Endings Without Context 5: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi

This edition of the series features film projector porn.

Something a little different for this installment of Endings Without Context, in the form of one of the few Gainax series I have never seen. Soon after watching this episode, I went off to some minor convention in Baltimore where kriz and I found single DVDs in a bargain bin for $5 each. It merely served as a reminder that I eventually had to get this post written. Gainax’s history of perplexing endings and my ability to comprehend them be damned.

Oh yeah, real life sucks.

Where to start with this episode? I quickly figured out I was getting a story of a main character doing his hardest to fight against the inevitable. His desire to stay with Arumi and preserve Abenobashi had clearly been what had driven this series. I also got a nostalgic feel out of this episode that felt tinged with regret at how things can never stay the same. Old buildings eventually have to make way for the new, families move on to new places for better opportunities and most of us would have wanted to stay with childhood friends and lovers for as long as possible are just some of the thoughts that came to mind as I watched this episode.

Also being an older Gainax series, their impression on this episode was easy to see. The lengthy pans in the projectionist booth of an old film projector reminded me of the many shots in Kare Kano where objects and places were more of a focus than what was actually being spoken about. Even the ending credits using archival photos seemed nostalgic in the same way.

This show admittedly ran out of ideas at this point.

Now onto the episode itself. There were a few parts I liked. It seemed like it hit all of the important parts of a coming-of-age story. Sasshi, the protagonist, was the one fighting against having to grow up. In having the power to create new worlds to escape from reality, he learned that act of escapism cannot make one truly happy. So he cashes in all that magical power and his childhood to try to make the one he loves happy. Where it goes wrong is in going for the reset ending. The tragic event in Arumi’s life is avoided because someone else makes the sacrifice.

This leads into my attempt to guess the plot of the entire series. In the aftermath of the tragic event and the continuing decay of Abenobashi itself, Sasshi escapes reality with Arumi through a number of magical worlds created by his own imagination. These are just constructs to delay the inevitable parting between the two when she goes to Hokkaido with her father. At the same time, the volumptuous Mune-Mune appears in each world searching for someone while interfering with Sasshi, while having a tragic past of her own. In the end, as I stated above, the party has to come to an end. The deteriorating economic conditions prevalent at Abenobashi have to be faced, and the events of the past have to be acknowledged for everyone to move on. Somehow that sounds very much similar to my own interpretation of Evangelion‘s end, but I’m probably wrong on that account.

Crazy stuff happening with the Earth, that can only mean a reset ending.

Now for the grades:

Character Development: C – The character development in this episode was flying around as though this was still the halfway point of a longer series. It might be fair to discount the revelations throughout this episodes as plot events, but I think they really end up shaping the conclusion of the episode.

Plot Comprehension: B – This was a disappointingly high grade here. Maybe I’ve watched too much Gainax stuff over the years to be shocked anymore. At it’s heart this is a nuts-and-bolts coming of age story. No suddenly turning this show into a story of a nostalgic bounty hunter in space here.

Unintentional Comedy: D – Just one slight chuckle at the bizarro version of America when Sasshi draws a line across a globe.

Deus Ex Machina: Yes – The tragedy of facing real life and the grieving process is prevented by the reset ending.

Sequel Potential: None – I think the era of blatant nostalgia pieces set in the recent past has gone. It’s even highlighted in the episode that the situation wasn’t as good as Sasshi actually thought it was.