Boogiepop: The Ultimate Guide (Part 1)
by Lesley Smith
Boogiepop: a strange word that has spawned legions of fans across the planet. For those of you who've never seen the anime or the movie, welcome to the first installment of the ultimate guide covering all things Boogiepop!
Boogiepop and Others
In 1997, a Japanese 'light (young adult) novel' about a phantasmal crime fighter-cum-shinigami entitled Boogiepop and Others won the MediaWorks' Degenki Game Novel Contest and has, since then, gained a vast fan base across the globe, inspiring twelve more novels, two manga series, various short stories, an anime series and a live-action movie.
Told in a non-linear fashion through the eyes of five students at Shinyo Academy, Kouhei Kadono's Boogiepop and Others focuses on the object of an urban legend whispered among the female students, of a shinigami (spirit of death) known as Boogiepop.
The legend says Boogiepop is responsible for the rash of disappearances from amongst the Academy's student body, but that's not the whole truth. Another more malevolent being is also active in the school, the Manticore, a deadly shape shifter with a taste for humans currently adopting the form of Shinyo Academy student Yurihara Minako.
Also roaming the city is Echoes, a dishevelled man in rags who is--like his mythological namesake--cursed to mimic only the words he hears spoken by others. It is by crossing paths with this mysterious figure, also seeking to destroy Manticore, that Boogiepop and Others' first narrator, Takeda Keiji, encounters the shinigami of Shinyo Academy lore.
Dressed in a dark cloak and a matching hat, Boogiepop is real and none other than Keiji's girlfriend, Miyashita Touka. Except Touka is not just dressing up; she is 'currently' Boogiepop, a male personality separate from Touka's own that rises up when 'he' detects trouble. Five years prior, Boogiepop appeared to deal with a serial killer and has now returned to put a stop to Manticore and its lover/minion Saotome Masami.
Like many Japanese books, Boogiepop and Others also came with some illustrated pages, drawn by Kouji Ogata. These included colored character shots for the main narrators and antagonists in the novel as well as a memorable quote for each. The novel also contained several single and double-page black and white spreads illustrating specific scenes from the book. Ogata's character designs also inspired a series of fully-animated commercials produced by MediaWorks to promote Boogiepop and Others (the subbed thirty-second version of which can be found here) as well as other books in the series.
The Music Inspired by Boogiepop and Others soundtrack was composed by Yuki Kajiura (who created the music for .hack//SIGN and Tsubasa Chronicle) and comprises of eleven tracks which serve as image songs for the novel. This soundtrack serves to enhance the reader's experience and is a common occurrence in Japan.
Containing a variety of styles, from piano melodies to techno and reworked classical music, the CD is an excellent addition to the Boogiepop universe that serves to further set the mood of the series. However, one of the most important aspects of this CD's release in the US was not the music but the fact that the liner notes contained Ogata's illustrations from Boogiepop and Others along with one-line quotations from the novel.
The Imaginator Saga
Later in 1998, the second novel was published, complete with a bizarre title that would become a staple of the series. Titled Boogiepop Returns VS Imaginator, the novel was published into two parts: Sign (published by Seven Seas under the title Boogiepop Returns) and Parade (Boogiepop VS Imaginator) and illustrated once again by Ogata.
Boogiepop Returns sees the introduction of the mysterious Towa Organization, which appears in the rest of the series as well as Boogiepop Phantom. Shrouded in mystery, this organization is the stuff of conspiracy theorists' nightmares. Its mission: to hunt down psychics and anyone who shows signs of being further along the evolutionary path. It is also thought to have had something to do with Manticore and Echoes as well as the latest villain, who is known simply by the codename Spooky E.
The story also centers on the school teacher Asukai Jin, who can see a person's flaws in the shape of a plant on their chest, and becomes a pawn of the Imaginator, who wants to recreate the world in his image. In addition to this, Boogiepop Returns is also a tale of the doomed love affair between Aya, a low-level Towa minion, and Masaki, the step-brother of Kirima Nagi, from Boogiepop and Others.
Live Action Movie
Y2K also heralded a new addition to the Boogiepop franchise: a live action movie directed by Kaneda Ryu entitled Boogiepop and Others. Based on the original novel and the Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh manga, the movie was given an American release by The Right Stuff International (who also released Boogiepop Phantom and the accompanying soundtrack).
Following the same method of non-linear story telling featured in the novel, the movie opens with the Manticore devouring Yurihara Minako in a scene reminiscent of an erotic movie. Comprised of vignette-like scenes, it then jumps from the various perspectives of students including tomboy Kirima Nagi, introverted would-be murder victim Suema Kazuko, polygamous Kamikishiro Naoko, and nice-guy Takeda Keiji.
The film also takes pains to explain Manticore and Echoes' back-story, which was left left intentionally vague in the novel. Through a telepathic link with Kamikishiro Naoko, Echoes explains that the Manticore is a failed experiment created when scientists attempted to clone him. After killing the scientists, Manticore went on the run, blending into human society by stealing the forms of others.
Various new scenes are also added or expanded upon, such as Nagi--one of the strongest characters in the film--throwing a chair through a first story window. Boogiepop and Others also concentrates on exploring the drug that is produced from the Manticore's tears. The drug has not only become a popular stimulant amongst the students of Shinyo Academy, but its Rohypnol-like qualities also allow Saotome to lure girls for the man-eater to consume.
Finally, Boogiepop's role in the film is rather incidental and tinged with deus ex machina, with the Shinyo students doing all the work and Boogiepop striking the final blow. Regardless the movie is entertaining and a great place for fans to start their obsession with Shinyo Academy's resident shinigami.
Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh
The success of the novel and movie led to not one but two manga series: Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh and Boogiepop Dual. Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh (also known as Boogiepop wa Warawanai) originally ran in the monthly magazine Dengeki Animation (produced by MediaWorks) between October 1999 and May 2001 before being published as a two volume manga series later that year.
Written by Kadono and illustrated by Ogata, Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh essentially retold the events of the first novel in manga form. However, it also included scenes that were not featured in either the novel or the movie, such as an evening of group dating which ends as a sexual encounter between Kamikishiro Naoko and Kimura Akio in one of Japan's numerous love hotels. The look of the manga is also quite unique with soft tones being used for the first fourth of the series and a wispy water-colored look for the rest, rather than the dark, gothic tones commonly seen in many supernatural series. This all serves to significantly enhance the creepiness factor even further.
Of course, this is only the beginning of the Boogiepop franchise. Check back for part two where we will examine Boogiepop Phantom...
Boogiepop and Others ©1998 KOUHEI KADONO/MEDIAWORKS, Illustration: KOUJI OGATA
Boogiepop Returns ©1998 KOUHEI KADONO/MEDIAWORKS, Illustration: KOUJI OGATA
Boogiepop VS Imaginator ©1998 KOUHEI KADONO/MEDIAWORKS, Illustration: KOUJI OGATA
Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh ©1999 KOUHEI KADONO, KOUJI OGATA/MEDIAWORKS
Boogiepop and Others Live Action Movie ©2000 Kouhei Kadono/Media Works/Hakuho-do/Toei Video