Light Novel Corner – Boogiepop 1: Boogiepop and others

Boogiepop light novel 1 Boogiepop and others

Author Kouhei Kadono
Illustrator Kouji Ogata
Genres Drama, Mystery, Supernatural
Published 1998 (JP) / 2006 (EN)
Pages 250
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     Baccano at this point is regarded as a milestone in the history of the medium, be it light novels or anime. The energetic chaos of intertwining stories of many characters definitely is very entertaining, if only you can keep up with it. The truth however is that almost nothing pops into existence out of a vacuum, and Baccano isn’t an exception to that. If you think of it as an outgoing youth full of craziest ideas, you should also know that it has a grandfather – older, calmer and usually more grounded in reality. What’s that you ask? Why, but that’s Boogiepop.


    Boogiepop entered the world in 1998 (oh damn, that was 21 years ago) as a creation of Kouhei Kadono, in time when cyberpunk and sci-fi still were at their peaks with Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop in the vanguard. At the turn of the century Kinoko Nasu and TypeMoon entered the scene. While it’s not regarded as something that significant, I think that both Tsukihime visual novel (because the anime doesn’t exist) and my beloved Kara no Kyoukai light novels show how the major themes of the medium slowly transitioned from dominating sci-fi and serious existential problems in late 90s to more mundane scenarios in early 2000s. Both Tsukihime and Kara no Kyoukai tackle very serious themes and don’t shy away from grittiness, while also sometimes showing their sweeter side. I think the major appeal of these Nasu works is that the setting is urban and thus easily recognizable, but also dark, unknown, having its fair share of dark (usually pretty damn dark) secrets. Thus we have a link between the darkness and brutality of 80s OVAs (think Yoshiaki Kawajiri) and the more down-to-earth shows in 2000s that started the explosion of moe and school setting. I chose Nasu as an example I’m quite familiar with (and love from the bottom of my heart), but there are others. Projects of Yoshitoshi ABe could act as another instance of darkness underneath some cuteness (or vice versa).

“None of you have noticed yet, but danger is hovering over this school… and all mankind.”

— Boogiepop being pompous (but he’s not wrong, you know) 

      The point of this lengthy introduction (yeah, I can’t stop when I enter Nasuverse) is that Boogiepop also occupies such a transitional niche – it’s set in a high-school, but a school devoid of usual harem/slice of life/comedy tropes that became strongly associated with it. School is only the setting, as some darker events gain the spotlight. Such a mix proved to be very successful – Boogiepop often is mentioned as one of the key stories that let light novels become as popular as they are today.

Boogiepop Kamikishiro Naoko Echos

      Returning to Boogiepop’s similarities to Baccano, both share the core concept of a grand story being told through the eyes of many characters. It’s worth noticing that in Baccano the individual stories are more closely connected, so much that by the end every subplot seems to converge and every character gets the general gist pretty well. Conversely, Boogiepop emphasizes in the very beginning that its story is incomplete from the perspective of each character. Or rather each character experiences his own story and into that story seeps some elements of the stories of others. The point is that no one of the characters knows everything even by the end – the full knowledge is available only to the reader. And it’s a fascinating idea. For example, being a character in Boogiepop, you can find that your girlfriend has multiple personalities, but that’s about it. What these personalities do when you aren’t around is a whole different story that can only be told by other people. Another interesting aspect is that character chapters don’t always go in a strictly linear fashion. What I mean is that you can read about a conversation with a person who you know had something bad happening to them in a previous chapter, though in this one that event hasn’t happened yet. When you start caring about characters, it packs quite an emotional punch to see a dead character alive and kicking once more, oblivious to the dark future ahead.

Bogiepop Keiji Takeda

     If Baccano has a lot of characters, Boogiepop also has a fair amount of them. About 11 important ones, actually. It’s a bit of a problem early on because I wasn’t prepared to remember all the names of the students that might (or might not) be important later. As the setting is generally realistic, it’s sometimes hard to differentiate the characters – it’s not as easy task as, say, don’t confuse Miria with Enis or Chane. After all, students haven’t lived for such a long time to become completely different people – they all still go to school and are more down-to-earth compared to the psychos in Baccano. Generally. On the other hand, Kouhei Kadono still did a good job at making the characters feel individual. Character chapters are rather brief, but everyone has something going for them. For example, Keiji Takeda is feeling left out because he decided not to pursue college, contrary to the majority of the students, who are now preparing for the exams very intently. I especially liked Akio Kimura’s chapter. The guy is a good-hearted and honest sort of a delinquent and a heart-breaker. That sort of character you could simply call “The Dude” and be done with it. I probably should emphasize that character diversity doesn’t mean they’re walking tropes of tsunderes and dojikkos. It was actually amazing how mature and realistic the characters felt. It’s sad that nowadays the market is filled with very strictly defined personalities and limited options for their development.

“The moment that I knew she was my senpai, she started looking extremely grown up… and hot.”

Akio Kimura’s  way of thinking

     Someone unfamiliar with the franchise might start losing their patience – I still haven’t told a single word about Boogiepop himself. When I think about it, it’s not that he’s a very prominent character in the novel – he’s crucial at some points, but it’s others who move the story to these points. Still, that’s probably the most interesting aspect of the light novel – no one can tell anything substantial about the nature of Boogiepop. There’s a fine balance between explaining supernatural things and leaving something to ponder about, and Boogiepop achieves precisely that. Technically, Boogiepop is a very autonomous second personality of a particular person, but everything would be simple if it was all to it. Boogiepop himself confesses that he doesn’t really understand himself – he isn’t sure about his origins, what exactly makes him surface out, what’s his relationship with the main personality of the body he occupies. Such sincerity made me completely buy him as something/someone that just exists, and you simply have to deal with it.

Boogiepop Echoes

     Still, there’re some guesses about possible answers. Boogiepop associates himself with sort of a deterrent force, not unlike that of Kara no Kyoukai – a force that tries to retain the balance in the world, to ensure the continued existence of humanity. It’s a fascinating field to make parallels between Boogiepop and collective unconscious, the omnipotent will to survive. Boogiepop in that light can be viewed as a personification of the human unconscious that does the hard work by dealing with various abnormal events that could threaten humanity. Another idea, supporting the collective unconscious theory, is that if a human avoids a dangerous accident, he doesn’t want to believe that he was saved by a pure chance. It’s a scary world where randomness assigns life and death. Conversely, if there is a savior, a person can no longer feel alone and be less stressed by not being a toy of fate anymore. That savior that everyone desires may then materialize as Boogiepop.

“Do you think to do nothing when you use a fellow human crying?”

Boogiepop showing compassion

     The core message of the light novel is very simple – be friendly and care about fellow humans. It seems to be very basic, something every child should know, but reaffirming the core values isn’t completely unnecessary. Knowing the way people tend to close off and inadvertently (or not) prune their social relationships these days, it isn’t such a trivial message to send after all. Social media sometimes make people even less social in real life, various instances of hikikomori-ism also aren’t that rare. But you never know when you might need some help yourself, so helping other people is an investment in the future. Might be not your own future, but at least to the future of your loved ones, the future of humanity. Fun fact: Trigun with its LOVE and PEACE also came out in 1998 (though yeah, the manga came a bit earlier).

 “Isn’t niceness the best motivation that someone can have?”

Naoko Kamikishiro examining core values

     It’s true that I pretty much avoided detailing the plot – you can only gather that there’s a dark urban setting, a bunch of school kids and the mysterious Boogiepop. As I have been talking about what Boogiepop is like rather than what it is, I came to notice that the story itself isn’t as important or interesting compared to the way it’s told and the general atmosphere. that shouldn’t undermine the story though. A compelling mystery told in an appealing way using fun characters – I can ask no more than that.

Boogiepop Miyashita Touka Kirima Nagi

     I think one read isn’t enough to get everything out of Boogiepop. I found myself time and again rechecking previous chapters trying to recall how exactly one character viewed another, what really happened at some particular time, what little tweaks of characterization seep through the perspectives of the characters. I guess that’s what makes any piece of art good – you have something to ponder about and want to repeatedly return to it. If you want an encouragement to get into the franchise – here you go – try either the LNs, the manga (yeah, that exist, too) or the anime.

      I believe, this light novel is

3

Good

      Are you familiar with the Boogiepop franchise? What do you think about the niche genre of dark supernatural urban mystery?

      And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finally watch some of this new Boogiepop anime and hopefully enjoy it as much as I did the LN.

 

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  1. Light Novel Corner – Boogiepop 2: Boogiepop VS Imaginator (Part 1) | Aldael's Attic

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