BOOGIEPOP PHANTOM (2000)

 

Format: 12 24-minute episodes on 4 DVDs (single-case boxed set is available)

Rating: PG-13+ (AC, AL, GV)

Type: Mystery/Horror

American Production: The Right Stuf International

Japanese Production: Media Works/Madhouse

 

Grading

 

Premise:

A

Story:

A

Writing:

A

Character Design:

B+

Animation:

B

Artistic Merits:

B+ 

English Dub:

A-

Musical Score:

B+

Sound Effects:

A+

Opener:

B

Closer:

B

 

 

Humor Content:

n/a

Action Content:

B

Drama Content:

A-

 

 

DVD Presentation:

A-

DVD Extras:

B

 

 

OVERALL:

A-

 

Synopsis

      Five years ago events were set in motion as a serial killer stalked teenagers in the city. One month ago a blazing pillar of light streaked to the heavens, leaving dramatic change for a few in its wake. Now the teenagers at two high schools are plagued by a rash of sudden suicides and strange disappearances as a serial killer once again makes his mark. Strange, secretive forces seem to be at work, among them the supposed “angel of death” dubbed Boogiepop Phantom; a young woman (Nagi) dedicated to stopping the dark powers at work in the city, and a handful of children and teens with supernatural abilities, including the odd girl who can generate glowing butterflies. All of it combines with normal teen angst to create a situation which can overwhelm the mind and occasionally turn quite deadly.

 

Quotes

      “There’s a difference between missing the old days and being stuck in the past. In the same way that the city must change over time, it’s important that people move forward in their lives.” (Toka, to Suema.)

 

The Long View

      Based on a popular series of novels, Boogiepop Phantom is one of the most intricate and ingenious anime series made to date. It is a somewhat surreal and heavily nuanced story told in twelve pieces with twelve different viewpoints, with each piece interlocking just enough with the others that the whole story becomes one big jigsaw puzzle. It is a story which takes significant effort to sort out and requires studious attention from the viewer because it does not follow the rules of linear story progression. Seeing the consequences of actions from later episodes appear in earlier episodes is not unusual, nor is jumping back and forth between five years ago, one month ago, and the current time. There’s even one episode where the time frame runs backwards if you look at it carefully! It is not a series for the idle viewer.

      Taken as individual episodes, Boogiepop is a sometimes uncomfortably frank case-by-case study of teen angst. Most episodes highlight a single character with a particular problem, among them: an obsessive-compulsive girl who feels increasingly isolated when her best friend’s loss of virginity turns her into a social butterfly (Moto), a girl who is destroyed by being told she isn’t good enough to make her dream of attending a prestigious music school (Saki), a girl who uses a philosophy of utter acceptance of everything as a defense mechanism against dealing with the murder of her friend (Misuzu), and a girl who regularly comes close to suicide as she struggles to find a reason to live (Rie Takai). The most disturbing episode focuses on a young man who transfers his obsession with a character in a dating simulation game (a phenomenon peculiar to Japan) onto a new, underaged waitress in the restaurant where he works. All of these and more are loosely tied into an overall plot involving a secretive organization, “evolved” and “composite” humans, and efforts to control change in the city from within its dark recesses. Once one has seen most of the episodes, two overriding themes become apparent: the need for ongoing change and advancement, and that regret is a pitfall; give it too much weight and things collapse underneath you. These are summed up perfectly by the quote given above, which is distinctly emphasized when it comes up in the story, and are appropriate themes for a story which focuses on youths in a crucial transitional period in their lives. Most teenagers should empathize closely with someone or some situation in this story.

      The functional cast for Boogiepop is enormous because characters in the background in earlier episodes have a habit of appearing in the foreground in later episodes and vice versa; the crazy guy in the street in episode three is the primary character in episode four, for instance. Keeping a log of all the named characters as I watched the show helped me tremendously in sorting things out, so I highly recommend this for a serious view. To help viewers who don’t want to put in that much effort, I have included some notes about important characters at the end of this review. (Do keep in mind that some of these notes could be considered spoiler info.) The two characters to watch most closely throughout are Nagi Kirima and Toka, one or both of whom appears in at least a small way in nearly every episode. It is also important to understand early on that there is both a Boogiepop and a Boogiepop Phantom and that they are separate characters (although this is not at all clear until the late episodes), so the apparent changes in voice for that role are deliberate.

      Boogiepop is beautifully drawn, effectively animated, and infused with considerable visual subtlety, particularly in the character design. The color palette used for the series is limited and muted, however, and most of the artwork looks washed out; unlike most anime, there is nothing bright and vibrant here. Although done deliberately to help set the mood for the series, some people may be turned off by the overall effect. The soundtrack is good and the voice work in both Japanese and English is superb, but it’s in the sound engineering and special audio effects where the series really shines. I have not seen or heard another anime production which makes more effective use of sound, hence the addition of the extra rating line for this series. The jazzy, boogie-themed opener and the more rock-oriented closer are both solid, but I quickly found the eye catch in the middle of each episode to be annoying. The Next Episode bits should not be skipped, as the multilayered audio effects done on them make them among the best episode previews I’ve seen in any anime series.

      The rating for Boogiepop is based on mature themes, the occasional use of a four-letter word (maybe a half-dozen times total throughout the series), and a handful of scenes that get quite graphic. I would not recommend it for any under the age of 15.

      If you’re looking for something very different in anime, Boogiepop Phantom may well be your ticket. It’s available now in an economically-priced boxed set, but is well worth the cost even if you must buy the DVDs individually.

 

DVD Extras/Notes

      Each episode of Boogiepop is subdivided in to as many as thirteen different chapters to reflect the frequent scene breaks – a nice touch. There is also a distinct sound difference between the Dolby 2.0 and Dolby 5.1 sound options; check both out if you have the capability to handle the latter. A less pleasant touch (at least from my viewpoint) is that Japanese with English subtitles on is the default language settings on each DVD, but otherwise the DVD design is quite good. Extras include:

·  Series promos

·  Music videos

·  Director’s Commentary option (available on the Setup menu)

·  Translator/Character Notes – last volume only. I highly recommend checking these since they can help sort out some details that might not have been clear otherwise.

·  Original Line Art – last volume only.

  

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Yurihara/Boogiepop Phantom

Simone Grant

Toka Miyashita/Boogiepop,

Sayoko

Angora Deb

Nagi Kirima,

Manaka

Rachael Lillis*

Saotome/Manticore

Crispin Freeman*

Moto, Poom Poom

Jessica Calvello

Shinpei Kuroda/Kishida,

Spooky E, minor roles

Christopher Nicholas

Morita

J. David Brimmer

Yoji

Liem Christopher O’Brien

Yoko, minor roles

Kelly Shayne Butler

Kazuko Suema

Anne Benkovitz

Megumi, minor roles

Kristin Nelson 

Misuzu,

Akane,

Rika, minor roles

Meghan Hollingshead

Mayumi

Tracy Shannon

Hisashi Jonouchi, minor roles

Corey Marshall

Makiko, minor roles

Carol Jacobanis

Rie Takai, minor roles

Mandy Bonhomme

Yasuko Suzuki,

Shizue

Lea Lane

Rie Sato

Roxanne Beck

Mamoru

Steve Bednarz

Anno Yamamoto, minor roles

Bill Rogers

Sachiko

Meg Frances

Saki

Lisa Ortiz

Yoshiki

Buddy Woodward

 

            * - also had a part in writing, directing, and/or technical aspects of the English production

 

Character Notes (contains spoilers)

Akane – Girl who aspired to be a fairy tale writer but decided to give it up. She created Poom-Poom.

Hisashi Jounouchi – Young man with the ability to see and eat “spiders” on people that represent regret.

Kazuko Suema – Girl still haunted by being stalked by the serial killer five years ago. Friends with both Nagi and Toka.

Kishida – A reporter who is actually a recreated alter ego of Kuroda. Hangs out extensively with Nagi.

Makiko – The female doctor in flashbacks who attends to many other characters as patients and spreads use of the drug Kuroda used on Nagi, helping to create monsters and the Evolved. She is thus indirectly responsible for the original serial killer.

Mamoru – Young man who wants to eliminate things in the world that are worthless and seems to have the power to do so. He is the brother of Sayoko.

Manaka – The rapidly-aged girl who manifests the psychic butterflies, which trigger memories.

Mayumi – Manaka’s mother. Her memory is badly damaged by a fever during her pregnancy, leaving her only able to live in the immediate present.

Megumi – Misuzu’s junior high friend, who introduced her to the take-everything-in-stride philosophy of Panuru. Killed by the first serial killer.

Moto – The boy-shy obsessive-compulsive girl who hates herself and was attracted to Saotome.

Misuzu – A girl who became at peace with everything after her friend Megumi was murdered five years earlier. She becomes a casualty of the current serial killer.

Morita – A police officer replaced by a composite human. He is the serial killer in the present storyline who goes around eliminating the Evolved children.

Nagi Kirima – The loner hero, she was hospitalized five years earlier because she was becoming one of the Evolved and her growth was out of control. She was both inspired and saved by Kuroda. She is one of the most frequently recurring characters.

Poom Poom - An elflike kid manifested by Manaka from Mamoru and based on Akane’s design, he hands out balloons that draw the child out of people.

Rie Sato – A middle school student who lies about her age to get a job as a waitress. Becomes the subject of Yoji’s obsession.

Rie Takai - A friend of Yasuko’s who in later episodes contemplates committing suicide by slitting her wrists.

Rika – A friend of Shizue’s who delivers her diary to her mother five years after her death.

Saotome – The original boyfriend of Yasuko and love interest of Moto, he dies in the incident that creates the pillar of light. His form is assumed by the man-eater Manticore.

Sachiko – The mother of Shizue (I think).

Saki – An aspiring piano player who becomes distraught over being told that she isn’t good enough for music school. She loses her inner child to Poom Poom and later commits suicide.

Sayoko – The devoted and put-upon sister of Mamoru, she’s the one with the real power to make Mamoru’s desires reality

Shinpei Kuroda – A detective who befriends and inspires Nagi as a younger girl. He is really a member of a secret organization, and was killed for betraying them to give Nagi an injection that would save her. He is at least indirectly responsible for much of what happens in the story.

Shizue – A troubled teenager who was killed five years ago by the first serial killer. She left behind a diary for her mother.

Sunami Uehara – A girl with glasses who helps distribute the drug Type S but gets addicted to it herself.

Toka Miyashita – A girl with a friendly disposition who took the cape off the dying Kuroda and used it to manifest Boogiepop, her alter ego. She is one of the most frequently recurring characters.

Yamamoto – I think he is the younger police officer, but I am not positive? He appears in a minor way in many episodes.

Yoji – Young man who obsesses over a dating sim character and transfers that obsession to Rie Sato. Addicted to the drug Type S.

Yoshiki – A telepathic young man who is drawn in by Poom Poom and actively calls others to Poom Poom.

Yasuko Shizuki – Friend of Moto’s who opened up socially when she started dating and having sex.

Yoko – Friend of Misuzu who was helped by Jonouchi over her guilt about cheating on a test.

 

 

 

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