ADV Films // 2002 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // June 17th, 2004
"When a man and woman's fates are linked, no one can stop them from falling in love" -- Abe
"I'll mess this damn world up!" -- Arumi
Well, here I am, reviewing the third volume in this light but thoroughly chaotic series called Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. The first two volumes were a little too silly and childish for my liking, yet it is a series that has a lot of fun to offer fans of anime, parodying pretty much every genre and major show in the history of animation. As the second volume ended, it seemed like a more serious plot was beginning to bring the show together. My hope for this volume was to see more of this plot, augmented by the silly fun of the other volumes. Unfortunately, the third volume has not fulfilled my wishes, and is the weakest one of the series so far. It contains the following three episodes:
* "Set Your Heart Aflutter! Abenobashi Campus Shopping Arcade"
This episode recalls the formula of the early episodes. For a moment, Sasshi believes that they have been transported safely home, but it turns out to be a universe much like those silly Japanese dating sims. He is the only boy in a school full of cute girls, and it only takes him a few minutes to get himself stuck in a love triangle with two cuties. Meanwhile, Arumi has been transformed into a short goblin with a horn that gets chased around by giant chickens with sunglasses. As usual, the inconsistency of the episode is what causes the biggest problem. Some of the love triangle stuff is pretty funny, but since Sasshi goes completely berserk every time either girl touches him or looks at him or says something, it gets awfully tiring. The sections of the episode with Arumi, in which she tries to find ways to screw up the world, don't really have anything to do with the conventions of the dating sim world. It would have made sense for her to be a malicious character trying to sabotage his relationships, rather than summoning Hollywood horror monsters to kill him. There is a touching moment that advances the larger plot, where Sasshi decides to choose Arumi instead of his silly dream world, but it gets obscured by the shrill nonsense that surrounds it.
* "It Cries! The Bush Warbler Heiankyo"
As often happens in this series, this episode gave me something that I asked for, but not really what I wanted. I have been asking for some more explanation about how the two characters have been traveling through these dimensions. Well, it all gets laid out in this episode, with enough complexity that it requires the whole episode to explain it. In a way, though, it all seems too complicated. Why does there need to be a time traveling future-reincarnation story to explain all this? I think that I just don't know enough about Japanese mysticism to buy into the whole explanation. Particularly confusing for me is the distinction between magic and the Onmyou mysticism. Eutus gets angry if this mysticism is referred to as magic, but -- as an ADV voice actor would say -- I ain't never seen no science do that before. Still, the flashback story is pretty cool, and has some nice looking animation. The biggest problem with the episode is that it feels like the writers of the series have gotten in over their heads and now must start explaining things they don't even fully understand anymore.
* "Fluffy, Bubbly! Fairy Tale Shopping Arcade"
Now, with Sasshi training to develop his powers and Arumi trapped in a limbo world with only a television to keep her company, he decides to make her happy by putting her into a wonderful fairly tale world. Unfortunately, it turns out that he's not very good at figuring out what she would want, and so only makes things worse. The world he creates is rough, and when he is unable to control his own creation, things start to go really badly. There is a great "magical transformation" sequence for Arumi, but it's pretty short. The plot is now too thick for the humor of the show to shine through, and the end of this episode seems to just dump our two heroes back where they started.
I was really hoping that this third volume of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi would start to bring some of the disparate elements of the show together as it draws to a close. Unfortunately, this volume has done the exact opposite. In trying to explain the complex mythological system of the show, all the creators have done is muddle an already chaotic mess. While some of the episodes still have some laughs, the zany energy of the series seems to be dying away, but nothing is really taking its place. I am still intrigued to find out what happens to Sasshi and Arumi, and the show does remain light enough that I don't consider it something to be hated. That said, it is going to take a miracle of scripting to bring this show back together in the final three episodes.
As with the previous two volumes, the technical quality of the disc is exceptional. ADV has continued to deliver a top-notch video transfer and a dub that becomes less annoying as I get used to it. The original language track is still preferred, but for me to praise a dub is a pretty big deal. The on-screen translation notes are more useful this time around, as I really did need some groundwork into the history of Onmyou mysticism.
People who have loved the show to this point are going to want to continue watching the series to start to figure out what the hell is going on. The answer to that question is a bit more convoluted than it could have been, but at least it's here. For people wavering on whether to check out the show or not are still advised to give it a rental rather than a purchase, because it doesn't look like the show is developing into a valuable and cohesive whole.
I am much less impressed with this volume than I was for the first two. Still, I will withhold my final sentencing until the last volume has arrived for its trial.
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 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* AD Vid-notes