Boogiepop and Others
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Boogiepop and Others (TV 2019) ?
While it may all be connected around a larger arc about Boogiepop, the Imaginator, and the Towa Organization, Boogiepop and Others always feels like it's trying to tell about three or four stories at once. Even in describing the broader plot, I had to list three different factions—and this show is determined to make the humans involved on all sides an equal part of the big story. That's why it can be so confusing if you're not paying maximum attention, but if you can keep your eyes peeled for long enough, you may find the dense and multifaceted nature of Boogiepop and Others to be richly rewarding.
We start off with our young couple, Masaki and Aya/Camille, as they pull off the first of their capers this episode. Camille corners a group of drug dealers and steals their supplies, while Masaki-dressed-as-Boogiepop comes along to beat them up. In case you should think for a moment that the real Boogiepop has hopped hosts, we quickly dispense with that notion when he comments on how uncomfortable the costume feels. Masaki is playing at being Boogiepop while he and his girlfriend go around acting like superheroes. Along with beating up drug dealers, Masaki also hooked a groper while in costume. Even if he went along with this idea reluctantly at first, it's clear he's really enjoying it—which may spell trouble for Camille down the line.
Then our story turns to Kotoe, the short-haired girl from last episode who's in love with her cousin, Asukai Jin, although it seems pretty one-sided on her part. It plays out in many ways similarly to Anou's story from a few episodes ago, although with a more somber tone to it; there's more of an understanding that given their age difference and blood relation, it's a more hopeless attraction. Granted, comparing the gay kid to a girl with an incestuous cousin crush isn't exactly fair, but it fits within the larger theme of "confused teens figuring out their sexualities and place in the world," and I'm assuming Kotoe isn't going to be the last example of this. She takes solace in the fact that when Jin's father dies under mysterious circumstances (that I'm sure are connected to all this supernatural stuff), her family only informally adopts him—so he's still "just" her cousin rather than her legal brother. Of course, her story ends the same way that Andou's does, with Spooky E abruptly wiping her mind to turn her into another of his slaves.
I wonder if there's a reason that Spooky E seems to seek out more emotionally vulnerable teens as his targets. Is the brainwashing stronger the deeper their emotions run? Are teens just more impressionable? (It's hard to believe given how Andou eventually breaks free of his programming. You'd think that some adults who have less passion would work better.) Or is it because of a fundamental contempt for their struggles? My guess is the last one, especially with the mocking way that Spooky E addresses Kotoe before her brainwashes her: "So that's the name of your man?" What's interesting is how Kotoe's brainwashing differs from Andou's. Andou was just a mindless slave, with seemingly his only thought being to get into the school and await further instructions. Kotoe feels instead like she got a full personality transplant, but she's able to reason more within that template. This would go with the way that she refers to herself as a "copy," like she's just Spooky E's personality in another body. All the same, we see her struggle with the shadow of her old feelings, in the form of a fuzzy TV signal showing a shrouded version of Jin. Those memories are still there but she "can't access it"—like a vivid dream you remember having, but forget the details of the more you wake up. I'm guessing that Kotoe will eventually escape Spooky E's control like Andou did, but it might take longer.
I also wonder if Spooky E might come to regret erasing Kotoe's memories, if he learns that the object of her affection is also key to the mystery of the Imaginator. We haven't actually seen her since episode 4—unless Jin has literally become the new Imaginator, which is certainly possible. He had the effect on those girls last episode that's similar to the description we get of an Imaginator acolyte this episode, a formerly sullen man who's suddenly all smiles. It makes me wonder how the Imaginator's brainwashing compares to Spooky E's. Spooky E's victims literally lose any sense of their former selves, becoming pure tools for him with no interiority—except for when they're occasionally reminded of what they suppressed. The Imaginator's victims still seem to retain a sense of self, but they become happier and focused on a broader cosmic purpose beyond their former everyday concerns. What's clear is that both are obviously bad-news for our human characters, which makes it interesting that they're being pitted against each other. What are their respective plans for humanity—and which should we be more afraid of?
Boogiepop seems to be on the side of the angels, or at least he's a defender of letting confused teens be confused teens rather than be manipulated by some higher authority. Perhaps there is a metaphor here for how susceptible teens' idealism and strong emotions can be for getting taken advantage of—maliciously or otherwise—by adults with their own agendas. As a teenager who struggled with similar issues to some of our characters, I think of how many of my peers channeled that frustration into destructive romantic relationships, drugs, or religious groups that taught them to hate the parts of themselves that were different. Luckily, my own outlets—like music and anime—helped me process things more safely, but I could have gone any number of other directions. That might be the real reason why Spooky E and the Imaginator seem to seek out young people with strong emotions and deep senses of self-loathing.
Speaking of which, it's time to move back to our other big star of the episode, Camille. She's clearly struggling with both her duty to the Towa Organization and her strong feelings for Masaki. She doesn't just want to manipulate him, and as he takes on the role of fake-Boogiepop, it's clear that Spooky E and Kotoe are manipulating her feelings in order to use Masaki. This troubles her, but she's not sure what to do except distance herself from him—which is also the order she gets from Spooky E. Of course, it turns out that even apart from Camille, Masaki can still be used to Towa's own ends. If he gets killed playing at Boogiepop the superhero, that will help discredit Boogiepop's reputation, which fits right into Spooky E's grudge against the shinigami. Camille is between a rock and a hard place, and I'm eager to see where she goes from here and how it will affect her. This struggle also comes out in terms of her sexuality, as she obviously wants to be more physically affectionate with Masaki, but now cares about his own feelings surrounding this situation. And yet it's also part of her "mission" with Towa to procreate. Then again, Spooky E says she's out of the Towa Organization now, which comes with all sorts of other implications.
What makes Camille so interesting is that she's not really a supernatural force. She has the same range of feelings that every other teenager does; she's just slowly learning how to feel them, express them, and what she can do about them. It's an interesting contrast to Andou and Kotoe, whose feelings came quite naturally until they were robbed of them—and now they're struggling to know what to do with them when they suddenly bubble back to the surface. All this makes it clear that Boogiepop and Others is a mystery that's well worth getting lost in, because it has much to say underneath the surface of all its lore. I have to especially give a hand to a story that empathizes with a group that's often demeaned or misunderstood: teenagers that run the gamut of gender and sexuality, and the wild and unpredictable emotional struggles that result from their lives.
Boogiepop and Others is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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