The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Boogiepop Phantom

Title: Boogiepop Phantom
Genre: Horror
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 4 Jan 2000 – 2 Mar 2000

Synopsis:  After a strange bright light appears, high schoolers begin to disappear. This bright light causes an electrical disturbance, resulting in the premature evolution of humans and providing them with strange abilities. Meanwhile a girl appears in the city surrounded by glowing butterflies which spread throughout the city images of past events, including a series of murders that occurred 5 years prior. How does this relate to the urban legend of Boogiepop, a being believed to be a shinigami among high school girls?

The Highlights
Storyline: Disjointed, confusing, but enjoyable with repeated viewings.
Themes: Explore the power of memory and the effect of past events on the present.
Ending: Feels out of place in conjunction with the rest of the story.
Aesthetic: Dark and spooky, surreal and frightening.

Boogiepop Phantom is, simply put, unlike any other anime series out there. The narrative covers a range of topics, from secret organizations to human evolution to the effects of past events on the present, all within twelve episodes. Before even entering this series, be aware, much of the events will not make sense upon first viewing. This can be seen as both a strength and a weakness of the series. Boogiepop Phantom is just one addition to the collection of light novels and manga that make up the Boogiepop universe. Even repeated viewings will still probably leave many people in the dark unless they are familiar with the novels, in particular, Boogiepop and Others and Boogiepop: At Dawn. The series works as a puzzle, told in an often disjointed narrative structure that can be perplexing, but rewarding to those interested in the Boogiepop series. With knowledge of these two novels, however, the puzzle comes together and every scene makes sense when conjoined with the novels. Despite its disjointed structure, Boogiepop Phantom never loses track of its direction, and as a collective series pieces itself together without leaving any gaps for confusion.

One of the flaws of Boogiepop Phantom is its weak beginning. The first episode doesn’t serve well as an introduction to the series, and doesn’t work to catch the interest of those unfamiliar with the Boogiepop franchise. This continues for most of the beginning of the series, as the three subsequent episodes follow in the pattern of stand-alone stories and vignettes without giving a bigger picture of where the plot is headed. The series picks up a bit in the fifth episode, during which through a characteristically disjointed structure pieces of the larger plot and key characters in the Boogiepop franchise are introduced. As the series progresses, the vignettes begin to piece together the main plot, which comes together wonderfully.

Another aspect of Boogiepop Phantom that can be criticized is its large cast of seemingly unconnected characters. As Boogiepop Phantom is largely told in vignettes, many characters are introduced in an episode only to be dropped after each episode ends, often leaving new viewers confused as to their purpose. For those watching Boogiepop Phantom in passing, this style can be very confusing, and causes many key characters in the novels to not be given enough attention in the anime series. Repeated viewings and background in the novels will make it much easier to follow the cast of characters, and allow for a greater appreciation of the large cast of characters introduced.

As part of the larger franchise, Boogiepop Phantom is unique compared to the novels as it focuses more on drama, developing through its characters the effects that the events of the novels have had on the residents of the city. By reading the novels in addition to viewing the anime, the relationships between the characters interpersonally as well as their connections to past events in the light novel series become more clear. The fact that the series is often reliant on the novels for the development of its cast does not hurt the series, but rather benefits it. Boogiepop Phantom becomes just a piece of a puzzle, making a viewing of the anime an interactive experience.

In terms of aesthetic, Boogiepop Phantom shares an aesthetic similar to Serial Experiments Lain. Up until the last episode, the series maintains a dark, minimalistic style of animation, which sets the tone for the events of the series and adds to the horror aspect of the show. The series also experiments with the use of sound to great effect. Different vocal effects are used during dialogue that add to the eeriness of the show and also portray the key theme to the show: memory and the effects of the past on the present. The soundtrack ranges from eerie ambient pieces to electronic music that makes the series unnerving to watch.

Boogiepop Phantom is a rare series unlike most seen before. Combining the minimalistic aesthetic of Serial Experiments Lain with the themes of regret and escapism of Paranoia Agent and the disjointed narrative of Baccano!, it definitely is unique among anime. Boogiepop Phantom tells through vignettes the idea that memories have an effect on the present world, and seamlessly mixes the past with the present through its disjointed narrative structure. The series will be very confusing for those who have not read the novels prior to first viewing, but should these viewers gain enough interest in the franchise to read the novels a second viewing will be very rewarding, as the pieces of the puzzle slowly come together. At times Boogiepop Phantom is flawed in its structure, sharing too much information at once without giving sufficient background to the mythos of the series, but with proper background in the franchise the pieces come together to make it an enjoyable anime totally unlike any of its peers.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Hayama

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