Light Novel Corner – Boogiepop 2: Boogiepop VS Imaginator (Part 1)

Boogiepop light novel 2 Boogiepop VS Imaginator Part 1

Author Kouhei Kadono
Illustrator Kouji Ogata
Genres Drama, Mystery, Supernatural
Published 1998 (JP) / 2006 (EN)
Pages 250
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     I probably haven’t talked about it before, so I can tell that my story with Boogiepop franchise goes like this. Since I heard that there’ll be a new Boogiepop anime, I decided to finally pick up the light novels. Simply because some regard the franchise quite highly, and dipping a bit in anime (and associated media) history is never a bad idea. (Unless you get stuck on some CG of early 2000s.) Anyway, as always, procrastination did its job, and I barely managed to read the first volume before starting watching the anime. Now, the first arc that was covered in that volume, is already finished, so it’s time for the second one. I can’t say that I caught the train before  it even started moving, but still – I think it’s a valid idea to post my impressions of the novels before digging into the adaptation. So, here it goes.

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    The second novel of the series retains the mood that the first one has set, but its flavor is a bit different. If you imagine every character POV chapter as a puzzle piece, I could say that the first LN had many of these pieces, and the second has less, but they’re larger (and span longer). I guess it’s natural because the arc continues in the third LN. The effect of having less pieces is that characters are usually characterized in their own chapters, and while still non-linear, the story doesn’t feel like it’s being retold many times by different characters. While Boogiepop wa Warawanai had many important characters with probably only Nagi Kirima and Naoko Kamikishiro standing out, Boogiepop VS Imaginator (Part 1) mainly develops into a story of Masaki Taniguchi and Aya Orihata. If you were attentive enough, you might remember Masaki as an insignificant character from the first arc – he’s none other than the brother (not related by blood!) of Nagi. It’s no wonder then that Nagi also makes a small appearance, as well as other old characters such as Kei Niitoki, Touka Miyashita (obviously) and Boogiepop (more than obviously – how would Boogiepop be absent from a Boogiepop novel?). Apart from the mentioned, the two more featured characters are the same well-known Kazuko Suema and a new character Jin Asukai.

Boogiepop VS Imaginator Aya Orihata

    Getting into more detail, I’m already fidgeting to tell you about Aya. To be frank, I was fascinated by her since the first moment I saw her character art (gorgeous, isn’t it? (even if that might indicate some spine problems)). Similarly to other new characters, not much is revealed about her (as it’s only the first part), but it was enough to get me intrigued. Aya is that sort of girl who at times resembles more of a robot (having an existential crisis nonetheless) rather than a normal human being. And by a robot I don’t mean an Ayanami clone (her name has nothing to do with it, either). Instead, for some reason Aya seems to be completely disinterested about herself as a person whose well-being should be quite high on her list of priorities. Her words that she “doesn’t have a right to be hated” and constant apologizing quite well give a hint about her worldview: it’s just like Aya was pre-programmed not to hurt anyone (Asimov’s laws of robotics, anyone?) but wasn’t told how to live a life beyond a suggestion to better avoid any attention. And that awkwardness (most often not for her, but for others) manifests itself by the most frequent word she uses: “why?”. Why is it boring to stand in a line for four hours? Why Masaki doesn’t ditch her? Why people should act in one way and not in another?..  These are questions that a typical student will never ask, but it’s Aya we’re talking about. Bluntness while trying to decipher things that most feel are self-explanatory and trying to find the most logical solution often puzzle Masaki to the ends of the earth. Speaking about Masaki, I can feel some sense of comradery to him – I also can’t pinpoint exactly what makes Aya so appealing, but I can’t help it. Maybe it’s a fusion of a strong and blunt female character (who can kick some ass) that in some situations behaves like a puppy and needs to be rescued. Because she really does. As the first LN had a scene of Masami Saotome repeating “No one no one no one no one … [repeat for a good fifty or more times] … lives forever”, Aya has a fairly similar episode, though briefer but in my mind more effective, showing how out of a loop she is and what’s happening in her heart. I don’t know what immediate future she’ll find and what past will be revealed in the second part of this arc, but I don’t doubt that either won’t be very pretty.

“Masaki, why are you interested in me?”
“Um, I just thought we could… I dunno, be friends, you know?”
“You want me?”
“Hunh?”
“Do you want to have sex with me?”
“Hey, Orihata—!
“We can if you want to.”
“…………”
Yeah, many our conversations were a lot like this.

— An introduction to Masaki’s and Aya’s relationship —

      Another new character who enters the story is a teacher Jin Asukai. It’s clear that he’s deeply involved in this case, though what exactly happens to him again is left for the second part. For now, he isn’t that important, but his special ability is something to behold. The thing is that Jin is able to see some sort of a flower growing out of every person’s chest. The state of such a flower may hint about the emotional state of a person – if a flower lacks, for example, leaves, Jin instantly knows that a person lacks warmth, kindness, and, doesn’t find any pleasure in life. I can’t say a thing about the originality of such a superpower, but it’s very intriguing. It’s obvious that such a device lets Jin (and the readers) instantly get a more or less objective emotional picture of one important character or another, and it’s invaluable if we take, for example, such a uncrackable egg like Aya.

      When Jin Asukai thought about his strange ability to see flaws in people’s hearts, he always remembered Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. He had read it when he was three or four years old, but he remembered one line from it that went something like, “The reason this child was beautiful was because he had a rose within his heart”.

— Every special power has a backstory —

    The power wouldn’t be as interesting by itself, but I found it engrossing that Jin had never seen a person with a completely healthy flower – some lack stems, some buds, others are withered altogether, but none is free of flaws. For Jin that’s quite convenient because, as he’s a teacher counselling students, he can easily see the biggest flaw in a person and offer some insights that the said person could never gain otherwise. The sad part is that Jin came to a conclusion that his words may truly encourage the students but never cure their problems – a person is still going to live on with their own flaws that aren’t really fixable. All this makes Jin a substantial character – a person who can understand everyone (but not himself – he can’t see his own flower for some reason), give advice and be praised for it, but at the same time painfully know that he’s not actually helping at all.

Boogiepop VS Imaginator Touka Miyashita chest flower

     This leads to the major theme of the LN – that of the confrontation between what’s real and what’s fake. In a way such a theme provides a clear bridge between this arc and the first LN – there also many characters were not who they seemed on the outside – be it Manticore, Masami Saotome or Nagi Kirima. Not to mention Touka Miyashita. Anyway. In the very prologue of Boogiepop VS Imaginator Part 1 the theme is set by contrasting an image of a particular girl as both being an object of awe and at the same time “the enemy of the world”. And later on, pretty much every more important character is shown to be different from what others expect them to be: Jin Asukai isn’t an observant counselor who solves every problem but a person deeply troubled by his inability to use his special power to truly help people. Masaki isn’t a slick Don Juan type of character but rather a person more similar to a harem protagonist – one who tries to be kind and helpful. And he also has his own worries – apart from being disliked by the majority of his male schoolmates, as much as he likes Aya, she’s a complete mystery to him. Finally, Aya isn’t an emotionless wall – her constant plea of “Don’t hate me” and thoughts about Masaki show that inside she’s just a fragile girl.

      She was without a doubt the most real person I’d ever met, up to that point. I can’t think of any other way of describing it. Everyone else was just imitating someone else, trying desperately to pretend that it was their true nature. They were all frauds.
So I thought that there must be some meaning behind her suicide.
That’s why I’m going to follow her.
Is that imitation, too? Probably.

— Mariko Komiya reminiscing about a certain friend —

     It’s not always clear what is real and what is not. At some point Masaki mentioned that sometimes he gets uncomfortable with Aya because she’s not the most talkative person, so Masaki then spouts some meaningless small-talk like “Gosh, the sky sure is beautiful”. To me it was a very powerful moment when it was revealed that Aya did put this phrase to her heart and started to look at the sky more often, thinking that it must be true. So, what’s the truth? What’s the sky really like? Is a random phrase significant or not?

Boogiepop VS Imaginator Aya Orihata Masaki Taniguchi sweet

     One (almost) final point I’d like to address is the reason why the LN attracted me so much, probably even more than the first one. It’s no secret that my absolute favorite anime has always been Kara no Kyoukai film series. Incidentally, the light novels by Kinoko Nasu of the Fate fame were written approximately at the same time as Boogiepop was. Thus some thematic similarities are probably unavoidable. Still, when I love one, I can’t be impartial to another good story that sometimes uses very similar imagery. For instance, a person who alone can see flaws in others is easily comparable to Shiki whose eyes can do a similar thing. A mental image of a girl’s ghost (basically) floating on top of an apartment building also rings a bell – the very first story of Kara no Kyoukai (Overlooking View) makes use of such a motive (very impressively I must add). Finally, I can’t not notice that Aya, being a mysterious, troubled and more often than not quiet (but not without a hint of eccentricity) girl with shoulder-length hair has some very similar features as Shiki. I guess I might have a thing for such type of anime girls.

Boogiepop VS Imaginator masaki Taniguchi

     Speaking about the anime adaptation, I’m afraid that this part of the Boogiepop franchise might be even more difficult to adapt than the first arc. For example, there’re two instances of nudity happening, and I’m not sure that the adaptation will be brave enough to feature it. To be frank, even if those scenes weren’t completely necessary, they did make the story better, and not in a sexualized way. During both instances you feel rather weirded out and suspicious so it’s not any fanservice that someone might expect. Apart from that, this part of the arc relies on the characters a lot more than Boogiepop wa Warawanai. And with everything we’ve seen so far, doing justice to the characters isn’t something this anime can be proud of.

      I believe, this light novel is

3

Good

      So yeah, a LN that I really liked. The characters hooked me up, the story is rolling, the conflicts need to be settled. And it’s not that the only conflicts are external. Some characters particularly need to become aware of what they seem and what they really are, and to remove any ensuing contradictions. LN 3, here I go. Episode 4, here I come.

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