Anime Spotlight: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is an anime series created and produced by Gainax and Madhouse. The series was directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga, and it aired on Japanese television from April 4-June 27, 2002.

As of this writing, AEsir Holdings holds the North American distribution license for the Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi television anime series.

The main characters of the series are childhood friends Arumi and Sasshi, and they live in the Abenobashi commercial district in Osaka, Japan. This area where they live is falling apart, with many of the businesses shutting down and residents moving away. Sasshi’s own family had to shut down their bathhouse and move into a different home. When they moved, Sasshi’s family made him leave his items associated with his otaku habits behind, because the new home they were moving into was much smaller.

Arumi’s family, excluding her grandfather, has decided to leave their restaurant and go to Hokkaido, where Arumi’s dad has a job offer. Sasshi is upset and doesn’t want Arumi to leave.

Arumi’s grandfather has an accident, and the two children are transported to an alternate world of sword and sorcery. After defeating the “boss” of the alternate world, the children try to return back home; instead, they are transported to another alternate world. These alternate worlds turn out to be built around surreal manifestations of Sasshi’s otaku interests.

In addition to the sword and sorcery world, the children find themselves in other lands, which are based on such interests as science fiction, dating sim games, and American movies. It turns out that Sasshi is the force causing the two children to travel to these different “hobby worlds.” Sasshi no longer wants to cope with reality, due to Arumi’s family moving away and the destruction of the shopping arcade.

These worlds are also populated by analogs of the protagonists’ relatives and acquaintances. However, they also meet a blue-haired stranger named Eutus and a red-haired woman with glasses named Mune.

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is a very interesting series, but a viewer needs to have an understanding of various anime and otaku references, as well as a knowledge of pop culture references.  Without this kind of a background, some of the humor of the series will be lost on the viewer.

Overall, I thought that Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi was kind of a fun and whimsical viewing experience. My favorite episode was the one where Sasshi and Arumi end up in the science fiction world, because I recognized and appreciated several Space Battleship Yamato references that appeared in it. That particular episode nearly made me bust a gut.

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is only 13 episodes in length, so it’s a rather small time commitment that’s needed to watch the entire series.

Personally, I would recommend Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi to anime viewers who have an understanding of anime, otaku and pop culture references. Without some kind of background and understanding on these topics, some of the humor of the series could be lost and the enjoyment of the series could be decreased dramatically.

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