Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi Vol. #4 (of 4) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, April 20, 2004

What They Say
All the world-hopping, eye-popping, role-swapping, non-stop madness has come down to this, the fantastical final volume of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi! And the action and mystery don't let up until the last satisfying minute! First, Sasshi and Arumi go to war, both figuratively and literally, as they face off in a contest of wills over the prospect of returning home, all while dodging bombs, bullets and more than a few militaristic bullies. Then, it's off to a "Holly-weird" episode that lets the crazy Hollywood references fly! Suddenly, our homesick duo runs smack dab into a revelation that could change their lives forever. If our intrepid heroes manage to find their way home, things may never be the same for them again. The magical journey's end is in your hands in the oh-so-revealing wrap-up of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi!

The Review!
Bringing the series to its conclusion, Gainax manages to actually cop out on Abenobashi and provides an unsatisfying ending.

With this series having such a heavy slant on Osaka dialect and puns, so much so that they even have a credit for an Osaka Dialect Comedy Rewrite position, we decided to go with the Japanese language for this series. The track is a fairly standard stereo mix that has some good movement across the forward soundstage at a few times, usually when the characters go zooming across the screen. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2002, Abenobashi is presented here in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is encoded for anamorphic playback. The transfer for the show is very clean looking and free of most of the usual problems, though there is a bit of aliasing in a few areas during some of the digital panning, but it's very minimal. The series has a wide variety of color palettes used; the first episode is done very real world styled for a lot of it from backgrounds to character animation, but once things kick in there's a lot of vibrancy used, such as in the third episode.

Since Arumi really started to get into things with the world jumping, it's not surprising that we get a good cover of her reflecting that in her face while Sasshi tries to keep up with her. The final cover is pretty simple in its nature and that works out really nicely, keeping the focus just on the two of them. The back cover provides some varied shots from the show along a strip on the side while also going through a couple of paragraphs of summary. The discs features are clearly listed and the technical side is well listed in the box block along the bottom. The insert included for this release is the continuation of what we really liked with the previous volumes. It's done up as a weekly magazine for the Arcade where inside you have all sorts of shots from the episodes and jokes relating to them as well as informational pieces. It's in full color and looks fantastic and something that adds great charm to the release. With this release being in a clear keepcase, the reverse side cover has a wide shot across both panels and the spine highly chaotic set of scenes from what looks like various different worlds but mostly the Hollywood themed world..

The menu layout avoids using the cover art this time around and has a static shot of the two leads against each others backs in the center while footage from the show done in newsreel form plays behind them. All of this is set to a brief part of the opening song and the menus are anamorphic as well. Access times are fast even with the minor transitional animations that shift the menus from one screen to another.

The extras are similar to the previous releases and fill out the volume nicely. The Vid-notes take the top spot of course and fare better overall in this volume but still felt like sometimes they were over explaining the gags. The opening and ending sequences get their textless versions done up here and there's also a few minutes worth of dub outtakes. These are done pretty well, with the section done properly showing up first and then the outtake itself following it. There's also a commentary track with Jessica Boone, Luci Christian and John Gremillion but we didn't have the opportunity to check it out.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After all that's been learned so far, especially with Sasshi and his abilities as an Omnyou after spending time with Eutus, things for the pair are looking to get a bit strained. While Sasshi has been trying to give Arumi everything he thinks she could ever need, she's becoming more insistent on seriously getting home. But with him still being the only one that knows that her grandpa Masa has died there, he can't bring himself to both tell her and to take her home. So off they go on yet another leap through Sasshi's mind?

And end up squarely in a world war styled Arcade where the two of them are split apart and fighting against each other. Sasshi ends up on the Japanese side and wears one of the classic uniforms, constantly dealing with the backwards structure that's set up here and racing from place to place doing things that are only designed to get him killed. Arumi ends up in the opposition military structure that wears the German styled outfits where she's a leader in the Pelican Army that's fighting against the Turtle Bath Army. The show goes back and forth between shoot-em up conflicts and one on one moments and obviously a lot of military based gags. Unfortunately, this has to be one of the weakest episodes of the series. There's a lot of gags about the accents going in and out throughout it that work less if you have the vid-notes on since they tell you each time it happens. About the only jokes I laughed at were the Excel Saga related ones.

Their only other real trip to a world from Sasshi's mind takes them to a massive Hollywood set where they end up encountering all sorts of wildness related to the town but mixed into the Arcade. They even kick it off with Sasshi landing like Arnold from Terminator (complete with tiny knob visible) while Arumi falls in naked like Reese and they go through some of the opening material with it. Throughout the episode there's a wide variety of encounters, such as the cross dresser showing up as Robocop but with his nipples visible with the plus of turning into a motorcycle, references to tons of films like the Road Warrior and more. The absolute best that had me falling on the floor laughing was the Tarantino/Elvis moment where every other word was fuck in Japanese. Listening to it in the English track, it sounded overdone since there was more cursing in it and lost some of its shock value since you practically never hear that in the Japanese track. I can't think of one other show that's ever had that to be honest.

Things pick up quite well later on though. During one brief spell, the duo end up actually back on their real world where Sasshi's father chastises him for being a kid and not living in the reality. He goes on about how Eutus dealt with him in his past as well but he gave all that "kids stuff" up long ago and lives in the real world now and pushes Sasshi towards it as well, especially since Arumi needs to be getting back to help deal with the vigil for Masa. Sasshi tries to keep everything secret from Arumi but there's some hint of her remembering their last trip as well. Sasshi tries to leap again and ends up in the kind of world you know Anno would come up with that's just got some simple crayon drawings since Sasshi can't think of where to go.

This sequence provides a number of revelations about the nature of things and the why of the show to some extent as well. As the show starts getting to the core of its point, it really hits things in the straightforward obvious manner. It all comes down to that you have to face reality and grow up and not run away from the things that scare you. It's a simple thing really and it's launched an uneven series, depending on your point of view. Arumi's growing quicker into adulthood, which is typically normal for girls, than Sasshi is and she's got plans for her life. When she starts talking about how going to Hokkaido is something she's looking forward to since it's the first stop on where she wants to go with her life around the world, this is something that Sasshi has a hard time understanding. His life has revolved around the Arcade and Arumi for so long that he hasn't really thought of anything else and sees his abilities as an Omnyou as the best way to keep things like he wants.

Unfortunately, instead of having things move forward like it should, the story cops out in the end. We get a bit of foolery with Eutus after Sasshi makes an impassioned summoning for him where Eutus realizes just who Sasshi really is when he ages him into an adult and lets him use the full extent of his powers. Sasshi's problems prior to this was that nobody took him seriously since he was a kid, and that was because he IS a kid who has unrealistic expectations of the world. Through Eutus' involvement, he lets him age briefly into an adult with his full powers but with the desires of his younger self. So that means no dead Masa, no Hokkaido and a revitalization project for the Arcade instead.

I like anime because usually they don't take the convenient or fairy tale endings. Abenobashi was on the track to a fairly good ending in that you expected to have Sasshi realize just how things really do work in the world. When we got his adult form, I expected him to realize that using his powers to change the world would be wrong and that things would then go forward properly, with his younger self now the wiser to the ways of things. Instead, the childish desires win out and he gets to keep everything around him. Does Arumi become deprived of her dreams to travel abroad as well? Quite possibly, but it's not actively said. But if Sasshi is letting his desires get the best of him this much, then I can easily guess the rest.

In Summary:
Abenobashi overall has been a fairly hit or miss series, something that didn't surprise me too much when you note the similarities between it and Excel Saga in doing each episode in a different style or tackling a different genre. I tended to like the ones people didn't like and there's some general crossover appeal episodes as well. The darker more exposition oriented episodes in the middle were intriguing but others felt they slowed the pacing down too much. Overall, the series had highs and lows that most other series only dream of having. With comedy titles, and I've noted this before, it can be very hit or miss on appealing to people. A series like Abenobashi plays the comedy across so many genres that it's easy to have episodes that just don't click at all. This volume had some material that really worked and then started to set up a decent fairly satisfying ending once the basic tale become more obvious but then decided to go the other direction, leaving us unsatisfied with how it played out. Thankfully I can simply revisit only the episodes I liked in the future and avoid the bad ones.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,AD Vid Notes,Outtakes,Commentary with Jessica Boone Luci Christian and John Gremillion,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: C-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi