Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
A.D. Vision, Inc.
Emru Townsend · July 11, 2004 | When you're learning Japanese, even casually, at some point you learn about the Osaka dialect, generally described as "coarser," or something like that. The implication is that the Osaka native is tougher, brasher, and generally earthier than the Tokyo urbanite—kind of like how Bugs Bunny's streetwise twang speaks volumes about his take-no-prisoners attitude.

It wasn't until I watched Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi that I realized that Osaka itself has played a fairly minor role in the anime I've seen to date. I can think of productions set in Tokyo, Kobe, and all around the countryside, but Osaka? It doesn't register.

Until, as I mentioned, Abenobashi, whose namesake is the shopping district that has always been home to a pair of twelve-year-olds named Arumi and Sasshi. The two have the kind of relationship you almost never see in animation: a boy and a girl on the cusp of adolescence, best friends who can talk about anything. Ten years later they might be married or remain platonic best friends—and neither outcome would surprise anybody.

Except that Arumi's dad, an aspiring French chef, has got a job offer in Hokkaido. Sasshi is devastated, but he soon surrenders to Arumi's forced "que sera, sera" attitude, and the pair decide to spend their last few days together puzzling over the shopping arcade's mysterious origins, and the parts their grandparents played in it.

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
ADV Films, 2003
Directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga
13 episodes

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Even that little bit of amusement is taken from them when Arumi's grandfather Masa is hospitalized after an accident—and just as the first episode passes the twenty-minute mark, things suddenly get very weird.

Arumi and Sasshi unexpectedly find themselves transported to another dimension—one that not only has its own district named Abenobashi, but that has analogues of all the people they know, from their families to "Ms. Aki," the weird cross-dresser. In short order, the duo figure out the rules of this new universe. Videogame-style, they have to acquire magic objects in order to defeat a seemingly all-powerful Great Evil Lord—or should I say, level boss.

When the two defeat the Lord in perhaps the most absurd way imaginable, it turns into a little gremlin that promises to activate the spell that will send them home. However, it does so on the cheap and ends up sending them to another, equally ridiculous Abenobashi—same name, same people, different genre and rules. The series then follows the kids from one Abenobashi to another as they repeatedly figure out new rules and chase down gremlins, hoping to find one competent enough to send them home.
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