It isn't often that I can't come away from a series with a solidified theme or idea that it was trying to get at. That's why I feel the need to write this little article. It's me, Ringwormsherm, and these are my thoughts on Boogiepop Phantom.
Boogiepop Phantom is a series that I've heard barely anybody, if anyone at all talk about. I had seen it mentioned approximately two times in either videos or forums and decided to spontaneously watch it after seeing it for sale at a con. The ominous title and lack of anyone really talking about it was enough to spark interest in me.
And so, I watched it.
I don't even really know how or where to start with this series, so I'll just dive right into it. Saying that Boogiepop Phantom was an interesting experience is probably one of the biggest understatements I could make. It's a bleak and thoughtful series that took its precious time in making its voice heard to me. I know this may sound horrendously cheesy and cliched, but Boogiepop is really more of an experience than a proper anime series.
It's attempting to say something, but I don't exactly know what. That's why I'm not doing a legitimate, full-on review of this series. I haven't digested it for a long enough period of time to actually obtain a decisive A or B answer for what this series is trying to say. Honestly, I doubt that day will ever come. But that is where the beauty in this series lies. This series is more along the lines of Serial Experiments Lain and Texhnolyze where the takeaway is substantially more philosophical and subjective than from that of other anime. The content, the story-telling method, and the ending allow for complete personal interpenetration and I grew to appreciate this immensely. The series doesn't try to steer you in one specific direction. It shows you all of the possible directions and lets you pick which set you want to take.
The series itself is a somber experience highlighted by dark and muted colors and an equally bizarre atmosphere that took some getting used to. The series, to me, was like a giant, vacant expression. It was the exact opposite from what most of us are used to anime being. It was almost deterring at first, but I began to find it more and more endearing in a weird, depressing way. For all I know, it may be purposeful in the way it's executed; the lack of life in the execution of the series drives the uninspired away, only leaving those dedicated enough to trudge forward. However, those intrigued enough by the solemn atmosphere are greeted by a unique series of tightly interwoven short stories of seemingly ordinary people fighting their demons, both supernatural and metaphorical, and the tolls these battles have on their lives.
I think Boogiepop's storytelling method is brilliant in execution. With most of the short stories, Boogiepop presents the viewer with the end of the story without revealing that it's the end and then proceeds to show the viewer how the story arrives at said conclusion. Even better is that multiple times, the series presents the ending to one story in one episode only to have the story told three or four episodes down the line. This is what makes the narrative so effective. The series presents itself like a series of short stories only to have them slowly link together one by one, culminating in them creating a singular, overarching picture by the end. But even once the entire illustration has been revealed, you still may not gather everything it's saying.
To me, Boogiepop seems to possibly be a commentary on the human psyche. I believe that it says that we create our own monsters under the bed and that they don't spawn from nothing. I also think it may be trying to convey how malice, contempt, and self-destruction can spawn from the most innocent of places such as from hope or from one's own past both on an individual level and collectively as a society. But honestly, Boogiepop could be saying a lot of things. It could also be saying nothing at all. Maybe I'm just an example of Hideaki Anno's theory of people looking for meaning in meaningless places. I don't know.
Now lastly, I'll just mention some vicarious stuff about the series (Minor Spoiler Ahead). The first thing is how the color palate changes in the final episode. I think it is both symbolic of how the series has become a whole picture by the end and also in how the world is finally free of the thick malice known as "Boogiepop" by the final episode, as conveyed through the presence of color. I'd also have to punch myself if I didn't mention the sound editing in this series. It's bloody amazing. Not only is the soundtrack mostly composed of techno beats and quasi non-decipherable sounds which are remarkably fitting, but the way this series utilizes silence and abrupt cut-offs of its music is masterfully done. The background music almost acts as a buildup to the gratuitous silence, making the dialogue spoken in that scene that much more powerful and meaningful.
Boogiepop Phantom was a series that I had literally zero expectations for. What I got was a thought-provoking, atmospheric series that not only rewarded me with a one-of-a-kind viewing experience, but also garnered a huge amount of respect from me by the end. It's a series that still causes me to stumble a bit when I try to completely wrap my head around it.
However, I do know that this series isn't for a large portion of the anime community. The generic and muted art style, dryer dialogue, and seeming lack of continuity at the beginning will drive a lot of people away. If you are one who watches anime to escape to a fantasy full of action and blood or comedic shenanigans, you will find this series bland and boring as shit. This series is only for those wanting a mind-bender that requires close attention and abstract conceptualization.
Still, this is a unique series that most diehard anime fans should at least attempt to watch. Really, the first 2 episodes are all you'll need to watch to determine whether or not you'll like the rest of this series.
Watch or Don't Watch: Watch
This is one more in the books for me. Stay tuned for more, and keep watching anime!