Friday, 13 January 2012

Anime Review - Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai)

Satoshi looked distinctly unimpressed at Arumi's
impression of Marilyn monroe

Yet another title that had been relegated to the darkest regions of my hard drive, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (MSAA) had initially struck me as a cutesy, but good looking kids show. Oh boy, how wrong could I be? The non-stop over the top deluge of mammoth boobs undulating across the screen warranted some strange looks from my husband and earned it a justified place on my list of perversion.

Satoshi and Arumi are two carefree kids who live with their parents in a small community, where most of the residents work in the central Abenobashi shopping arena. After a bizarre accident involving a pelican statue, the precocious pair are transported to a town that looks like theirs but with a typical anime twist; from a medieval showdown, to a mecha infested space station Arumi tries her hardest to find her way back to the world she knows and loves, whilst Satoshi seems to be enjoying his fan-boy escapist surroundings a little too much.

Yeah... I have no idea about the eye-bra either...
Although the first few episodes are a tad formulaic, there is enough variety in the stereotypical worlds and inhabiting characters to keep the viewers interest. A word of warning: MSAA is a parody driven rollercoaster that, for full enjoyment, requires the viewer to have a good grasp of Japanese culture, numerous anime series and knowledge of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Without this, the show may fall flat for the inexperienced.

The arrival of episode 7 is a turning point that reveals a back-story that has been hinted at throughout the preceding episodes, changing the light-hearted tone into something darker. Falling back into step with the previous frivolity, the latter half of the show then keeps the serious edge bubbling away just beneath the surface. The finale of MSAA sees the plot derailed onto yet another tangential plot twist; unable to decide how to wrap up the zany antics and emotionally moving threads, the director opts for a cacophony of the metaphysical and philosophical.  Unfortunately, this makes the show seem shallow as the dark plot is shunned in favour of the inevitable happy ending. Whilst not terrible, the story just cannot decide what it wants to be and this indecisive nature holds back what could have been something so much better.

Be prepared for this scene at least once per episode
Madhouse have an extremely impressive portfolio of sexy looking shows under their belt: action-packed Hajime no Ippo, cutesy Cardcaptor Sakura and off-the-wall Kemonozume. This broad repertoire certainly helps in an episodic show that changes its visual style to suit each of the stylised worlds, sadly there is a noticeable amount of recycling - especially in CG created scenes. The character designs are delightfully unique, however they are blessed with some stereotyped features, such as Mune Mune’s large breasts and ever-present spectacles. The facial expressions of the stars, Satoshi especially, are intentionally hammed up to drive home the best puns. Of course, the gratuitous amount of fanservice deserves a honorary mention – never before have I seen the laws of physics bent so hilariously as ample bosoms swing around perilously beneath a loose fitting bra or corset.

Vocal talents... 
Featuring a host of seiyuu, the girlish Yuki Matsuoka (Azumanga’s Osaka) and lesser known Tomo Saeki head up the cast as Arumi and Satoshi. Delivering a careful balance of emotional hilarity, the supporting vocals err more on the side of playful slapstick. Wrapping up the sound section, the opening and closing tracks are two very different sides of the same coin; launching into a somewhat camp 80’s disco track, a sentimental ballad ends each show and both match the bipolar nature of MSAA.

A young teenage male, Satoshi is obsessed with boobs, fascinated by panties and most likely comparable to the archetypal anime fan. Surprisingly, he also has a softer side for Arumi and regularly displays a degree of maturity that is never appreciated. The female in question acts as an older sister to Satoshi, reprimanding him for his perverted nature. Arumi can be unsympathetic at times, thinking only of how to get home, however her personality is the ying to Satoshi’s yang and the pair work well together.

When asked in future"what could go wrong with this plan?",
bear in mind the above image
What really makes the cast work so well are the supporting characters that change and evolve in each of the new worlds. Mune Mune is memorable for her pendulous breasts that swing into view before her svelte, scantily clad figure. As her memorable sidekick, Ms Aki is a loveable, but terrible, cross dresser; some of the flat chested close-ups are more than a little cringe worthy, however it should be taken in the good humour it is presented.

Gotta take the rough with the smooth.... literally....
Definitely worth a watch by the hardened anime fan, a likeness can be drawn with Excel Saga, Puni Puni Poemy or Paniponi Dash. Unfortunately, those new to the parody genre may find each 20 minute episode a little too much to digest. Offbeat, zany and somewhat sentimental, MSAA is a good show that just cannot quite decide what it wants to be holding Abenobashi on the cusp of mediocrity, stopping it from evolving into an excellent series. That said, the tsukkomi/boke relationship of Arumi and Satoshi coupled with a bad drag-queen, an S&M sister and a bespectacled buxom babe are what kept me coming back for more.


  1. I see you finally got round to watching this, good to know someone else enjoyed it as much as I did.

    Now would someone buy a fucking hot dog?

  2. Fuk u
    watch now