Boogiepop and Others
Episodes 1-4

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Boogiepop and Others (TV 2019) ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Boogiepop and Others (TV 2019) ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Boogiepop and Others (TV 2019) ?

How would you rate episode 4 of
Boogiepop and Others (TV 2019) ?

From the moment it begins with its tense, throbbing electronic soundtrack, Boogiepop and Others promises a spooky time. We meet the mysterious "girl" in a witch outfit, using her special powers to rescue an unnamed white-haired man. This is all news to Taneda, since this Boogiepop looks mysteriously like his girlfriend, Miyashita. It turns out that she—or he?—is Miyashita, but also not: Boogiepop is her alter ego. Miyashita retains no memories of her times being possessed by Boogiepop, and this mysterious figure might be essential to stopping the disappearances of girls at their school.

If that feels like a lot to take in, you're not alone—and that's only the first half of the first episode. We've got four to cover, so buckle up, especially if you're new to the franchise. That includes me, because I haven't seen Boogiepop Phantom, the now-almost-20-year-old adaptation of later novels in the series. Luckily, Boogiepop and Others starts at the very beginning, so it should be much easier to dive into as a newbie. Unfortunately, it still seems to require a lot of attention and checking the series' Wikipedia page to keep everything straight.

That's the problem with adapting light novels into anime. Books leave a lot of room to explain worldbuilding and webs of character relationships in ways that don't translate as easily to the screen. Manga at least is a hybrid of text and image, with stuff playing out gradually through pictures alongside all the writing. Novels can be more direct and abrupt, but that makes things harder when changing the medium—resulting in more dialogue-heavy scenes where more lines carry important meaning. If you don't pay attention, you could totally miss essential details like who is who's girlfriend or who is related on which side.

It's mind-boggling how many different characters and sub-storylines Boogiepop and Others packs into just these first few episodes. The first episode ends with Boogiepop mysteriously leaving Takeda behind, saying that someone else has "solved" the mystery of the "monster" at the center of their school. We learn over the next episode that that person is likely Kirima Nagi, a mysterious intense girl suspected by many of her classmates of being the monster herself. However, she's actually hunting her down, not knowing yet which student she's possessing, but having some inkling of how this creature works. That's around the same time we meet the culprit. She's known as the Manticore and aided by Saotome, a normal student who joins the monster's cause when he catches her devouring her current host, Yurihara. The Manticore and Saotome make a fun team, as fascinating to watch as they are bloodthirsty and terrifying—and they're part of a much larger story about clones from outer space.

This then draws back in Nagi's personal connection to this story. She meets her friend Naoko and finds out she's taken in Echoes, the mysterious white-haired man we met in the opening scene. He's actually an alien from outer space who was cloned in a lab—but the clone was the dangerous Manticore who escaped. Echoes wants to find his clone and stop them, as well as find out if humans are friendly and take that information back to his home. We learn this after Naoko is killed and devoured by the Manticore, looking for Echoes. Nagi takes charge of Echoes, who's naïve about human society and can't really speak, despite having telekinetic and regenerative powers. All this leads up to a confrontation in episode 3 between all the parties involved, along with Naoko's boyfriend, Shirou. Well, other than Taneda, whose role in the story has been kind of dropped for now. Our old friend Boogiepop shows up to turn the tables in favor of the humans after Echoes sacrifices himself for Nagi and then vanishes into light. Boogiepop explains to Kei that Echoes is more of an angel, passing judgment on whether humans are fundamentally good or evil. We seem to be off the hook for now, and so we loop back to the ending scene of episode 1, suggesting that 2 and 3 happened concurrently, which leaves his final meeting with Boogiepop make much more sense.

And that's just the first three episodes—episode 4 launches into a whole new story!

I don't like my reviews being all plot summary, but it's kind of hard not to do that with this show so far. There are so many twists and turns to make sense of that it leaves your head spinning even more if you try to figure out what the series is trying to say (if anything). Luckily, episode 4 moves on to the second novel and takes its time to build up something more thematically intriguing. The first three episodes felt like they could have stretched things much further, and apparently plenty of fat (including whole characters!) from the source. Yet it seems like Boogiepop and Others is telling us it's only the beginning of a much larger, weirder, and more thoughtful story, so I'd rather squeeze through that beginning to see more.

That's just what episode four promises. It introduces the idea of people with special powers to see hidden aspects of others. Asukai, an artist, student, and cram school counselor, has the ability to see into people's hearts—represented in the form of flowers. However, everyone is always missing something from their flowers, be it the roots, the bud, or something else. This represents what they're missing in life. He meets the titular Imaginator in the form of a high school student who keeps jumping off the school roof and can see when people are about to die. She promises to transform Asukai's life into something more exciting, if he chooses to help her. What they're trying to do exactly isn't clear, but when Asukai sees a terrifying potential future, he's seemingly transformed and ends up using kids as guinea pigs for some project of the Imaginator. It's hard to make much more sense of this, including Boogiepop's conversation on the roof with suicidal student Mariko, but that's just because this story is still holding its cards close to its chest. I'm sure that just like with the first story, it will all become clear in upcoming episodes.

This second story hints at something more, from the name and actions of the "Imaginator"—suggesting her power is to give people hope for a better life—to the striking symbolic visuals. It's the first sign that the story plans to give us stuff to think about and not just blow our minds with its plot twists. Not that I'll mind if Boogiepop and Others just turns out to be a cool supernatural thriller, but I like when stories dealing with mythological imagery play with the ideas that naturally arise from them. Episode 4 also feels like the first time that the anime format really adds to the story. The talky-ness is toned down a little to tell more of the story through what we see. The details come in less of a barrage, and we're given more time to breathe. If Boogiepop and Others can keep this up, it might be a truly stellar adaptation. I just hope it doesn't blaze so fast through these novels for us to keep up.

Rating: A-

Boogiepop and Others is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a Ph.D. student in musicology, who recently released a book about the music of Cowboy Bebop. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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