Ichinomiya Kou is a young man whose greatest worry is to get into other people's debts. Since young his father strictly taught him that everyone was to accomplish things on their own. When one day he drops into Arakawa River, everything begins to change for him. A girl called Nino saves him who claims to be a Venusian. He asks what he can do to repay the debt and she says that she'd like them to be lovers, knowing nothing about love on Earth. Unable to refuse Ichinomiya moves to Arakawa River where he lives with a group of Nino's friends who all seem to be wrong in the head. Being now part of that group Ichinomiya gets named 'Riku' - short for 'recruit'.
Where to start with this drama? There isn't really a story. It starts with Riku coming to Arakawa to clear a riverbed side. There are a few people living without permission and all of them are rather strange. But then he get indebted to Nino and since she asked him to become her lover, he agrees. Because his family policy is never to be indebted to anyone. To be able to fully life their relationship and fulfill Ninos request, he moves to Arikawa and thus meets all the other people that live there illegally. And so the fun starts.
The only sane character in this is Riku, and I wouldn't really call him all that sane after all. The drama is made up of many crazy characters. There is a star called Hoshi, a male nun called Sister who loves to shoot around. A kappa (played by Oguri Shun and pretty awesome!), Nino-san from Venus and many more, to only name the important characters.
So the drama starts off without a real story, only a few hints. Then during the last few episodes you get information on why Riku originally came to Arakawa. Lastly, they give you a preview on the movie with the real story! The drama itself is made up of many episodes that are short and they don't make that much sense. But they are funny, good to watch and after seeing this drama, I really really want to live there in Arakawa with all these people. They aren't included in society. They farm the stuff they need by themselves, someone has cows and another one is making music for them. They are living alone without money and all the stress that comes from it, while everyone provides something to their little community. I really love that. I want to go there, turn into a crazy fangirl of Hoshi and live there. I love the acting of all the characters, and having them point out that Oguri Shun is playing the Kappa at the beginning is really funny. Making him the narrator is also very nice. And for this kind of drama, I feel like the level of acting is rather high. I love it.
There isn't really anything that makes me dislike the drama, though the lack of story makes me take off one star. It is good - even without knowing manga or anime, just like me - but if you're looking for something with story, this might be the wrong thing. Also, they are really strange and unrealistic. I made my friend watch one episode with me, and he felt really bad afterwards, because it was too strange for him... So if you know japanese strangeness and like it, this is your thing! I bet you would also rate it high!
But if you dislike it, are looking for more romance or drama - you should probably watch something else.
Arakawa under the Bridge is about a group of social outcasts living next to Arakawa River in Tokyo. That's the basic outline but it doesn't show in any way what the drama really is.
It's about a guy who would seem pretty normal by most people's standards. Work and success are the most important things occupying his mind. He knows how to dress and how to behave in a competitive environment. The funny thing is that he gets thrown into a place were normal standards don't matter.
When one day he falls into Arakawa River and is saved by a girl who claims to be a Venusian, he is in her debt - which is basically the worst thing that could happen to him. To clear the debt he asks her about what he could do for her and she asks him to be her lover. After that he agrees to live where she does - next to the river with a group of what seems to be nutcases.
The drama is the contrary to most stories. It's not about fitting in or about trying to become a useful part of society, at least not the general society. What the main character has to learn instead is that it's okay to rely on others instead of trying to get ahead of them. It's not shameful to live the way one likes and to be happy just doing things for others.
The drama is really beautiful in every sense. The way the relationships between all the characters are portrayed is mostly hilarious but often just very touching. The cinematography, too, is gorgeous. You know that it's a riverside and that most characters house in a pile of garbage but it looks like the most beautiful place on earth.
Since it's based on a manga and since there's an anime, too, there are many discussions about which is best. I don't know about the anime but I really like the manga. Still, I don't think the drama is inferior in any way.