Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
Arumi and Sasshi have been friends since childhood growing up together in the Abenobashi shopping arcade in Osaka. However, the entire area is being redeveloped, and they discover that all of the tearing down and rebuilding may result in the disturbance of an ancient charm put on the arcade. However, it's too late, and things in their already strange home are getting much weirder than ever before. Quickly, they are transported to an alternative Abenobashi, and from there on, it's just hilarious parodies of different types of Japanese entertainment taking place in different forms of that crazy shopping arcade.
Ah, Abenobashi. Gainax's take on the genre practically invented by Excel Saga: the parody-an-episode genre. Considering the fundamentals of that genre, and the studio that this is coming from, I was expecting a wild and crazy ride. Well that's what I got, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Like Excel Saga, Abenobashi parodies anything and everything, but mostly different things in Japanese pop culture. Gainax also does several self-parodies, which is always fun (barring you've seen other Gainax shows). However, the humor is handled in a very different way. With Excel Saga, all that's guaranteed is that you'll be laughing like crazy literally every thirty seconds. While each episode generally has a different parody "theme", much of the humor does not come from parodies, but instead from very strange sight-gags and repetitions. Abenobashi, however, is a little bit more controlled. Every episode is a definite parody of a different genre of movie/anime, and almost all the humor comes from poking fun at the cliches and idiocies of each genre. While there will occasionally be a totally random Gainax moment (the cussing chicken being my personal favorite), the humor is more, ummm, specific, than many other over-the-top series I've seen (Abeno's on morphene compared to FLCL).
However, this does not mean that you can't and don't get some absolutely hilarious and memorable scenes and episodes, and this is definitely one of the funniest shows I've ever seen. I mean, it really does poke fun at everything...related to Japanese culture, that is (and even a few American pop culture jabs as well i.e. "You mean this is the real thing, USED BY CHRISTINA!"). One word of caution, though, is that since the humor relies so much on other anime genres and not just general randomness, this is not exactly an anime for an otaku-in-training.
Another plus with Abenobashi (but it may not BE a plus, just read below), is that you actually get some good character development. Sasshi and Arumi definitely have some chemistry going on, and you really come to like their characters (not to mention their accents), by the end of the series. The supporting cast is pretty good too. However, the ONLY way Gainax was able to fit so much characterization in this show was by putting in some serious episodes. In fact, there are about three or four episodes in the entire series (and unfortunately, the first is one of them), that are almost dead serious. This is what overall took away the star, and hurt the series the most. The serious episodes are well-directed and everything, but they seem boring and out of place with the rest of the hilarious parodies.
Technically, Abenobashi held up fine. Gainax got Madhouse to animate the series, which means you get some nice animation and character designs. The animation is not all that memorable, and certainly not as experimental as it surely would have been had Gainax done it all themselves, but it's by no means bad. The music is okay. Shiro Sagisu, the big Gainax composer, once again does a nice opening theme; very funny, very catchy, very memorable. And for awhile, you'd think he did a phenomenal job of the rest of the soundtrack. He chose a great variety of music, and it really flowed nicely with each episode. However, by the end, the music was actually one of the least memorable parts of the series. But, the music never seemed out of place despite all the GENRES it had to fit, and that alone is commendable.
So overall, Abenobashi is a hilarious series that adds a little Gainax flare to the parody genre (although this series did not seem as classically Gainax as I first thought it would). Some episodes are funnier than others, and there are those serious ones I talked about, but most of the parodies are drop dead HILARIOUS! As to how this compares to Excel Saga, the show that always will be cross-examined with it, it's really up to the viewer. It certainly looks a little bit better planned and even "classier" than Excel Saga, but this, pacing problems, and a slow start may (if only to a small extent) weaken the "every five second" hilarities of Excel Saga.
A very hilarious, unique, and well-thought-out parody series. If you are an absolute Gainax freak, whose loved every series they've made, then add a star. If you have had major problems with any previous Gainax works, maybe consider taking away a star. And obviously, if you don't like parodies...RUN FORREST RUN!!!! — Connor McCarty
Recommended Audience: Most episodes of this series only contain minor fan service (except of course, Mune Mune's munes), and would be 13 plus without a problem. However, some of the more over-the-top parodies reach a raunchiness level that kicks the series as a whole into the older teen range.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi © 2002 Gainax/Abenobashi Project/Madhouse
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