Boogiepop and Others
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Boogiepop and Others (TV 2019) ?
I think for many viewers so far, watching Boogiepop and Others has been a puzzle to figure out what is happening in any given scene. The show has a constantly revolving set of characters who can be difficult to keep track of, and it keeps its lore close to its chest. Mostly, the viewer only glimpses as much as the characters know about the latest plot developments on the show's supernatural side. So I was glad this week to see such a clear articulation of Boogiepop and Others' thematic side, explaining the title character's purpose without even a single appearance by Boogiepop in the flesh.
We start with a fight between Spooky E—full name Spooky Electric—after his meeting with Aya last week. I'm going to start referring to Aya by her real name, Camille, which was the big reveal at the end of last week's episode, although most characters who communicate with her this week use her surname, Orihata. Camille is working with the Towa Organization and Spooky E in some way, and her purpose seems to involve having sex with boys. Perhaps they want her to procreate? Spooky E tells her to do it as soon as possible, which would explain the rumors of promiscuity surrounding her as well as her physical eagerness with Masaki on their aquarium date. We also know that she's terrified of anyone hating her, seeing it as antithetical to her purpose, and she's reminded of this during her conversation with Suema later in the episode.
After this point, Suema becomes the focus of the episode, particularly her investigation surrounding Asukai Jin. Her friend, Kyoko Kinukawa, is Asukai's cousin, and she's alarmed by his strange behavior recently—likely due to his alliance with the Imaginator. Asukai seems to feel like he's still in control of himself, but Kyoko sees that he's acting unusually, suggesting that Imaginator is manipulating his mind in some way. Suema resolves to find out for herself what's going on, sneaking into his classroom where she's perturbed by a sketch of Suito, the girl who killed herself by jumping off the school building. Of course, she's also the form the Imaginator has taken on, which is likely why Asukai was drawing her. While hiding with the sketch in the room, Suema witnesses Asukai perform a strange ritual with his students, where his hands glow red as he "activates" their chests (their hearts?) with the red glow in some way. The girls leave speaking of not feeling afraid of anything, ready to change the world. Suema doesn't know what to make of it.
If she's clueless with regard to the supernatural side of Boogiepop and Others, she does have a surprising amount of insight into the private lives of other teens like her classmates. Speaking of that, I'm glad that Boogiepop and Others seems to consolidate its cast more this week. We see Touka and Niitori again, and Niitori mentions that she knows of Touka's alternate identity to Suema, while Anou appears as a new transfer student to their school. He is no longer under Spooky E's control but hasn't regained his memories, and he mentions that he feels he got into the school by losing something important to him. This causes Anou to spontaneously cry, and he's rushed to the nurse's office. I hope there's a more hopeful twist to his sad story soon, and I wonder if seeing Masaki might trigger the suppressed or stolen memories to return. Since Camille seems to be hanging around, Masaki may not be far away.
Suema then finds Camille on the roof, seemingly ready to jump. Camille lets loose her various insecurities over wanting to die, and Suema responds by saying that whatever bad thing is driving her to do this won't go away with her death. Camille is also afraid of anyone hating her given her "mission," which Suema says is impossible: to live is to interact with people, which is to invite judgment from them, and you're never going to have positive reception from everyone in your life. Even the nicest people invite suspicion from others. When Camille brings up Boogiepop, Suema does not seem to think of Boogiepop as strictly real, but rather that the shinigami is the kind of character conjured out of adolescent anxieties. Suema also suggests that Boogiepop is a protector of those sorts of anxieties, rather than the more malignant figure that Camille expected to fight. We see Camille coming around to this view in her scenes with Masaki, trying to encourage him to become Boogiepop.
I've been trying to puzzle out exactly what Boogiepop's role is and how all these stories connect, and I think Suema gave me my answer. Boogiepop and Others focuses on the specific personal struggles of a variety of adolescents, and the way those are seemingly manipulated by the larger world. Boogiepop the shinigami's role is to "protect" those by saving the teens from forces who want to use their ordinary adolescent struggles for dark purposes—like Spooky E brainwashing Anou to turn him into a mindless soldier for them. It's easy to see why Camille would see Boogiepop as an enemy when working for Spooky E, but hopefully this conversation with Suema will encourage her to question her "programming" and embrace her imperfect humanity. The Imaginator seems to be another force at war with these vulnerable young people, but draining their fears and insecurities for a different purpose.
I'm sure we'll learn more about the supernatural twists and turns next week, and maybe we'll even get an appearance from our titular shinigami. Yet I'm happy to feel more secure about this show's themes, as it encourages teenagers to embrace all that is imperfect about them, since working through those feelings will be what gets you out the other side. Don't listen to those who tell you to turn your emotions off and be something else. It makes even more sense that Boogiepop and Others seems to have focused its attention on kids who are "different" in some way, whether because of their sexuality (either due to sexual orientation like Anou, or sexuality that seems to be moving too fast compared to others like Camille), or just having odd interests that set them apart from their peers (like Nagi or Suema).
These are the kids who feel the most pressure to conform and hide their emotional drives, but they're also the ones for whom it's most important for them to learn to accept themselves—and it appears that Boogiepop is out to defend them. I'm especially curious to see where we'll go with Suema's idea of people being too "bound by the chains of common sense" and needing to learn to break free. That sounds to me like a call to live life on your own terms, away from society's strictures, not unlike Revolutionary Girl Utena's mantra of "smash the egg's shell." Regardless of where the story is going, I know that one of anime's greatest strengths is telling complicated stories about adolescence, and I can't wait to see how Boogiepop and Others distinguishes itself in that mold.
Boogiepop and Others is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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