Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi

Japanese Title: Abenobashi Mahou Shotengai
Also Known As: Abenobashi
Genre: Comedy
Format: 13 Episodes
Allegiance: Gainax
Director: Yamaga Hiroyuki
Vintage: 2002
Intelligence Agency Report by: Mira
Time hasn’t been kind to Abenobashi Shopping Arcade. A shopping district typical of post war Japan’s modernization efforts, it was once considered a marvel in its day; the fruit of many people’s dreams. However, due to neglect and the natural effects of time, it’s become rundown and trashy. With its scheduled demolition, Arumi and Sasshi, two best friends, face separation. Sasshi is particularly stricken, and is even more hurt by Arumi’s seeming indifference. One day, in a harrowing accident, a mysterious “guardian” statue on the roof of Abenobashi is broken and Arumi and Sasshi unexpectedly find themselves transported to another dimension. Now, their futures are even more uncertain, as they find themselves in a revolving set of goofy game and film inspired alternate Abenobashi realities. How will they get back to the real Abenobashi, or will they even want to?

Field Agent Report by: Mira
Overall 7.50
(not an average)

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is a Gainax offering along the lines of FLCL. It’s all there; adolescent angst complete with sexual tension, quests with symbolic meaning, goofball comedy and imaginative artwork. However, Abenobashi is not as deep or creative as FLCL. It’s a straight forward coming of age story despite its magical surface.

Abenobashi aptly spoofs the things media lovers know: sim dating, gangster movies, video games, mahou shoujo and just about everything else. The first episodes are especially funny, but sadly, the series as a whole isn’t funny enough. I’d have given up by episode three if it weren’t for the emerging story. The tale isn’t exceptional but it is mysterious and manged to peak my interest. Unfortunately, Abenobashi takes on a “world of the week” formula that dominates the series. As the gags become more predictable, they are an obstacle to the storytelling and seem like a pretense. The comedy sketches became so mediocre I resented having to sit through them. I just wanted the story to reach a conclusion. If you watch Abenobashi for anything do it for the funny characters. Arumi’s father, a simple short order cook, who dreams of becoming a fancy pants French chef, is a stand out example. There are also small touches of humanity that help the viewer connect to the characters. I dare you to not pick a favorite.

I was not disappointed with the visuals, but neither was I awed. The quality is the least I expect from Gainax in terms of technical merit and that’s high praise considering their reputation. The colors are clean and bright and fit the tone of the story. The music is fun and catchy. I especially enjoy the opening theme with it’s slightly hip hop vibe and silly lyrics.

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is unpretentious and silly, but not aimless. It even gives the unforeseen pleasure of a tidy ending even if it is a little forced. That’s something Gainax can afford to add to its stable. All in all, Abenobashi is good for some laughs but doesn’t leave a lasting impression.