Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (Abenobashi Mahō Shōtengai)

This bizarre anime was suggested to me by an old school friend on Facebook late last year and I can't believe I am just now getting around to making a post about it. So I'd like to apologize about that. Matthew Pituk, this one is for you.

You want to talk about bizarre? Abenobashi will get your bizarre fix going on. You want enough obscure anime and cultural references in an anime to feel like you need liner notes to explain all of them? Abenobashi has you covered there, too. 

I've been trying to cut down on buying anime I haven't seen lately because I knew that if I keep doing that I will quickly find myself becoming something akin to an anime hoarder. And as I've said many times previously anime is very expensive. However, I chose to buy this anime for myself when I heard someone on Amazon describe it as Fooly Cooly as written by Lewis Carroll. I haven't actually read Lewis Carroll, but I am familiar with the tale of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (as we all are) and I can verify that that description is quite accurate. 

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi simply defies all logic and does whatever the hell it wants to. That's not to say there isn't a plot, though. There are actually a few plots. One of them being quite a bit more difficult to understand than the other. 

But first let's talk about the nerdy stuff. Each episode is kind of like a smorgasbord of pop culture references. So much so that I can't really recommend this to newbies of the anime genre. To really get everything you have to be well-versed in the ways of the nerd. Space (the mecha genre, in particular), high school romances, Hong Kong fight movies, Hollywood, and even hardboiled noir all get there own episodes as Sasshi and Arumi try desperately to make it back to their own Abenobashi.

Why are Sasshi and Arumi unable to get back to their own world? Well, that is the primary question asked by the series and I'd like to leave that to the series to adequately explain.

I will say that issues with maturity do enter the equation, though. I mean, we all have to grow up sometime and face certain bitter truths. Although you certainly wouldn't think so judging from appearances, but that is one of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi's central lessons. 
Of course, I didn't think there were going to be any lessons at first. The first half of the series seemed to be nothing more than a barrage of references and anime parodies. It wasn't until the second half that the real story began to form and anime became compulsively watchable. 

I think there is something in this anime for everyone, but everything is crammed together so quickly that I think it makes it tough for most people to really get. That's one of the reasons why, even though this anime was released in 2002, you don't often see this title high on the list of anime to watch. In fact, before I had been recommended to watch the anime I had not heard of it, either. Yet I find it difficult to believe that Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi has an extremely small audience when Fooly Cooly can become a Toonami mainstay for years. Plus there are Monty Python references!

Abenobashi was popular enough to get a dub and good DVD release, though. On the DVD there are outtakes by the English dub cast as well as commentary from the English dub cast. There are also liner notes (as I mentioned earlier) that might help you get the story better. I didn't watch the episodes with the liner notes so I'm not quite sure what they try to elaborate on, but I'm sure I'll give them a once-over sometime later on for the sake of completeness. 

The dub is certainly an odd one because all of the characters talk with a Southern twang. I didn't watch the dub, but I did watch a few of the outtakes and I think that the voices actually sound competent and like a good substitute for the Osakan accents used by the Japanese actors. However, Southerners saying Japanese names is... odd. Maybe that's why this anime didn't take off in the States. 

Before I end my review I should mention that this anime isn't for kids. At all. There's quite a bit fanservice and nudity and even some foul language (mostly in the Hollywood episode where one of the characters drops the F-bomb about fifteen times). 

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