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Boogiepop Phantom

Entry updated 15 November 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2001). Original title Bugīpoppu wa Warawanai Boogiepop Phantom. Based on the Light Novels by Kouhei Kadono. Madhouse. Directed by Takashi Watanabe. Written by Sadayuki Murai. Voice cast includes Yuu Asakawa, Jun Fukuyama and Kaori Shimizu. Twelve 24-minute episodes. Colour.

Years ago the secretive Towa Organization captured and experimented on an Alien called Echoes, who came to Earth to evaluate the human race: they created a Clone, called Manticore, who escaped and began devouring people until stopped by Boogiepop (Shimizu). Later Echoes converts into a pillar of light and departs the planet: however, a side effect gave some young people powers such as mind reading (see Telepathy). Fearing these youngsters' effect on human Evolution, the Towa Organization created composite humans to seek out and kill them.

Teenager Touka Miyashita (Shimizu) has Boogiepop residing within her. Boogiepop sees themself as a mechanical process who floats to the surface when adversity approaches (Touka carries a bag containing Boogiepop's trademark cloak and hat to don when appropriate): when Boogiepop manifests, Touka looks more androgynous. Their sighting at so many child murders makes them a bogeyman to schoolkids, and thus their name. Touka's schoolmate Nagi Kirima (Asakawa) was a failed attempt to create a composite human from a normal person: when cured by a sympathetic member of the Towa Organization (whom they subsequently murder), she dedicates herself to seeking justice. However, most of the above is alluded to rather than spelt out in the Anime: most of the backstory forms the plot of a contemporary live-action film, Boogiepop and Others (2000), and of a subsequent television anime also called Boogiepop and Others (2019) (which see).

This Anime is not an adaptation from the light novels, but an original tale. It includes a new character: Boogiepop Phantom, an aspect of Echoes created when he turned into the pillar of light, who wishes to protect the empowered young people by preserving them until normal humans evolve to their level. The dominant themes are Memory and the acceptance of change. One antagonist releases butterflies that contain people's memories, another boasts he uses the "memory of things adults abandon" to restore them as children, leaving the adult as a living husk. Boogiepop argues that butterfly memory "ties people down to their past" and that the other's actions epitomize not memory but regret, adding "there's a difference between missing the old days and being stuck in the past".

Nagi's father, murdered by the Towa Organization, believed reality is a hologram the brain observes, with Boogiepop Phantom suggesting both themself and the murderous residue of Manticore, Manticore Phantom (Fukuyama), are temporary holograms, created from Echoes and Manticore when the former became the pillar of light.

Episodes tell a series of tales whose overlapping and intertwining threads reveal the core story. Each episode jumps back and forth in time, while even the broadcast order is not entirely linear. Despite this overcomplex approach, Boogiepop Phantom is a strong and notable Anime. Visually arresting – it uses a reduced colour palette and vignette filter to good effect – with a wide-ranging, evocative soundtrack, its tone and density recalls the similarly impressive Serial Experiments Lain (1998). [SP]


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