Saturday, March 7, 2009

Boogiepop: The Phantom Menace

Not in the mood for a polemic tonight, so you're getting the nice version, not the FACTS version.
Boogiepop and Others has a flashy, gimmicky structure that exists because it serves the story Kadano Kouhei wanted to tell. The particular mood he wanted to capture was served equally well by the horror elements - and neither structure stunts nor horror elements play a significant role in the other 14 novels.
Kadano essentially writes whatever kind of narrative he damn well pleases; while there are some themes that unify the novels, they're pretty much young adult fiction's greatest hits, and I find it hard to claim they define the appeal of the series.
Boogiepop Phantom - which, as I keep strenuously reminding people, refers only to the anime - commits three major errors in adapting the source material.
1. It's a horror series. And one heavily reliant on the tropes of J-horror, which have not aged well. Boogiepop is not a horror series. There are moments of personal horror within the stories, but I ultimately feel the genre is closer to whatever-the-fuck we're claiming Jojo's Bizarre Adventure is.
2. It lifts the structural stunts and themes from Kadano without lifting any of what he actually did. I mean, I respect the idea of doing your own thing, but it's pretty rare that this actually works. And in this case it seems pretty clear that they did this because they utterly missed the point; it makes the series about the structure, and about the mystery of what the hell is going on.
3. There are no characters. Every single one of them is a one-note, one-dimensional cardboard cutout designed entirely to communicate the theme as clearly and as boringly as possible. Compared with Kadano's own characters, who are maddeningly complex and prone to unexpected behavior just as you think you understand feels all the more sad.

I suppose Boogiepop Phantom is probably still a perfectly decent series - I mean, I did like it enough to pick up the first novel a few years later - but we're talking an entertaining Sci-Fi channel adaption of a novel series that LITERALLY changed publishing history - 'light novels' only exist because it sold a shit load and dragged the label out of RPG novelization hell.
It deserves better.

1 comment:

  1. I got into a Stupid Internet Argument in which I was told that the anime original characters were one-dimensional because they're mentally ill, so it makes sense that they're not complex. Or something.

    When I re-watched the anime last year after reading the fourth novel (and last) Boogiepop novel published by Seven Seas, I kept thinking to myself that the staff really, really, REALLY wanted to make another Lain, but missed every fucking thing that made that series work to begin with.

    The series definitely does deserve better. Is there any sort of clamor in Japan for a straight adaption of any of the novels?