Boogiepop and Others
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 16 of
Boogiepop and Others (TV 2019) ?
This week on Boogiepop and Others, the show asks us: who is the real you? Can there be many different "yous" that manifest at different times? And how is that different from someone outright having alternate personalities? The King of Distortion seems to be playing on the ways that people segment themselves to become "different people" around different audiences, hiding parts of themselves away that they find shameful. Over the course of this episode, we explore this across various characters.
Early in the episode, after Niitoki's first confrontation with the King of Distortion, we get a conversation between Niitoki and Suema about alternate personalities. Suema says that Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is possibly not a real disorder, because so many cases have turned out to be made-up or better explainable through something else. (This is true, by the way; DID is a pretty controversial diagnosis in the psychiatry community. You can read more about that here.) Suema has an interesting take on the phenomenon; DID isn't real because everyone has multiple selves, so DID comes from when people feel guilty about something and want to blame one of their other "selves." Rather than seeing DID as an aberration, Suema views it as a major part of the human condition; it's just that some people pathologize this to the point that others notice.
This seems to be key to how the King of Distortion works, by finding other versions of everyone that they've hidden, usually in the form of guilt over past memories, and bringing those out to force people to cope with them. This is what he suggests by claiming they can "turn their pain into gold." By processing those suppressed "alternate selves," these people can get better. So is the King of Distortion helping people or merely creating chaos? Boogiepop doesn't seem to know if the King of Distortion is an enemy or not until he starts causing destruction outside of people's dreams—like blowing up the Moon Tower.
So going through each of these people's illusions, Niitoki's "alternate self" is manifesting as Saotome because of some lingering guilt she has about Saotome's conversation with her during the Manticore incident. This is complicated by Niitoki's unrequited feelings for Takeda and frustration at her inability to do anything about it. I liked the moment when Boogiepop handed her a bento box that Touka, their alternate personality, had saved for a date with Takeda. At first Niitoki is hesitant to take it, reminding her too much of the pain of losing Takeda to Touka. After a while though, her hunger overtakes her and she scarfs it down.
In the case of Sakiko, the guilt is obviously related to Hinako's death and her lingering frustration that she couldn't fix her friendship first. What's most interesting is when the King of Distortion, as Hinako, mentions that Sakiko actually forgot about her up until that moment. Before, we were led to believe that Sakiko had been consumed by this guilt for a long time. In retrospect, her actions and carefree personality before the illusion make a lot more sense if she's suppressed those memories. The most interesting part is where "Hinako" tells her that the memory was obviously important if she forgot it. We'd assume otherwise, but in fact, Sakiko had to suppress it because it was traumatizing her. If it had been less upsetting to her, she would not have needed to do that. Ultimately, the healthiest thing going forward would be for her to process it—turn her pain "into gold."
Then we get Kentarou's dream. It's harder to fit his moment into the "split personalities as coping with trauma" theme, because that isn't the focus of his section so much. Mostly, we just see him realizing that he never actually woke up after losing Shirou, finding the room with broken mannequins, and having one turn to him and speak as the King of Distortion. I expect that next episode, we'll dive more into Kentarou's past and see how he processes that.
As for Makoto, it's interesting that his dream would focus on the kaiju Zooragi, because he's a kid who doesn't have a pile of "past mistakes" to haunt him like the teenagers and adults around him. Yet we see that Zooragi does have a connection to his past. The kaiju was who the boy claimed as his "father," since his real dad is out of the picture. He drew pictures of Zooragi in school to put next to the other kids' pictures of their dads. While there's something adorable about him imagining his dad as a powerful monster, it's obvious that this weighs on Makoto. If that wasn't the case, Zooragi wouldn't appear in his dream as such a scary monster. This is likely because of the negative emotions he associates with not having a dad.
What's interesting about Zooragi is how it almost seems to exist outside of Makoto's dream. Based on Boogiepop's comments, it's like the creature exists in an alternate dimension, and its torment is behind the King of Distortion's game. So is it real, or is it just in Makoto's head? Why is Zooragi able to appear in other peoples' illusions, too? I'm sure we'll get more answers in the next episode, but I hope the solution is still tied in some way to Makoto. I like the idea that this imaginative yet lonely child wished this creature into existence, at least in some alternate universe. Even so, some of Zooragi's energy gets through the "barrier" after Boogiepop closes it, toppling the Moon Tower.
Much of the plot and lore surrounding the King of Distortion remains confusing, but we reach the thematic point of it all this week. These illusions are there to help the characters process the parts of themselves they've suppressed in the form of painful memories or yearnings. Beyond that, this was a cool episode with some of the most electric animation Boogiepop has featured yet. This is particularly the case in the character animation; apparently the episode director previously worked on Little Witch Academia, and you can see that in the goofy expressions of characters like Niitoki and Makoto. I hope as Boogiepop and Others whirls toward its finale, it continues to show off as impressively as it did this week.
Boogiepop and Others is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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