OP: 「shadowgraph」 by MYTH & ROID
「ブギーポップは笑わない 1 & 2」 (Bogiipoppu wa Warawanai 1 & 2)
“Boogiepop Never Laughs 1 & 2”
Worlds are colliding in Boogiepop wa Warawanai. Ovid might have risen from the grave, absorbed our peculiar mythologies of telepathic aliens, private eyes, shadowy government entities, Freud, the boogie man, and psychoactive drugs, and set to work on a sequel to metamorphosis. Make no mistake this is a cataclysmically busy story, awash in many as yet unanswered questions… and yet, despite the litany of ideas, it was the tone of kaleidoscopic loneliness that stayed with me long after the credits rolled.
A bewildering quiet permeates this a story, like the grout between bricks, sprawled across the empty vistas, faceless crowds, and unfinished sentences: a malaise of misunderstandings, burdensome expectations, and ennui. Amidst all this, Keiji Takeda(Kobayashi, Chiaki) waits out the sun for a girl who doesn’t come–––at least not in the guise he expected. The idea of the hero is of course to answer the call, but Takeda looks ill-equipped to answer the phone. What he seeks is a savior, someone to take the burden off his shoulders. But nothing is ever so simple.
Boogiepop (Yuuki, Aoi) admonishes him as to the duty of his own free will, something she lacks. Takeda will undoubtedly have to face his weaknesses in the coming journey, but I can’t help but wonder if he didn’t already take the first step in the mere act of befriending Boogiepop. If the difference between hearing your voice echo and a conversation is simply to reply, then one might imagine he ended her eternal solitude. Despite describing herself as something akin to the sound of thunder that follows lightning, to have a friend is to have a soul, and I can’t help but feel that this will alter both their futures.
In the meantime, people disappear and no one blinks, so the world isn’t exactly at a highpoint. In fact, some school girls envy them–––would disappear themselves if they could shed their pesky sense of responsibility. Whether that is disdain or yearning is hard to say, but it’s certainly bleak. Throw in an apparent ubiquity of crying that’s left Takeda unable to recognize tears for suffering and it’s little wonder he’s desperate for a force larger than himself. Sometimes even atheists find themselves praying in a falling plane.
I felt legitimately terrible for Takeda. To feel lost in the shadows of powers far greater than yourself is quite humbling, especially if you were already weak beforehand. But there’s nothing for it but to get stronger. Even a small act can change the world. It’s something that can get lost in the fray in a lot of anime because so many characters have such a vast powers, but I get the feeling we’re about to see it in spades.
The second episode plays out very differently. Kimira Nagi(Oonishi, Saori) and Masami Saotome(Enoki, Junya) come into focus as major characters destined for conflict, each picking up a supernatural partner to boot. Nagi stands in stark opposition to Takeda. Like a hardboiled private eye, she doesn’t care one wink what anyone thinks of her; she isn’t afraid; she acts. I can’t help but like her. She’s got moxie. And yet, she acts alone. She glibly mentions her messiah complex and the evidence is there in her sacrificed reputation and at times violent protective measures, but the premonition it leaves is a disquieting one. It’s only at the tail end of the episode that we see her seek help from Echoes(Miyata, Kouki).
Seriously, Nagi has the makings of a great protagonist. Sure, she’s strong and quirky, and obviously cares about her friends, but it’s that dreamy musing quality as she’s listening to a friend that has me extra intrigued. When you’re dealing with a force to be reckoned, those smaller moments do so much to round out a character.
In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Echo is a nymph, punished by Juno for distracting her with idle chatter while Jove hid away his paramours. For this transgression, the goddess laid down a curse that left her only able to speak the last words spoken to her. She later fell in love with Narcissus, who, loving only himself, spurned her. Burning with the shame and anguish of unrequited love, Echo fled inside a cave where she wasted away, until her bones turn to stone, until all that was left of her was a voice. It’s a lovely and heartbreaking myth.
The Echoes of our story is similarly afflicted, except he’s an alien emissary sent to judge humanity. Judgment is a frightening thing. One winces to think what his judgment might be after the government’s experiments. It’s from his body that the Manticore was born. In that way, she’s an echo of sorts, born into the same loneliness as Frankenstein‘s monster, and a likewise tragic existence. It’s easy to hate a man-eater, but she was born of mankind’s lust for power, and it’s hard not to feel some pity when she labels herself a failed creation or trembles at the mere thought of Echoes and the Government. Frankenstein‘s monster, of course, wanted love, as so many of us do, and Manticore is no different, except that she finds it, or more correctly something that masquerades as love.
Which leads us to Saotome, a man who appears more twisted and cunning than the monster he’s taken up with. There’s a distinct Light versus L in Saotome and Nagi’s dichotomy, but what’s more interesting is the pairing off with supernatural entities. That surely promises heightened stakes going forward, as well as an interesting look into the corresponding loneliness of these creatures. Most children are afraid the dark hides the boogie man and sundry other monsters, but I sense we’re about to learn far more about human evil. One of the unfortunate lessons of growing up is the realization that there’s no need for monsters. We fill that role just find ourselves.
At this point, a bevy of questions remain, but the groundwork is fairly laid. This is the dark world set on a dark course, and as we saw with Kimikishiro(Suwa, Ayaka), it can snuff the sweetest light in the blink of an eye. Despite Nagi’s messiah complex, Takeda’s reticence, and the general malaise of the populace, as always, when humanity is at stake, people have to come together. Some of the plot threads will need to as well, but there’s enough to chew on right now to enjoy the ride. So, as Kimikishiro said, ‘gather ye rosebuds while he may,’ because I have a feeling the tumult of this journey has only just begun.
ED: 「Whiteout」 () by 安月名莉子 (Azuna Riko)