There is an urban legend that children tell one another about a shinigami that can release people from the pain they may be suffering. This "Angel of Death" has a name—Boogiepop. And the legends are true. Boogiepop is real.
“I am automatic. When I detect adversity approaching, I float to the surface. That’s why I am Boogiepop—phantasmal, like bubbles.”
First of all, this review only includes the first three light novels in the Boogiepop franchise, as they are the only significant ones that have been licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment. This includes Boogiepop and Others, Boogiepop Returns: VS Imaginator, and Boogiepop Returns: VS Imaginator Part 2. I also own the brilliant Boogiepop Phantom anime, but that is for another review.
Kouhei Kadono’s Boogiepop light novels, stories that I would describe as the morbid side of young adult fiction, are recognized as the success that sparked the
light novel trend in Japan. Every Boogiepop book is executed through different characters’ perspectives, the narrators alternating with each chapter. In the west, oftentimes one’s introduction to the Boogiepop universe is through the horror-themed anime and, like myself, he or she will often find themselves unable to fully comprehend the overall plot of the show. Therefore I thoroughly recommend reading Boogiepop and Others (also known as Boogiepop Never Laughs) before beginning Boogiepop Phantom. It will make for a far more satisfying experience.
The novels themselves are relatively less creepy and horrifying than the show, but are similarly macabre and psychological. Of course, it should be taken into account that animation can certainly enhance the dark atmosphere that is always present in the Boogiepop universe.
“Everyone wants to believe that the runaways were killed by an assassin that wanders in the shadows, fleeting as the morning mist… in-stead of running off to Tokyo or some other grim reality.”
Boogiepop and Others centers on a Junior High-school where rumors of a shinigami who murders those that are suffering are frequent in the female students’ gossip. In reality, Boogiepop is no grim reaper, but something of a super-hero: a creature that fights for justice against those it deems enemies of the world. When an inhuman man-eater infiltrates the school, Boogiepop must come forth in order to end it.
This novel or the manga adaptation is the most ideal introduction to everything Boogiepop. Without reading either of these, to put it simply, when shit goes to shit, one won’t know which shit is which. Regarding the style of writing, Andrew Cunningham’s english translation will often transmit a vibe that would otherwise be found in fiction like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson: a tone that feels as if it is addressing younger readers, lacking complicated literary devices or diction. Whether that is advantageous or not, it depends on the audience.
Overall, without going into much depth, Boogiepop and Others is an unsurprisingly dark light novel chock-full of twisted, psychopathic characters. However, the story also contains a brighter side with focus on the romantic and academic troubles of Junior High and entrance exam students and their relationships with each-other.
“Even if snow does fall in April, Imaginator, it will only melt in the warmth of spring. It will never accumulate.”
Boogiepop Returns: VS Imaginator bears a strange title. To clarify, it is not Boogiepop Returns versus Imaginator, but it is “VS Imaginator” that is the secondary title as “Boogiepop Returns” is the primary. VS Imaginator brings into play several new, interesting developments to the Boogiepop universe. For one, power-inducing drugs from a secretive agency are a plot-point. Inhuman servants to the so-called Towa Organization are sent to the domain where, coincidentally, Boogiepop dwells, and observe the effects of their experimental products. Simultaneously, a creature calling itself the Imaginator is attempting to change humanity through its own power to fulfill an ultimate goal of its own.
The two light novels in the VS Imaginator arc take a turn into entirely different characters while still retaining a couple of the most significant characters from the original. From the execution of this arc, it seems to set the precedent that following light novels will consist of separate, individual arcs all loosely connected by the mysterious hero known as Boogiepop. The tone that I explained about the first novel is still present in the second and third, the light novels all retaining the same translator. A worthy sequel to Boogiepop and Others, Boogiepop Returns: VS Imaginator starts off the continuation of these lovely light novels.
All in all, Boogiepop is a franchise that will not get old for me. It's a dark story focusing quite a lot on teenage mental issues, which is something I can always enjoy. If you're looking for a wonderfully depressing set of novels, I urge you to try out Boogiepop. If you've come here from Boogiepop Phantom, I urge you to make that animated experience even better by reading some of Kadono's original novels.
"Life is brief, young maiden, fall in love; before the crimson bloom fades from your lips, before the tides of passion cool within your hips, for those of you who know no tomorrow." -Isamu Yoshii