Five years ago, a string of grisly murders shook the city to its core and now the rumors have begun once more. Boogiepop... Everyone knows about Boogiepop: meet her one dark night and you are taken. People tell each other the stories and laugh: no one believes that she can possibly exist in this day and age. Still, strange things appear to be going on and the darkness is taking on many forms. Something is out there. Are you safe?
If David Lynch's son grew up in Japan and became a filmmaker like his father, and if his brain had a mouth, it would vomit Boogiepop Phantom onto our screens.
Peppered with some of the best sound editing I've ever heard in an anime, this montage of scarred urbanites and neo-humans colliding into each other violently is the forbearer for anime hits like Baccano. Boogiepop Phantom began the light novel trend in Japan and has spanned multiple mediums to tell this fractured story of an urban legend stalking the streets of urban Japan dispatching creeps who feed on cute school kids.
I could go more into
the story, but that’s not what a review is meant to do. If you want story, go read the synopsis or Wiki it. I'll talk about the viewing experience. This anime is heavy with mood, similar to Serial Experiments Lain in many ways, but what makes this anime stand out by itself is the superb sound production which not only elevates the content but is seemingly an essential part of it. The sound is a core part of the story, guiding the viewer through each sordid tale; through each blood-soaked tragedy, with its eclectic music (everything from electro, drum & bass, to fusion) and reverberating soundscapes.
Each episode plops you firmly into the point of view of various troubled characters battling demons both real and imagined, and all the while small threads appear and disappear, threads tying these character biographies into the larger mystery of what occurs in the opening five minutes of the show.
A five minutes incidentally which are excellently written and directed, a perfect primer for what to expect with this show. If you feel like bailing out after those five minutes, then you should, because you won’t appreciate what happens for the next eleven episodes, which is more of the same quality of storytelling. Boogiepop Phantom excels in both 'show dont tell' and voice-overs. I've lamented the usage of voice-overs in anime many times, calling it a lazy screenwriting tool, but it’s used perfectly in Boogiepop Phantom. Character voice-overs actually tell us things we don’t know, and give us insight into their motives.
A review is meant to help make up your mind. If I were Miss Boogiepop Phantom herself, I'd shoot a psychic grapple hook into your mind and pull you into this trendsetting show so you could experience terror and awe, as only a viewer should when watching a classic anime.
Dementia is one of the rarest genres when it comes to TV anime. There are currently only 3 of them listed on MAL: Neon Genesis Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain and Boogiepop Phantom. Most anime watchers have probably heard of the first two countless of times while Boogiepop does not get the same amount of recognition. So why is Boogiepop not considered a classic as well?
Let's start with the story. Boogiepop has an episodic and non-linear structure that works surprisingly well. Each episode focuses on one character and a theme related to said character. Some episodes move the plot forward more than others, but each of
them adds something to the main mystery. In the end, none of them serve as filler and all have some relevance to the plot.
The themes in Boogiepop are complex and mature, there are few shows that manage to be analytical of the human psyche in this way. There is however one big downside about Boogiepop's approach, and that is a lack of focus. Sure, it covers a fair amount of themes, and for the most part it does it well, but it never puts a lot of focus on the same one since we do not get to follow the characters for longer than one episode. It is enjoyable to watch for what it is but we do not spend enough time on a single theme for it to have that much of an impact, lowering the memorability of the series. Another thing that deserves mentioning is that it can feel a bit convoluted at times, but it never gets to the point where it becomes too overwhelming and loses its meaning.
The episodic nature of the show serves the mystery well, establishing it early on in its first episode. Throughout the entire show, it keeps adding tiny bits to the puzzle until we finally get to see the whole picture. Each episode raises its own questions about the story, that are answered in a later episode that showcases another perspective on the events. The way we got to see how the actions of one character made an impact on other people’s stories was interesting. The way this is handled is masterful, making every episode both intriguing and satisfying. On the flip side, there are two problems with this aspect of the show. For starters, not everything gets explained. There are plot threads that do not get a proper resolution. But to be fair, the main mystery does, so that problem ends up being merely something that could have been improved on. The second one is that a lot of characters look too similar, making it sometimes hard to identify them, adding some unneeded confusion.
Apart from that, the art on its own is nothing too special, the character design is pretty cookie-cutter and has a realistic look to it, but the dimmed down color palette is what makes the visuals stand out. Animation-wise, this show does not have much to offer. There is usually not much movement happening in each frame, sometimes none at all, and it even goes as far as to replace animation with footage of real people walking for no other discernible reasion than to save budget.
So why does it not fail in this department? Because it works well together with the sound to create a somber atmosphere. Boogiepop uses sound effects extremely well, it is arguably what the show does best. Most of them are electronic sounds, which not only fit the story, but also complement the scenes in which they are used to create the strongest possible atmosphere. The music tracks are solid, working well in favor of the anime whenever they play. Perhaps the reason it works so well is because it is a different approach to sound that is not frequently used in anime. Using silence to build tension is another trick that Boogiepop has up its sleeve.
All that being said, what factor about the show brings it down to "only" being a good anime? That would have to be the characters. While the cast is not bad, it is not exactly good either. The main problem of the cast is that it is not memorable at all. With the focus being shared between a lot of them, none serve to make an impact in the long run. They are enjoyable to watch for what they are, and work well in delivering the theme they are set out to deliver but none of the characters get enough time in the spotlight to be remembered. Add the fact that some of them are flawed in their execution and do not do much outside of filling a specific purpose, and in the end you get a cast that is nothing special.
On the flip side, some of the more enigmatic characters fill their niche quite well. The way they are presented contributes to making them interesting, and revelations about the mysteries surrounding them are handled in a satisfying manner.
Compared to the episodic characters, the main characters do not get explored much, if at all, though they still serve their purpose just fine. In fact, that would be the best way to sum up the entire cast of Boogiepop Phantom: they work for what they are, but they do not make a big difference to the series as a whole.
Despite its not so impressive cast, Boogiepop manages to be entertaining throughout, in quite a few different ways. Both as a psychological show, thanks to the thematic studies, but also as a mystery show because of the way the plot is presented. It even scratches the horror niche because of how atmospheric it is. Through clever use of audiovisuals and content it delivers on the tension well, and is sometimes straight up uncomfortable.
Perhaps because of the variety of genres Boogiepop Phantom combines, the show never got boring to watch. While not the most memorable anime in history, nor one that everyone will enjoy, it is definitely a good show. But it also could have been so much more if it just had a more memorable character cast. Still, a definite recommendation.
If I were to describe Boogiepop Phantom in 5 words or less, it would be: dark, atmospheric, strange, confusing, and more importantly, outstanding. So what makes this show outstanding? Well that's where this review comes in handy ; ).
First off, Boogiepop is a horror anime, pretty much like Elfen Lied and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and all three shows also have a few similarities: blood, gory violence, very disturbing, great art and animation, and a dive into the human psyche. But then again, there are the differences between the three and what makes Boogiepop different from the other two is also what makes it
What makes it truly stand out completely is the art/animation. Throughout the entire show(except the last episode), the art is done in a dark, hazy, blurry, sepia tone; the animation is good but sadly the character designs are very bland and make it almost impossible to tell everyone apart. Both art and animation are really good, but they make the show a lot more confusing the it's own plot line which I will get to right now.
The story for the show is very non-linear, if you go into this without knowing anything about it, you'll get left behind scratching your head for sure. Boogiepop takes place in an unamed city in Japan where a month ago, a pillar of light appeared out of nowhere and strange things start to happen along with some nasty murders that seem connected to another killing spree from five years ago. Actually, trying to come up with a brief synopsis for this show is honestly very difficult, so lets just leave it at that for now. From time to time, the show would focus on a certain character and learn about them and their connection to the events. Just like the works of Satoshi Kon, Boogiepop is very very psychological and when it comes to the human psyche, it goes in way deep than you would image. There are also some themes in this show such as: change, relationships, dualism, and escapism.
Finally sound; not only does Boogiepop having great sound editing, but it also has some of the best music ever composed in an anime. The music mainly consist of gregorian, experimental electronica, and mostly just sound effects made for the anime. I haven't heard much of the Japanese dub, but the english dub is really good; Right Stuf International did a great job with the dub if I say so myself.
Elfen Lied and Higurashi are indeed both great horror anime, but to me, Boogiepop Phantom is one of the most underrated horror anime as well as one of the most overlooked anime in general. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for something good and scary to watch. Multiple viewings are a must for Boogiepop Phantom.
As the anime industry evolves, some things are inevitable. Great directors pass on, the public's tastes change, and the wellspring of originality runs drier and drier.
When studios need to release something, but can't come up with ideas, one of two things happen. They either look at what's selling and create something that they think will pacify the masses, at the cost of new and interesting concepts.
Or, they decide to adapt something popular from another form of media and hope for the best.
Adaptations can range from good to bad depending on a variety of factors. The loyalty to the source material, the director/studio in
charge of the project, the form of media being adapted in the first place, and even the length of the source material can make or break an adaptation.
Boogiepop Phantom was produced by Studio Madhouse, a name that has produced many outstanding anime over the years. Of course, every studio has their fair share of failures as well. Luckily, Boogiepop Phantom, a portion of the light novel series by Kouhei Kadono, isn't one of them.
Despite being directed by Takashi Watanabe, a man whose main body of works are fanservice heavy comedy fantasy anime, Boogiepop is a departure from his usual style. Here, there is no fanservice or comedy. Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh, after all. There's still some fantasy/supernatural elements, but not in the over the top way his works usually involve.
Instead, you will find a dark story cataloging the corruption and insanity of humanity. Whenever there is a small flicker of hope, it is inevitably extinguished. Due to stellar sound and art direction, this feeling really sinks in as you continue on this hopeless journey.
No sound is wasted or out of place. Everything from the sounds of downtown Japan to the ticking of a clock serves to draw you into the world of Boogiepop. The music is oftentimes unsettling, making sure that you are never too comfortable. Even in the most mundane of scene, you can never really relax.
The art style is dreary as fits a setting like this, but the animation has started to age. It shouldn't be enough to bring you out of submersion, but if you look too hard you'll notice a few stiff animations here and there. The characters look too mundane in some cases, and can be difficult to tell apart right away, leading to more confusion in an already mind bending story.
After all, half of the anime you are going to be scratching your head as to what is going on. This show likes to make you think, and think hard. If you pay close attention, you should be able to keep things straight enough not to be completely lost, but this is definitely not a show to watch when you don't feel like thinking.
Most of the plot is revealed by the end, and the biggest questions will be answered. There are a few plot points that suffer because of the nature of the adaptation, however. The original light novels are separated into different story arcs, and unfortunately this adaptation only covers about one and a half of the over 10 arcs present in the light novels.
While the core information needed to understand this story is here, some of the things leading up to the current arc aren't well fleshed out, leaving you wondering how all this started.
All in all, Boogiepop Phantom is a dark and unsettling anime with an intricate plot that almost always delivers. The characters are interesting enough even if they aren't all incredibly developed. Combined with the near perfect sound direction, Boogiepop is a series you really shouldn't miss if you like intelligent plots, mature themes, and/or psychological horror.
Scores of anime characters can level mountains, resurrect the dead, or perform similar feats but few possess the level of power necessary to truly be called a god. From warping reality as they see fit to changing the course of history for fun, these deities can influence whole worlds on a whim.