Musical References in Boogiepop and Others

If you still don’t know, I am an insanely huge fan of the light novel Boogiepop and Others. I like this novel more than anything else – anime, movies, manga, anything. If I had to recommend one thing to everyone I’ve ever met, it would be to read Boogiepop and Others… at least 3 times, because any less and you didn’t catch everything, and even then you should probably read it a few more times. It won’t be hard, the book can’t possibly take more than 2 hours to read. I re-read it for the 10th or so time today, after it’d been quite a while – a couple years ago it took me a lot longer to muscle through the volume, but now it’s like a breeze even though I’m a slow reader. Probably helps that I know the book like the back of my damn hand. I can’t recite it yet, but I do always know what hte next line will be. Even now, there are a few things in there I still catch that I hadn’t before, even if it’s totally miniscule moments. The fact that I do catch them, though, furthers my desire for rewatching some of the anime that I don’t think I’ve grasped fully yet (caughLaincaugh). But I digress.

Examining the musical references in Boogiepop and Others is something I know I’ve thought about doing a damn good many times but simply never have. Maybe it was because a couple years ago I wasn’t anywhere even remotely near as musically open, not to mention I was always terrible at finding music. Now youtube’s taken all the work out, lol. Novel author Kouhei Kadono is known for referencing tons of old American rock bands and songs in his work. In particular, the second and third novels contain a metric fuckton of Prince references. But this is volume one, so lets rock!

It’s hard to say whether or not Kadono’s references have any real meaning. First off, let me say that one of the reasons I love Kadono so much is that I relate to him. His stories and the afterwords of them always seem totally ‘like something I would write’ and I, like him, always name things after songs (the infamous story that almost got me expelled from school last year was named after a Coheed and Cambria song called ‘Delirium Trigger’ and I’d been trying to write a story that could love up to the name for years, that one finally being it.) When I do so, I initially do it without much meaning, but I end up kind of trying to make it fit the atmosphere of the song or else it feels like a waste of the song title. Having listened to Kadono’s songs, I think he probably does the same thing.

Ch. 1

The first chapter of the story is called Romantic Warrior, a story told by my main man Takeda Keiji. The story is comparitively slow and normal to the rest of the story. It is the chapter which most features Boogiepop, but he spends the time talking to the romantic warrior, Keiji, dubbed such by Boogiepop because he is a man with a dream and future ahead of him who doesn’t really need to be in high school right now and isn’t even taking exams since he already has a career plan (like me, but more stable!) The song Romantic Warrior is by the Jazz fusion band Return to Forever from their early 70s album of the same title. I feel like ‘boogiepop’ really would be a good word for this song. There’s a ton of popping strings on the bass and it’s on boogie groove, lol. I’ve gotta say, I fucking love this 10-minute instrumental opus. As for how it compares to the chapter, both of them are really smooth and sort of relaxed. The song is far from normal and very interesting, but sort of contemplative and chill, much like the chapter which immediately lets you know that this isn’t your usual urban fantasy, but isn’t in your face about it and kind of sits back and reflects.

Ch. 2

The next chapter was a bit of a pain in the ass, since The Return of the Fire Witch itself is not a song title, but is the first part of In The Court of the Crimson King by, well, fucking King Crimson. King Crimson are fucking awesome – they were probably the biggest of the classic 70s progressive rock bands and they pretty much influenced every progressive rock band ever. I remember when I first got into prog and they’d be at the top of every band’s list of influences. I honestly can’t place a thematic reference for this song – the song has no real connection to the chapter far as I can tell, and the lyrics are total fantasy nonsense. However, the chapter title is obviously because Nagi Kirima is called the Fire Witch, so most likely, Kadono just thinks the name Fire Witch is awesome. I completely agree with him.

Ch. 3

Then we have Chapter 3, No One Lives Forever. Kadono uses an awesome trick of telling this chapter in third person, knowing that the protagonist of it would die later and logically couldn’t have told the story himself. He utilizes this third person perspective to do some interesting things. Unlike other chapters which are a pretty straightforward telling of events, this chapter has a ton of completely frivolous side information. While it never does so for such an amount of time to become annoying, it goes off on tangents about the things that happen. For instance, when Masami and Manticore are in a restaurant acting horny as shit, the following passage occurs (from Andrew Cunningham’s amazingly brilliant translation)

“At this point, the waitress brought the lemon tea and cake that Masami had ordered. She overheard them talk about ‘controlling the world’ but just assumed they were talking about some sort of new video game.
But she did think the couple was far too horny, though, and that they should get a room before they starting making out right there in the restaurant.
‘They can’t even be out of high school yet, but they’re acting like newlyweds. They’re all over each other!’ she thought. She was still reeling from a harsh break up, so she slapped the bill on the table a bit roughly and left.”

Now I had never thought a whole lot about the little tangents like the details on the nurse before, but on this particular read through, I was trying to imagine how I would create a perfect anime adaption of this novel (incidentally, it’d be 9 episodes long) and for this chapter I had decided that the best way to capture the feel would be to have a narrator detailing the back information very quickly alongside the happenings, occasionally with quick visual tangents. It would be something akin to the movie Hot Fuzz where some scenes will be a few quick shots to get a point across quickly. The thing about this chapter is that it isn’t outright crazy or anything but there is an immense diabolical atmosphere to it.

Saotome Masame is constantly making diabolical expressions in the shadows of the scenes. There’s always that extra ‘Saotome didn’t say a word, just blended in, the others unaware to their coinciding with his plan.’ you have this feeling like he’s snickering in the shadows the whole chapter behind the charade of his face. So even when the Manticore isn’t mercilessly slaughtering people, there is still this thick feeling of sinister wit behind Masami’s actions. It’s as if Kadono were writing the story as Masami himself would have written it, making a delightful conundrum out of the purposeful lack of first person. Seen this way, the chapter just exuberates brilliance.

Now, while all the chapter titles appear within the chapters themselves, this is the only one where it’s directly referenced as being a song title. In the passage, Masami is surprised to be thinking of a song not by his beloved band The Doors, but by a freak-rock band called Oingo Boingo that he had only heard once in the past by chance. He can only remember two words at first, ‘no one’, which he repeats like a mantra for a full page before recalling the rest ‘…lives forever.’ Now, this Oingo Boingo song is totally nuts. It’s a bouncing, ecstatic song with an incredibly sinister background and positively blood-soaked lyrics – an obvious influence on the likes of Tim Burton (considering the vocalist is Danny Elfman) and Mr. Bungle.

The song is madness and such an up-front assault that it is almost overwhelming. It’s maddening nature isn’t what Masami would think of himself as. He would consider himself more like the more cool and collected Doors, but to the reader who really sees how menacing he is, this song may fit better. When you read the chapter as a fast-paced, tangent-ridden, malicious tempest, this song becomes the perfect background music. There’s a lot going on and it’s all grinning madly at it carefully dissects a writhing body just in the background of the world of sanity.

Ch. 4?

Next would be the shortest chapter and possibly my favorite, I Wish You Heaven. This chapter has had a lot of impact on me over the years, and it’s apparent’y named after a Prince song. Unfortunately, the fucking production company who owns Prince is known to remove all his shit from the Tube so I couldn’t find it. Which brings us to the climactic chapter, Heartbreaker.

Ch. 5

Some people seemed to think this was named after the famous Led Zeppelin song, however in the afterword, the ‘BGM’ Kadono is listening to is Heartbreaker by Grand Funk Railroad. And this is definitely something Kadono would listen to, being an obscure 70s prog-funk-rock band. I instantly fell in love with this song, it being hugely epic and full of immense bass (for anyone unaware, I fucking love bass. The only drawback I have with most metal music is that there is almost never decent bass, exception being Opeth). This song is a more simple comparison – it’s an epic song fit for a finale. I doubt there was much more thought than that. It’s probably a song Kadono really, really wanted the ending to be named after just for being so immensely awesome. Plus, there is the thing of Niitoki Kei telling the story, and her lot in the story being the heartbroken character, but really it’s all about the epic.


It doesn’t end with the chapter titles, though. The character Echoes also appears to have been named after the Pink Floyd song of the same name which is about 23 minutes long. I like Pink Floyd a good bit, though I don’t listen to them very often, but this choice was all around pretty obvious – like Echoes himself, the song is full of echoing noises. Very obvious association on all accounts.

Anyway, despite rambling on for 2000 words, I just felt like talking about this fun little excursion, and I don’t actually expect anyone to read it since I seem to be the only one who gives a quarter of a fuck about Boogiepop and Others. Kouhei Kadono has great taste in music, though I suspect he’s probably pretty pretentious and would hate lots of the music I like (since I listen to fucking everything.) This definitely serves to enhance my experience witht the Boogiepop series just a bit more which is always welcome since I’m always finding new ways to enjoy this book.

5 thoughts on “Musical References in Boogiepop and Others

  1. Kadono is quite the music fan, yeah – he actually did a music review column for the Japanese edition of Faust.
    Basically every single non-Japanese name – every MPLS or otherwise weirdly named character/power – is taken from music. Never quite as blatently as Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, which has heavily influenced Kadono’s writing.
    The Prince song is actually called I Wish U Heaven, but the chapter title wound up spelled out in the English edition, probably to avoid pissing off Prince’s people.
    Shame I never got a change to try and figure out what the fuck ユージン was a reference to. Eugene, maybe? I think there was a Floyd song that used that name. Got that far and realized Seven Seas were doomed.

  2. Seven Seas are doomed? This why we don’t get any new Boogiepop novels? (especially depressing since you said in your interview how you really looked forward to getting to book 4… T_T_T_T_T) also, w00t, I Wish U Heaven actually exists on youtube! Oddly not one of Prince’s more epic songs. But very pretty and nice.

  3. After noticing the obvious musical references in chapter 3 and afterword/chapter 5, i thought “what if the other chapters are named after songs, too?” and found this page to confirm my suspicion! :-) All the music referenced is so good! Thank you for this writing, from 2019!

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