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 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.
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.
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.