Anime Impressions is a weekly column that will run each Tuesday for the first month of the anime season. Resident GGA anime content writer Jane Y. Auman brings you the best of the new crop of shows. Choosing one to highlight each week. This week, that show is mystery-thriller Boogiepop and Others.
NOTE: This article contains mention of potentially disturbing content due to the nature of the series in question. Reader discretion is advised.
“A monster resides within this school. It’s not doing much yet, but once it makes its move, the world is finished.”
It seems unfair to call Boogiepop and Others one of the most promising debuts of the season. After all, much of said season has yet to even premiere! Many shows aren’t beginning their broadcasts for another week or two, and one (Star ☆ Twinkle Precure) premieres as late as next month. Even so, alongside other early standouts like Mob Psycho 100 II, Boogiepop has an uncommonly strong first episode. A strong second episode too, given that both premiered at the same time. It was a wise decision, as the series has a massive cast, no real “main” character, and seems to have a good half dozen plot threads running concurrently.
If the name rings a bell, you might be familiar with the original novels. Or if not those; the early-2000s anime Boogiepop Phantom, which was loosely based on them (and as an important side note, having seen Phantom is not necessary to watch Others). This is more of a straight adaptation. Boogiepop is a mystery series at its core, although a complex one even this early on.
The title character is Boogiepop themselves, and even explaining what they actually are is kind of hard. In the first episode they show up to comfort a white-haired man who’s stumbling through a crowd in a busy street (more on him later). Later, they befriend a high school student named Takeda. Except that’s not entirely right either, as Boogiepop is an alter ego / “split personality” of a normal highschool girl themselves. Indeed, a good chunk of the first episode is conversation between Takeda and Boogiepop. These are about as cryptic as you’d expect from a series whose first anime often gets brought up in the same breath as Serial Experiments Lain. That’s hardly a flaw, though. If anything, the tightly-wound mysterious atmosphere is the show’s big selling point.
The second episode reveals why the first two were bundled together. Largely because taken individually, they barely seem like they’re a part of the same narrative. The second episode largely revolves around a shapeshifting serial killer named Manticore, and a high schooler that they befriend (noticing a pattern?) named Saotome. The main difference between Takeda and Saotome is that the latter seems to think he’s Light Yagami.
This is without even getting in to the girl who’s trying to stop Manticore. A high school delinquent / some kind of government super-agent by the name of Nagi. What I’m trying to convey here is that there’s a lot going on in Boogiepop & Others so far.
None of this would mean much though if the show didn’t have the presentation to match its high ambitions. Thankfully, it does. The animation is excellent, with a number of expertly-done cuts that show off some seriously subtle character acting in the first episode. The second doesn’t have quite as many of those. However, it replaces them with a few more traditional (but still excellent) action sequences to compensate. Also adding some greasy scare shots to boot.
The soundtrack deserves more than a passing nod, too. A good amount of the background music is ambient synthesizer work, which often has a fuzzy quality to it. Some of the more serene moments might remind ambient music fans of the group Cluster. Other times, when things need to get more unnerving, it’ll bring in icier synthesizers or the classic “reversed guitars” trick. More varied scenes have had styles of electronica from up and down a vast array of subgenres even in just the two currently-aired episodes. The second has both a deliciously gnarly techno track during its main action sequence and a chill, relaxed trip-hop tune while two characters talk in a coffee shop. The OP and ED are both excellent as well, and will make good additions to any anime fan’s playlist.
All in all, if you’re putting down money on possible shows of the season this early on (always a dangerous game!), you could probably take Boogiepop and Others as a safe bet. How all these plot threads will eventually coalesce remains to be seen. Plus of course, the knotted storytelling style is going to drive some people off, as is the violence. Heck, we’ve already gotten a nested flashback and occasional flashes of almost subliminal hyperviolence.
But with all the above in mind, this is a show with some serious promise. I cannot recommend it enough.