These days the animation studio’s time on top has ended, and unfortunately, now they’re wrapped up in a pretty series lawsuit that might mean their end, but back in the day, Gainax was the production company to watch. Not only were they behind the monumental Neon Genesis Evangelion, but they can also boast having created other beloved hits like FLCL, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and Gunbuster among others.
Pretty much everything up until a certain point from the studio has its place in the canon of great anime and deserves to be treated as such. One such show from this time period that gets forgotten about for not being Evangelion or FLCL is Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi.
Directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga, a Gainax co-founder who also directed their very first anime Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise a particularly excellent sci-fi film, Abenobashi very much comes from the same magical well so many other fantastic shows had. It was a rare foray by the studio into pure comedy but like much of Gainax’s works, it proudly wears its influences on its sleeves only more directly than usual.
Abenobashi parodies everything from older quintessential anime like Harlock to American classic tent-poles such as Star Trek. Not only Sci-Fi works got parodied; Everything from video games to romance comics to traditional Japanese culture and more was on the table. While satire isn’t for everybody, with the unique Gainax touch, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi packed a real punch.
Abenobashi Parodied Absolutely Everything, Even Gainax Itself
Nothing was off-limits for Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi to spoof as they saw fit. Not only did they parody every big anime convention, with your dating sim episode, your giant robot episode, your RPG episode and more, they even took to parodying film tropes. Both genres of a film like noir, Hollywood blockbuster, and war movies were spoofed as well as prime targets for the picking.
Shows as famous as Star Wars were parodied as well as real otaku deep cuts like To Heart and Kanon if there’s anything you love chances are Abenobashi has ruined it for you. Of course, it wouldn’t be right for Gainax to slam everything around it without any retribution, so they put themselves on the chopping block too.
There isn’t a single episode of Abenobashi that is the ‘Gainax Parody Episode’ in name but there are a lot of references to be caught. Shiro Sagisu handled the soundtrack for Abenobashi and in the ‘science fiction world’ episode, which basically is there ‘super robot mecha battle episode’ he straight up reuses some classic Evangelion music.
You could call that laziness but the real Gainax heads out there are sure to crack up when hearing the iconic and thematic Evangelion battle music laid over two idiot kids trying to pilot a tongue in cheek giant robot for the first time. To be fair though, wasn’t that what Neon Genesis Evangelion always was? Later, the show directly parodies the NGE Episode 26 alternate universe, Try and catch it!
The Genius Of The American Abenobashi Dub
We know you probably don’t come to OTAQUEST to hear about English language anime dubs very often. However, from time to time there are dubs that for whatever reason do merit some discussion and credit whether or not you care to watch them.
After all, anime would have never taken off in English speaking territories if it was never dubbed in the first place, that’s just a fact whether you like it or not. Now If you don’t care and are even offended by the idea of dubs, skip this section! Go to the next article. For those of you still reading, let’s talk about why the ADV Films English language version of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is one of these such dubs that deserves being talked about.
The characters from Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi all come from Osaka in Kansai. It’s a region and city in Japan known for a little rowdier than Tokyo, definitely more laid back, and generally a little friendlier too.
Aside from the difference in attitude, the majority of people born and raised in Osaka speak ‘Kansai-ben.’ More than just being a regional accent variant of Japanese, Kansai-ben includes a lot of different slang, mannerisms, and speech patterns than the more rigid Japanese you hear when you visit Tokyo. It’s an important differentiation to the character of the region and any anime about Kansai folk would have to include it for authenticity.
So how did ADV Films handle this for Americans? A simple, genius implementation of a southern accent. Both Sasshi and Arumi, the leads of the show, speak with a relaxed but not over the top southern drawl that’s about as good of an equivalent to ‘Kansai-ben’ English is going to get.
The Collection Of Characters Across The Abenobashi Multiverse
With each new world Sashi and Arumi go to, they run into increasingly absurd and hilarious versions of their friends, family, and local characters. Maybe it’s not the worst thing, running into familiar faces as they find themselves transported into one strange reality after another. With Cavemen versions of their parents, their local fish teller turned robot, or even one version of Grandpa running an italian Mafia it may be difficult to keep track of who everyone actually is.
Of course as our dopey protagonist, Sasshi remains a constant in each anime satire parallel world the show throws him into. He’s childish and for whatever reason dons a cowboy hat, making the Abenobashi ‘Osakans have southern accents’ dub choice a good fit, but generally he means well. He might be enjoying his trip across all these different realities a little more than his companion, but wouldn’t you if you could be the star of your one dating sim one day and piloting an arwing the next?
Arumi’s parents are closing up the Grill Pelican and are moving to Hokkaido on pretty short notice. The smart and witty Arumi is a childhood friend to Sasshi but she seems to be maturing at a faster rate. In just about every episode Arumi seems to fall into some kind of trouble, and while Sasshi ends up rescuing her from Dinosaurs and gangsters shes getting annoyed pretty quickly.
Arumi really just wants to return home and get on with her life.
Skip this section if you don’t want to know that secret identity of the mysterious Blue Haired strange-looking middle-aged man he keeps showing up in all these different worlds! Turns out he’s the historical Omnyouji Abe No Seimei although he’s rather different to how his legend precedes him. Like Sasshi and Arumi, he can travel through these alternate realities while retaining his memory and seems to have some fictional secret history regarding the neighborhood Sasshi and Arumi hail from.
Another mysterious character who only starts showing up after Sasshi and Arumi starts delving into one parody world after the next. She seemingly has a huge thing for Eutus and is tracking him down amongst the different worlds, although who she really is is a bigger secret than his identity. Unrelatedly, ‘Mune’ is the Japanese word for ‘chest’ and she… well. You get the picture.
It’s kind of Grandpa Masa’s fault that Arumi and Sasshi are stuck on their dimensional adventure. He pretty much falls off a roof and dies, which due to some plot mechanics caused the kids to warp elsewhere to begin with. While he appears to be a cranky old man at first, it turns out Masa has some backstory of his own that comes to light.
Not really a main character, but one of the most memorable. Ms Aki has lived in the Abenobashi neighborhood her whole life, and regardless of whether it’s the robot universe version of her or the dating sim version she always has a tip or two for Sasshi and Arumi. It’s not woke in this day and age to put it like this, but she was designed with the ‘okama’ stereotype in mind giving her certain affections some might say are not in good taste.
The Difference Between The Magical Shopping Arcade Anime and Manga
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is one of those less common cases where the anime actually came before the manga. Like many of the studio’s greatest works, Abenobashi was originally plotted by the fine folks at Gainax and the manga is really nothing more than a tie in. Nothing is particularly bad about the manga, and Tokyopop even put out an English version of it back in the day, but there’s no reason to seek this out even for the biggest fans of the show.