To throw my own two cents in.
Amitabha isn't like Bob in Philadelphia.
I don't think he's in a place like that, since practice with Amitabha involves of course nembutsu from the depth of your experience, amongst thoughts, feelings, and often shameful self-knowledge where Bob in Philadelphia can't go.
So in the usual sense that people ask if something is real, no, Amitabha transcends the real in this sense.
That is, Amitabha stands within yet apart, like the proverbial lotus growing in muddy water. Otherwise, how would there be any assistance after this body draws its last breath?
Every experience I've had of Amitabha has been a sense of compassionate wisdom "coming into" my mind or dream. If I'm in a state of delusion, depression, anger, fear, or a nightmare, this presence nullifies it immediately.
When I would pray to God or other bodhisattvas, I never knew if there was an answer.
With Amitabha, some times have just been like "wow, could that really be Amitabha?"
That is not to say Amitabha is some kind of pleasant feeling on call.
There is also a general sense of being ultimately taken care of which makes life's troubles seem less important.
So when I read about Amitabha as a symbol or mythologized spiritual journey or a personified buddha-nature, I'm not quite sure what that would mean.
I'm not sure how I would tell one symbol-thought from among the millions of symbol-thoughts that fly through my head daily.
Those all come and go so fast, they are utterly without refuge. They don't help me while alive, so they certainly won't help me while dying.
As you said, it's hard to be helped by a symbol or a fictional character.
This is my perspective as a follower of Honen and Shinran since 2014, so not very long.
Hope it helps.
No longer active on DW as of February 2017.