The horror genre is not uncommon in anime. Usually such stories, although labeled horror, really are action/thriller stories.
Boogiepop wa Warawanai (Boogiepop Phantom) is a multifaceted series with some vague confusing plot. For a twelve episode anime series there is a lot less actual story than you might think—even after watching it.
As you try to piece it together, you realize its story world is a rather small place—extremely overlapped with itself. It is seen from many different angles. Sometimes the same scene is shown more than once, but changed. The anime is based on the novels written by Kouhei Kadono.
The story starts fairly suddenly. It is evening. Suddenly, a moaning and screaming sound fills the night. A bolt of light shoots towards the heavens from the roof of a school building. We see blood flung against a wall and glass shatters. Suddenly, in a wave centering on the school building, the lights go out. Shortly the lights stutter back to life.
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Time moves forward a couple of months and we change to a washroom where a bunch of girls are talking about the appearance of the death-god Boogiepop. One girl is still in the washroom after all the others finish up. Meet Tonomura Moto.
“This was at the time when I hated myself…”, Moto tells us. As Moto returns to her classroom we see that she has this almost pathetic fear of being touched. Moto had promised her friend Yasuko that she would go with her to karaoke but at the last minute tries to decline. Yasuko is able to convince Moto to come along.
At the karaoke bar, Moto sits there shrinking in to herself. The three guys who are there with Moto, Yasuko, and Yasuko’s other friend start talking about rumors. They ask Yasuko if she knew Saotome. Apparently, Saotome had vanished and recently was seen again as a ghost. Yasuko claims to have not really known him, despite that he went to the same middle school as Yasuko and Moto.
In the bathroom of the karaoke place, Moto is washing her hands again. Yasuko comes in and asks Moto to keep it a secret from Satoshi, the guy she is seeing and is at karaoke with them, that she used to go out with Saotome.
Back in middle school Moto had a crush on Saotome but could not tell him even after he and Yasuko broke up. After that he went to a different school and now he has vanished. On the way back from the karaoke bar Moto feels sick and stops in an alley.
Suddenly an apparition forms out of light… it is Saotome! As he glides toward her she screams. The next day Yasuko asks Moto if she is okay. They were worried about her when she screamed like that last night. Yasuko tells Moto that she heard that Saotome went out with a girl named Kirima Nagi.
This story is actually very difficult to follow. Even though you do get introduced to several key characters in the show, all of them except for two are seen as secondary characters in this episode. Even the introduction of Boogiepop tells you nothing about her motivations.
Moreover, the episodes are shown in this sepia-tone colored tunnel vision—as if each episode was all flashbacks. Between two episodes there is usually at least one scene that is the same in both episodes—just seen from a different point of view. For example, when Jonouchi confronts Moto in the nurse’s office, the difference in the context of the scene between episode one and episode two is striking and unsettling.
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The whole series is like this, a bunch of vignettes that jar your sense of what happens when and what your perception of a character’s role is. Are they someone you want to trust or someone you want to tell the other characters to flee from?
One problem is that the character designs, although quite nice, are similar to each other enough that it gets difficult to tell who is who even if you remember all the names. The sheer confusion of the ordering of events makes it extremely difficult to keep track of things.
If you want more out of your horror anime than just a quick thrill, and if you like that delicious feeling that nothing is quite what it seems until the second or third revelation, then you may enjoy Boogiepop wa Warawanai. If you want something straightforward and simple that resolves itself quickly, you probably won’t be happy with this series.