his son through a secret camera installed in his company boardroom to the final reveal that the phone number he gave his son had been a fake all along, we’re shown a man who isn’t merely oblivious to his son’s well being, he wants to actively sabotage him. And it has worked well, looking at just how scared Riku is of his father both in this episode and last.
Truth be told, all the trouble Riku goes through in this episode could have been avoided if Riku could just talk to his father. Then again, if it were that easy, he wouldn’t be getting pushed out of under the bridge in the first place. I must admit I’m a little curious about how Riku’s father ended up the way he is. Takai’s comment that Riku’s father also has trouble connecting with people – and the father’s uncomfortable reaction to that – seems to indicate that he has some deep seated issues of his own. The way things are going, there will probably be some sort of resolution between father and son. Still, it’s the relationship between Nino and Riku that I want to see more of.
And there was enough of that in this episode to keep me happy. I liked the dramatic moment early on when Riku explicated the dilemma he faced: leave and save the community, or stay with his lover and be forced out. It was simple, easy to understand, and entirely cliche. Of course, Nino would have none of that, as she wants to have her cake and eat it too. So Riku’s exit from under the bridge ends up being temporary, only long enough for him to come up with a plan to come up with a happy ending.
That forced separation of lovers made possible some good scenes. The Riku lookalike gag was one such scene, which had me laughing for the entire duration. Part of that was probably because I had mistakenly thought that the worker actually WAS Riku, just having gone undercover. In any case, seeing Nino stick 3 live fish into the guy’s mouth before Stella knocked him out as a show of appreciation was both hilarious and sweet. By having Stella in there, it not only showed how much Nino cared for him, but everyone else under the bridge as well.
I also liked Riku’s actual return to under the bridge, with Nino jumping in for the hug. Everyone’s reactions to Riku’s planned park was amusing. Star’s demand for a live music venue, P-Ko’s for manure and plenty of arable land, and Shiro’s for all the walkways to be painted white were predictable enough. But what really had me laughing were Sister’s fears that the park would be too open to attack and Nino’s desire that there be a rocket launch pad. I’m glad her Venusian gag was used so sparingly, because it still remains funny when it comes up like this.
This episode also showcased Nino’s amnesia again, with her forgetting what Riku’s face looks like in the span of 3 days. Maybe I sound like a broken record at this point, but I definitely hope that that doesn’t turn out to be just a running gag. The way Nino’s character has been built, it would be a waste if there was no reveal. I wrote after the 1st episode that I expected this to be a romance in which the 2 people grow closer by helping each other from the pains caused by their pasts. Riku’s path was always through his father, and this episode really drove that point home. But Nino’s is still hazy, and we still need to find out more.
That’s really what I’m looking for as we head to the final 2 episodes. In some ways, I guess I’m looking for something like the TV ending to Bakemonogatari, which reminded us of Hitagi’s painful past, creating a romantic ending that was truly touching and emotional. OK, I don’t expect anything of that order from Arakawa Under the Bridge. I doubt there will be a huge dramatic revelation regarding Nino’s past. But learning more about her will make the relationship between her and Riku more meaningful and easy to sympathize with. And since I’m expecting a nice, tidy, happy, romantic ending, I want that little extra that will make all the more powerful.