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.