Rating: 5/5 – A Strong Justification for Why I Like Comics!
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow
“Why do you read comics?”
Any participant in our happy little hobby confronts this question at least once or twice in their lifetime. It may come from family members, strangers, or sometimes even ourselves as we examine our bank accounts. It’s a fair question, though. Why do we spend our days with these folded and stapled pamphlets? The sedentary lifestyle it demands isn’t good for our overall health. Our eyes will eventually give up on us from all the squinting at 6-point type. And there’s a deep-rooted psychosis involved in cataloguing back issues using archaic algorithms remembered only by the sorcerers, librarians, and comic collectors of the world. Indeed, why do we take up a hobby so obviously bad for us? Why do you read comics?
My answer is simple: Because of books like Arakawa Under the Bridge.
Kou Ichinomiya has it all: Born wealthy, whip-smart and good at everything he’s ever attempted, he’s also the heir to the company that bears his father’s name. The family has succeeded in life due to a strict…very strict…adherence to the motto “Never Owe Anyone”. Debts are paid immediately, and down to the nth detail. Kou put himself through college, for example, paying for it himself as he didn’t want to owe his parents anything. There’s more intense and twisted examples of this family creed, best left for you to find out by reading the book. Suffice it to say that when Kou’s life is saved by a homeless girl living under the bridge spanning the Arakawa river, he finds it necessary to repay the debt at any cost. He offers to buy her a home, but is refused. Desperate to not be in debt to her, he promises to give her anything (the colossal blunder of any protagonist), and is dumbfounded when she asks him to help her fall in love.
Oh, and she claims she’s from Venus… and she very well may be.
Arakawa Under the Bridge is one great big beautiful mess of a book. Hikaru Nakamura’s art style seems to go where it wants to go, as opposed to the usual cookie-cutter manga where the art is what it needs to be (and little more). That’s refreshing, because it at least seems to me like she had a lot of fun creating this book, and that comes through in the artwork. The writing, as well, has a playfulness to it that may frustrate readers accustomed to getting what they expect (nay, demand) from a book. Characters are introduced, then left alone, not fully fleshed out. Sort of like the real world where you don’t get to hear everyone’s origin story the moment you meet them. If you like everything spelled out for you from the get-go, this book may not be for you. If you like your characters to reveal themselves bit by bit as the story progresses, though, you’re going to love it. In short, Arakawa Under the Bridge doesn’t seem to do anything it’s supposed to do. Or to borrow from another popular manga, this book is not perfect, and because it not perfect, it is beautiful.
Why do I read comics? The answer today is as simple as it was for me when I bought my very first comic (Black Panther, don’t ask the issue number) many decades ago. To be transported to a world of fantastic characters, interesting stories, and artwork that captivates my imagination. Most importantly, to close that book feeling some kind of catharsis (if this book doesn’t make you smile, there may be no hope for you) and to anxiously anticipate the opportunity to open the next book or issue and get that same feeling again. Arakawa Under the Bridge delivers…oh my god does it deliver…on all those fronts. Vertical has always been a forerunner when it comes to delivering manga a bit outside the normal fare, and this book is truly a shining star of its current offerings. It is why I read comics.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow (firstname.lastname@example.org)
http://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics