Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, October 17, 2005
Release Date: Monday, January 17, 2005
What They Say
More cracked than crack and madder than a March hare!
Here 'tis: the weirder, wilder, wackier second volume of 'Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi'! Suffice to say that Arumi and Sasshi still haven't convinced that pesky goblin to send them back to the sanity of the real world. From dinosaurs to detectives, cavemen to crime bosses, each jump the pair makes takes them to another fantastic world that's even more frantically frenetic than the last!
Get ready for more action, antics, adventure and a trip to the past that gives us a glimpse of a puerile punk named Masa (yes, that Masa)! The two kids from Osaka will square off against meteors, magicians, and not to mention the mob!
You'll laugh. You'll laugh again. You might even get grossed out. (But hey, at least you won't cry.) It's all waiting for you in the second off-the-scale volume of 'Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi'!
Includes 3 complete episodes.
It’s not entirely parody this time, but Gainax try to keep the laughs coming in this volume of Abenobashi.
I listened to the Japanese stereo track while watching this disc for my review, and noticed no distortions or dropouts. The track itself sounds good with both the dialogue and background music coming across really well. The manic action scenes sound particularly good. I really enjoyed the performances from the cast, with the actors for Sasshi and Arumi being particularly fun and fast paced, and the deliveries in the final episode really fitting in with the more dramatic tone.
I spot-checked the English language track, which is presented in 5.1, and I noticed no technical problems, though it didn't really seem a great deal different to the stereo track.
Abenobashi has the shiny digital look to it and, as has become typical of ADV, a very nice, crisp and sharp anamorphic widescreen transfer. I noticed no artefacts, aliasing or other problems during regular playback, and could just sit back and enjoy it with no distractions. Subtitles are in a clear, yellow font.
Packaged in a clear keepcase, the cover features Sasshi and Arumi in an interesting detective-style pose in the vein of the second episode on this disc. The show's logo is in the centre along with the volume number. The back cover features four screenshots, along with a description of the show, a list of special features and the cast list. Technical information is presented clearly at the bottom of the back cover, which is great as always.
The reverse side of the cover features a wrap-around image of Sasshi in his hero's outfit from fantasy land, along with several of the girls from the show including Arumi and Mune Mune in her dragon outfit.
For this release, ADV also put together a series of booklet inserts, and ADV UK have kindly brought them over to the UK as well. They feature a few insights on the characters and happenings in the episodes, and also a couple of really good pieces from Tetsuya Tanaka, who was in charge of the Osaka dialect and comedy rewriting on the series. It's all presented as "Weekly AbenoSpoiler", in a newspaper format that really fits the show well.
The main menu is done up with an image of Sasshi and Arumi from the second episode on this disc on the right, with the episode selections, languages and special features links listed on the left. The two sub-menus are of similar style but the language menu features a crazy image and the extras menu features a snail crawling across the bottom of the screen. Music from the soundtrack also appears on each menu. Thankfully the transitions on the menus are gone in this volume.
There are plenty of extras on this first volume. The big draw here is the AD Vid-notes, which are a pop-up video style selection of facts about the show and many of its references that plays along with the on-screen action. There's also a set of out-takes, and the obligatory clean opening and clean ending.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a fun first volume, we dive straight back in to the world-jumping adventures of Arumi and Sasshi, to see what kind of parody worlds the Abenobashi Shopping Arcade can throw at them. Only on this volume it’s not all comedy, as the mood changes with each episode, the last of which is far more serious in tone than anything in the series so far.
The first episode on this disc sees Sasshi and Arumi transported to a land where dinosaurs rule… but humans exist too. On entering Arumi takes a liking to a tiny little red triceratops, and Sasshi realises that this isn’t your usual dinosaur age, since species that existed at different times were all together at once. Of course, Arumi isn’t too please when he keeps geeking out and correcting her on the dinosaur names. The pair soon encounter Sasshi’s sister, who is a fortune teller who everyone in town worships and desperately wants the little red dinosaur from Arumi so they can kill it, as she foresees it bringing the destruction of the world. Alas, it turns out that she tells the fortunes by whipping people’s backs and reading the whip marks. There’s not much Sasshi and Arumi can do against her on their own, until Mune Mune buts in and comes to their rescue.
This is very much the same slapstick comedy that cropped up in the first volume, and it can be very funny in places (such as some of Sayaka’s musings and actions and the chase sequence part way through), but for some reason it didn’t quite click for me. I’m not entirely sure why, but in seeing this a long time after the first volume it didn’t quite resonate as well with me as I’d have thought it would. It’s always interesting to see how Gainax will throw in all the characters though, including the man that pops up in every world talking about the stars and seemingly knowing all about how Abenobashi Arcade really works.
With dinosaur arcade out the way, things go gangster in the next episode as Arumi and Sasshi turn into more adult versions of themselves and get involved into a plot involving some gangs. Sasshi ends up right in the thick of things, as one of the leaders things he is a famous sniper that they’ve been waiting for to do a job. They mistakenly offer the job to Sasshi, and it turns out they want him to shoot the chief of police, who just happens to be his grandpa. Meanwhile Arumi gets involved with the police, where she, Mune Mune and Sasshi’s sister form the Abeno Angels and try to foil the gang’s assassination attempts.
I have to admit that this episode had me laughing quite a few times. There are some really stupid scenes that are just downright funny, like the test that Sasshi goes through with the real sniper to see who can hit the can. He manages to hit it dead centre with a handgun thanks to a knock in the back, while the real sniper misses completely with a huge machine gun and ends up resorting to using some dynamite. Then you have Sasshi and the man who pops up in every world being super-deformed as part of the story, and when it happens to Sasshi and everyone treats him like he doesn’t matter it invokes quite a few laughs. But it’s not just comedy that this episode gets right, it’s also the entire mood and style. It’s done out in a lot more dull and dark colours, in stark contrast to earlier episodes’ bright and colourful tones, and it fits the setting really well.
The final episode on this disc is in stark contrast to all the others, completely changing the pace from comedy to something more serious and adult in tone. When Grandpa Masa gets injured, in hospital he reminisces about 50 years ago when he was in his twenties, and Abenobashi Arcade hadn’t even been built. Back then, he only had eyes for one girl, Mune Imamiya, but she had hers set on Masa’s mysterious new friend who came to town with plans to develop the area where they live into a massive Shopping Arcade.
It’s definitely an interesting pace, but for some who watch this volume in quick succession after the first it might be a bit too dramatic. If you’re after the usual comedic antics of the show, you certainly won’t find them in this episode, but it’s a bit more than that and I rather enjoyed the stark contrast in tone it provided in comparison to the other episodes. It is good to get to see some of the history of the Abenobashi Shopping Arcade, and also the three characters that take centre stage – Grandpa Masa, Mune Mune and Abe, the same stargazing man that appears in every episode. His story is perhaps the most interesting, as he had previously been something of a mystery and though who he is wasn’t exactly hard to guess, it’s nice to know for sure, and this episode certainly seems to be a key part of the ongoing story of the Arcade.
While the shifts in tone and changes of pace from episode to episode in this volume may put some people off, it actually managed to keep things quite refreshing and I rather enjoyed the break from the comedy (and focus on Arumi and Sasshi) in the final episode on the disc. Abenobashi certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s certainly enjoyable with a fun cast of interesting characters and an intriguing story.
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,AD Vid-Notes,Out-takes,Clean Opening & Closing
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
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