A post in the Epic Journey.
My first viewing of Boogiepop Phantom was unique in a number of ways. First of all, I had already read the novel, Boogiepop and Others a number of times, which is a prequel to the anime. Honestly, I can’t imagine what it was like for everyone who watched this anime before reading the novel/s. It’s constantly referential of them, carrying over characters and concepts that, not having read the novel, would either be really confusing or go right over many peoples’ heads. My viewing was also unique because I had just started to get into darker and more psychological shows. Aside from the novel itself, I had seen and thoroughly enjoyed Neon Genesis Evangelion and Lain, whereas previously I couldn’t stand slow or confusing shows. (I blame my 6 months of clinical insanity prior to getting back into anime).
Boogiepop was also one of the first anime I ever watched in which I completely recognized the soundtrack. Funeral bought the box set which came with the OST a long-ass time ago and had burned the OST onto my computer so I was very well-acquainted with it by the time I actually watched the show.
Boogiepop was also probably one of the first anime that I marathoned in one go. At the time, I’d say I owned about upward of 50 anime DVDs and hadn’t watched half of them. After watching Haruhi, I’d decided to go after some of those DVDs as well as start buying them again, and one of the first series I bought was Boogiepop Phantom. Back then, I usually watched anime either really early in the morning, or in the hour or two difference between when I got home from school and when my brothers came home, mostly because I was kind of embarrassed about my new hobby. However, I actually watched Boogiepop with my brother and all in one night. Unfortunately, yet needless to say, we watched it dubbed.
Somewhere between it being one of my first marathons and watching it so late at night, I’ve managed to forget most of what happened in the series. I’ve found this to be increasingly true for a lot of shows. Last year, because there was so much anime I hadn’t seen, I was completely focused on cramming as much as possible into my day and thought rewatching was stupid because I retained everything on my first go. However, experience has taught me that quality is infinitely more important than quantity, and that part of what makes a show great is memorability and the staying power to consistently entertain you.
I first started to rewatch my favorites when I realized that I wasn’t sure why some of them were my favorites and I started with Neon Genesis. Surprisingly, even though I’m older and even watched it subbed this time, I didn’t like it nearly as much. Part of it I blame on no longer being able to identify with Shinji, but I also noticed problems like the weird pacing and the heavy focus on military action. One of the reason’s I’m not a fan of sci-fi is that it frequently stops focusing on the characters to set up the episode’s individual plot, which is often uninteresting. Other rewatches had similar results. Kino no Tabi was completely wiped off of my favorites list. It’s not that the show is bad – it’s excellent – however it’s slow, and once you know each episode’s plot and twists, it’s not that exciting to watch. Lain was actually much, much better the second time, just because I was able to find even more of the show’s quirks and it seriously never gets old.
In Boogiepop’s case, it’s not about me finding out why it was on my favorites list – in fact, it isn’t on there! My goal this time is to figure out whether or not it should be. Whenever I’m rewoking my favorites list, I think of Boogiepop and while I remember really liking it, I don’t think it was something I got all that into. However, I also remember that it was a marathon, I was half-asleep during some of the later episodes, and I can’t even remember large parts of the midsection. Judging a show I can’t even remember and definitely watched under bad conditions is simply unfair. I have a serious complex about my favorites list, so to make it perfect, I need to know EXACTLY what shows deserve to be there.
I’ve learned from a lot of people that while certain shows are better for marathoning, others deserve a gap between episodes to appreciate them. When a studio creates a show, they have to consider the fact that their show will be aired weekly, so it’s highly likely for them to write it in a way that lends itself to weekly viewing. Blood + is a good example of a show that is better marathoned because even though the show follows a consistent plot, it moves at a slow pace – the information never bombards you so you can think through everything you see as it happens.
Watching on a weekly basis, I would have dropped the show very quickly because of it’s slow pace, but in a marathon, it just works. Other shows, though, just aren’t meant to be marathoned and I’m starting to find out that sometimes it’s better to simply repeatedly watch an episode befrore the next one arrives. One of my problems with weekly viewing is that I can forget a lot of the prior episodes’ details as the show progresses – for instance in Kurenai I started the show over at episode 6 realizing that I had forgotten the basic plot of the show. However, with Xam’d I have been watching each episode 3 times which has proven effective not only for keeping the show’s plot engaging, but for making each episode a memorable experience.
Therefor, with my new rewatching of Boogiepop Phantom, which I had initially intended to marathon yet again, I am going to watch only one episode a night and then blog about it. I know that I always insult episodic blogging because it doesn’t do much for the people reading it – if you’re a certain distance into a show, the only way anyone will read the review is if they have already seen the episode. That’s not the point though. The point is that it can be fun to compare opinions and thesis and predictions. It seems to me like a lot of blogs are so obsessed with being vague and not spoiling anything that it takes some of the fun out of it. The episodic blogs which really talk about why things happen in an episode and what they think will happen next are far more exciting. A lot of the extra fun from Kamina’s death was that certain folks had already long predicted it.
And so, after all that, we get to the point of this – episode one of Boogiepop Phantom. To many, this probably isn’t a very strong introduction to Boogiepop Phantom, because it’s hard to tell what they are getting at. The episode is extremely downtempo and closed off. Not much is revealed about the characters and not much is expressly explained. At the end of the episode, everything sort of crashes down, and we’re left back where we started, which could easily leave you scratching your head, which is why it pays to either have experience with the Boogiepop series or be watching the show a second time.
I don’t know if I simply didn’t know enough to notice it or forgot but the episode’s main character, Moto Tonomura, has an extreme case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. One of the episode’s constant pervading images is of her washing her hands and using a cloth to open doors. When her father opens her door, she yells at him that she had told him not to do so, then immediately scrubs the handle with disinfectant wipes and does the same to her hands until they are raw and red.
Personality disorders have always played an enormous role in the Boogiepop universe. As in real life, many of the characters are driven by some overpowering complex or disorder that they may or may not be aware of. Boogiepop himself does not readily deny the possibility that he is a split personality of Miyashita Touka, and the other major character, Nagi Kirima, has a self-proclaimed father complex and hero complex. One of the easiest way to get into a character’s head is to figure out what drives them.
Unlike many anime, Boogiepop is much more realistic about character interaction. In real life, people are reserved and don’t act out exactly what they think in their mind, and they often won’t admit to themselves that they have a problem. The very first chapter of Boogiepop and Others has the segment’s narrator completely oblivious to the idea that he might not be normal, while the character Suema Kazuko is narrates that she knows there’s something wrong with her, even if she’s not sure what it is. When a narrator arrives who doesn’t know that they have a problem or won’t admit it, you won’t flat-out get an explanation of what’s on their mind. You have to find it.
I happen to suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well. (People wonder how that’s possible when I live in complete filth. To be honest, I purposefully don’t clean up or wash my hands because I’m scared of it becoming habit.) By the end of the episode, I could pretty much tell exactly what was going through Moto’s head since I’ve felt the same way before. Rather than have her tell us ‘my life is repetitive and boring and I hate it’, like you would have seen in Welcome to the NHK (not that there’s something wrong with that) we are actually shown her life, and it’s pretty easy to decide for ourselves that it sucks. She’s very shy, and has grown completely distant from the male populace altogether.
Having OCD, she’s completely addicted to one pattern. Let me tell you, that shit sucks, because it’s hard to realize just how much it governs your life. Many times I’ve found myself doing something I hated over and over, and because it was something so stupid, I though it was my own fault, but then I started to realize there was something wrong, because I just couldn’t help but to do those things. When you live in a formula like that you grow tired of it and you want to escape, and you start to hate yourself, and Moto tells us pretty early on that she does, in fact, hate herself.
The only love she ever had was with Saotome, a boy who would go with the flow but seemed to enjoy it. She probably envied that he, too, could live an uneventful life, being pushed along, and smile about it. The line that makes Moto fall in love is when Saotome is standing over a dead rabbit and says, with a calm smile on his face, ‘they know that they are all going to die, so why do they bother living?’ The first time I saw this, I thought that Moto was just a bit sadistic, but really what she thought was that his idea was romantic. Her life was nothing but an exercise in futility, and the concept of death was magical to her. If you’ve read Boogiepop and Others, you know that Saotome himself was no romantic. He was sick – just a regular killer obsessed with the idea that people would think he was normal while in actuality he was a freak. However moto doesn’t know this.
When we see Moto go out with her friend and her group to karaoke, we see just how much her lack of hope dictates her life. She is so obsessed with the idea that she hates herself, and that she can’t break this cycle, that she refuses to enjoy herself. That’s why, when she meets what she believes to be the ghost of Saotome, she is overjoyed. He says that he is going to eat her, and she is more than ready. To her, this will mean the end of her pathetic circle – the ultimate romantic idea, to be killed by the one she loves, but before it can happen, Boogiepop royally owns Saotome leaving Moto alive and with nothing but her shitty life. In the end, she goes on hating herself, but at least now aware that she needs to break the chain of misery. Depending on your optimism, she may have done it. I know I did.
Needless to say, I thought it was a great episode, since it packed in so much unseen detail. Madhouse gives the show a thickly stylish atmosphere with lots of faded, dark colors and the urban sprawl I love. The four corners of the image are constantly blurred, giving the whole show an air of claustrophobia. There is a lot of depth to the character design – even though all the girls have black hair and matching uniforms, the lengths of their skirts and their respective hairstyles are representative of their inner personality. Sound-wise, Boogiepop Phantom has one of my favorite OSTs and it works even better in the show, creating not only a thick, creepy atmosphere but a great specific meaning to the show. This episode’s song is ‘unstability’ which is the exact contrast to the organization of an OCD person as it comes in uncontrolled bursts of noise. Seeing this helps me appreciate the song even more.
Overall, I look forward to my continued viewing and Blogging of this show, since it’s already proving far better than I remembered.