Abenobashi Mahou Shotengai anime review

Abenobashi Mahou Shotengai anime review
Imamiya Satoshi, "Sasshi" to his friends, has grown up in the Abenobashi Shopping Arcade in Osaka, along with his childhood friend, Asahina Arumi. Now, all that was stable in his life is in ruins. His family's bath house has closed and been torn down, and Arumi's family is moving to Hokkaido - and taking her with them. In the midst of all this, something happens to the framework of reality, and Sasshi and Arumi slip into a weird parallel world. It's still Abenobashi, but not their Abenobashi. Strange things are afoot, and Sasshi must find out their meaning, in order to reach a goal that he barely understands.

Okay, I suppose that even Super Anime Studios, such as the powerful Gainax, are allowed to drop the ball once or twice in their lifetimes. And it's not even like Abenobashi is all that bad per se (it's still better than 90% of all the stuff I've ever seen)... It's just that I guess I've come to constantly expect the "completely incredible" out of the Giant X, as they've blown me away on just about every project that they've ever partaken in. From the first minute I saw Gunbuster, Wings of Honneymayonnaise, Otaku no Video, Nadia, His and Her, Eva and FLCL I knew that I was going to liquify my pants with juices of pleasure. Even though it took a few episodes (and even though it was basically "Gainax-lite") I still came to love Mahoromatic for all it was worth too. But Abenobashi....

Well, let me tell you a bit about it first, and maybe in explaining it to you I myself may come to a different conclusion as to how I should rate it. Sasshi and Arumi are 6th graders and lifelong friends. The Osaka town that they grew up in is basically getting torn down (even though it is a tight-knit neighborhood, it was getting really old and starting to crumble), and Arumi's family is making her move all the way up to Hokkaido so her dad could get out from under his own father's shadow in order to be the head chef in a fancy French restaurant. Sasshi's family's bath house has already been destroyed and we start off the whole story with him whining about their situations and Arumi chiding him that life goes on, and the world will keep on spinning no matter how much he bellyaches. But soon, Arumi's crotchety grandfather accidentally breaks one of the sacred ornamental guardians of the town and almost takes a swan dive into the pavement off his restaurants' roof. Then things get freaky for the two kids. They find themselves jumping from life to life, staring at mirror images that are not their own. Hoping that each leap will be the leap home. Heh, I should have added Dr. Sam Beckett to the title collage above.

Anyway, Sasshi and Arumi keep moving from one ridiculous world to the next and they have no idea why or how this is happening. All the worlds are based on things that Sasshi likes (RPGs, giant robot shows, war movies, dating sims, etc.), but is that because he's controlling it? Is it because somebody is trying to make him happy?... I'm not telling.

One thing the duo realizes right off the bat is that the worlds that they keep jumping to are bizarre to the umpth degree. All of their neighbors and friends reside in each of the wacky and zany and kooky places that they go to (each world is basically a different version of their beloved Abenobashi Shopping District), but they all have different roles to play depending on their new surroundings. And there are two new players that pop up in the new realities whom the kids have never even seen before: Munemune and Utas. Munemune is a bouncy (read: BOUNCY) glasses wearing cutie, and Utas is a mysterious and brooding blue-haired guy who seems to be the only one able to comprehend all the bizarre happenings. Neither really clarifies or helps Sasshi or Arumi very much at first... but then came episode 7. Up until episode 7 I was giggling every now and then at the weird situations and funny parodies (the parodies of Abenobashi are better than their equivalents in Excel Saga. They go further and they're even more rapid fire... if you can believe that), but I was starting to get a bit bored. It seemed that the show just existed to make fun of popular genres of entertainment (which is fine and all for an episode or two, but parody series need plot too). But episode 7 set me straight. 7 takes us back in time to the beginning of the Abenobashi Shotengai and gives us a few hints about the looniness that we just got through. It was pure Gainax magic. But then we went back into a few more episodes filled with parodies that kind of lost me again before returning to the main story and the hows and whys of it all, and the trippy finalé.

Really, I enjoyed the "real world" episodes and the explanation episodes much more than the satire ones. Although, the "American Movies" parody had me laughing out loud and punching the sofa cushion next to me (and sometimes Chi-Chi in the gut). I watched that one twice before moving on. They make fun of everything from the Terminator's arrival in the past, to Die Hard's skyscraper rooftop explosions, to Hitchcock's North By Northwest plane chase. The references were so fast and furious and I couldn't believe how many old movies they had in there too! Not that it was a downside for me, but I'm sure that 95% of the population will miss 50% or more of the jokes that fly out of the screen throughout Abenobashi's 13 episode run. I'm sure that I missed a good number of them and I'm pretty fluent in my knowledge of television, anime, Hollywood movies, gaming, tokimeki sims, mobsters, the Heian period and quantum physics. It never slows down and it never stops to explain a gag. If you are confused by the fact that that one girl turned into a cyborg angel and flew away after Sasshi picked her rival to confess to... You'll always be confused. You either get it, or you don't and you'll be scratching your head for a good long while after you're done watching it. The main storyline about the Abenobashi Shopping District itself is pretty much spelled out for you, but you have to be "in the know" in order to fully appreciate all the humor. It seems to me that Gainax only made this series as an in-joke for uber-fans of their own favorite pastimes. It's the kind of thing that loses its wittiness if you have to have it explained to you.

Looking back at it, Abenobashi is like a clumpy mix of Excel Saga's parody ability, FLCL's hyperness and eccentricities, and the Matrix's view of being able to bend the rules of your own universe. Plus, Abenobashi's theme (as chaotic as it may seem, yes, it has one) is about fate, and accepting what you cannot control.... However, despite the loooong and kooky road it took to get to that conclusion, the ending is a complete copout. Seriously, I thought better of Gainax. They basically sat us down, learned us a lesson, and then in the end (like dipshit parents who cave in too easily to their whining children) said, "Well, I guess you learned your lesson, so you can have the happy as a pig-in-shit ending that you thought you wanted from the beginning." Well I didn't want it! I learned my lesson along with Sasshi and Arumi dammit! If I had to grow up, then so should have they had to do it with the not being little children anymore!!! ARRRRGH!!!!!! So lame!!! And it had such potential to just bat the finalé out of the park with very little effort...

 

What did I think of Abenobashi Mahou Magical Land of Purchasing Desires? Well, when all is said and done I did enjoy the trip. I give it 245 out of 276 Points of Nonconformity. It wasn't bad, and if it had been any other studio I would have given it another 10 to 20 Points. But Gainax has just raised the bar so high for itself that anything less than perfection from them is just wrong. Though I can't wait for this to come out in the States just to see all the 1337-lamers pretend that they got every single in-joke that filled this show to the brim. I would love to just sit down with a bunch of them and make them try to explain every verbal and sight gag that comes up. Then I would kill them. Kill all the 1337ers. Just cause they piss me off.

Better than review, is a Trailer video of: Abenobashi Mahou Shotengai. Watch it now:
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