Anime >> Abenobashi Magical Shopping Arcade (Vol. 1)
Ni hao and bonjour, you smelly old man…
–French Ninja in Hong Kong (also, Abenobashi)
When I first heard the twangy Texan drawl of the voice actors who played our two protagonists of Sasshi and Arumi, I thought I was in for a tremendous beating and looked frantically for the subtitles. Apparently, though, the actors were chosen due to the Osakan accent of the main characters (I hope?). In any case, it soon pleased me quite deeply to hear my native Tejas being spoken once more like the cactus-thumping, horny-toad-chasing varmints we are (or so I’ve heard). So that turned out alright, but the second hurdle for me was the standard elitist attitude of “I’m sorry, my friend, you just aren’t otaku1 enough to get it, y’see.”2 Well, I for one am here to tell you that yes, you too can understand this just as long as you have some grounding in pop culture at all in any of the genres satirized (Episode 2 tackled sword and sorcery, Episode 3 did science fiction… you get the idea). After seeing Sasshi thrown out into space, sucked through a wormhole, then reincarnated as a Star Child à la Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, I knew I must buy this.3 There was no other way around it, man.
Essentially, the plot of the series seems to be that the son et lumière freakshow that is the Abenobashi Shopping District has been torn down, and been replaced with… uh, that’s a real good question. Apparently, it’s one that the writers (and presumably the original manga’s author) endeavor to find out. Sasshi (boy) and Arumi (girl) have grown up in the area, and are quite remiss to see the enterprise shut down. To make matters worse, Arumi will be moving away soon to the isle of Hokkaido, leaving Sasshi waiting in lurch to pick up the pieces of his life. Episode 1 gives the audience some serious exposition, then by Episode 2… well, all hell breaks loose.
Snappy dialogue and odd sight gags pervade this series, but thankfully not enough to be distracting or to grate on the ears and eyes (for the most part). The lush and almost painfully beautiful animation comes to us courtesy of Satoshi Kon’s Madhouse Studios, and come on–the simple fact that Sasshi has to endure a brutal panda training session is almost Ferrell-esque in its Western-style ridiculousness. Good grief, and they even squish in a Rocky reference (“Adrian!”) and a Dana Carvey tribute (“Could it be, oh I don’t know… SATAN?!“). Many new fans should be pleasantly surprised by the fact that neither Sasshi nor Arumi nor anyone else’s eyeballs are bulging freakishly out of their heads, and that their hair is actually brown like many humans’ would be.
So that’s Abenobashi: it’s a thrillride, it’s a LOLlercoaster, go buy it.
NOT recommended for kids, though, unless your kids are disturbingly worldly. There’s rarely any overtly obscene sexual humor and certainly no bloody gore, but plenty of explosions, blunt and earthy humor, and a rather overendowed villain to “round things off,” so to speak.4
Final Grade: A-. ***EDIT: I heard ragtime piano at the episode’s close. +1/2 letter.***
Final Grade: A.
1Otaku, although a beloved term of endearment for anime fans with loose pocketbooks, has negative connotations of “anti-social” or even “maniacal” in Japan. Not that I know anything about Japan–I just like knowing random pieces of information. You shall learn this in time, child.