Welcome to a very special edition of “Should I Toon In?”. Yes, Japanuary may be over but I would be remiss that I didn’t honor it’s memory by looking at one of the wackiest animes I ever watched back in the day. Today I look at Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi.
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, henceforce to be called MSAA to save me both time and effort, is a show I watched thanks to Neftlix. This was back before Netflix was basically only used to stream stuff, oh no, back in the day you used to rent DVDs from them through actual snail mail. Yes, I know they still do that, I’m just being a jerk. During this time I had a lot more free time than I do now so I would just pick anime at random to watch, thats how I found one of my all time favorite series: Azumanga Daioh. Seriously, that show is awesome but that’s a review for another day.
However, Azumanga does play a role in this tale because Netflix decided that since I enjoyed that one I would also be a fan of MSAA. So I figured, what the heck, and rented it. Was Netflix suggestion a good one? Continue reading to find out, what fun would it be if I gave that away now?
First off, let’s talk about what MSAA is all about. Boy, is THAT hard to do! Satoshi and Arumi are 12 year old best friends who live in Abenobashi shopping district.
Since this show takes place in Osaka everyone speaks with an American southern accent in this dub. I’m not 100% sure why that is, but people from Osaka always seem to speak with that southern twang. Personally I know there’s always a war between subs vs dubs but I honestly don’t care and I thought this dub was done very well, the voice acting was good.
The show starts off by showing their friendship and the various local characters that live there. All is not good though as we learn that Arumi is moving away. At this point in time I had no idea what kind of show this was so I figured it was going to be a light hearted slice of life style anime. Then all hell breaks loose.
People turn into various mushrooms, houses turn out to be nothing but literal backdrops, and everything just goes crazy. All insanity breaks loose and the kids make a run for it. This flee for sanity takes them to a magical bridge that teleports them… somewhere. That’s how the first episode ends and I’m left wondering, what the hell was that?!?
In episode two we find out that our pair of heroes ended up in a medieval style Abenobashi shopping center. Same town, same folks, but everything is set up as if it was taking place in medical times. An interesting setting but nothing we haven’t seen before, but my interest was immediately peaked when Satoshi starts talking about “Bastard Swords” and “Leveling up”. I quickly realize that they are parodying Japanese RPGs! They even encounter random enemies on a big screen and are asked if they want to Fight or Flee. Heck, they even come across a slime… a sexy slime.
Right there folks is D’s superchick of the next month. More on why the slime looks the way it does later. Satoshi even dies only be dragged back into town to be resurrected by the king. Over and over and over again. Brilliant! So now I figured I had a handle on what this show was going to be about, a parody of Japanese RPGs. Then I was thrown for a loop when the kids fight the main boss, defeat him, and are then sent to a different world. This time they’re still in an Abenobashi shopping district, but now its a futuristic with space pirates and laser guns.
What the heck? Then it dawned on me, they aren’t just parodying RPGs. They’re doing the whole kit and kabootle. They are going to make fun of all the stereotypical anime genres. And they certainly do that, a different one per episode. Fantasy, Sci Fi, Fighting, War, Magical Girl, High School Harem, and even a film noir style one. And most of them are pretty fun send ups of the genre! There are quite a few laughs to be had here. One particular stand out gag is a yellow jumpsuit found in the Fighting Genre episode. You know, the kind Bruce Lee wore? Yea, and the gimmick of the suit is that it doesn’t actually make you stronger, but it makes all the sound effects so you feel stronger. Hi-larious!
There’s even a reason to watch the teasers for the next episodes, those are some of the funniest moments in the whole show. There’s a running gag where Satoshi says he’s always wanted to do one of those “Coming next episode” teasers and is dying to do this. However he is always interrupted and his attempts to deliver one is constantly spoiled. The extra joke is on you, the audience, because even though these are teasers for the next show thanks to interruptions you’re never given any actual information.
Alright, now that I got the good stuff done, now to the down sides. There are three big issues I have with the show. Here are two of them:
That character is Mune Mune. And her running gag is that she has large breasts.
It’s not just Mune Mune, but she represents the whole situation perfectly. There is so much fan service in this series. Boobs, boob jokes, up panty shots, panty jokes, they are all there. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t on the level of a Witchblade or Highschool of the Dead, but it’s still pretty obvious. I’d love to say that the whole point of it is point fun at the fan service in other shows, but no, I honestly never get that feeling. I feel like the makers just wanted to titillate (heh, tit-illate) their audience and uses very poor humor as an excuse. Just take a look at Mune Mune as the blue slime. That’s it. That’s the joke. She’s dressed something like a slime from Dragon Quest, just wearing as little clothing as possible, which however is still less skin than what the average woman costume from Party City shows off.
The second, and much more serious problem is the ending. I’m not going to spoil it, but that crunching sound you here is an severe emotional shift without stepping on the clutch. It goes from off the wall wacky parody and fan service to maudlin in 2 seconds flat. I can’t spoil the ending even if I wanted to because even I don’t even fully understand it. I’m not sure if I just terribly explained or if I was just too stunned by the emotional shift to pick it up fully. Oh, and the large breasted Mune Mune? Yea… She doesn’t escape the maudlin either. In fact, her’s is probably creepier than the most.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind have dramatic anime. Nor do I mind having a show that mixes humor and drama, lots of shows pull it off wonderfully. This is not one of those shows mostly because the contrast between the two tones are so shockingly different with no buffer at all. It would be like me hopping on here and cracking 10 minutes of wacky pun fill jokes and then ending the article with a serious discussion on the atrocities committed during the Vietnam War. Most of you would be like:
So, after all is said and done, Should You Toon In? I’d still say yes, but only with the caveat that there are some blemishes you’re going to have to ignore. However, if you can get past the fan service there’s a lot of genuine funny moments here and quite a few laughs to be had. The show can be extremely fun at times, until that is the anime decides to say:
Well, now that I hit the Simpson’s hat trick, I guess that’s pretty much all I can say about this one. Check it out if you can. You can email me at SuperfriendEd@Gmail.com to tell me how right I was, or since this is anime talk online it’s more likely you’ll be emailing me to tell me I completely missed the point. “Don’t you see? The giant breast wielding monster is about the plight of the polar bear population! How did you miss that?” Until next time, I’m Ed DiFolco saying, “Being human, having your health is what’s most important.”