>DVD Classic: Never-ending Adventures in J-pop worlds

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“Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi” will astound anime fans with a journey that literally takes two young kids on a never-ending trip through the Japanese pop culture universe.

This series has had an awkward release history in America. Although it first aired in 2003, it took two years until Geneon released this series in the U.S. Even then, I don’t think this show received the attention that it truly deserves.

Thankfully, ADV Films re-released this series last year. I had the fortunate thrill of seeing it on The Anime Network’s website. To say the least, this is one of the most creative anime shows I’ve ever seen.

The show begins in the Abenobashi shopping district in Osaka. Two teenagers, Satoshi “Sashi” Imamiya and Arumi Asahina, are spending their last summer playing in the empty streets. Their parents’ businesses were forced to close, as part of the redevelopment of the Abenobashi shopping arcade. Unfortunately, Arumi’s family is also planning on moving to Hokkaido, as soon as her grandfather closes his shop.

Their summer of fun takes a tragic turn, when Asahina’s grandfather almost dies after slipping on his rooftop. Asahina’s entire family is planning on moving to Hokkaido as soon as he recovers. This could be the last day that Sashi and Asahina can play together.

On that day, though, the town completely turns upside down. The group of elderly people exercising in the park transforms into mushrooms. The buildings fall apart like cardboard cutouts, revealing a magical role-playing video game world in some European pasture.

Thus, the two children begin their treacherous journey through the magical other-dimensions of Abenobashi.

This series is amazing for its immensely inventive visuals. The show jams in an astonishing load of parodies on video games, robot television shows and martial arts series. Anime fans are bound to laugh at anything and everything.

They’ll especially enjoy the insane antics in the third episode, where Asahina loses her panties to a goblin creature. Near the end of the episode, the goblin somehow turns into the mask for some gigantic robot ship with a demon head. And for some reason, that head still has Asahina’s panties on it.

“Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi” is literally as unpredictable as episode five in FLCL. It is riotously funny, like a hyper episode of Shin-Chan. Yet, there’s also a subversive tone of despair throughout the journey. As much as Sashi enjoys the Abenobashi worlds, the two kids are still trapped inside these wacky J-pop dream worlds with little hope of reaching their home.

I have yet to reach the ending, but this series is truly buried treasure. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that most of the special DVD features are only in the individual volume boxes from ADV. Regardless of which set you buy, you have to see this series. It’s one of the few shows that will make anyone laugh.

Even if the English dubs put in some awkward Western cowboy accent for the main characters, this is series is golden. Check it out at least once, because you won’t regret it.

Image courtesy of photobucket.com

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Filed under comedy, fan service, fantasy, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, masterpiece

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