Boogiepop and Others is many things, but an anime for casual viewers it is not. Unless you’re willing to give it your full attention, it will leave you behind. One measly episode a week is not nearly enough to keep track of such a complicated web of things: to be honest, I’ve spent the last week watching it and even then I was still feeling lost by it all. This is just the nature of Boogiepop: it sets out to confuse, only to unravel from there, but like a particularly tough knot, there is satisfaction to be found in untying it all.
My gut feeling is that Boogiepop and Others won’t be a crowd-pleaser.
When I think about Boogiepop Phantom, I’m also reminded of other recent Madhouse anime, like Shigurui and Casshern Sins. Each has a strange aesthetic; seductive yet tinged by an under-lying sense of sadness and desolation.
It would be easy to categorise them as dark and depressing, but they are more complex than that. It’s not horror merely for the sake of mindless chills; it’s horror to serve a purpose, to weave a spell. Boogiepop Phantom is disorientating, Shigurui is grotesque and Casshern Sins is desolate, but each conjures an atmosphere potent enough to provoke difficult questions.
The coolest thing about Boogiepop Phantom is that it’s just really fucked up. Too often in anime are teenagers romanticised. Everything’s so sweet, so melodramatic; no permanent damage. It’s just easier to watch something like Toradora, where everyone’s so cheerful, ready to communicate and fix their problems.
Nothing festers in your typical anime high-school; feelings, conflicts are all out in the open, ready to be tended. It’s false bullshit, but we watch it because it’s happy and safe, because there’s always an answer, and the characters will always turn out okay, smiling in the end. We know it’s coming and that’s fine, but it lacks an edge; seems to be more like a dream than reality.
And you wouldn’t willingly escape into a nightmare, right?