I was going to watch the original Boogiepop Phantom series over my winter vacation since it’s been nearly twenty years since I last laid eyes on it, but… well, you know how plans often turn out. But that’s fine. I’ll just go into this as blind as my memory allows it. How blind are we talking? Very blind. I only watched the first four episodes, and even then, I don’t think I remember any of the plot details. I just know that there is a character in a silly hat and robe known as Boogiepop. Well, not much has changed. The first episode opens with Keiji waiting to meet up with his girlfriend Touka, but she’s being uncommunicative. All of a sudden, she appears in front of him while wearing a strange costume. Touka or someone who looks like her proceeds to assist a disheveled man until the cops arrive. Everyone then goes their separate ways. Huh. When follows over the next few days is a series of encounters between Keiji and his girlfriend’s alter ego on the school rooftop. Calling itself Boogiepop, Touka’s alter ego apparently arises whenever something (that’s all you’re really gonna get for now) threatens humanity. And what do you know, girls from this school have been disappearing one by one. Most people assume the usual: these missing girls must have run away frome due to youth discontent, dissatisfaction, yadda yadda yadda. But every so often, we see bodies of young girls. They’ve clearly been murdered. One is even beheaded and gruesomely strung up on the telephone lines. Signs point to a serial killer lurking about. Or maybe it’s even worse. Maybe, as Boogiepop, suggests, there’s a monster among the students.
But all of a sudden, before we can even get settled into the mystery involving the disappearing girls, Boogiepop tells Keiji that its job is done. We’re told that the monster has been subdued, and as a result, Boogiepop must go away until the next threat arises. And all of a sudden, Keiji is distraught. For Boogiepop to exist, it must “inhabit” his girlfriend’s mind and body. Surely, he wants Touka back, right? Well, I dunno. It’s clear that some serious amount of time has elapsed within a single episode. Up until this point, all I saw were semi-cryptic conversations between Keiji and Boogiepop on the school rooftop. They’re semi-cryptic, because on the one hand, the latter is explaining its origins. There’s nothing really cryptic about that. But on the other hand, Boogiepop is never quite explicit about its mission. Just vague talk about humanity, danger, and something about a man-eater. At the end of the episode, Touka’s alter-ego tells Keiji that their time together was fun, but what time together? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. The second episode pulls the curtains back on the mystery — all the way back, in fact — but at the moment, it has little to do with either Boogiepop or Keiji. In fact, I doubt Keiji will even be an important character in this series once it is all said and done. All of the events seem to center around a few girls.
We quickly learn in the second episode that the “man-eater” is some sort of shape-shifting creation that can assume the image of its victims. A kid by the name of Masami stumbles upon the man-eater getting ready to eat his friend Minako. The monster turns its attention to Masami instead, but when the kid shows that he isn’t scared — in fact, he even wants to help protect the man-eater — we can infer that Minako was then eaten shortly afterwards. This is where the story gets kinda kooky. That disheveled man from the first episode? Apparently, he’s an alien from outer space. No, really. His name is Echoes, and he was sent here to evaluate humanity. I guess this is why Boogiepop was reprimanding the crowd for not helping Echoes out, because societal apathy certainly isn’t a good look. Luckily, Echoes bumps into a girl by the name of Naoko, and she treats him kindly. Hell, she probably just saved the human race thanks to her compassion. We learned from the first episode, however, that she’s one of the latest girls to go missing, so it’s clear that things don’t work out well for her. What does this all have to do with the man-eater? Well, Echoes has a clone. He has a very bad clone. His clone is the man-eater that we just talked about.
Apparently, Masami has a thing for strong, domineering women… even if that woman is really a man-eating monster inhabiting a classmate’s body. They say I shouldn’t kink-shame, so I’ll just leave it at that. In any case, not only does he want to help the man-eater (who is now looks like Minako), but he thinks that they can forge a new world together (a plan which they openly discuss in a cafe of all places). They will accomplish this by having man-eater mind-control fellow students (which is apparently accomplished via a kiss). These mind-controlled students will then somehow create drugs via… their brain cells? Eventually, Masami and the man-eater (also referred to as a manticore) will presumably raise an army of thralls to fight back against the people who are hunting the man-eater down. Uh-huh… and somehow, we just have to believe that Masami is living out his dream life. I guess we just have a random sociopath among the student body. It’s ironic, because everyone seems to think that Nagi is said sociopath. Oh, I guess I haven’t mentioned her yet. She appears to be one of the other main characters in the story. She’s a rich girl who has decided to get herself suspended from school in order to investigate this recent rash of disappearances. Thanks to her friend Naoko (who is now unfortunately dead), she knows all about Echoes and the man-eater, and she’s assigned herself a mission to save her fellow students even if they all trash-talk her behind her back. She even confesses that she has a messiah complex.
There’s one more seemingly important girl by the name of Suema. How is she connected? Not very strongly at the moment. She’s obsessed with books written by Kirima Seiichi, who just happens to be Nagi’s late father. Kyouko, a fellow classmate, thinks she’s the next to die, so she’s requested Suema’s help. This then allows for Nagi and Suema to meet, but it’s not clear what the latter will offer when the time comes for everyone to do battle against the man-eater. After all, Boogiepop has its weird powers. Nagi looks like she knows martial arts of some kind. As for Suema, she just strikes me as a nerd for now. But hey, maybe her nerd powers will be sorely needed in order for them to locate the true culprit, i.e. Masami and “Minako.”
So how do I feel about the first two episodes? I dunno. My thoughts certainly aren’t overwhelmingly positive, but they’re not exactly negative either. Like I suggested earlier, the first episode is a bit boring and simultaneously vague. The conflict is introduced to us, but the exchanges between Boogiepop and Keiji didn’t grab my attention. There was a lot of talking, but not a whole lot of meaningful characterization. Boogiepop isn’t forthcoming about itself, and Keiji is a bit dull. Supposedly, they form a strong friendship, but we probably won’t get to see much of it until later (I assume). On the other hand, the second episode is one non-stop revelation after another, but none of it is presented in a way that intrigues me. Aliens? Clones? Mind-controlling drugs created from one’s brain cells? Humanity under a microscope? A seemingly normal girl who hopes to save humanity from a shape-shifting monster? I assume that Boogiepop has supernatural powers, but what’s up with Nagi? Isn’t she just a regular girl? Is she really so badass that she thinks she can do battle against monstrous scientific experiments? There’s the sense that maybe the story pulled the curtains back a little too far in just a single episode. As a result, the story of the missing girls quickly become a non-mystery. At first, it was like, “Oooh, is it a serial killer? Is it perhaps supernatural because Boogiepop seems kinda supernatural?” But now that I know it’s a scientific experiment gone wrong, I don’t feel that excitement anymore. We know who all the key players are. The mystique is gone. It is now a cat-and-mouse game between the good guys (Nagi, Boogiepop, Echoes, and presumably Suema), and the bad guys (Masami and Minako). I suppose I can only wait to see how this all plays out, but honestly, I don’t feel as excited as I could be, y’know? All in all, it’s a watchable start for Boogiepop wa Warawanai, but nothing to write home about. I’m not going to say, “Oh man, you guys gotta watch this show now!”
So far, the only really interesting thing for me to wrap my brain around is the idea that Naoko’s kindness can somehow override the cruel callousness of her society as a whole. It’s clear that Echoes has had it tough ever since he arrived on this blue planet. He looked drugged up in the first episode, so whoever created his clone must have done a number on him. The guy could barely stand, and hell, he was even crying. Not only that, nobody moved to help him except Boogiepop and (later) Naoko. Furthermore, the kids at school treat the missing girls predicament almost as just something to spread rumors about. They also irresponsibly joke that Nagi might be the serial killer because she’s so weird to them. Finally, Masami is convinced that his initial plan to enslave people via drugs would work out perfectly, because nobody cares about junkies even if they’re minors. That’s just how the world works, I suppose. If you don’t fit in, you might as well disappear off the face of the planet. Out of sight, out of mind. So if I’m an alien evaluating humanity as a race, two kind acts aren’t exactly going to turn the tide against… well, everything else. But it has only been two episodes, so us humans still have time on our side.