The Boogiepop series (ブギーポップシリーズ Bugīpoppu shirīzu) of Japanese light novels is written by Kouhei Kadono and illustrated by Kouji Ogata. It includes titles from different media, each connected by repeating characters and related plots. Presented in vignettes, each chapter presents the reader with only snapshots of what is happening, leaving them to find clues to understand the greater plot.
Boogiepop is best characterized as young adult fiction and is credited with starting the light novel trend in Japan. By March 2000, two million copies of Kadono's Boogiepop light novels works were in print.
Kadono has published fourteen light novels and has serialized short stories in Dengegi HP, many of which have been published as a four-volume series about Pete Beat, a member of the Towa Organization. Two manga serials have been drawn for this series, which were serialized in Dengeki Daioh and Dengeki Animation.
In 2000, the anime series Boogiepop Phantom aired on Japanese television; a drama CD, featuring Kaori Shimizu, was released to promote this series. Later that year, the movie Boogiepop and Others was released. The anime and live action film were inspired by the original light novels and have also been released in English by The Right Stuf International, while Seven Seas Entertainment released four of the light novels and the manga.
To face the "enemies of the world", the shinigami Boogiepop automatically rises to the surface. In Boogiepop's world, the Towa Organization, a shadowy group seeking to control humanity, managed to capture an alien organism who had taken the form of a highly evolved human. By studying him, the Towa Organization was able to create synthetic humans, people who have been artificially enhanced with special abilities. The mission of the Towa Organization and its agents is to find and kill MPLS, people who are more evolved than others and possess special abilities. However, Boogiepop will not let the Towa Organization get its way and he is not alone in his efforts.
The Boogiepop series is very much about the characters: their relationships, their pasts, their memories. This is especially true for how their pasts molded them into the people they are today. It can also be seen through scenes being presented from the perspective of different characters, and how the individual casts a different "feel" by how they relate to events. Another important theme is change. How the world changes and our different perceptions of this change, especially how one's perception of things changes as they grow up. Boogiepop Phantom is also highly metaphorical, with a character or an image representing much more than face value. It is also "a show about the inter-related nature of people's lives and the concept that they know of as time."
Each Boogiepop title has its own cast of characters, and many of these characters will make appearances in more than one title, but there are only four central characters that are consistently at the center of the plot.
- Boogiepop (ブギーポップ Bugīpoppu)
The shinigami whispered of among the female students of Shinyo Academy, few people know that Boogiepop actually exists. Normally dormant, Boogiepop rises to the surface when enemies of the world appear. Boogiepop's appearance and voice are ambiguous: they seem both masculine and feminine at the same time. However, hidden beneath his signature black cloak and black, pipe-shaped hat, little is ever seen of him. Straight-faced and to the point, Boogiepop acts as mechanical as he claims to be. Boogiepop speaks in an archaic manner, and seems fond of whistling the prelude to Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
- Touka Miyashita (宮下藤花 Miyashita Tōka)
An ordinary, happy school girl at Shinyo Academy, Miyashita is in love with her boyfriend, Keiji Takeda, and close friends with Suema. Not particularly good at school, she does not stand out in any way. Unknown to most, she was hospitalized as a child, and this saw her life change, though even Miyashita herself does not seem to know the truth of what happened, and was simply told that she had been possessed by a kitsune. Unknowingly, when the world is in trouble, she carries a Spalding sports bag containing the effects of Boogiepop, her alternate personality. She has no recollection of her time as Boogiepop, and alters her memories to explain the blanks.
- Nagi Kirima (霧間凪 Kirima Nagi)
Known as the Fire Witch to many, Kirima has made few friends due the way she distances herself from others: she knows that she is too dangerous for 'normal' people to associate with. She has a messianic complex, and seeks to save the world from whatever may threaten it. As such, whenever there are unusual happenings within the city, Kirima can be found investigating what has happened. In the past, she had spent a period of time in hospital. A combination of the events from that period of her life, as well as the death of her father, the famous writer Kirima Seiichi, brought her to follow this path in life. Extremely gifted both physically and intellectually, she has the basic tools she needs to carry out her self-appointed mission.
- Kazuko Suema (末間和子 Suema Kazuko)
As a result of a childhood trauma, Suema has developed an unusual fascination with criminal and abnormal psychology, as well as the desire to not let anything occur around her without her knowing. As a result of this, she desperately seeks the truth about the unexplained events happening in her city, and meddles with forces best left untouched. Good friends with Miyashita Touka, Suema appreciates how she so open and unconditionally accepting of her, and looks out for her friend. She seeks to be closer with Kirima Nagi, who seems to know the answers to the questions that have haunted her all these years. Despite her involvement in several incidents, she has yet to see Boogiepop in action.
The Right Stuf International licensed Boogiepop Phantom for English release in 2001. They dubbed the series and have distributed it in the US in both VHS and DVD formats. The series is distributed in the UK by ADV Films and across Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment. Boogiepop Phantom has also been localised and released in Argentina, Brazil, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.
In 2004, The Right Stuf International acquired the film Boogiepop and Others. It has been released on DVD in Japanese with English subtitles, and is distributed in both the US and Europe, along with a director's commentary and behind the scenes interviews with the cast.
In 2005, Seven Seas Entertainment announced they had acquired the rights to publish the Boogiepop novels and manga in English. Before 2018, they released the first three novels and the sixth, as well as the Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh and "Boogiepop Dual" manga. Seven Seas Entertainment has announced that they will re-release the novels in an omnibus format.
Impact and influence
Boogiepop and Others won the Fourth Dengeki Novel Prize in 1997 and was released in the Dengeki Book Collection in 1998 where it gained popularity. It is credited with popularizing light novels, as well as redefining young adult fiction in Japan. It was later adapted into a live action film by Ryu Kaneda, a two-volume manga by Kouji Ogata and served as the inspiration for a soundtrack composed by Yuki Kajiura. Boogiepop and Others also sets the scene for the anime, Boogiepop Phantom, which has its backstory loosely based on the climax of the light novel. Having already gained a strong readership among High School and University age men, the release of Boogiepop Returns: VS Imaginator Part 1 was met with overwhelming support. By the time the Boogiepop and Others film was released, the Boogiepop series was a bestseller, with over two million copies in print.
The Boogiepop series has received high praise from critics. Boogiepop Phantom has received the most exposure, where it is often compared to Serial Experiments Lain and Paranoia Agent. It has been noted that the series is "not your average anime", and one that "demands your attention". While the fine detail the animators went into with the visuals has received much praise, bland character designs have been noted as one of the series' flaws, though "astute viewers may notice some rather interesting [...] differences between the various characters." The soundtrack has received much acclaim, not only for the background music and voice actor performances, but also the detail that went into the sound effects. The presentation of the storyline was well received, but it was acknowledged that not everyone would be interested in following the subtle clues in each episode and the "artistically deliberate sense of confusion". A common complaint, however, is that there are many loose ends, mainly relating to the backstory, leaving the series "with more questions than answers".
Far less critiqued, the Boogiepop and Others film fares less well than its sequel. Whilst the characters and plot were well received, the special effects and costumes have been described as "campy", but "par for the course of something of this level and budget". The movie is, however, cited as being easier to watch, and is recommended to fans of the anime, so as to gain "a complete understanding of the Boogiepop events".
The Boogiepop and Others novel has received more favorable reviews, though these have mostly focused on the translation, which has been cited as "a standard against which future Japanese novel translations are judged". It has also received praise for ripping "the rules of narrative wide open", especially for how it allows the characters to grow on the reader. Boogiepop Returns: VS Imaginator Part 1 continues receiving positive feedback for its easy-to-read style and excellent translation, as well as its use of atmosphere and characters. The main flaw, however, is the briefness of the title, which has clearly been used to set up the sequel.
Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh has received generally favorable reviews, particularly for capturing some of the more complicated scenes better than the original light novel. This makes the plot easier to follow, and captures the urgency of the climactic battle. However, it has been noted that breaking the complicated plot of Boogiepop and Others into a multi-volume manga results in individually weak volumes. As with Boogiepop Phantom, the character designs have been noted as "lookalike and nondescript", which can make some of the events difficult to follow. The art has also been described as "washed out and dull".
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- DVD commentary featuring Jeff Thompson, Crispin Freeman, and Rachel Lillie (2001) Boogiepop Phantom Evolution 2
- DVD commentary featuring Jeff Thompson and Angora Deb (2002) Boogiepop Phantom Evolution 4
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- Official Sites
- Official The Right Stuf International Boogiepop webpage
- Official Seven Seas Entertainment Boogiepop webpage
- Boogiepop: The Ultimate Guide
- (in Japanese) MediaWorks Boogiepop webpage
- (in Japanese) VAP Boogiepop Phantom webpage