BP is one of those weird anime that are about psychological mystery and horror. It also has its share of urban fantasy, detective thriller and non-linear storytelling. Plus, no comedy. These elements are enough to consider this a jewel just from the genres. And in a way it really is. As far as the story goes, BP is exceptional. It plays around with several fears most people hide in their subconscious and brings them out in the form of madness and isolation, insecurity and fear. The non-linear way that each episode is shown also help to further bring insight to the weird story. And it is not Suzumiya Haruhi random order of episodes crap just to make it look sophisticated while throwing in fillers. Each episode is really adding something to the lot. And it is also told through the eyes of different people each time, so it is also not focused on one person alone. The ending is also solid as far as the mystery is concerned. Some things are left open to speculation but in all the main mystery is exposed. And damn, was it deep and mature.
There are several dozens of characters, each having a different role in the story. Most major ones suffer from some form of mental disorder that leads them to seek help even from a supernatural source or unwillingly taking part in a conspiracy to change the shape of the world. Many are even killed along the way in mysterious and horrifying ways. That counts as mature and multi-layered on one side. On the other, since the focus is shifted too fast amongst several people, it gets hard to get to like someone as he or she have around half an hour of spotlight at most and then get killed or disappear or become backdrop material. That is a rather nasty minus, as having 50 characters and only a dozen episodes means non get to stand out too much. And it’s true that you end up liking the atmosphere and the story but not the cast. The fact facial variety is rather small and some look alike does not help much to set them apart and judge them separately.
The animation is hit or miss. On one hand it wins thanks to its use of camera angles and dark alleys. On the other the facial variety is too low for such a big cast and the pacing too slow for its own good. The use of neon moths and night lights was cool. The use of supernatural battles was not; they felt out of place. In all the artwork has great atmosphere but lacks true mastering.
The music is good on the voice acting part. The soundtrack feels weak and forgettable but it still helps to build the mood.
The Enjoyment part is definitely the hardest thing to point out. You have a rather average score and very high scored reviews. Well it all comes down to what the majority wants. To be honest, less and less people like grim and pessimistic works and that is probably why the series was overlooked by most. Check out Bacanno! for example. It also had a non-linear story and lots of characters just like BP. The story was ok there too but not close to as mature as BP, while the characters were to the most part exaggerated comical archetypes. Most remembers and probably will always remember it because of its cheerier mood and funky characters and push aside deep yet gloomy stories and casts like BP. And then it’s all those comparisons to Serial Experiments Lain; they keep saying it is superior to it yet far more people remember the later than BP. The reason is simple. Although similar in their deep and serious moods, SE Lain has “one” protagonist and you definitely remember Lain by the end of the series. You can’t do that in BP because nobody sticks out. And if I am to add my own comparison to the lot, I say Neon Genesis focused on mental disorders too, yet didn’t forget to add giant robots, comedy and ecchi that helped to immortalize the characters and the story in your mind. This is where BP failed big time, to produce distinctive characters that will make the show memorable.
My first review for Anime-Planet, please comment and tell me what you think. I appreciate reviews of my reviews greatly. I hope I will encourage fellow anime fans to watch this series and appreciate it as i do. It's truly an unique and terrifying experience that should not be missed. It's a horror and psychological thriller and its nothing you've ever seen before. Now onto the review and thanks for reading.
Story; Some claim Boogiepop Phantom has no story or is a complete wreck. To that I say, Boogiepop Phantom is coming for you. Just kidding. There are numerous stories at play in this series. I can just say that by reading the synopsis doesn't particularly tell you what to expect. It's vague for a reason and if you do as I say later (rewatching it three times), then you should not have any problems. I am going to recommend reading the manga, Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh, for more background on what happens in Boogiepop Phantom.
Animation; Boogiepop Phantom is done with this tint of sepia for every episode except for the last one. There is good reason why Madhouse chose to do it this way. It's an interesting twist and to give that away in this review would be absolute criminal as its absolute brilliance. A dark and disturbing story requires a dark and disturbing atmosphere. It should go without saying that Boogiepop Phantom is a beautiful show in its own right and still a cornerstone in anime history.
Sound; Only one word can describe the soundtrack: creepy. It's an intense combination of rock and techno-type music. There are several scenes in the first few episodes where the background music makes the hairs on neck stick straight up and gives you intense goosebumps. You can even break into a cold sweat because of the music and sounds you hear. The opening song is a jazzy and catchy tune and the ending is a rock/techno deal which is also catchy. The background music is definitely a positive and strength that Boogiepop Phantom has to offer and it emulates the feelings and purpose of the show.
Characters; If you like complex human drama, this show delivers. The strongest aspect of Boogiepop Phantom is the growth, change and maturity of the characters. The growth, change and maturing of the characters are in fact, the story. Some characters grow and others regress as the series goes on. If you are looking for a story about characters, look no further. Nobody is perfect in the world of Boogiepop Phantom. Nobody. They all have problems and that is the beauty of it - they do not hide it at all.
Overall; I will admit that it can get confusing at times, but rest assured that after rewatching it three times once blindly, once with English commentary and the last time knowing what to expect per the commentary; that you will understand the series and its complicated but genius story. I have done this and discovered one of, if not the best, anime series I have seen since becoming an anime fan in 1996 and it's taken me 15 years to discover this series. I would recommend not to bother with recommendations or series similar to this one, because to be frank, there is not anything like Boogiepop Phantom.
Reading a plot summery about this show gives you more story than watching all 12 episodes. Someone put a lot of work into this series, but in the effort to weave a tapestry of interconnected lives it helps to have characters that stand out or can at least be identified as individuals. Every character was so bland that they blurred over each other, making the entire story even more vague than it was intended to be. The complete lack of ending in the last episode just seemed to underscore how little there was to the over-arching story.
With so much great stuff out there to watch, I can't help but regret having taken the time to see this one through.
~Secret Santa Review~
Boogiepop Phantom was one of those series that had been on my radar for years, that I'd heard good things about, and that sounded like something I'd be interested in... so thank you Secret Santa for giving me the push to finally watch it!
It's hard for me to say much about the story for two reasons: Firstly, spoilers. Secondly, I didn't know what was going on a lot of the time!
Each episode focused on a different character, mostly high school students from Shinyo Academy, who either gain or fall victim to strange powers or abilities. At first I assumed each episode would be stand alone, but that's far from the case – the characters' stories overlap, creating an incredibly complex, non-linear plot-web that would probably take several rewatches to fully appreciate. Right from the beginning we hear several different names, terms, rumours – 'Shinigami', 'Manticore' and the titular 'Boogiepop'... it's not until much later that we learn what some of these things are, and what they have planned for the city's human residents.
The series is very dark, including themes such as drug use, child killing, suicide, and some of the powers and their effects are pretty horrible too. Since many anime series shy away from such themes, I found this one refreshingly different.
As stated before, each episode was told through the eyes of a different character. In the beginning, these characters are fairly minor, but their interactions with other characters who take centre stage later still turned out to be important. Though their stories were interesting, only a few major characters were really memorable, due to the lack of time to develop them all.
Another issue I had was that a lot of the characters looked similar, and when a show jumps back and forth like Boogiepop Phantom, it's hard to keep track of whether a character has already played a part in an earlier episode, or whether they're someone completely new.
Animation and Sound
There wasn't actually that much animation a lot of the time – a lot of static pans, and static shots without the panning, occasionally with lip flaps. Certainly looks dated when compared with even the lowest budget shows airing in recent years. However, the show makes up for the lack of movement in other areas – there's a grey, dingy tint throughout, and also the edges of the screen are blurred, only giving a clear, circular image in the centre. This suited and probably enhanced the series' dark and mysterious feel.
The use of sound also added to the creepy atmosphere, with a lot of distorted noises, voices and unsettling music. Not the kind of soundtrack I'd listen to separately, but it fit the series perfectly. I also loved the OP and ED themes, those I certainly will keep listening to!
Boogiepop Phantom was not what I expected at all, quite unlike any other series I've seen before. Despite my failing to follow the finer plot points, which might be in part due to the show's attempt at squeezing too many stories and characters into too few episodes, Boogiepop Phantom was never boring. Not a bad Christmas present at all!
Always nice to sit down to a nice story about, well ummm, I guess it's about, something…..maybe? Oh ok now I get it.
Story - 8/10
While the story of BoogiePop Phantom comes off confusing at first, it reveals itself over time as all the stories intertwine. The entire series seems to take place over the short period of a few days, minus the flashback scenes, and as you watch you need to try and figure out what really happened when, why it happened and who of the many characters were involved. This almost makes you feel like a character yourself, as the series starts off with some school children trying to figure out the legend of BoogiePop Phantom and if it has to do with the missing kids from local schools.
Outside of main BoogiePop Phantom story is the story attached to each child. We learn of their hardships and how they decided to deal with them, all which leaves them at mercy of BoogiePop Phantom. These stories are very well done, they really connect with the mind of a young teenage having to deal with at times insurmountable problems and things young children and young adults shouldn't have to.
Finally there's the sporadic story of Nagi Kirima and her hunt for BoogiePop Phantom. This is the most confusing section of the anime as you might only get thirty seconds of her story in any particular episode so piecing together who she is and why she's on this mission can evade you till the very end, and even then it's a bit confusing trying to add everything and figure out who is really who.
Animation - 7/10
Very rarely will the intro to an anime really grab you. GTO, Cowboy Bebop and X come to mind as great shows that combined music and animation to get you hooked from the start. Well now I've added BoogiePop Phantom to that list. The intro, while more actually footage than animation, was just perfect as an introduction to the story. With the music and colors I felt as if I was pulled back into the early 90s grit of NYC that I remember, or an old late night cable access show, or as I'd guess the production staff might have felt on a late Tokyo night, and that grit and combined with a jazzy tune with the same time travel effect got you ready for the mindset of those who encountered BoogiePop Phantom.
As for the series itself, it's brilliantly done while also being extremely simple. Everything is rather basic, though perfectly consistent, and the whole series is drab and hazy, as if being watched off an old VHS tape, but it's all done with very clever reasoning behind it. Many of the scenes are done is a somewhat voyeuristic look, which works perfectly as we are looking into the lives of people who have kept their pain to themselves and thus become exploited by BoogiePop Phantom.
Sound - 7/10
While there isn't much music in the series, a track that plays in tension situations or where BoogiePop Phantom appears and the opening/closing songs are the only ones that really come to mind, those tracks are great. The opening is a great jazzy number that, despite being in Japanese, feels like old New York Jazz, combined with the opening title sequence it's a great lead in to the series and does set a kind of dirty dark tone that plays throughout the series. The ending song is pretty good, but more of your standard japanese pop rock.
During the tense moments and those where BoogiePop Phantom appears they play a song that sounds like a mix of Slipknot and dub step, despite predating either. It's a perfect song to mix with the scenes of pretty great importance to the story.
Outside of the few awesome music tracks the sound effects and voices are nothing to write home about, but they are still very well done, just without the big stand outs of some other series, which could come from the fact no character is really around for more than an episode or two, and if they are they aren't in any one episode for more than a few moments. BoogiePop Phantom herself is voiced very nicely in the English version and if anyone shines above the rest it would be the unique voice she is given.
Characters - 5/10
Its hard to really give a high rating to the characters as they pop in and out and are a very confusing part of the story. Each is well constructed within their own episode, but as a whole those who appear throughout are lacking in detail. Due to the structure of the series it takes a long time to really put together a profile for even the more common characters, when we reach the end of the series some are revealed, but others still remain a bit confusing.
While the characters aren't very deep the emotions created, which are almost characters themselves, are very realistic. You can see each emotion and situation actually happening to someone like the character in the series and the reasoning and result of those emotions are built up well through the episode/series.
Overall - 7/10
Despite the confusion and relentless need to rewatch and rewind certain parts of the show I ended up really enjoying it. The series allows you to have to think hard about whats going on, and in doing so you get to come to your own conclusion about the stories and riddles, which will either be proven or disproven come the final episode.
What really connected me to the series was though was the music and animation. As I mentioned for both, it felt like a nice bit of nostalgia, bringing me back to the early 90s and reminding me of what things were like, so it may not connect the same way for many people who didn't have those same experiences, but even so the story should pick up those instead.