The final episode (*sniff*) of the season introduces (huh?) three new nutters (HUH?), before the remaining ones decide that they want to visit – and build – a theme park. Only in Arakawa Land, eh…
Nino wakes up in Riku’s place again with some very impressive bed hair, which leads to the suggestion that she, her lover and their stalkers all go off to have a haircut. Cue intro of Last Samurai. A.K.A. the resident barber. Complete with a Samurai style chonmage to boot. As Riku and company fuss over what haircuts they want (or not in Riku’s case), Last Samurai soon blitzes through the lot of them and turfs them out in order to swing his katana at the latecoming Sister, who counter attacks with the dodge-and-apology technique. Riku goes into yell-at-‘em-and-then-leave-mode, then sees/ introduces us to two other Bridge Village residents, Billy and Jaqueline, who seem to be having a lovers’ tiff. While dressed as a giant parrot and a queen bee.
The latter half of the episode opens with Riku in Sensei-mode teaching Stella and the metal heads, when they are distracted by a passing father and son who are going on about how much they enjoyed the theme park they’ve just visited. This leads Riku’s little cherubs to persuade him to take them on a field trip there. Before said cherubs realise this means other people actually seeing them. As always, our resourceful hero has a solution. To build one himself. Only problem is he’s never been to one. Cue a solid three days of Googling for ideas, before Nino and Pi-ko come and get him. Armed with tickets to… a theme park that they and the rest of the Bridge Village have built together while Riku was sitting on his pert arse.
Touched by their actions, Riku is then dragged off by the delighted kids to, er, enjoy the delights of Kappa-Chan Land, which comes complete with merry-go-round, 3-D theatre, thrill ride and creepy arse Donnie Darko-esque bunny mascot. The day ends with a brief moment on a bench with Nino while the sun sets and Riku recalls a rare day out he had with his dad, before they all enjoy the parade at the end of the day. Cue credits, a very short and random scene involving a blonde superheroine figure flanked by three minions and going on about hidden treasure, before the final monologue, or rather dialogue, delivered by Riku and Nino.
In many ways, and as others have already mentioned, last week’s episode would have been a good place to leave the series: the threat of the evil daddy’s evil plans to demolish the Bridge Village and the bonds that Riku had forged with the others was overcome; Riku confessed his feelings to Nino and agreed to be together for ever and ever and ever; and the evil daddy semi-accepted/ gave his blessing to the couple, or at least challenged his son to try and make work what he (evil daddy) may or may not have failed to achieve for whatever reason with the lady of the locket.
However, as it stands with this epi the first half should’ve come a lot sooner in the series, then they could’ve easily referred to those three new characters peripherally if they didn’t want to worry about having to juggle too many characters and back-stories in these sole 13 epis. Or, imho, they should’ve saved ‘em for a possible (or rather, I hope, definite) second series. I don’t know about you, but I found the whole thing way too rushed, or at best lop-sided in terms of Samurai screentime Vs forbidden lovers screentime. Though I did enjoy the aloof, but smooth-talking parrot. Think Mr Darcy with feathers.
The fun fair was certainly fun, and I dig the way they used that to highlight the themes of friendship and family (more on this later). Regarding the attractions themselves, I vicariously enjoyed the merry-go-round (just cos I friggin love those), but the highlight was the 3-D theatre. Nino, Sister and the Mayor as anime versions of Luke/Leia, Darth Vader and Obi Wan complete with lightsabers was a treat, as of course was the actual 3-D. Think 3-D film worth paying extra at cinema to see in 3-D.
Overall, a good (second half of an) epi that highlighted how far Riku has, inevitably, come in terms of character development, both emotional and spiritual, as well as of course losing the brattiness and becoming more mature. With some nice shots of a sunset-soaked Nino and parade-princess Nino. Think Nino. In anything other than mobile-phone-wallpaper.
No idea who the Amazonian blonde superheroine figure was, I’m guessing maybe Stella’s or Nino’s mum or some other random nutter who will be the catalyst of a future arc involving hidden treasure. Though, as I haven’t read the manga, it may also just be a big ol’ Arakawa Gag Contest style, er, gag. Which leaves the final dialogue between Nino and Riku, talking about water. Which sounds incredibly boring, lol. However, it was a neat (if innevitable) sort-of-conclusion, in the way they used the water imagery to highlight the hitherto key plot and character development…
…Falling into water. Deep water. Shallow water. Rushing water. Drowning/ drifting/ swimming in/ being rescued from water. Water softening rock. Water connecting things. And people. I could go on (don’t worry, I won’t). Though I’ll end with the final scene, which circles so prettily back to the first image that drew me to the show. That of Nino and Riku standing opposite each other on the banks of the river and beneath that arresting land-/sea-/sky-scape. Then, they represented opposites, now they (and the wider values they represent/ are associated with) are more connected, thus symbolising the power of friendship, community and love. And masks. Think… of all kinds.
Finally from me, thanks to the creators of such a treat of a show, to the readers/ commentators/ lurkers who’ve been keeping an eye on these blog posts, and to Crusader for letting me take over from blogging the series while he’s stuck in the suck. It’s been a bit of a thrill ride of Sister style proportions at times, but a definite pleasure and I, like most of you no doubt, will keep my fingers crossed for and look forward to a second series sometime in the not too distant future.
And finally from you, what were your highlights from this series?