Milk, Eggs, & Fabric Softener: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi

One place, two kids, endless universes.

Let the adventure begin.

Well, despite my initial misgivings about Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (as mentioned in my First Impressions post) I went ahead and finished this series. Things certainly took a turn for the bizarre after episode one, but then fell into place after the next couple of episodes outlined the direction of the series as a whole.

Sasshi and Arumi try to get home... for the billionth time in a row.

Sasshi and Arumi are two kids (and best friends) who live in the Abenobashi area of Osaka. Arumi’s grandfather has an accident and falls off of a building, landing him in the hospital. Directly afterward, Sasshi and Arumi find themselves in a sort of medieval video game version of the Abenobashi shopping arcade. They meet their family members and neighbors as characters in this strange land, and finally set out in order to defeat a feared monster. Turns out they need a goblin to transport them back to their version of the shopping arcade. However, something goes wrong, and they end up in yet another version of their home, this one in outer space. Sasshi and Arumi bounce from one version of Abenobashi to the next, each with a particular theme: film noir, dating sim, fairy tale, war movie, etc. However, as their journey continues, Sasshi discovers his ties to a mystical and mysterious man named Eutus, and the kids gradually understand what’s preventing them from returning to their world.

Sasshi matures in more ways than one.

This anime surprised me. It began as drab and rather depressing, quite off-putting if you ask me. Then suddenly it’s loud and colourful and zany. It becomes rather formulaic a few episodes in: here’s this wild world! What is this place? There’s my family doing something embarrassing! We need to find that goblin and get back to our world! Oh no, here we go again! However, just as you get used to the system, things begin to change. Gradually layers of science fiction are introduced and theories of parallel universes emerge on a more intricate level than just “it’s our world, but different.” Not only that, but the characters, who initially seem to act merely as conduits for wacky comedic capers, actually develop emotionally. Arumi is already the more mature one of the pair, but Sasshi definitely grows and matures plenty himself throughout thirteen episodes, which is kind of an impressive feat in such a madcap comedy.

Mune-Mune in one of her more conservative outfits.

Perhaps “madcap” is the incorrect word to use. I’d say that this anime perfectly exemplifies a raunchy comedy to a “T.” There’s fan service coming from all sides, mostly from a bespectacled, buxom gal named Mune-Mune who appears in every Abenobashi universe. (It only gets more pervy when you discover who she really is.) Then there’s the episode in space in which a key plot point involves a goblin that steals Arumi’s underwear. It’s definitely crude humor, and yet, despite my preference for highbrow laughter, I did find myself chuckling here and there. The art is okay; it’s not my favourite, but it gets the job done. The music was mostly unmemorable, save for the cute opening theme “Treat or Goblins.” Oh, and it turns out that the Southern accents used in the English dub were for a reason, and truthfully, after episode two it stopped bothering me. I suppose I just had to get used to it. Overall, this anime was a bit much for me to crave a rewatch, but I am rather glad that I went ahead and finished the series. The ideas presented were interesting, and it got surprisingly deep as the show progressed, yet it managed to keep the jokes coming. In the end, it turns out that Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is a lewd comedy on the outside, a sci-fi story on the inside, and deep down at its heart, it’s about learning to grow up.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. LLJ
    Jan 25, 2012 @ 19:46:42

    Abenobashi is really an excuse to parody a variety of entertainment, mostly of other anime–though there are jokes and references to American movies as you obviously caught. It’s generally minor Gainax for me, though it is fairly popular amongst Gainax fans.

    What most comedy anime usually don’t have is good production values, so that is where Abenobashi generally stands out. It’s got a team of very talented animators who are used to doing a variety of other genres, so their versatility is put to good use here.

    Studio Gainax is sort of a darling to anime fans for their offbeat concepts and shows, so they can be overrated a little by hardcores. They’re a very important studio, though, having produced at least 2 anime that really changed the landscape of anime–Wings of Honneamise and of course Neon Genesis Evangelion. Much of their rep is based on these two historical trailblazers, and because they have such a talented animated staff now, they can sometimes get by based on the talents of their visual artists alone as well.

    For me, there are generally two eras for Gainax: Pre-Evangelion and Post-Evangelion. Before Eva, they were sort of this “indie” studio with maybe a handful of staff, and many of their anime often betrayed evidence of their lack of funds. After Evangelion, though, their shows got progressively better animated, and their animation staff seemed to grow and they generally had more money to work with. Abenobashi was clearly made in the post-Eva era, although I can’t help but feel some of that maverick “indie” spirit they had in the 80s and early 90s was lost after the financial success of Evangelion.

    Reply

    • Miss Pink
      Jan 26, 2012 @ 02:55:33

      Wow, thank you for all of the info! I’ve not seen Wings of Honneamise, and though I’ve heard of Neon Genesis Evangelion, I’ve not checked that one out, either, so I know next to nothing about Gainax. I can see how Abenobashi fits in with a studio known for offbeat concepts. I was very surprised at its depth, thinking after the first few episodes that it was a one-trick pony. It was a pleasant surprise. Though it’s not a series that appeals to me past the sci-fi level, it was very well done.

      I’ll definitely look into more from Gainax. I like indie films, so indie anime might be right up my alley! 😉

      Reply

  2. LLJ
    Jan 26, 2012 @ 12:50:17

    Well, I recommend Wings of Honneamise and Neon Genesis Evangelion with reluctance, since they’re responsible for as much of the bad as the good in some current anime.

    Wings of Honneamise is a gorgeous film in many ways, an expensive production that was made with virtually total creative freedom and not to sell merchandise, adapt a manga, or please a mainstream audience at the box office. As such, it was a complete failure when it was initially released, but its rep increased over the years as people saw the boldness of what it tried to do.

    Neon Genesis Evangelion…where to start with this one. It’s a big show. Even people who hate the show have to respect its impact. It coined and popularized the term “fan-service” and it steered TV anime into a different realm of ‘auteurism.’ It’s ostensibly a giant robot show–I don’t see a lot of giant robot anime reviews by you so far, so I don’t know if you’re into that genre or not.

    As the series went on, though, it became less a show about mecha and more a show about the characters’ emotional problems, and the series got more and more abstract as it went on. Some episodes were just an excuse for the characters to go on huge 15-minute internal monologues about their fragile psyche and emotional anxieties. Offbeat film techniques seemingly lifted from 1960s French New Wave auteurs like Godard, Rohmer and Chabrol started appearing. Adding fuel to the fire is the director’s own admission of depression while he was working on the show, and many charged the show as just an excuse for him to work out his personal problems while on the job. The TV ending is infamous for its lack of a resolution and complete and utter dismissal of the plot of the show in favour of the characters sitting on a folding chair and angsting about their mental problems for basically two entire episodes. This infuriated a lot of fans.

    Still, it made the show special. It was one of the most naked examples of an TV anime aired on mainstream TV being something more, showing that even TV anime could be used for personal expression.

    Somehow, the themes in the struck a chord with many Japanese viewers. It came at a time when Japan was really at a crossroads when it came to self-identity, so the show’s angry, introspective nature was something that probably appealed to them.

    It’s popularity in the U.S. can’t be underestimated either. Neon Genesis Evangelion was one of the first anime TV shows to be released in North America very soon after its airing in Japan. And Evangelion was one of those shows used to test the North American market to see how receptive it would be to TV anime, as we were mostly just getting short OVAs and anime films during this time. It also came at the dawn of the modern internet era as well, and the show’s complexity dominated much online discussion among North American anime fans in those days (which was around 1997).

    So yeah, it’s a show with a huge rep, with a lot of history behind it. You may have heard about these new Evangelion remake movies that have appeared recently. They feature incredibly good animation, new story elements and cut out much of the more abstract and introspective elements in favour of a more coherent main plot and less “whining.” These have been popular with newer anime fans who found the original series to be overrated, unfocused, abstract artsy-fartsy claptrap, etc,. But while being better productions overall, in many ways these remakes are a lot less unique than the original TV series.

    Reply

    • Miss Pink
      Jan 28, 2012 @ 13:10:59

      Yeah, you hit the nail on the head: I’m not a fan of mecha. I can live with a robot sidekick every now and then, but I don’t really enjoy shows where the robots dominate. Something about mecha just leaves me cold.

      But that’s fascinating how Neon Genesis Evangelion had so much of an impact. I kind of feel like it’s one of those shows that I *should* watch, buuut I don’t particularly want to, especially hearing about how it went off the tracks toward the end. Though I respect the director taking a different turn, and I definitely respect how much the series affected anime as a whole.

      Reply

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