「VSイマジネーター 3」 (VS Imajineetaa 3)
“VS Imaginator 3”
I confess it hasn’t been a quick process, but my take on Boogiepop wa Warawanai has evolved from bemused detachment to genuine engagement. That engagement is still almost entirely intellectual and not emotional, but it’s there and that counts for something – a lot in fact. While there are obvious reasons for all that, most obviously that the series itself is rather intellectual and detached (as was the norm for sci-fi anime at the time it originally made the jump to the screen), I think the approach one takes to viewing it matters too.
What strikes me after five weeks and six episodes is that Boogiepop is narratively like a body of water covered by whirlpools which are constantly on the move. They’re not the violent kind that suck you under and drown you, but gently eddying ones. Sometimes they intersect briefly, and they all revolve around the one in the center which is the only one which doesn’t move – Boogiepop himself. As a viewer you can fight against them and be confused and disoriented, but when you make the decision to lie back and let them take you where they will, the experience becomes far more pleasant – even transcendent, like meditation.
I must say, I respect that Natsume Shingo and Suzuki Tomohiro – tenured veterans and sure hands at the tiller – have been so unrelenting in preserving the essential nature of Boogiepop. There’s no contemporizing for modern tastes here – they’ve stayed with the series’ anachronistic style, recognizing that it’s intrinsic to the show’s nature. I’m sure they’re losing a chunk of the modern audience in doing so, but given Boogiepop’s symbolic importance in media history (it was among the first true light novels and probably the first ever adapted to anime) it would be a crying shame if that essential nature were changed to try and suit the times.
Another revelation which hit me this week as a new viewer is that Boogiepop’s essential conceit seems to be this: what if all the bugbears of adolescent urban legend were actually real? That’s not a totally unique concept in itself, but the treatment it gets here is interesting – the series treats adolescent mythology (which is symbolic of the psychological turbulence Suema talks about) literally, then uses the literal events in symbolic fashion as commentary on adolescence. It’s actually brilliant in its way – the circle loops back on itself.
Of the many whirlpools we’ve floated on in the first six eps, the one featuring Aya and Masaki strikes me as being just a bit different. This one (for me at least) is the emotional center of Boogiepop wa Warawanai – more overtly appealing to the heart than the others. We know this one has overlapped with the Jin and Anou pools, and Suema’s drifts into view for the first time in several weeks. That it’s Boogiepop/Touka she’s tutoring as we meet her this week is no coincidence – again, Boogiepop is at the center, but also at the periphery. When important events are about to happen, that’s when Boogiepop appears.
As Aya is being threatened and abused by Creepy E, Masaki stumbles upon them and tries to intervene. He wasn’t kidding when he said he was a martial arts expert, but that’s of little avail against Creepy. Aya obviously has feelings for him, which is just as obviously forbidden for her. Whether she was able to successfully prevent Creepy E from doing Masaki permanent damage is less clear, though when he awakes sans his memories of the clash he seems perfectly normal apart from their absence. Eventually Suema becomes involved when Aya turns up on the school roof about to commit suicide (the prominence of suicide in this series in a country where teen suicide has been a huge problem for decades is no coincidence). Their conversation is the most revealing of the episode – peeling back the curtain a bit, if you will.
Meanwhile, Suema also intersects with the Jin whirlpool thanks to Kinukawa Kotoe (Asumi Kana), Jin’s cousin. She’s worried about the change in his behavior and has heard about Suema-san’s interest in weird stuff. Being a deviancy otaku (though more the psychology than the occult kind) she investigates – and in doing so, stumbles on a ritual where Jin indoctrinates two girls into the Imaginator’s army (why this involves them taking their tops and bras off is unclear). Jin (I wonder what happened with his father) is obviously a crucial nexus point for all this stories, and Boogiepop now having taking notice of him means a confrontation of some sort is going to happen there sooner or later.
As one steps back and considers all the distinct eddies in the plot, patterns start to become clear. The movement of these whirlpools isn’t random – as in nature, there’s an overarching logic to them that can be predictive if you work at it. Boogiepop wa Warawanai is still confusing – there are many characters (with roughly similar designs) and the way they pop in and out of the story makes it a challenge to tell all the players without a scorecard sometimes. That’s another reason why I find the Masaki-Aya thread a bit more emotionally appealing – it isn’t afraid to trade on relatable human feelings. He wants to protect her, and she him – and she blames herself for pulling him into dangerous waters. Being intellectually curious about where all these stories are headed is a good reason to watch, but actually caring about one of them makes the experience a bit more rewarding.
Author’s Note: As you may know, there have been some unexpected events at the site this season and thus, Boogiepop was not being covered. I felt it should be so and I’m happy, with Pancakes’ capping help, to be able to do so. If you’d care to read my thoughts on earlier episodes they can be found here. I should also note – I have not read the novels and have almost no memory of the first series.