Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (Complete Series)

Sasshi and Arumi (pictured to the right, except flipped) are childhood friends living in a fading business district. Shops are closing, buildings being demolished, and business is slow. To top it all off, Arumi’s family is moving away to start a restaurant in a more affluent area. Yet after an accident involving Arumi’s grandfather, strange things are afoot. Sasshi sees dragons flying around at night, people turn into bouncing mushrooms, and buildings are paper-thin. All of a sudden Sasshi and Arumi are in a place that is definitely not home, experiencing things that do not happen in reality, with no way in sight to get home.

During the first two-thirds of the series each episode takes place in a different kind of world: one episode takes place in a world based around the concept of RPGs (roll-playing games), another is a pre-historic land, yet another a crazy war zone. Sasshi and Arumi have to discover what is going on in each and figure out how to find the creature that can transport them back to their world.

There are great positives and disappointing negatives to Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. The most immediate area of enjoyment is the two lead characters, Sasshi and Arumi. Both individually and as a team they are fantastic. Arumi is more confident and carefree than Sasshi. She hides any sadness she might feel regarding their pending departure with the carefree phrase, “Bein’ human, havin’ your health… that’s the most important thing.” Everything else is simply details. On the other hand, Sasshi fails to construct a successful facade to hide his anxiety over Arumi’s move. He’s moodier and doesn’t like the changes encroaching upon his happy life. He is like a Peter Pan type character who prefers to rebuke the process of growing up.

About 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the way through the series the flow alters dramatically. The change is sudden and disorienting. Assumptions that you held about how the series was going are suddenly torn asunder. This could have been really good, but they fail to navigate the change in a way that properly leads the viewer. But at least they tried. It was a noble, albeit not exactly a success.

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is a series that started off incredibly, then tailed off. But it is still a funny series that I rather appreciated. Some of the revelations were great, others seemed a bit anticlimactic. But take a gander, you might enjoy.

Title: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
US Distributor: ADV
Number of Episodes: 13
Availability: Both new and used, with used leaning toward the cheaper side.
Links: ANN Encyclopedia
Rating: 80


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