Despite defeating the goblin in the last episode and supposedly earning the chance to return home, childhood friends Arumi and Sasshi appear to have been transported to another bizarre parallel universe where there are many familiar faces but little else that’s part of the world they know. There are erupting volcanoes and dinosaurs for a start”¦in other words, volume 2 is just as off-the-wall, frantic and imaginative as the first.
Although the quantity of material on this disc is lower (only three episodes instead of four), the quality is definitely maintained. Whether the two young heroes, bickering and joking with one another like a married couple, are running from rampaging cavemen in a world akin to “The Land that Time Forgot’ or hanging out with mobsters in a brilliantly authentic American prohibition-era Abenobashi, the gags and parodies come thick and fast. We learn a little more about the mysterious sorcerer who appears in every episode, and thanks to a series of Grandpa Masa’s flashbacks a little more of the Arcade’s history is revealed (it even begins to explain Mune-Mune’s regular and somewhat annoying appearances). The plot is getting into its stride, and although the jumping between worlds occurs with one-per-episode regularity the nature of these insane universes prevents it from becoming stale or repetitive. The animation is crisp and bright, bringing the characters and their surreal surroundings to life brilliantly.
As far as extras are concerned, there are the ADV-standard clean opening/closing animation sequences, a few outtakes from the English dub, another neat newspaper-style inlay booklet and the ever-useful AD Vidnotes feature (which will be familiar to any owners of the Excel Saga DVDs). As the story progresses this handy extra points out the (numerous) cultural references that may be lost in translation and prevents the more subtle aspects of the visual humour going unnoticed in the fast pace of the storyline.
The second instalment of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi has proved to be every bit as outrageous, hilarious and downright strange as volume 1 was. As Arumi’s and Sasshi’s insane journey continues, the subject of the Arcade’s origins is also explored a little more fully and leads me to wonder what could possibly happen next.