This was one of first anime to appear at the turn of the century. With a strange title, Boogiepop Phantom, and riding a hot up and coming director by the name of Takashi Watanabe (Slayers), Studio Madhouse went with the theme of the 90’s in a vastly changing scene of dark and experimental sci-fi anime. This one is no exception and possibly one of the darkest anime of its time. It has a puzzle-box type of show where the viewer must piece events together chronologically in order to make sense of things, all while watching the various characters break down mentally in this town stricken by mysterious events.
In this town where grotesque murders are taking place, rumours spread of a mysterious entity known simply as Boogiepop. If you see Boogiepop, count your blessings and kiss yourself goodbye. Throughout each episode, events from one episode gives glimpses or explanation to another. This gives the viewer great ‘ah-ha’ moments, but also the realization of ‘what is even happening?’ Even main characters from one episode may make a brief appearance in another further either answering some questions or making new ones. This theme of Boogiepop Phantom really keeps the viewer paying close attention to each episode. It is all about putting together the big picture.
That being said, the pieces thrown together may be a bit unsatisfying yet brilliant at the same time in a strange way. It really takes a look at what the worst humanity has to offer ranging from gaining vast power leads to changing one’s psyche to the pain of going through death during childhood.
Director Takashi Watanabe had full control over this anime unlike in Slayers or the mess of shows he went on to do. The use of greys and dark greens in the colour pallets speaks volumes of the setting. Music and tones were set in a way to make the environment uncomfortable, but overlapping dialogue with poor character designs lead to too much repetition. Perhaps there was just too much taken or influenced from Serial Experiments Lain in this one.
The problem is, Boogiepop Phantom is so narrow minded with its psychology theme and unoriginal from the series before it (Evangelion and Lain) that it lacks any impact at all. The questionable writing and too many missing pieces in the puzzle leads to more questions than answers without consulting a psychology guide and summary. An overall theme of the story always seems to fall back on change with the character of each episode. This change is important to how said character struggles and perceives the situation as it progresses. This usually deals with the escape from the reality and their current situation and not leaving the past behind.
TL;DR: Boogiepop Phantom is a unique take in the psychological horror genre. Each character creates their own unique view and sub-plot overall creating a non-linear solution to the main plot by the finale. However, due to the series strange psychological nature and that same story telling leads to an increasing convoluted plot discouraging many viewers.
Recommended Audience: If Serial Experiments Lain or Evangelion hits the right notes, then Boogiepop Phantom is a series definitely worth checking out. It is for a thinking audience that would love solving the puzzle. Boogiepop Phantom does it decently enough and there just aren’t that many similar to this out there.
Boogiepop Phantom is a bringer of psychological confusion and an uncomfortable 2/5
Director: Takashi Watanabe
Premiered: Winter 2000
Episode Count: 12
Rating: R +- Mild Nudity, Groteque scenes of violence
Genre(s): Psycholigical, Horror, Mystery
Streaming: Was on Hulu
Price: $30 USD via RightStufanime.com