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Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi Set
Fans of crazy anime shows in the vein of FLCL and Excel Saga have probably already checked out Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. The thirteen episode anime came out back in 2002 and was put together by industry giant GAINAX. Having previously been released on four individual discs, ADV has compiled the entire series into a new three disc box set.
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is one of those shows that doesn't take itself seriously at all and throughout the entire run of the episodes it's pretty nonsensical. There is an underlying plot to the whole thing, but every installment is broken down into a random event that goes for the whole episode. It could almost be called a variety show because even though it is comprised of thirteen episodes, only two of them take place in the same world.
The tale focuses on two twelve year old kids named Sasshi and Arumi who's families live in the Abenobashi shopping arcade. Arumi's family runs a restaurant and she seems to be a little more grown up than her buddy Sasshi who a young boy into all things geeky. When Arumi tells her friend that her family is going to be moving far away things break down and you can tell that the childhood friends are being torn apart. Things only get worse for the two when one of Abenobashi's four gods shatters and the two are sent on a magical journey.
In the blink of an eye Arumi and Sasshi find themselves in a fantasy world that is actually kind of a rip off of the Dragon Quest game franchise. The world plays out like an RPG with Sasshi being the main hero and having to vanquish a great evil lord in order to beat the game. Standing in his way is a woman named Mune-Mune who's womanly curves make him fall head over heels. Naturally Arumi gets a little jealous about it, but even after this world she's not getting rid of this busty redhead.
When the two actually beat the end boss a goblin pops up and sends them to a futuristic world instead of sending them home like they requested. This little bit keeps happening and in every world they go to Mune-Mune is there looking for a mysterious man and the inhabitance of these worlds are people that they know. As the two hop from universe to universe they will eventually learn the cause of these magical happenings and what's preventing them from getting back home.
To say that Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi offers a few parodies in its run would be a definite understatement. Everything from movies to TV shows are spoofed here and done so with hit or miss success. A show of this type with random events and characters overreacting to everything doesn't usually sit well with me, but there is enough funny bits to make it entertaining enough. Seeing the characters go through a world that rips off Indiana Jones, The Matrix, Titanic and Jaws all in the same scene was easily a classic. Some other bits like Sasshi training to be a fighter and screaming "Adriaaaaan!" or even a 1950's film noir parody that turns everybody into super cute deformed characters when they get shot are also pretty funny.
Given the immaturity level of the humor and lack of any real intellectuality to the story, I was pretty surprised to see how adult oriented the show really is. Of course the rating in the packaging prominently displays that it is for mature audiences only but the look of the show is sure to appeal to younger viewers. There is a lot of swearing, heaving bosoms, cleavage, panty shots, penis shots, bare-ass shots and all manner of things including bodily fluids. A lot of it is there for pure shock value and unless you are expecting it you'll either be left in stitches from laughing so hard or your jaw will hit the floor in disgust.
That being said this show is definitely not suited for everyone, even if you are "old enough" to watch it. The random events and over-the-top reactions to nearly everything get old pretty quickly and about half way through the series really starts to drag. The constantly changing environments and outlandish characters are funny at first, but it really gets tiresome after a while. I found myself wishing that Arumi and Sasshi would just find their way home, be done with the insanity and get back to a normal life after only a few episodes.
Another point that will be hit or miss with you is if you're the type of person that likes A LOT of fanservice. When I say A LOT, I mean that about 75% of the show is goofy reactions, boobs galore, goblins that wear panties on their heads, clichés ripped from other anime and even magical transformations. I think its safe to say that I haven't seen another show with this much fanservice before and this is one of the reasons that the show starts to get boring after a while.
Even though the show is mostly about having a good time there is a moral to the story. The whole point of these adventures and strange happens for Arumi and Sasshi is basically a tale about growing up and accepting change. Some hard hitting points like taking death seriously and protecting or losing a loved one is heavily handed in the later episodes and really shows the depth of the characters. I didn't completely like the way that the show ended but I did have a lot of fun on the ride, especially in the beginning and the end of the series.
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is presented in 1.78:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen and looks absolutely gorgeous. The colors are extremely vibrant and the image looks so clean its ridiculous. There are a couple of points during the series where there is a minor amount of aliasing and pixilation in the darker areas but overall I had no problems with the transfer.
I have to say that GAINAX has done it again and I absolutely adored the artistic look of this show from beginning to end. The character and environmental designs are outstanding, although the style does vary from episode to episode. When the show tries to be serious this is some of the best artwork you'll see but when it degenerates into absurdity things can get a little out of control with low quality and repeat animations. Overall though, this is a beautiful show that got a very nice DVD transfer.
The show features two different audio tracks to choose from and depending what your personal tastes are they both offer some very good quality. The original Japanese track is presented with 2.0 Dolby Digital sound with English subtitles and has some very strong audio quality with a little bit of directionality. The English 5.1 Dolby Digital dubbing track is very good as well with a decent channel mix and an acceptable English voice crew.
Unlike the individual releases for the show which featured some worthwhile extras this box set compilation has absolutely nothing aside from a handful of ADV previews. I suppose that's the price you pay when you want to get a whole series, but they could have easily squeezed more content onto the three discs here.
This is easily one of those shows that you with either like or you will hate. If a lot of fanservice and zany humor are your thing, you'll be in heaven. If you prefer a more serious tone to your anime you'll probably want to pass. I'm somewhere in between and even though I love a good show with strong characters and story, I don't think a break in style once in a while is necessarily a bad thing. The show tends to drag at points but overall it's pretty entertaining with a lot of jokes and visual humor. Recommended