“Arakawa Under the Bridge” is a manga series created by Hikaru Nakamura (中村 光) in 2004, which was eventually turned into an anime, TV drama, and movie. I’ve only seen the drama and movie so will be focusing on those in this post, though I imagine the story is much the same.
This story starts out with the main character (Kou Ichinomiya) falling off a bridge and being saved by a mysterious girl named Nino, who later claims to be from the planet Venus. She leads him to where she lives, a makeshift village which has the atmosphere of a circus and band of strange characters including the chief who wears a costume roughly modeled after a “kappa”, a green creature from Japanese folklore with green scaly skin. The chief is played brilliantly by actor Shun Oguri, who also starred in the great drama Rich Man, Poor Woman.
Although there is a serious side to this story involving Kou’s relationships between his father, Nino, and the other characters, as well as his father’s company and the village of the weirdos, it’s the quirks of each character and interactions between them that really makes this show unique. To give two examples: there is a character Sister, who dresses like a Nun and carries a machine gun everywhere, and Hoshi (star) who is a self-proclaimed superstar and talks about Rock frequently. The dialog and story itself is so weird that you can tell it was first written as a manga, and the way the characters seriously act out these crazy personas really makes it something special.
The TV drama has 10 episodes, but to see the entire story you have to watch the movie, which includes all drama episodes plus over an hour of extra content that finishes off the plot cleanly.
Overall, the story and characters are very fresh and creative, and that is coming from someone who has seen way too many cheesy Japanese dramas. I highly recommend it!