Boogiepop: The Ultimate Guide (Part 2)
by Lesley Smith
The beam of light featured at the climax of Boogiepop and Others was not the end of the story, but merely the beginning of the epilogue. From January 6, 2000 to March 22, 2000, a twelve-episode anime series took Japan by storm and added a whole new dimension to the already complex mythology of the Boogiepop franchise. This series was called Boogiepop Phantom.
Boogiepop Phantom is often mentioned in the same breath as Serial Experiments Lain and the more recent Paranoia Agent. All three series share a philosophic style and a dark, almost disturbed, feel that encourages the viewer to pay extra close attention and draw his or her own conclusions from the events shown. None of the answers are ever simple and a true understanding of the show's deeper meaning may not even be truly found until the second or third viewing. For trivia buffs, Lain and Boogiepop Phantom are often noted as share a voice actress-that of Shimizu Kaori who provides not only the voice of Lain herself, but also Miyashita Touka in Boogiepop Phantom.
One night, a bright beam of light was seen shooting up to the heavens from the location of Shinyo Academy. Moments later, an electromagnetic pulse rippled across the city destroying computers and causing millions of homes to go dark. The form of Yurihara Minako, which the Manticore adopted, was gone and the Academy students were continuing on with their lives...but all is not finished.
Boogiepop remains, despite completing his mission and vanquishing Manticore. However, not everything is as it seems. As fate would have it, there is actually a Boogiepop doppelganger running around who, out of "respect" for the original, has dubbed themselves "Boogiepop Phantom." Despite the fact that both of these Boogiepops dress the same, it is possible to tell the two apart: the original Boogiepop possesses Miyashita Touka's short statue and her face, while Boogiepop Phantom is taller, has a more feminine voice and possesses the face of Manticore's final form, Yurihara Minako.
Boogiepop Phantom is one of the more prominent characters in the series, even though he only appears for a relatively short period of time. His choice of names is apt as he is indeed a phantom--an immaterial being created by a combination of Manticore's attempt to survive its physical destruction and Boogiepop's own memories.
Since the night when beam of light split the sky, all has not been right in the city. An aurora can be seen in the sky and the pulse that expanded across the city did not just affect electronics, but also people. As a result, various students at Shinyo Academy and also Hijiridani High School began exhibiting abilities they had not possessed before that night.
Each episode in the series focuses on a particular person and events are told in the same non-linear, vignette style found in both the books and the live action movie. The series itself covers three specific time periods: five years before the events of Boogiepop and Others when a serial killer was active in the city; the recent past contained in Boogiepop and Others--such as the climax of the novel or earlier events such as Saotome peddling Manticore's drug; and finally, a period of time set in the present that spans the months after the beam of light.
To explain this to the viewer, each scene is broken down and numbered with the location and the time period indicated. This method also retains the omnipresent feel of the entire Boogiepop franchise by showing the same scene or events a number of times from different perspectives, often out of chronological order. In the case of the anime series, this can leave the viewer quite confused and it takes another couple of episodes before the context is discovered. This method also allows for some of the more interesting scenes to be viewed, including answering the question of where exactly Boogiepop got his costume from and the precise event that triggered his first appearance five years ago.
Cast of Characters
The twelve episodes focus on a number of characters--including "Fire Witch" Kirima Nagi--that have been affected by the events surrounding the beam of light. Some characters have gained special abilities, while others have been forced to cross paths with characters like Boogiepop Phantom, the mysterious butterfly girl known as Kisaragi Manaka, or the psychic essence which is all that remains of the Manticore--an essence that adopts various forms including that of Saotome Masami. Added to this, each of the characters--be they good or evil--have their own lives, loves and dreams, as well as a good measure of problems that affect their personalities making them feel more rounded and real.
The overall theme of the series is once concerning evolution; hence its usage as the volume tag on The Right Stuf International's Region 1 DVDs--each of which were numbered Evolution 1 through 4.
Each of the students displaying new abilities--from Jonouchi's ability to remove the bugs of emotion on a person's heart to Manaka's gift of expressing memories as butterflies--are evolving and this is something that the mysterious Towa Organization wants stopped at all costs. Ironically, many of these gifts were the results of drugs injected into patients by the Towa Organizations that had been lying dormant for years and were only triggered into existence when the beam of light awakened them.
As a result of this, the Towa Organization and its weird assortment of agents appear throughout the series. Some of the more colorful agents include: artificially created or 'composite' humans like Mo Murder, Scarecrow, Spooky E and Snake Eye (who has taken on the appearance of a police officer named Morita). While an important aspect of the series, very little is actually discovered about this secretive and mysterious agency aside from the fact that they wish to kill anyone showing signs of being further along the evolutionary path than regular humans.
This is where Boogiepop Phantom comes in; his purpose is to clean up the mess caused by the Towa Organization. This involves spiriting the altered students to safety and placing them in stasis in unused tunnels beneath the city--presumably until the day the rest of humanity catches up with them. He also has to deal with the after-effects of the event that created him, such as the resurrection of Manaka by Echoes (who, as a result, now possesses his speech impediment) and all before the electromagnetic field recovers. Failure will spell not only the end of the psychic residue of Manticore, but also the various apparitions like Poom Poom and Boogiepop Phantom himself.
Despite introducing a vast number of new characters not referred to in the novels, Boogiepop Phantom also sees the return of Kirima Nagi, Suema Kazuko and, of course, Miyashita Touka, amongst others. The character designs for these more familiar characters, including Saotome and Boogiepop, are also based on those drawn by Kouji Ogata, the illustrator of the novels.
This anime itself was rendered in a style that gives the entire series a dark tone and bleak feeling. Even the city itself feels claustrophobic. Boogiepop Phantom blurs the lines between horror and science-fiction in a way that forces viewers to contemplate philosophical questions about life, death, and the very natures of both time and reality. The only way to truly grasp what's going on is to re-watch each episode multiple times and immerse oneself in the entire Boogiepop mythology.
Soundtrack and Commentary
No discussion about Boogiepop Phantom would be complete without touching on one of its most notable features--its soundtrack. Best described as "unique," the anime's soundtrack covers everything from haunting Gregorian chants to hard-core electronic beats. In addition to single-noted pedestrian noise that reverberates throughout the entire series, there are a number of interesting sound effects, like the noise made by a CD skipping, which can be heard in the most unlikely of sections of the anime. Indeed, many of the sound effects are either so distorted they cannot be identified or were invented specifically for Boogiepop Phantom and have simply never been recorded before.
Another aspect which made Boogiepop Phantom's Region 1 DVD release both anticipated and unique were the accompanying English-language commentaries by the producer Jeff Thompson and the ADR Director Joe Digiorgi. Still a rarity on the majority of anime DVDs out there, the commentaries give another dimension to the series by offering insight into the monumental task of translating the series into English and further tidbits about the episodes that casual viewers might miss.
When you've finished watching Boogiepop Phantom, be sure to come back February 28 as part three of Boogiepop: The Ultimate Guide will take a closer look at the original manga Boogiepop Dual and even delve into even more novels!
Boogiepop Phantom ©2001 Kouhei Kadono/Mediaworks.