Saturday, September 19, 2009

No Oxygen, Not to be Mirrored

No Point, Not to be Read.
So Kadono Kouhei writes the Boogiepop series, and everything he writes is set in the same world -- even the things that aren't are linked in clever ways. The Boogiepop novels feature a sort of formless menace known as the Towa Kikou, or just The System. As the Boogiepop series entered double digits, the head of the Towa Kikou was revealed to be a soft spoken man with so little personality people frequently failed to notice him until he spoke -- and when he spoke, he spoke in riddles. His name was Oxygen, and he could see the strings of fate. But Oxygen was dying, and searching for his replacement. This was an immensely tedious subplot for several volumes -- only one time was it ever the focus, and that novel is the single worst book in the series -- and it had an annoying habit of showing up in Faust short stories, even providing a key driving force to Beat's Discipline.
Oxygen himself was, by nature, a cryptic cipher -- a man who spoke only in the half-baked, deliberately obfuscated philoso-shit Kadono previously had the sense to keep confined to the writings of a fictional author that other characters occasionally attempted to understand. Plots caused by him or involving him never seemed to add up to much, and the Boogiepop novels were noticeably better when Kadono stopped trickling in half-assed arc plots and wrapped that storyline up.
In this book. Written for a completely different publisher. For a completely different audience. And in a way that would make absolutely no fucking sense to anyone not already a huge fan.
I dunno, maybe it's just me, but given a shot at doing a big hardcover prestige volume that's also supposed to be a fucking children's novel, I'd probably try to do something with as little continuity as possible, with a big, meaty hook, and interesting characters. I'm not sure the book is actually all that continuity heavy -- Oxygen is just a crazy dude in the part, Teratsuki is just a dude that died and left secrets behind, the armed robbers may vaguely mention how they used to work for Diamonds but it doesn't matter if you don't get it...but Kaleidoscopes brief appearance is pretty inexplicable, and the epilogue -- where fucking Suema Kazuko takes over the god damn Towa Kikou -- is utterly baffling even though (or especially because?) he doesn't mention her name.
But even ignoring the continuity heavy shit, the novel is simply BAD.
The entire front half of the book is loaded with fucking endless baffling conversations with Oxygen, and even when there are armed robbers and treasure and halls filled with mirrors and shit later on, every fucking decision a character makes winds up flashing back to yet more fucking Oxygen prattle he mercifully failed to dole out the first time around. None of which adds up to anything worth a damn, because all the characters are completely uninteresting, something I didn't actually think could ever happen in a Kadono novel -- even the truly appalling Zankokugo Jiken had some decent character moments, where this has fucking none.
As if the relentlessly uninviting slog of a main text wasn't bad enough, he's randomly decided to preface each chapter with a bit of summary taken from a shitty tokusatsu TV show one of the characters once starred it. Not only is this clearly the most mind-bogglingly cliched piece of shit ever put to fucking film, not only do the brief plot excepts often fucking end on cliffhangers ("only to discover...") that are never resolved, but the fucking things don't even have the courtesy to provide some sort of meta-allegorical parallel to the actual events. I was literally unable to perceive any mother fucking reason for them to be there at all, except to prove that Kadono is capable of some of the worst prose ever turned out by mortal man.
I was really looking forward to digging into the three Mystery Land novels I bought years and years ago -- I wanted to read them all in a row, and I'd even planned on making a feature on the old wiki version of Eastern Standard. But after two of the worst books ever written by truly great writers, I don't know if I have the stomach to see if Otsu Ichi fucked his up this god damn hard too.


  1. >>where fucking Suema Kazuko takes over the god damn Towa Kikou

    My entire head just exploded.

  2. I'd managed to spoil myself on that somehow before reading, so I was surprised to discover it was a toss off in the epilogue rather than the point of the book. And apparently they're calling her Moon River, which I swear cropped up in some of his more recent books without being identified as her, so I kinda want to go back and look.

  3. Just to jump in and use the chance to ask Andrew: is Boogiepop worth to be read completely, or is there some trend of perceivable decline in quality? I only have the first three books (in English) and I recall Andrew saying that the fourth one is his favorite.

  4. The fourth is one of my favorites. (Boogiepop at Dawn is actually the sixth, by the way.)

    As a whole, the series has been really good. There were a couple that didn't really work for me, and a couple that only sort of did, and several outright masterpieces, but generally the series has been pretty consistent.

  5. Specifically:
    * Boogiepop and Others -- Fantastic, obviously.
    * Boogiepop Returns: VS Imaginator Part 1
    * Boogiepop Returns: VS Imaginator Part 2 -- good stuff, a nice expansion on the first; a bit cryptic thematically.
    * Boogiepop in the Mirror: Pandora -- completely overturns all notions of what the series can be.
    * Boogiepop Overdrive: The Piper -- Meh. One character here doesn't work, and the structure and use of characters from the first novel felt like he was nervous about the reception of Pandora, and fell back on safe shit. Not a bad novel, but not as good as what came before.
    * Boogiepop at Dawn -- Fantastic origin story.
    * Boogiepop Missing: Peppermint Wizard -- An offbeat book focused on more unusual aspects of the world; I sort of dug it for that.
    * Boogiepop Countdown Embryo: Erosion
    * Boogiepop Wicked Embryo: Eruption -- Plot heavy volumes that promise a bit more than they deliver, and probably should have been one bigger volume. Some great stuff here, but somehow felt a bit anticlimactic.
    * Boogiepop Paradox: Heartless Red -- Some really neat stuff, and pretty important for the series as a whole, but didn't really seem memorable, somehow.
    * Boogiepop Unbalance: Holy & Ghost -- Possibly the best in the series, a romance action book that hits the ground running and never lets up.
    * Boogiepop Stacatto: Welcome to Jinx Shop -- This is the Oxygen centric one, and it really didn't work for me.
    * Boogiepop Bounding: Lost Moebius -- Wow, both bad ones were back to back? I guess Beat's Discipline (which is mostly good) came in between and made it seem like they weren't. This is better than Jinx Shop, but ultimately a bit bogged down in crypticness; like Embryo, it has the problem of bringing back characters from Imaginator but not doing what we want with them.
    * Boogiepop Intolerance: The Ark of Orpheus -- Again, one of the best books in the series, totally ditches the arc plot aspects that had been building up, and all the stronger because of it.
    * Boogiepop Question: The Silent Pyramid -- The most recent one, yet somehow I don't really remember it. I guess it was just OK.

  6. Thanks. Now only to hone my poor Japanese-reading skills. Or wait for Seven Seas or some other publisher to complete the series.

  7. Yeah, Japanese is probably your best bet. They aren't THAT hard, as far as novels go.
    Seven Seas definitely seems to have lost faith in the property, even more than the pile of moe shit the picked up to along with it (I probably have a rant in me about how hardcore otaku picking up only titles for hardcore otaku and nothing that has any cross over appeal is doomed to failure, but at this point it feels like kicking a dead puppy, so let's just put on our sad faces and move on) and as much as I'd like to somehow become my own company and release anything I want to great success, this will probably take motivation and business acumen I do not currently possess.

  8. le sigh. Much as I love reading your thoughts on every volume, it only fills me with despair that I will never likely read these volumes. There's always the chance of fanslations but uh... not sure if want.

    Guess I'll be doomed to re-read Others over and over again into infinity.

  9. Thank you so much for posting this!! I love anything/everything that has to do with Boogiepop, but I can't (proficiently) read Japanese.
    So, thank you!!!!!