Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • 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
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • 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. #4

By Dani Moure     February 17, 2006
Release Date: May 09, 2005


Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi Vol. #4
© ADV Films UK


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 seriously 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!
The final volume of Abenobashi provides an interesting, if slightly strange conclusion to the series...

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Packaged in a clear keepcase, the cover features Sasshi and Arumi in their regular outfits in an action pose. The show's logo is at the bottom 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 bizarre wrap-around image of several of the characters as they appeared in the Hollywood parody episode.

For this release, ADV also put together a series of booklet inserts, and ADV UK has kindly brought them over to the UK as well. They feature a few insights on the characters and happenings in the episodes, all presented as "Weekly AbenoSpoiler", in a newspaper format that really fits the show well.

Menu:
The main menu is done up with an image of Sasshi and Arumi in the centre as clips from the show play in the background, with the episode selections, languages and special features links spread across the centre. The two sub-menus are of similar style but this time the language screen is a rather dull static screen as opposed to the episode-style ones that appeared before. Music from the soundtrack also appears on each menu.

Extras:
Extras here are much the same as before, with one addition. 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. These are really useful for the episodes in which you might not pick up on all the references. There's also a set of out-takes, and the obligatory clean opening and clean ending. Finally the addition here is a commentary track with three of the English voice actors, looking back over the series and generally having a bit of fun.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Over the past three volumes, Abenobashi hasn’t really completely grabbed me. Sure, there’ve been parts I’ve enjoyed, but it hasn’t quite gelled how I’d expected it to, and there have been some real hit-and-miss moments. It’s like that with most parodies, as there will be things that will resonate with you and things that won’t, and it’s actually quite rare for someone to enjoy every single part of it.

Nevertheless, I had quite high hopes going in to this last volume that things would actually come to a satisfying conclusion. There’ve been a couple of episodes in between the comedy that have been more dramatic in tone and focussed on different areas of the show. One of the key factors that’s started to be explored has been Sasshi’s reaction to hearing certain things, such as knowing that Grandpa Masa will be dead if they go back to the real Abenobashi, and of course losing Arumi as she’ll be going off to Hokkaido.

Despite my hopes though, there was always something in the back of my mind reminding me that this is a Gainax show, and they are of course renowned for their strange, complete change of direction and often cop-out endings (see the likes of Evangelion and Mahoromatic to certain degrees). Unfortunately for Abenobashi, its ending falls in to the “cop-out” category, and it’s a shame because whereas the ending could’ve lifted my overall view of the series, instead it knocked it down a notch.

But the disc starts as you might expect, with another parody. For the first episode, it’s war! Here we have Sasshi on one side of a war and Arumi on the other, both sides wanting control of the Abenobashi Shopping Arcade. Sasshi begins the episode by running between several different people, each one sending him on a trek to pass a message to the next, and each reciting their ridiculously long names with complete ranks. He’s soon sent into battle by, Mune-Mune, his Commander who abandons him saying he should put his life on the line for her, and is nearly killed by one of Arumi’s tanks. Things soon turn around though, and Sasshi ends up coming out promoted and working on the next strategies, and so the war wages on.

This was quite a fun episode and as soon as I saw the next episode preview at the end of the last disc I expected to enjoy it somewhat. The creators manage to get in pretty much every clich of war stories you can get, from the long ranks, the officer sacrificing themselves for their Commander, to of course pretty much everyone dying. There are also several take-offs of some scenes from a few war movies, and although it doesn’t end up as the war epic it could (you could just imagine a parody of pretty much every Hollywood blockbuster war movie, but that’s almost what the next episode tries to cover) it is still enjoyable.

The next episode was one of the funniest of the series for me, mainly because it was so easy to recognise many of the parodies. The final proper world of Sasshi’s imagination we visit is a mish-mash of Hollywood movies. He’s obviously quite the film buff because we get several scenes straight out of movies. It all starts with the pair landing Terminator style curled up, naked, in a world that seems like their Abenobashi, but something isn’t quite right. Grandpa Masa and Arumi’s mother are acting really odd, and to top it all off appear in black and white. While the pair discuss things, Sasshi turns his back on Arumi and walks off, but she is sucked up by her mother, who’s become a tentacle monster. Several scenes ensue with amusing moments taken from movies, but it all ends on a more serious note.

I really enjoyed this episode a great deal, and laughed at a number of the parodies simply because they were so obvious and in your face. The scene with the pair landing in the world, taking off Terminator had me in stitches, as did the appearance of a cross-dressing Robocop and of course the whole “fuck” scene which just cracked me up in the Japanese track, as it really did sound quite American. There’s plenty of time for references to Indiana Jones, Titanic, Back to the Future and more as well.

It was always going to be a bit difficult leaving just one episode in which to try and wrap up the whole story, but the writers did oh-so-nearly succeed. Well, technically they did do it, as it does have a conclusive ending, it’s just one of the more frustrating ones you’re likely to see. It all starts with Arumi and Sasshi in a cinema watching some of their adventures gone by, with Sasshi saying he can’t understand why Arumi can’t just be happy jumping from world to world from his imagination. She tries to explain that she simply sees her leaving as moving on in life, and encourages Sasshi to grow up like she has. Sasshi’s dad appears and eventually lets slip that his mother is preparing dinner for the vigil. Arumi wonders who died but Sasshi is quickly gets away from her and talks to his father. His dad tells him that Abeno Seimei is nothing but a fraud, and his powers were simply used to escape reality. He should accept things instead of trying to change the past. Arumi starts to figure things out, but Sasshi tries to take her away anyway, but as he tries to come up with new worlds he hits a writer’s block, and eventually conjures up Mune-Mune.

It all starts to get a bit frustrating from here on in though. Mune-Mune, as Sasshi’s grandmother, ends up showing once again just how childish Sasshi is. In fact, it’s a recurring theme battered over your head in this final episode, and it’s clear that this is what the series was really all about: Sasshi growing up. Unfortunately instead of Sasshi realising that he needs to grow up and move on, and face his fears in the real world, the series goes the alternate route and has him summoning Eutus as he realises that Arumi knows Grandpa Masa is dead. Eutus does some hokey-pokey and fasts forward time so he becomes an adult and can fully realise his power… and as you’d expect, the happy ending ensues where Arumi doesn’t move away and Masa is stopped before he falls off the roof.

While in a way you might expect the happy ending somehow, it all seems like a bit of a cop-out. Yes, you could see it coming since the whole series has been about these crazy fantasy worlds concocted with Sasshi’s powers and his imagination. But some really good characterisation comes through in this last episode, as Sasshi is almost forced to face the reality that things are moving on and he needs to grow up like Arumi already has. It’s a lesson we all learn at some point in our life and this is where the more dramatic episodes on the last few discs have been headed, as it’s been constantly pointed out how childish Sasshi is, and that’s been contrasted by Arumi’s more grown-up behaviour.

Alas, a series doesn’t always get what it deserves and as much as I enjoyed the Hollywood episode, quite liked the war episode and really liked much of the last episode, the last five minutes or so really put things on a downer and that is hugely disappointing for me and brought down my opinion of the disc.

In Summary:
Though the ending for Abenobashi is a bit frustrating for those of us who don’t always like things to turn out happy in the end, especially if they’ve been leading somewhere else, I can’t forget the journey which had some really good moments along the way. Yes, it was hit-and-miss, but when it was good it really nailed things, and the rest of the time it was a generally enjoyable show. It’s definitely a series I’d recommend overall, but with the warning that being a parody show, there will be things that work for you and things that don’t. If you know that going in and aren’t put off by an occasional shift to a slightly darker tone, you could do a lot worse than this series.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,AD Vid-Notes,Commentary with Jessica Boone; Luci Christian and John Gremillion,Out-takes,Clean Opening & Closing

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound

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