This week, a unique erotic historical fiction film that has completely slipped through the cracks.
Reviewby Maral Agnerian, Sep 23rd 2002
Abenobashi Magical Shopping District
Sasshi is having a bad summer vacation. First, his old house is demolished in the recent Abenobashi Shopping district redevelopment plan [his precious baseball cards and gashapon sets were lost in the destruction], and his best friend, Ayumi, is moving away to Hokkaido. Then Sasshi and Ayumi hear rumors of a supposed affair between Ayumi's grandfather and Sasshi's grandmother. While investigating, the duo find that the Abenobashi district is constructed as a cross with a different animal guarding each pole - a turtle was at Sasshi's family's house, a dragon was at the pet store, a tiger, and a bird at Ayumi's family restaurant, the last one remaining. Unfortunately, with Ayumi's family leaving, the last guardian will fall and something terrible may happen to Abenobashi as a result. As if things couldn't be worse, Ayumi's grandfather falls off the roof of his French restaurant, the Grill Pelican, and is seriously injured. The totem for the Grill Pelican, a pelican with a star on its belly, also falls and is destroyed. That night, Sasshi witnesses a dragon flying outside his bedroom window, and at the temple, all the exercising old men turn into mushrooms. Freaked out, Ayumi and Sasshi speed for home only to find all the buildings mere facades and a magical rainbow transports them to an Abenobashi to be sure, but certainly not the one they came from.
The hijinks and parodies ensue as Sasshi and Ayumi make their way from Abenobashi to Abenobashi trying to find a way back to their Abenobashi.
This one had me rolling on the floor. The first episode introduces complex and interesting primary and secondary characters with individual personalities and real-world problems... and then all hell breaks loose. The second ep is a parody based on console RPGs, and is utterly HILARIOUS if you've played or even seen them. It's like the Fortune Quest OAV, only 100 times better. Each subsequent episode is a parody of a different genre of anime or film, such as fantasy, sci-fi, etc.
We've seen this formula before, in a way, with Excel Saga--each episode parodies a different genre of anime--but Gainax does a very good job with it, with riotously funny results, especially when they're doing blatant rip-offs of well-known shows, from popular anime to classic North American movies. Unlike Excel Saga, however, it's not ALL nonsensical wackiness. There's some actual nutritional value there along with the candy, and while I'd be the first to extol the virtues of a good wacky comedy, it's also nice to have one's hilarity leavened with characterisation and plot.
As usual for Gainax, Abenobashi Mahō Shōtengai has very nice art, with smooth clean animation and a high-budget look. The scenes in the normal world are done in muted colours, but it isn't depressing; rather creating a powerful sense of realism... which makes it all the more shocking and funny when the kids arrive in the wacked-out alternate Abenobashis, which are drawn in a decidedly UNrealistic style. The character design varies depending on the setting and the character; the kids are drawn in a pretty but realistic style, while most other characters have wonky faces (especially 'Aunt' Aki, who appears to be some kind of freaky transvestite). And the villains the kids encounter are some of the silliest looking people I've seen since those Sailor Moon youma-of-the-day.
The music's all over the map; the opening song is very catchy and cool, and the background music ranges from twenties-style jazz to fantasy instrumental and everything in-between. This might sound distracting or disjointed, but it's all done very well and fits the scenes perfectly.
All in all, interesting characters, excellent art and music and hilarious comedy make Abenobashi Mahō Shōtengai yet another winner for Gainax. Is there anything they *can't* do?
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A-
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A-
+ Hilarious parody balanced with interesting characters
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