a.k.a. Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai
Imamiya Sashi and Asahina Arumi are two adolescent kids living in Abenobashi, a shopping district in Osaka, Japan. In Abenobashi, everyone is always kind, giving and has a smile on his face. One day, the pelican statue on top of Arumi’s family’s restaurant falls to the ground and breaks, and subsequently a lot of weird things start happening. Before long, Sashi and Arumi find themselves in a parallel world; it’s still the Abenobashi shopping district, but everything else is different. How will Arumi and Sashi ever return to their original world?
summary by Keitaro
Highs: Hilarious parodies; deep characters; immensely creative
Lows: Comedy and drama do not blend well; inconsistent plot; bargain-bin animation
What an ambitious series! Once again, Gainax shows that they have no creative boundaries and are not afraid to take chances. The only way I could describe Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is FLCL meets Excel Saga. Think deep characters and a profound look at life through the eyes of kids, with more parodies than you can count.
The first few episodes left me with very mixed feelings. Each episode was so tremendously diverse to the point I found myself confused. I also didn’t know what to think of the two main characters, Sashi and Arumi; neither particularly impressed me. This changed quickly, though. Sashi and Arumi turned out to be much deeper than I could have imagined, and the plot developed well because of that. It became more than just a comedy, and I really cared about the characters and a wonderful seiyuu cast only contributes to this.
Sadly, there are a few large flaws with Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi that really hurt it. The show is jam-packed with comedy, but too often doesn’t take itself seriously enough. In the parts that needed to be serious, there would be some kind of slapstick comedy. The whole series is too inconsistent, and the plot does not flow well. One episode could be wonderful, and the next terrible. Finally, while the art style is similar to FLCL, the animation is a great deal worse.
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi has Gainax written all over it. It is creative, ambitious… hell, it’s flat out ingenious. Unfortunately, there are a few flaws that will keep it from becoming the classics that FLCL and His and Her Circumstances have become.
Highs: Surprisingly good drama; creative concept
Lows: Love-it-or-hate-it comedy; needs less fan service
Let’s just jump right in: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi‘s shining element is its drama. The comedy might receive the bulk of the focus, but the drama is what saves the anime from being merely a FLCL clone. Yes, you wouldn’t expect the genre-per-episode format to feature much in the way of serious issues, but the manner in which the dramatic scenes convey far more than just the simple lives of real people is strongly reminiscent of His and Her Circumstances.
In a way, even the main character’s personalities and chemistry remind me of the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes; Sashi’s colorful imagination creates many adventures and a lot of fun, while Arumi almost acts as his necessary counterbalance to keep situations from becoming too chaotic. In part, this is all due to the concept that, while not exactly original, provides a creative vehicle for the story and characters to expand.
And while the concept makes this anime tick, the comedy is barely alive. Despite featuring parodies of numerous anime (Fist of the North Star, Card Captor Sakura, Ranma ½ among others) and Hollywood movies (2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator, Robocop), the mile-a-minute comedic pace didn’t really get that many laughs, chuckles or snorts from me. Perhaps the comedy didn’t quite reach across cultural and/or linguistic barriers all that well, but I found myself even turned off by it at times, especially when fan service was supposed to produce a substantial part of the laughs. I lost count of many times Munemune shoved Sashi’s face between her rather large breasts or the number of scantily clad dresses worn by female characters whom were merely eye candy.
If you do happen to catch Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi and the second and third episodes have you gasping for breath because you’re laughing so hard, then you’ll like this anime. And what if you don’t? Look at it from my perspective: at least the drama is worth watching.
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.