Title: Boogiepop Phantom
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 4 Jan 2000 – 2 Mar 2000
Synopsis: Something strange is going on. Several students at the same high school have mysteriously disappeared and a few others have suddenly died. Rumours are spreading that the incarnation of Death, the Boogiepop, must be behind it. Kirima Nagi has taken it upon herself to find out what is happening to her classmates, but these are not isolated cases. There is something much larger at play here.
Mood: Dark and haunting; perfect for the story.
Characters: Far too many to keep track of.
Philosophy: Meandering and overblown.
Focus: This series can’t seem to decide what it’s about.
This series presents itself as a collection of dark, eerie tales, each centred around a different character. All together, the individual stories add up to a larger one looming in the background. This strategy has the potential for creative and powerful storytelling, but Boogiepop Phantom takes on too much to keep itself afloat.
In just twelve episodes we are introduced to an enormous cast of characters, most of whom attend the same high school. Managing a large cast is not impossible, as Baccano! has proven, but here Boogiepop Phantom falters. It is clear enough that these characters are dealing with major problems, ranging from drug addiction to suicidal thoughts to dealing with the death of a best friend, but the viewer is never given enough time to get to know these characters beyond these defining issues. They are never more than the girl whose friend died, or the boy with the drug problem.
I will give the writers credit for creating such a complicated story out of what seems to be a series of barely connected tales. However, with so many characters and so many stories, it’s hard to piece everything together without copious notes. Explanations are lacking and what information is offered is cryptic and foggy. I’m left wondering what exactly the series was trying to be about. Was it the struggles of youth? A dark and mysterious organization that has more control over the world then we could ever realize? The importance of memories in defining individuals? The evolution of humanity?
The series that Boogiepop Phantom most closely resembles is Kon Satoshi’s Paranoia Agent. Both are a collection of abstractly related tales that centre around death and escape, but while Paranoia Agent explores a variety of approaches to this theme, Boogiepop Phantom can’t seem to decide which theme to stick to. There is simply too much happening with too many different characters to either keep track or even really care.
Not helping matters is the poor animation and murky style of the series. Much of the series can barely be seen through the dark and at some points it seems as if the city is made up of nothing but dead-end alleys. The animation, when there is any, is choppy with faded, misty colours. The soundtrack is made up of very few pieces of music, instead employing sounds and effects on the characters’ voices. This serves the dual purpose of creating a dark, foreboding atmosphere, and being incredibly irritating. Yes, the setting made me uncomfortable, but to the extent that I was distracted from the story or couldn’t see what was happening.
Based on a series of light novels, this series suffers greatly from trying to squeeze too much into too little. There is great potential here for a very dark and engrossing tale that is well thought out and pieced together. However, the anime fails to build this into a cohesive, understandable story, instead leaving me struggling to make the connections and see where it was all leading. It is a cold, dark and gruesome story that just doesn’t quite work.
The Rating: 6
Reviewed by: Kaikyaku