Anime Review: Boogiepop and Others (2019)

Boogiepop, from episode 1 of Boogiepop and Others

In my review last week of the first Boogiepop Omnibus, I talked about this year’s Boogiepop anime series. Since I recorded that episode, I’ve finished watching the series, and have some thoughts of the show.

First Anime Adaptation

Boogiepop and Others is, in a way, the first Boogiepop anime adaptation. It’s not the first adaptation in general. 2000 saw live-action adaptations of the first novel, and original anime series Boogiepop Phantom. That latter series was an anime original story, that assumed some prior knowledge of the novels. As the book series was tremendously successful in Japan, that wasn’t a problem there. In the US, on the other hand, this served as something of a barrier to the series success. Until 2019, there were no anime adaptations of the novels.

Boogiepop and Others is an adaptation of the first five or so of the Boogiepop novels. As the second and third books are two halves of the same story, this makes for four stories. This covers the adaptation of the first novel and Vs. Imaginator, which I covered in my review last week. The other stories include Boogiepop at Dawn, which has the origins of Boogiepop. The finale is King of Distortion, which is probably the biggest challenge Boogiepop has faced over the series.

Boogiepop Doesn’t Smile

Stills of Boogiepop and Touka Miyashita.
It is kind of impressive how much Touka fades into the background.

As with the novels, while Boogiepop is the title character of Boogiepop and Others, they are never the viewpoint character. We only see Boogiepop through the perspective of third parties. We don’t even see Boogiepop from the perspective of their other self – Touka Miyashita. That is both a blessing and a curse for the series. Touka is just bright, cheerful and generic enough that she slips under the radar most of the time.

Her presence is more notable when Boogiepop shows up, and the impact of that varies from the books to the TV series. In the novels, it’s rather understated. The weight of the shift varies from different viewpoint characters, and how well they notice the shift. In the anime, because there’s an audible vocal shift, it becomes much more pronounced.

I’d compare it to the transition between Bruce Wayne doing his regular voice and Batman’s voice. On the page, it doesn’t come across unless the artist and inker do something to call attention to the difference. With Kevin Conroy on the other hand, well, listen for yourself:

It’s most pronounced in the last 10 seconds of the video

…And Others

As in the books, the antagonists in the anime alternate between superpowered murderers like Manticore and thematic enemies like Imaginator. They aren’t a rogue’s gallery by any means, instead of existing to be a threat to Boogiepop, they are more of a threat for the viewpoint characters.

In this respect, Boogiepop and the viewpoint characters are comparable to Walter Gibson’s The Shadow novels. In those novels, Harry Vincent, one of The Shadow’s agents, is the primary viewpoint character. Occasionally the novels shift to other viewpoint characters, as they put together the pieces of the plot of that novel’s villain – and only occasionally shifting to The Shadow. Even then on those instances, The Shadow was not generally a viewpoint character. Further, The Shadow was rarely personally in any danger – more often, Vincent or another agent was the one in peril.

The same is the case here. Boogiepop is never personally in peril. The viewpoint characters are. They’re (generally) not hapless hostages-in-waiting, but they also aren’t a force of nature like Boogiepop. It makes the supporting cast a lot more engaging, and keeps the plot moving without always having Boogiepop being present.

Room for Improvement Evolution

That said, I really wish Touka was written more as a character instead of as set dressing that Boogiepop occasionally pops out of. It leads to this feeling that some of our point of view characters have figured out that Touka is Boogiepop (but doesn’t know it), and they’re hanging out with her as a weird crap sounding board. By which I mean, if they talk about something weird and Boogiepop chips in, they know they’re on to something.

I’m very glad I watched the show, and I’m definitely continuing on to Boogiepop Phantom. However, I don’t know how confidently I can recommend the series. I came to this because discussion of Boogiepop Phantom as a mind-fuck anime had been a large part of anime fandom in the early 2000s. If you came into this series without having ever heard of Boogiepop, I don’t know how much you’d get out of it.

If you’re interested in giving it a watch, Boogiepop and Others is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

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