(A little late to the party, I know. I actually wrote the bulk of this after the second episode aired, but didn’t finish it until well, about 5 minutes ago.)
I love Boogiepop. A lot. I’ve read the novels that have actually been translated into English numerous times (those being 1, 2, 3 and 6) and consumed all of the Boogiepop related material that I could possibly get my hands on. I was clamouring for more, and as such, I was more excited than anyone when the new Boogiepop was Warawanai anime series was announced. In fact, before it came out I was certain that it was going to be AOTY 2019. If only I knew.
Episode one isn’t awful. It’s mediocre. Average. What this episode consists of, is the first “part” of the Boogiepop novel. I guess I’m going to have to explain that before I really get into the meat of things. Boogiepop has a weird structure. The novel has multiple narrators, each of whom tells their perspective on the events of the story in their own distinct parts. Some of them, like the first narrator, and the main character of episode one, is only tangentially related to the events of the series, but, even though that’s sometimes the case, each part gives you some insight into the story that helps you put together the jigsaw puzzle that is its plot.
One of the most important parts of this system is obviously, the narration. Many of the most memorable lines in the book are delivered through that, and it’s how we understand most of the characters in the novel. But, this new show totally removes all narration, leaving us with lifeless husks as characters, and making the script completely boilerplate and boring.
The first episode sped through part one, removing almost all of the most important and interesting conversations. See, the cool thing about the first part of the book, was that all of it consisted of Boogiepop and the narrator’s conversations they would have on top of the school roof. And they had many of them. In the novel it’s very clear that this takes place over a huge amount of time, it’s a daily thing, and because of that you really believe that Boogiepop and this kid are friends. But because of just how rushed the anime is, I didn’t believe in their relationship at all,
But even worse than that, the series speeds through multiple parts of the book in the second episode, leaving everything super underdeveloped in comparison to the novel. I’m supposed to care about these characters, but there simply isn’t enough here to let me form any kind of attachment.
Saotome’s part specifically was horrendously reduced, to the point that he basically has non-existent characterization, whereas in the novel we got a real look at the inner workings of his mind, and his motivation. There was even an entire narrator, whose name is currently slipping my mind, but whose part was phenomenal in the novel, that they just cut out. He’s simply not there, because they wanted to speed through what is, the best novel in the series (that’s been translated at least) and get to the more action-oriented VS Imaginator duology.
Now, I will say, that I did not watch the last episode of the three Boogiepop and Others episodes of the show, I simply couldn’t take it anymore, so I went and read the novel again instead. I’m sure it was just as bad as the first two, but keep in mind that I haven’t seen that portion.
Anyway, not only does it ruin all of the characters and subsequently the narrative of Boogiepop and Others, but it also ruins the general aesthetic of the Boogiepop novels. Infamously, the artist for the light novel series, Kouji Ogata was, less than pleased with the new character designs. So much so that he went on a long tirade about them on his personal Twitter account. The novels have a very distinct and very appealing art style, it’s extremely sharp, and Boogiepop’s design especially is very memorable. However, the anime just kind of looks like a 2018 anime, and that’s not a good thing.
One of the worst parts of the changes is, weirdly enough, the title character, Boogiepop themselves. They removed many of the distinguishing features of the character, most notably the black lipstick that they had on at all times. The ying/yang symbol on their chest was also missing, as was the long, I’m tempted to call it a sash, but I’m not exactly certain, which was connected to it, one of the most striking features of the original design.
I just happened to remember something I forgot to mention earlier, so, there’s this thing in the Boogiepop novels, where they never smile. They make this weird warped disgusting facial expression sometimes that appears like it’s trying to be a smile but clearly isn’t one. In the first episode of this show, Boogiepop just straight up does smile. Okay, so I guess that major motif from the series is gone, thanks, guys. There’s always the possibility that they were trying to draw that strange expression and the artist was just incompetent of course, I wouldn’t be surprised.
I know the point of this is comparing the show to the novel, but I want to quickly touch on Boogiepop Phantom, for being visually fantastic. That show’s direction is gorgeous, every shot looks great. The character designs, are translated a lot better, they didn’t arbitrarily cut things off of Boogiepop’s design, and as such it was still just as striking as it was in the novel, it also didn’t have this really boring modern anime aesthetic, which it gets props for.
This being bad was inevitable. Boogiepop and Others is not a story that you can easily translate well into another medium, the narration is such an important part of the novels, that adapting it into a medium, where having literally everything be narrated over won’t work, instantly makes it worse. This adaptation could never have succeeded, the closest we’ve ever come to a good Boogiepop and Others adaptation was the movie, and even that’s not great, it’s good, but like, nowhere near the quality of the source material. That’s why the most successful, and high-quality Boogiepop related thing that wasn’t a novel was Phantom because it was a totally new story, which is what they should have done here too. Boogiepop is not a series to be adapted, it’s a series to be expanded upon and interpreted, which this did the exact opposite of, it adapted and removed.