Tannhäuser and Arakawa Under the Bridge
November 10, 2010
Some time ago, Wabisabi once wrote briefly about Wagner’s Tannhäuser and its possible influence on Arakawa Under the Bridge [click to read]. It’s a fascinating observation, one that I wish to explore further in this post.
For Kou there is the ‘normal’ world, and the world under the Arakawa bridge. In Tannhäuser there is Wartburg (world of reason, intellect) and Venusberg (world of madness, ecstasy).
Wartburg is a protestant society, demanding people to live a life dictated by religious and moral codes. The people of Wartburg are made to live a virtuous and sensible life, just as Kou has lived his life according to common sense. Looks, wealth, social positions. They are mere social constructs, murky clouds of vain illusion which Kou shrouds himself around in. What is common sense anyway?
On the other hand, Venusberg is where Tannhauser finds himself free from those social constructs and do whatever he please, and Nino and her friends too have gathered under the bridge where they are free. This is where Hoshi can become a shining star by singing crappy himo tune, a haven for Potechi to draw awesome gekiga styled manga instead of moe rubbish. It’s where Kou can become Riku, Nino’s fiance, and someone who can give without wanting something in return. Funny how some of us must wear masks just to be ourselves.
But what is Tannhäuser trying to say? Why did Tannhauser leave Venusberg and all its freedom? And why did Elizabeth (his fiance) forgive him, despite the fact that his sins could never be forgiven in such a morally strict society?
All the ecstasy and freedom of Venusberg couldn’t stop Tannhauser from returning to Elizabeth in Wartburg, and no moral codes could make Elizabeth punish Tannhauser, no matter if one is a saint or sinner, jesus or alien from cosmos. Because one’s compassion for another is what makes us whole.
Apparently the manga is only starting to give hints about Nino’s origins after 10 volumes, and it’s uncertain how many seasons will be produced to finish the anime series. But I feel fairly confident in the way Shinbo has been leading this series, so I will be keep following to see how it all turns out in the end.