Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • 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

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     February 21, 2004
Release Date: January 27, 2004


Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi Vol. #2
© ADV Films


What They Say
Crazier than crack, madder than a March hare: it's the weirder, wilder, wackier second volume of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi! Suffice it 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 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 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-wall volume of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi!



The Review!
With the episode count dropped by one and the last episode here being fairly serious, the over the top comedy doesn't feel as forced and actually manages to get us laughing more than the first volume.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Using the crime world images from the second episode here, we get the really nice shot of Sasshi in near gangster mode while Arumi (who aged for this episode alongside Sasshi) gets dolled up nicely. 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 first volume. 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 shot of various iterations of Sasshi and Arumi trying to get away. It's a fully reversible cover, but the backside of it is straight artwork as opposed to a reworking of the original back cover, so you get one wraparound image with a proper spine.

Menu:
The menu layout utilizes the cool look of the front cover by bringing in the character artwork and setting some moving smoke around 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 as we didn't notice some of the same transitional animations that were in the first volume (or the English language bits either).

Extras:
The extras are similar to the first volume and fill out the release nicely. The Vid-notes take the top spot of course and fare better overall in this volume. They're not as frenetically filling the screen like the first volume and the jokes within the notes have dropped off a bit as well, something I'm definitely grateful for. 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first volume of Abenobashi, I didn't find myself all that enthralled with it. There were a few chuckles here and there, but with a necessary but weak opening episode and then some overly fast and frenetic comedy that felt far too forced, there was just something about those first four episodes that did not sit well. With comedy being one of the hardest things to reach across a large audience, it's not surprising either. A similarly designed show, Excel Saga, was very hit or miss with us as well.

The second volume, with one less episode and one episode given over to more serious back story, has a more balanced feel and didn't give the impression of going on for far too long. And we even laughed more during it. The opening episode has our pair of kids sent off to some dinosaur epic where all different periods of dinosaurs interact alongside a strange tribe of humans led by Sasshi's sadistic older sister. The Arcade is amusingly done up in stone blocks and everyone who lives there is pretty bad looking. The dinosaurs themselves are very cute cartoony versions with bright colors, but they're all accurately labeled by the vid-notes. Sasshi is in his geek element again in knowing all of them and ends up in the obvious argument with Arumi over the brontosaurus, which still gets me laughing when someone uses it. I even laughed when an oni-ized version of Mune-mune showed up with those massive mammaries moving about under that tight orange striped bikini top. There's a lot of chaos that ensues here until the duo find the demon to conquer after the mysterious Eutu provides them with a secret to finding their way home as he's particularly tired of running into them.

Their trip home is close but not quite as they end up in a crime syndicate style world. But unlike other trips, they've changed themselves as well and both Arumi and Sasshi are older, allowing them to put Arumi in something sexy while Sasshi gets the dark mysterious stranger trench coat look from many movies in this genre. The duo play out the parts well right from the start, both acting older than they are and being serious. When they're separated though by a hail of bullets, Sasshi gets taken to the den of evil known as Grill Pelican while Arumi spends her time trying to figure out what's going on. An entire Golgo 13 style meet-up starts to play out as Sasshi is mistaken as Rugolgo, the master sniper, while those in the club deal with the fallout from the chaos that ensues when the real Rulgogo shows up. Sasshi really gets to play things out nicely here since he manages to accidentally pull off aspects of the role such as being an ace shot.

If this series was nothing more than a constant trip to new worlds with nothing bigger going on, then anyone else would have done it and not Gainax. These folks those have something deeper working into the plot here, so the third episode on this volume takes us back in time to the late 40's and early 50's when in the post-war environment when much of the land was being cleared out and people were getting loans to start up again. Much time is spent with Arumi's grandfather and how he was working with one Mr. Abe (who is our mysterious stranger in all the other episodes) to build the Arcade and to keep the powers in proper flow in the area. During their work, we also get the teenaged Mune falling in love wit Abe instead of Masa, so there's love and drama unfolding as well as the beginnings of the Arcade come to life.

There's the hints of larger elements at work during this with Abe and how he operates, talking of things long past and more. The slower pace to the episode, the lack of any true wackiness and the passion of Masa's character is great. This helps humanize the Arcade even more, even though it's little more than a concept for much of the episode. It lets us see the kind of passion and effort went into these areas back when the country was being rebuilt. While they don't do a complete progression throughout the fifty years, there's some advancement and payoff in Masa's reflections on this period of his life.

In Summary:
With less on here, the material felt much more balanced and we definitely enjoyed it a lot more. The first installment of the series just felt too heavy and forced, but here it feels like they've managed to get into their groove nicely and the pacing isn't quite as frenetic for the lead duo of Sasshi and Arumi. These just didn't feel quite as heavy and packed as the science fiction and other genre episodes in the previous volume, letting us not get as overwhelmed not only with jokes but vid-notes of them at the same time with their own humor. While Abenobashi hasn't wowed us, this volume has managed to stir some interest back into the series when the first one was close to having us write it off.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,A.D. Vid-Notestm,Outtakes,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.

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