Friday, April 8, 2011

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi Anime Review

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
Abenobashi Maho Shotengai
ADV Films
Complete Collection - 4 discs
325 mins. - 13 episodes
$39.98 (2012)
$49.98 (2009)
$59.98 (2007) Collector's Tin
$49.98 (2005)
$39.98 (2003) Vol. 1 w/Artbox
$29.98 (2003) Vol. 1-4/ea.
ISBN 702727174629
English/Japanese Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Hiroyuki Yamaga
Studio - Gainax/ Madhouse

Synopsis: The Abenobashi shopping arcade has been around a long time, but a new redevelopment project spells its doom as most shop owners have left for greener pastures.  Originally built by Mr. Abe the shopping arcade is protected by four mystical animal guardian statues.  Sasshi and Arumi grew up in the shopping arcade and have always wondered about the weird statues watching over the place.  When Arumi's grandfather suffers an accident trying to save one of the statues from breaking the pair is transported to another world. 
Arumi and Sasshi live in the Abenobashi shopping district,
but it's set to be demolished in a redevelopment project
Arriving in a strange world filled with dragons and sorcery the youth are shocked to find alternate versions of the shopping arcade denizens.  Defeating the level boss of the fantasy world they attempt to travel home and instead end up on a space colony.  Similarly populated with shopping arcade parodies they must once-again defeat the world boss (this time a gigantic robot) for another chance to go home.  World after crazy world await Sasshi and Arumi, but two new faces keep appearing in each new version.  Mune-Mune (literally translated as chest-chest) a large-breasted, flirtatious woman typically shows up as a foil and Eutus who claims to be a powerful sorcerer. 
The shopping arcade is said to have four mystical guardian spirits
with four corresponding statues.  Unfortunately a local cat sends one flying
The mystery of the shopping arcade and strange alternate realities is slowly uncovered, but Sasshi and Arumi must come to terms with true events that have already happened in the real world.  Sasshi discovers his origin and with it his birthright to strange mystical powers (they ain't all they're cracked up to be).  Sasshi is the first to realize the event which they are running from and he must decide whether to protect Arumi from the truth by subjecting her to more imaginary realms.  Does he allow her to be hurt by finding out what happened?    
The two kids travel to a multitude of zany parallel worlds with odd
versions of shopping arcade locals and the crazy Mune-Mune
Pros: Anime genre spoof worlds were really funny (like sci-fi, fantasy, dating sim worlds), surprisingly deep storyline to back up the comedy, super-catchy opening theme song, great booklet with details of each set of episodes (explains why the main characters talk with a Texas drawl), outtakes were hilarious, some mild fan-service
Did I mention Mune-Mune is crazy?
Cons: Some of the spoof worlds fell flat (war world, hard-boiled detective world, dinosaur/prehistoric world), animation quality fluctuates in some episodes (specifically the dinosaur world), felt too long at 13 episodes of non-stop craziness, ending theme song was weak, Osaka ;)
Sasshi and Arumi land in a prehistoric world with cavegirl Mune-Mune
Mike Tells It Straight: Created by Gainax after Fooly Cooly (FLCL) and capturing some of its wild energy, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (MSAA) is a fun comedy satire of different pop culture genres.  Whereas FLCL was relatively short at six episodes, MSAA comes in at a full 13 which feels like a stretch due to the non-stop parodies.  If you want to laugh at some zany hijinx then you're in the right place.  
Arumi and Sasshi in an intense street fighter version of the shopping arcade
Later in the series the reality backstory offers a nice contrast to the comedy and the show has a good ending.  I liked this series quite a bit despite some of the parallel worlds being a little too silly (like the crime noir one).   The story was good, animation was solid, opening theme song was super-catchy, and it's Gainax!
I mentioned Mune-Mune is crazy, right? 
TO BUY and Recommendations: