Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (アベノ橋 魔法☆商店街 Abenobashi Mahō Shōtengai?) is an award-winning anime TV series created by Gainax studios. The supernatural comedy drama is directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga.
The series premiered April 4, 2002 on Kids Station. It is licensed in North America by ADV Films. A manga adaptation, authored by Satoru Akahori, was published in English by Tokyopop; the Tokyopop version of the manga is out of print as of August 31, 2009.
During the Heian Era, Abe no Seimei was a close childhood friend of a noble named Masayuki, and his wife, Mune. While he was away from the palace, Masayuki often asked Seimei to stay by his wife's side, guarding her and keeping her company. However, during the time they spent together, Mune and Seimei fell in love and became increasingly romantically involved. Unbeknownst to them, Masayuki soon learned of the affair, and became overcome with grief and jealousy. One day while Seimei was on a trip to Kyoto, Masayuki snapped, murdered Mune and committed suicide. Guided by a premonition, Seimei rushed back to his hometown only to find that he was too late. Overcome with guilt, he decided to perform a forbidden Onmyo ritual that would allow him to resurrect the dead by transferring himself into a completely different world where they were still alive. In doing so, Seimei soon found himself as "Mr. Abe" in mid-20th-century Osaka, where Mune Imamiya and Masayuki Asahina were pre-existing residents of this alternate world. Now, Masayuki was an ambitious, but largely unsuccessful young man who had enlisted Mr. Abe's permission to build the Abenobashi Shopping Arcade. He was also madly in love with Mune (夢音), a local girl whom he tried to woo (with little success) at every possible occasion. It was not long, however, before Mune fell in love with Abe, constantly pursuing him and offering him a home-made lunch. Abe tried for a time to resist her advances, but eventually he was no longer able to contain his feelings, and made love with Mune in his apartment. Unbeknownst to them, an instantly-jealous Masayuki accidentally discovered the truth. The next night he became staggeringly drunk and invited Abe to meet him at the Abeno Shrine, planning to murder him with a hidden butcher knife when he arrived. At first unsuspecting, Abe arrived on the scene, but once he saw the decrepitly drunk Masa he knew what was afoot. He promptly bid Masayuki farewell, then disappeared, going back to his job in the Heian Era, leaving a pregnant Mune behind him; her child is Sasshi's father.
Childhood friends Arumi and Sasshi are residents of the Abenobashi commercial district in Osaka, Japan. After an accident, they find themselves transported to an alternate sword and sorcery world. Their attempt to get back to reality finds them traversing a series of nonsensical worlds built on science fiction, war, fantasy, dating sim games and American movies. Each alternate Abenobashi is a surreal manifestation of Sasshi's otaku interests, populated by analogs of the protagonist's relatives and acquaintances and a blue-haired stranger known as Eutus.
Their quest to return home is at core a bildungsroman because the Abenobashi dimensions are mostly hobby worlds of increasing sophistication. Sasshi does not want to go home, and in fact is the sole force propelling them between worlds. While chasing the cat in the first episode, Arumi's grandfather fell off the roof and was hospitalized. With this new trauma pressuring him in addition to his apprehension about the destruction of the shopping arcade and the Asahina's moving away, Sasshi was no longer willing or able to cope with reality, and unbeknownst to even himself, he had caused their dimension to rewrite itself into worlds echoing his escapist obsessions.
- Satoshi "Sasshi" Imamiya (今宮 聖志 Imamiya Satoshi?)
- A precocious, hyperactive, 12-year-old typical Osakan boy. He has a huge passion for collecting, Role-playing games, sci-fi, dinosaurs, guns and visual novels. Sasshi's family used to run the local bathhouse, the Turtle Bath, but was forced to give it up and move out due to redevelopment plans for the Abenobashi Shopping Arcade area. Sasshi spends his lazy days hanging out with his best friend Arumi. While visiting each world, Sasshi is quick to learn the gimmick behind each one, and eventually begins playing by the world's "rules". It is strongly hinted he has feelings for Arumi, and is prevented them from going back due to the fact she will leave for Hokkaido.
- Voiced by: Tomo Saeki (Japanese), Luci Christian (English)
- Arumi Asahina (朝比奈 あるみ Asahina Arumi?)
- Sasshi's best friend and classmate, having practically grown up together with him in the Abenobashi Shopping Arcade. A sensible and pragmatic girl who is a foil to Sasshi. Arumi's eccentric father and stubborn grandfather run a French restaurant in the Shopping Arcade known as the Grill Pelican. It appears, however, that the Asahina family will be closing up shop in the near future as part of redevelopment in the area and moving to Hokkaido, forcing Arumi to leave Sasshi behind. She expresses a strong distaste for every world that she and Sasshi visit.
- Voiced by: Yuki Matsuoka (Japanese), Jessica Boone (English)
- Masayuki Asahina "Grandpa Masa" (雅ジイ "Masa-jii"?)
- Arumi's grandfather and the founder of the Grill Pelican restaurant. A stubborn and willful old man, Masayuki has been around since the creation of the shopping arcade, and is very knowledgeable about its lore. In the original incarnation of the shopping arcade (that Sasshi and Arumi are from) he succumbs to injuries he receives in a fall from the roof of the Grille Pelican and dies. He is often depicted as a figure of high authority or importance in each parallel world.
- Voiced by: Takeshi Aono (Japanese), Andy McAvin (English)
- Mune-Mune (ムネムネ?)
- A voluptuous bespectacled redhead in the assorted Abenobashi dimensions. Her numerous attempts to "kill" or "help" the children, which are always undertaken with great flair, stand out against even the surreal background of the hobby worlds. Mune-Mune is nearly always searching for Eutus. In reality, she's Sasshi's paternal grandmother. Her name Mune-Mune, which literally translates to "chest-chest" is a pun upon her prominent breasts.
- Voiced by: Aya Hisakawa (Japanese), Kaytha Coker (English)
- Ms. Aki (アキ姉?)
- The neighborhood cross-dresser. A life-long resident of the Abenobashi Shopping Arcade, he is quite knowledgeable about the history of the area and its people. In each parallel world, he is often depicted in various female roles.
- Voiced by: Kouji Ishii (Japanese), Jason Douglas (English)
- Sayaka Imamiya (今宮 沙也香･小鬼 Imamiya Sayaka?)
- Sasshi's older sister. A stereotypical teenage girl, she is quite intent on being cool by shying away from the family's Osaka influences. She diets and has an interest in fortune telling. Sayaka shows up within the Abenobashi dimensions accompanying Mune-mune and Ms. Aki.
- Voiced by: Akemi Okamura (Japanese), Monica Rial (English)
- Eutus (ユータス Yūtasu?)
- A recurring element of the Abenobashi dimensions who shares a bond with Sasshi. Eutus is connected to the Abenobashi Shopping Arcade: he is doomed to wander the various dimensions until the cause of this misfortune is rectified. His real identity is the legendary onmyoji Abe no Seimei and is also Sasshi's (illegitimate) paternal grandfather.
- Voiced by: Rikiya Koyama (Japanese), Chris Patton (English)
- Kouhei (幸平さん Kōhei-san?)
- A shady businessman who runs a stall selling food as well as many different trinkets that may or may not be as helpful as he claims. Kouhei always seems to have a friendly aside for Sasshi and Arumi - especially when he perceives the opportunity to wring them for money. He is depicted in each parallel world as some sort of vendor.
- Voiced by: Katsuyuki Konishi (Japanese), John Gremillion (English)
The series is replete with cultural allusions to Japanese media, pop culture, dialects, stereotypes, businesses, games, anime, and even puns and train routes, so much so that the American DVD release includes a special feature which enables pop-up glosses: AD Vid-Notes. The distinctive Osaka dialect is put to comic use throughout the series.
The English dub for the series equates the Osaka dialect with Southern American English. A pamphlet included in the first DVD volume of the series states that a Texan accent was determined to be the English equivalent of Kansai-ben because of the similarities shared by both districts in terms of cultural significance and portrayal in the media. Further supporting this decision is the "cowboy"-style appearance of Sasshi's hat, as well as the frequent use of banjo music in the soundtrack - all things that Western viewers would, incidentally, associate with Texas.
The manga of the same name was created after the anime was developed, and while the major characters and plot elements remain the same, the overall story arc was (according to the production notes in the first volume) changed to fit the medium better, and a few new characters and subplots are added (i.e. Ochi, a manga only character, is a young landlady who is very taken with Sasshi that receives multiple incarnations throughout the different worlds. Also, Sasshi's feelings for Arumi are much stronger and less ambiguous than they are portrayed in the anime). Furthermore, the manga features more frontal nudity than the anime.
Every Abenobashi episode after the first, takes place in an alternate Shopping Arcade:
- "Mystery! Abenobashi Shopping Arcade"
- "Adventure! Abenobashi Sword and Sorcery Shopping Arcade" (RPG world)
- "Hook Up! Abenobashi Great Milky Way Shopping Arcade" (Science fiction world)
- "Fire It Up! Abenobashi Hong Kong Combat Shopping Arcade" (Martial arts world)
- "Extinction! Abenobashi Ancient Dinosaur Shopping Arcade" (Prehistoric world)
- "In the Night Fog! Abenobashi Hard Boiled Shopping Arcade" (Hardboiled world)
- "Flashback! Magical Shopping Arcade" (Abenobashi during the late 1950s during the Allied occupation)
- "Set Your Heart Aflutter! Abenobashi Campus Shopping Arcade" (Dating sim world)
- "It Cries! The Bush Warbler Heiankyo" (Abenobashi during the Heian period)
- "Fluffy, Bubbly! Abenobashi Fairy Tale Shopping Arcade" (Fairy tale world)
- "Resolution!! Abenobashi Battlefield Shopping Arcade" (War world)
- "Huge Reversal?! Abenobashi Hollywood Shopping Arcade" (Hollywood world)
- "Return To Life! The Legendary Onmyou Mystic"
- The pelican, turtle, dragon, and tiger seen in the original Abenobashi shopping arcade at some points are based on Suuzaku, Genbuu, Seiryuu, and Byakko respectively. These four govern the hemispheres of the earth in Chinese mythology.
- Ochi, a character only featured in the manga adaptation of Abenobashi, was given a brief cameo in the 12th episode. She can be seen near the end of the episode when the kids go through a dimensional rift, portrayed as a redheaded woman with a broom.
- Sasshi is humorously depicted as the pioneer of the "moe" genre of manga, in the manga adaptation of Abenobashi. The chapter this is seen in also reveals that Masayuki can draw, and the reasons for Miss Aki's decision to be a cross dresser.
- Sasshi is depicted with a cell phone in the beginning of the anime, and near the end of the manga, but is only seen with it once in each medium.
- The manga adaptation for Abenobashi was released before, and completed after the anime adaptation. It featured not only an advertisement for the anime series, but an aftermath chapter that showed Sasshi and Arumi meeting the staff behind the anime, as well as a few voice actors; including their own.
- The only worlds in the anime that aren't featured in the manga even briefly are the Fairytale, Hollywood, and Heian world that Eutus makes his home base. The fairytale world in the anime is a theme park-based world of Sasshi's design meant to capture the interests of a girl (specifically Arumi), where in the manga the theme park world is yet another manifestation of Sasshi's interests. The Hollywood world is not depicted at all in the manga. The Heian world that Eutus uses as his "home" does not appear in the manga adaptation either.
- Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi at the Internet Movie Database
- Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi at TV.com
- Abenobashi☆Mahō Shōtengai at GAINAXnet (Japanese)
- Radio Abenobashi☆Mahō Shōtengai at GAINAXnet (Japanese)
- Radio Abenobashi☆Mahō Shōtengai at BandaiChannel (Japanese)it:Abenobashi - Il quartiere commerciale di magiaru:Абенобаши: магический торговый квартал