Started watching Boogiepop Phantom seeing as how I need to see some anime from the year 2000 that I like, as well as a reminder that light novel adaptations were once good. It’s definitely one of those “pay attention or you will be sorry” sorts of shows in the same vein as Yoshitori ABe’s works. I’m about halfway through the series now and I couldn’t tell you what I watched for the life of me. And yet I still want to see more. Why? What’s the hook?
I’ve talked before about how Eccentric Family failed for me because it had no hook, how I initially didn’t like Kyousogiga because I missed the hook, and how Coppelion seemed like it had a hook up until Episode 3 before I realized that it wasn’t a dramatic nuclear wasteland version of Mushishi. I’ve also talked about what makes a good hook to these sorts of “what the hell is going on?” stories before, having just discussed the two supernatural shows in my last post. It’s really simple for me when you get down to it: have an internal structure. Give me an idea of the plot without requiring me to read the summary. You can be as confusing as you want, but please give me a reason to want to see your story.
Boogiepop Phantom is basically a sepia piece anime in that there’s a larger story out there, but it’s told to us through a bunch of fragments that the viewer has to piece together on their own. Each episode focuses on a different piece of the puzzle that you won’t understand at first, but will (probably) understand later on. Not an inherently bad way of telling a story, but it begs one very important question that you have to consider when making this kind of story: “why should the viewer bother to piece together the story?”. After all, you can’t just rely on some twist at the end to explain everything. That wouldn’t be excusable in a movie, let alone a twelve-episode series.
The anime, from what I’ve seen so far, goes the “character study” approach. Each episode focuses on a different character who is related to the story in a mysterious way. These characters either get killed off later in order to provide a proper ending or…something else happens to them. I honestly can’t tell for reasons I’ll get into later. But basically we learn about their lives, which are often not pretty, and how it ties into the whole Boogiepop phenomenon. Probably not enough time to actually care about the characters or their eventual fates, but enough to find following them interesting and how they tie into the story, which I’ve said before is all I need.
But of course, that alone is not enough to keep my interest either. It’s fine to be an episodic story focusing on different characters, but there are two major flaws with that style of storytelling. One, everything has to come together in some sort of big picture. However, that’s mostly a problem reserved for the ending, so it’s not too relevant to this article. Two, the episodes themselves can’t be repetitive. While I’m fine with getting different perspectives, being told the same story for each episode with minor changes isn’t appealing either *cough* Endless Eight *cough*. You have to use the method more like Paranoia Agent in that each story is unique in its own way whilst building to something bigger.
Thankfully, Boogiepop Phantom sort of does that. Each story is different enough from each other with a variety of lives being lived and different revelations at the end of each one. At least, I remember them being so.
See, the big problem I have with Boogiepop Phantom is that the presentation is more obtuse than Satoshi Kon’s style, so I don’t really have much of a clue at what’s going on and I tend to forget the episode’s events as soon as I finish it. It’s presentation is pretty much the equivalent of Lain’s, really (except with a lot of time jumps). Yes, I enjoy myself during the watch for some reason, but afterwards I’m like “What the fuck did I see?” and unfortunately I can’t find any episode summaries on Wikipedia to help clarify things. I don’t remember if those characters named in the opening showed up in the episode.
And yet, despite not understanding, I still want to continue the show despite the fact that I’ve dropped numerous other shows I refuse to namedrop any further for taking too long to clear things up for me. Why? Maybe it’s because whilst I don’t understand what I just saw after the fact, I “sort of” understand it during the watch? Maybe I just like the style? Maybe it’s because Boogiepop is a cool name? I mean obviously I do understand the basics of what’s going on so it isn’t completely impenetrable for me, but the actual meat is pretty vague.
Yeah, even I can’t come up with a good answer for this one. Feel free to help me out in the comments section, fans of the show. Also, the ending for this show better kick ass.