- RECENT REVIEWS: SHAKUGAN NO SHANA *** FREEZING *** SHANGRI-LA *** ERGO PROXY
- STRIKE WITCHES *** KING OF THORN *** STEINS GATE *** GA-REI-ZERO *** DEADMAN WONDERLAND
- TENCHI UNIVERSE *** ONE PIECE *** WOLF CHILDREN *** RUROUNI KENSHIN *** [C]-CONTROL
- BLACK LAGOON *** SERIAL EXPERIMENT LAIN *** MASS EFFECT *** BOOGIEPOP PHANTOM
- A CERTAIN MAGICAL INDEX *** TORIKO *** RENTAL MAGICA
“BOOGIEPOP PHANTOM isn’t bad, but it’s certainly not for everyone.”
That’s how Alex summed up the TV series. With the live-action film, I’ll bring us just a level higher (or lower)...
BOOGIEPOP AND OTHERS isn’t bad, but it’s really not for anyone not already familiar with the story.
Short version: there’s a monster masquerading as a student in an unassuming high school.
Longer version: Boogiepop, the never-quite-explained shinigami (a “death god” by another name, of course) that manifests as a second personality of a meek student at the school, touches peripherally the lives of various students. We’re told that Boogiepop, and some of the students we see through interconnected vignettes, have ties to a series of murders from five years before. The vignettes are, for the most part, about how these students react to what’s happening with this secret monster in their school. In some cases, they even find themselves drawn into the fray.
Problem is... nothing is ever explained!
There are three totally bizarre non-human characters - - Boogiepop, Echo, and the monster known as Manticore - - whose origins are never explored. We’re told, briefly, that Echo was some kind of spaceman-turned-experiment and the Manticore was a corporation’s attempt to make a duplicate that went mad. But this is glossed over and that relationship isn’t really ever touched on after the barest conversation.
Those murders five years ago? Not really important, I guess, despite them being a big enough deal to warrant Boogiepop’s attention. We get no backstory there about the killer, just the statement that this thing happened. Well, so what?
And don’t get me started on Boogiepop herself, the supposed shinigami. Why is she a part of our meek student? Is she actually a shinigami, an alien like Echo, or what? I’m all for vagaries that ask the viewer to make inferences themselves, but the film didn’t give us enough to even begin to do that, only offering the barest glints of information and then casting doubts on them.
As with the series, this is based on a light novel where, presumably, you get a bit... more.
See, the movie isn't terrible - - it just isn't great. It features special effects that make FLASH GORDON look positively state-of-the-art and the pacing renders most of it kind-of boring... but it wasn’t unwatchable.
I guess that’s the most damning thing someone can say about a movie. It’s a backhanded compliment that will warn others away, but it’s true: the nicest thing I can say was that it wasn’t unwatchable.
The ultimate problem here is that we’re introduced to an interesting world and a bizarre conflict that we never get engrossed in. Necessary clues are omitted that might exist in other media, and we’re never even given a chance to come up with our own hypotheses (if that was indeed the expectation of the screenwriters and director). The most offensive part is that this doesn’t stand on its own without a primer in the presented material, and the opposite should be the mission statement of any adaptation.
Hard to say anything good or bad about the Right Stuf! release I received. Sure, the DVD seemed like it was authored on the old DVD Maker software included on PC's circa 2003, but I’m getting used to that. There are a number of bonus features for those wanting to get a bit more in-depth, but nothing out of the norm.
Worth noting, however, is the lackluster transfer on the video. I don’t know if the source was as dark and grainy/muddy as this was, but if it was an intentional choice on the filmmakers part (akin to the anime) then it wasn’t very well-executed. It is, however, entirely possible that there was a unified purpose in that presentation, since both the film and the anime were in production during the same period, so I hesitate to point fingers at the film transfer/localization for the issue.
Whoever was at fault for it, though, the issue exists and buyer should beware.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’re a fan of BOOGIEPOP by way of the anime or the light novels, you may find more here to enjoy. Maybe you know some information I didn’t; whether gleaned from later books (the film was based on the first) or the TV show. Or maybe you’ll be interested in seeing something familiar in a different iteration. But for the uninitiated, I say to keep your distance.