ADV Films // 2002 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // June 10th, 2004
Crazier than crack, madder than a March hare!
In my review of the first volume of this manic anime show, I found a number of problems that I hoped would be avoided in future episodes. In this second volume, ADV has only included three episodes, some of which continue the problems of the first part of the series, and some that do something altogether different.
* "Extinction! Abenobashi Ancient Dinosaur Shopping Arcade"
The fifth episode of the series highlights all of the problems I had with the first volume. Sasshi and Arumi find themselves transported into a prehistoric world, where Sasshi's sister is a scantily clad (in modern clothing for some reason) cave queen and Mune-mune is a large-breasted Tarzan clone that rescues them so she can press Sasshi's head between her breasts. It's a sight gag that's really only funny the first few times, and after about thirty times, it gets really tired. Unfortunately, the AD Vid-Notes are not that helpful in this case, and spend more time naming off dinosaurs than giving useful translation notes. There are a few entertaining moments, as with the previous episodes, but it never adds up to a consistent whole.
* "In the Night Fog! Abenobashi Hard Boiled Shopping Arcade"
Here, finally, the series begins to move in a direction that I hoped I would get to see. As soon as Sasshi and Arumi are transported into the film-noir detective world of the sixth episode, the animation looks different, and the tone of the show slows down to fit the genre they are parodying. The rules of this new universe are instantly clear, as our young heroes are caught in the middle of a mob war. Sasshi is identified as a famous sniper, and Arumi is drawn in on the side of the police. Some of the silly humor that has become the hallmark of the series is still here, but it doesn't overpower the narrative. It's only at the end of the show, when the proceedings suddenly get out of hand, that this episode falls into the problems that have filled the other episodes. As well, the relationship between Sasshi and Arumi is finally developed a bit more fully. When he sees her in her slightly more mature form, he starts to see her as a woman for the first time. This recognizance isn't the same as his usual drooling over Mune-mune, though, and it seems to be a sign that they are both growing up. This is a coming of age story, after all, even though it's easy to forget sometimes. The choice to make the guns in this episode non-lethal is very confusing for me. The fourth wall is broken so many times in these episodes that there is no reason some characters can't be killed off in this version of the shopping arcade.
* "Flashback! Magical Shopping Arcade Birth"
Instead of explaining the history of Abenobashi through the strange dimensions that the two teens are transported to, they decided to take up a whole episode to do it. This episode tells the story of Arumi's grandfather, who is helping a stranger named Abe to help design the shopping arcade. At the same time, he tries to romance Mune-mune, who does not try to put anyone's head between her breasts and remains fully clothed for the whole episode. Instead, she is attracted to Abe, who has been known as Eutus in the alternate reality episodes. This does explain why Mune-mune is constantly searching to find Eutus again, and it also explains the magical significance of the shopping arcade. This episode feels more like the first one than any since then, and it actually tends to be a little dull. Still, it is full of information that answers some of the questions that I had about the series, and it allows for some level of complexity through the rest of the series. If some of these relationships are fully developed, there may be more than stupid laughs to be gained from Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi.
After this volume, I have very mixed feelings about the series. Some of the problems from the first volume have been at least partially solved, but it makes me unsure about the direction the show is now taking. I found the first episode on this disc obnoxious, but it fits the tone set by the first volume. The second episode does what I hoped the series would, but it seems like it could be a unique occurrence. The third volume goes back and explains quite a bit, but it lacks the sense of fun and play that fills the rest of the series. If the third volume continues the fun of the first two volumes, but also continues to build on the ideas that have been explored on this disc, the whole show may be redeemed by the end.
ADV has done a great job with this disc. The picture is as solid as the first volume, and you can't go wrong with either the English or Japanese language track. As always, I prefer the Japanese track, but this is one series that I can understand people preferring the dub track. As with the first volume, there are not many extras on the disc. The AD Vid-notes are sometimes useful and sometimes annoying, but they are a critical feature for the show. Less impressive are the outtakes, which are basically the voice actors saying stupid things over segments of the animation. I am sure they were funny for the people working on the show after a full day of recording voice work, but that's where the outtakes should have stayed.
If you liked the first volume of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, there is no reason to stay away from this volume. Everyone else that's interested in the show is still advised to give it a rent rather than a blind buy, until we find out what happens as the plot progresses. That's assuming that the plot does progress, of course.
Everyone involved is free to go pending the last two volumes in the series. I am still a little disappointed by the lack of continuity and advancement in this volume, but I did get a lot of what I asked for after I watched the first volume.
Review content copyright © 2004 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese, original language)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* AD Vid-Notes