The series premiered April 4, 2002 on Kids Station. It was 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 that 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 to find out that he was too late. Overcome with guilt, he decided to perform a forbidden Onmyō ritual that would allow him to resurrect the dead by transferring himself and the bodies of Masayuki and Mune 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 assistance to build the Abenobashi Shopping Arcade. He was also madly in love with Mune, 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 Abeno-ku, Osaka. 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 a cat in the first episode, Arumi's grandfather fell off a roof and was hospitalized. With this new trauma pressuring him in addition to his apprehension about the eventual 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.
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 English 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:
|No.||Title||Original air date|
|01||"Mystery! Abenobashi Shopping Arcade"
"Fushigi! Abenobashi☆Shoutengai" (不思議!アベノ橋☆商店街)
|04 April 2002|
|Many of the local shops are going out of business and a new shopping area is coming. And now Sasshi and Arumi soon find that they aren’t in Osaka anymore, and instead, have suddenly been transported to a strange and magical world.|
|02||"Adventure! Abenobashi Sword and Sorcery Shopping Arcade (RPG world)"
"Bouken! Abenobashi☆Ken to mahou shoutengai" (冒険!アベノ橋☆剣と魔法商店)
|11 April 2002|
|Osaka is gone, Arumi and Sasshi find themselves in a world full of dragons and strange mythical creatures. All the familiar faces from back home are here, but with completely different personalities, and the two are suddenly enlisted to conquer an evil force.|
|03||"Hook Up! Abenobashi Great Milky Way Shopping Arcade (Science fiction world)"
"Gattai! Abenobashi☆Daiginga shoutengai" (合体!アベノ橋☆大銀河商店街)
|18 April 2002|
|Sasshi and Arumi believed that a strange goblin they encountered when they first arrived in the Middle Ages would have the power to send them home. Now they are stuck in a futuristic version of their home, and mecha combat may be their only means of escape.|
|04||"Fire It Up! Abenobashi Hong Kong Combat Shopping Arcade (Martial arts world)"
"Moeyo! Abenobashi☆Hon Kon kakutou shoutengai" (燃えよ!アベノ橋☆香港格闘商店街)
|25 April 2002|
|It seems that the goblin just can’t get things right. Another attempt to send Arumi and Sasshi back home finds them now in Hong Kong, and Sasshi is enlisted to train and be a part of an upcoming tournament.|
|05||"Extinction! Abenobashi Ancient Dinosaur Shopping Arcade (Prehistoric world)"
"Zetsumetsu! Abenobashi☆Kodai kyouryuu shoutengai" (絶滅!アベノ橋☆古代恐竜商店街)
|02 May 2002|
|Sasshi and Arumi thought for sure that they were going back home this time. Instead, they find themselves in a prehistoric version of their home, complete with the usual cast of strange relatives that they have grown accustomed to seeing.|
|06||"In the Night Fog! Abenobashi Hard Boiled Shopping Arcade (Hardboiled world)"
"Yogirino! Abenobashi☆Haado boirudo shoutengai" (夜霧の!アベノ橋☆ハードボイルド商店街)
|09 May 2002|
|Now, Sasshi and Arumi are in a new version of their home that has a vibe very similar to 1930’s gangster films, but they both end up working on opposite sides, unintentionally of course.|
|07||"Flashback! Magical Shopping Arcade (Abenobashi during the late 1950s during the Allied occupation)"
"Kaisou! Mahou shoutengai☆Tanjou" (回想!魔法商店街☆誕生)
|16 May 2002|
|A more somber look at the magical shopping arcade as told from those that were there some 50 years ago.|
|08||"Set Your Heart Aflutter! Abenobashi Campus Shopping Arcade (Dating sim world)"
"Tokimeke! Abenobashi☆Gakuen shoutengai" (ときめけ!アベノ橋☆学園商店街)
|23 May 2002|
|Sasshi thinks that he and Arumi might have made it back to their world until he notices all of the cute high school girls wandering around in droves. It's at that point he realizes that they have found their way into a dating simulation video game.|
|09||"It Cries! The Bush Warbler Heiankyo (Abenobashi during the Heian period)"
"Nakuyo! Uguisu☆Heiankyou" (泣くよ!うぐいす☆平安京)
|30 May 2002|
|Arumi has left Sasshi out of pure frustration, and probably because she looks like a goblin, and also probably due to the fact that she's grown over 50 feet high. Eutus has agreed to help Sasshi get back home and reveals the truth to him, as well as their karmic connection.|
|10||"Fluffy, Bubbly! Abenobashi Fairy Tale Shopping Arcade (Fairy tale world)"
"Pawapawa! Abenobashi☆Meruhen shoutengai" (ぽわぽわ!アベノ橋☆メルヘン商店街)
|06 June 2002|
|Determined to find the perfect place that will make Arumi happy, and where he won't have to deal with her grandfather's death, Sasshi puts the two of them in a fairy tale world. But Arumi isn't happy at all.|
|11||"Resolution!! Abenobashi Battlefield Shopping Arcade (War world)"
"Ketsudan!! Abenobashi☆Senjou shoutengai" (決断!!アベノ橋☆戦場商店街)
|13 June 2002|
|After the troubles of the amusement park, Sasshi and Arumi are now at war.|
|12||"Huge Reversal?! Abenobashi Hollywood Shopping Arcade (Hollywood world)"
"Taigyakuten!? Abenobashi☆Hariuudo shoutengai" (大逆転!?アベノ橋☆ハリウッド商店街)
|20 June 2002|
|The two now find themselves in a world of Sasshi’s favorite movies.|
|13||"Return To Life! The Legendary Onmyou Mystic"
"Yomigaere! Maboroshi no omyouji☆" (甦れ!まぼろしの陰陽師☆)
|27 June 2002|
|Arumi and Sasshi are finally making their way home. But Arumi's grandfather will still be dead. Sasshi refuses to let that happen, so he jumps again into another world. But in the end he cannot dream away reality...unless he can dream away the mistakes of the past.|