Because Arakawa Under the Bridge has an odd number of volumes in Japan, Vertical’s eighth volume is not an omnibus like their other entries in the series. So while volume 8 is technically the shortest English volume, it features many of the manga’s strengths.
That being said, this volume starts off a little rough if, like me, this long year has caused your memories of what happened last time in Arakawa Under the Bridge to become a little — or a lot — fuzzy. I said in my previous review that volume 7 struggled as an omnibus, and since volume 8 picks right up where it left off, I can’t help but wish it was the Japanese volume 14 and 15 paired together.
So you might want to refresh your recollection before jumping into this last volume, as Rec is freaking out over the realization Nino may have fallen in love with someone else. Hoshi’s and Sister’s “comfort” and “help” during this time makes this rough time even more disturbing for Rec — and a naked Hoshi makes it all the more traumatizing!
But when it comes to a lack of clothes, that’s nothing compared to Kameari, who is trying to lure Nino away from the riverside at the behest of another nudist. Meanwhile, Potato Chip and Mole, who are working on a manga based on the Arakawa residents, return with a shaken Rec to see some compromising situations. Rec getting his heart broken seems inevitable to him — does that also mean death? Google Zoozle and everyone else seems to think so!
…However, readers know someone is plotting behind Rec’s back, and other Arakawa residents are lying to Rec at the behest of the Mayor. Why he is doing this, Kameari’s interest in Nino, and even Nino’s own past all collide as Rec and Nino have to evaluate their bond.
Arakawa Under the Bridge has toyed with Rec (and readers) about how much of what Nino and others have said is true versus a fabrication for whatever reason, and the manga finally confirms how crazy it is. Still, the author manages to troll readers right until the very end, and the color storybook pages here are probably my favorite of the series. While Arakawa Under the Bridge is a surreal comedy, the ending just emphasizes this is really a love story. A crazy love story, but also a beautiful one.
Community has also been a prominent theme in the manga, and I was disappointed that not everyone got a strong finish to their arcs and/or with Rec. After Hoshi’s unwanted sympathy in the opening pages, Rec ends up spending a significant amount of time with Potato Chip and Mole, the latter who tries to get Rec to not (physically or mentally) run away from Nino. With the series wrapping up, I just felt like there were other characters better suited for this situation. Plus, Mole’s big moment doesn’t have as much of an impact when he’s been putting up with Rec, and he has a significant role in the overall Arakawa Under the Bridge mystery.
On the other end of the spectrum, Hoshi’s final scene, for instance, was perfectly in character and contributed to a strong finish. He probably got special attention because of his feelings for Nino, but if only everyone had such a strong, emotional farewell instead of just, “Why are we doing this? Oh, well, heading off!”
I’m sure Nino’s past will cause a bit of stir among readers, and it makes me want to go re-read the entire manga to see what clues I missed or downplayed. It probably would have been better to do this before this final volume since I didn’t remember much about characters like Kameari besides “he’s a nudist”, which made Arakawa Under the Bridge volume 8 not the best volume since I wanted to concentrate on main characters like Hoshi, Sister, and everyone else before author Nakamura closed Rec and Nino’s emotional journey. But on that note, Nakamura wrapped the manga up wonderfully (and with great color art to match!), so I can’t complain too much.