I’d say it was a hot mess, but that would imply a debut that was actually interesting.
Boogiepop Phantom (the original anime that came out… holy shit, 19 years ago now to the day) was very much a product of its time – one of those gritty, post-Evangelion psychological horror shows released alongside the likes of Serial Experiments Lain and Paranoia Agent. It was the kind of title where the actual plot didn’t seem to matter anywhere near as much as the atmosphere and, while probably not topping anyone’s list of favourite horror shows of the era, I remember it doing its job fairly competently in that department. It also happened to have an excellent soundtrack. The remake, with Madhouse studio once more at the helm, unfortunately not only fails to exceed its predecessor in terms of quality, but also fails to make much of an impression at all. And given that it features mysterious disappearances, possession, murder, and man-eating creatures of legend, I’d say that’s quite an achievement.
By far the biggest problem in this first episode is that it consists almost entirely of dialogue, very occasionally broken up by half-second flashes of potentially interesting things that are never returned to and never explained. Any kind of action whatsoever is referred to as happening off-screen, which creates about as much impact as you’d expect from that description, while the dialogue itself is almost all incidental and so poorly written that it often seems virtually nonsensical in context. Meanwhile, the scenes jump around like crazy with no indication of how much time has passed or what’s gone on in the interim. Far from providing the audience with an unsettling and/or creepy ambience, it feels more like the creators had no idea what was going on either and just started doing mad libs in an effort to at least make something interesting out of the whole mess. They didn’t.
The final nail in the coffin is the shoestring budget I can only imagine was forced on the production team for something this uninspired to come out the other side. The episode is littered with numerous still frames, almost hilariously nondescript backgrounds, close-up shots of people’s shoes, and characters that are literally faceless. The background music is an excellent match, which is to say that when I did once or twice notice it at all, it was solely because of how bland and out-of-place it sounded in comparison with the (again, primarily off-screen) events. In short, the writing’s already on the wall for Boogiepop Phantom, and anyone wanting a decent horror anime should look elsewhere.
13 thoughts on “Anime Taste Testing: Boogiepop wa Warawanai”
As far as I know, this is not a remake of Phantom, but an anime adaptation of the novels (dunno how many books they are adapting). Phantom was more like a spinoff/semi-sequel of the first novel.
But yeah, I thought this was too slow and overall not very gripping. The thing with Phantom was that, while the main plot was equally slow to unravel, each episode focused on different characters and was a self-contained story with a beginning and ending. It focused more on the characters’ psychology and personal issues, and put the overaching plot almost entirely in the background, which in the end was probably a better idea. It also had impressive design and atmosphere for its time, while this one feels all very generic really.
As for budget, can’t fault the animators for working with what they have, but the original series also didn’t look exactly like a high-budget project, so it’s hardly an excuse.
It could still improve, of course, but so far I’m not terribly impressed.
Yes, admittedly I’m using the term ‘remake’ fairly loosely here – ‘reboot’ would probably be a technically better term.
I honestly don’t remember a lot of the original Boogiepop anime series, it’s been so long since I’ve watched it, so I was approaching this show with what I think was quite an open mind. I didn’t care what the plot was or who the characters were, so long as it was interesting and/or entertaining. Neither turned out to be the case for me – and while visuals are certainly not the be all and end all of any show for me, they do matter. No, the original project was not terribly high-budget, but it was certainly more stylish and more detailed in every respect. Despite having little concrete memory of the former anime version of Boogiepop, I definitely know which one I prefer.
Boogiepop Phantom is a sequel to novel 1 and 6 (prequel). Boogiepop and Others is an adaptation of novel 1-3. So not a sequel or reboot, but just straight adaptation of the source material.
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Fair enough. That didn’t factor into my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the show – I don’t care if I’m watching a remake, a reboot, a sequel, a prequel, or anything else so long as I think the show is interesting – but I understand the need for people to want to be specific about these things.
FWIW, my wife watched the first ep (not my wheelhouse, so I skipped it), pronounced it “boring and weird” and dropped it halfway through.
I made it through all of the first episode, but quite possibly only because I was watching with a friend and we basically forced each other to see it through. I also watched the first 5 mins or so of the second episode, just to make doubly sure things weren’t about to somehow drastically change. Spoiler alert: they didn’t.
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This was not the best start. I was still curious enough about some of those flashes and off screen moments to watch episode two and it is better in terms of making me interested in continuing and filling in some of the gaps that seemed to exist in episode one, but I’m still hardly going to jump up and down and recommend this. The first episode was dull and given the subject matter that was quite the impressive effort by the writers to present it in such an uninteresting manner.
I did watch the first 5 mins or so of the second episode, but couldn’t force myself to continue after that. If people say that the series gets better as it goes on then I have no reason not to believe them, but it’s too little, too late for me. As you point out, the only thing that did vaguely impress me here is just how hard the creators must have worked to make such a potentially interesting premise so painfully dull.
I may be a little more positive on the show than you, but it’s hardly the anime to rescue this season. What bothered me most was that, at times, it felt like an illustrated audiodrama: the cinematography was so static, and there were a lot of characters talking I didn’t know yet, that I quite literally had the effect of a voice-over over a setting image: I couldn’t connect what I heard with what I saw.
Pity. There aren’t a lot of shows this season I’m looking forward to. I may drop under 20 shows, and this may leave some mornings and evenings anime-less (I’m using anime to relax before and after work).
Yes, I completely agree with that. I don’t know if this was due to budget issues or if the creators thought they were being alternative and artsy (I see that many bloggers have praised the apparently strong direction of the show, so clearly it must have worked for some people), but I just felt confused, frustrated, and above all bored.
There’s always backlog and rewatches to fill the gaps…