An Actual Review: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi

Okay, back when I started this blog I said I would resist doing regular reviews, because there are about 800,000,000 blogs that review anime, so who needs another?

But then I ordered up some obscure anime from A Certain Retailer (like I said then, if they want a shout-out here, they can pay me for an ad) and asked the crowd what I should watch next. The consensus choice was Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi.

I’m going to call it MSAA from now on. I hope the reason is obvious.

I ordered it because there was supposedly some relationship between it and the original FLCL, which I liked a lot even though it was a pain in the ass to figure out what the f*** was going on there. What that connection is I haven’t figured out. I suspect someone was BSing me.

But I like MSAA. I like it a lot.

The premise is that there are two grade school kids, Sasshi and Arumi, who are BFFs in Osaka. (You can tell they are in Osaka from their distinct accents, which in the dub is Texan.) Sasshi’s a boy and Arumi’s a girl, so there’s one level of conflict there, plus Arumi is pretty level headed and Sasshi’s pretty air headed, so there’s that, too. Alas, Arumi is moving to Hokkaido. (Insert sad face emoji here.)

MSAA

From left, Arumi, Sasshi, Mune-Mune (living up to her name)

By magical means they end up in alternative Abenobashis, parallel universes, if you like. Little magical gremlins can send them home…If they really want to go home. Arumi really does…her Dad is going to Hokkaido to fulfill his dreams and she is Daddy’s little girl…but deep down inside Sasshi doesn’t want to go back. If he does, Arumi will leave him. Also, what he knows and she doesn’t is that her beloved grandfather Grandpa Masa will be dead (he died in an accident).

So, since Sasshi, deep down inside, doesn’t want to go home, they end up in different Abenobashis that are drawn from Sasshi’s imagination. One’s a war story; one’s a fairy tale; one’s a noir; one’s a dinosaur story, one’s an RPG, one’s a mecha. And so on and so on. Each of them is inhabited by the same characters from their original world – Ms. Aki, the transvestite; Arumi’s father, the French-trained chef that speaks with an affected French accent; Sasshi’s sister Sayaka, who is about as older sisterish as an older sister can be – but placed in new roles.

In most of the worlds they also run into this strange fan service woman (few clothes, E cup bra) called Mune Mune (according to the notes, this translates roughly as “Booby Booby”) who it turns out is Sasshi’s grandmother. (The granny glasses are a dead giveaway.) And if you go back before she and Sasshi’s grandfather were married, she was hot for Masa.

I liked it. I liked it a lot.

Yeah, it was silly at times, and yeah, there’s some annoying (to me) levels of fan service. But it has a lot going for it:

Sasshi and Arumi genuinely like each other. They’re real friends and act like it. Typical of anime child friendships, Sasshi gets whapped upside the head with a paper fan numerous times.

The different worlds are wildly imaginative. Many of them are stereotypes of other movie or anime genres, but because the episode is only about 20 minutes long without the front and end material, they don’t get stale and they do have the ability to lovingly mock the genre at hand.

Because it’s an anime that draws settings from other genres, it’s totally meta (self-referential). I like meta to begin with…when I was learning computers we called it “recursion”…and there are about a thousand jokes that refer to other series or movies. There are gags drawn from Neon Genesis, Rocky, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dragonball Z. Those are just of the few I caught, and I didn’t catch them all by any means. It seems like there are a million of them.

The cool thing about the DVD is that it has a feature that explains the cultural references if you turn it on! (It’s like watching “Pop-Up Video” on MTV…the reference pops up at the key moment. I just saw one…in the fairy tale episode Arumi sees a gaudy castle. The footnote says it’s a reference to a chain of eyeglass shops in Osaka!) I love that kind of stuff! A great deal of humor and story is tied to culture – I’ve mentioned that before – so an explanation clarifies the details. There are literally scores of gags that made no sense to me without the pop-ups, but with them…Oh, yeah!

The animation is strong, well done, and very active. They adopt different styles at appropriate times…one thing MSAA does have in common with FLCL…and it’s of high quality. It’s strong and dynamic, and it looks really good.

The dub is really good. (For a number of reasons I will almost always choose a dub over a sub.) The cast is led by Luci Christian as Sasshi (she’s done a lot of work for Funimation; you might know her as Kaname from Full Metal Panic or Nami from One Piece. She was frickin’ hilarious as the narrator of Okami-San and her Seven Companions.) Her performance is excellent, and most of the actors around her are pretty good as well.

It’s funnier than three and a half monkeys. Maybe more.

I think what appeals to me most is the Peter Pan aspect of Sasshi’s character. This is the heart of the series: He doesn’t want to grow up. But by the end of the series you understand that he has to. And he understands it as well.

I like it. I’ve watched it twice already and I’ll watch it again. In fact, I’m watching it again right now.

Is that a useful review? If not, what else do you need to know?

3 thoughts on “An Actual Review: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi

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