What They Say:
Five years ago, a string of grisly murders shook the city to its core. Now terror has returned, and this time it has a name: Boogiepop. Everyone knows about Boogiepop: death incarnate, she stalks the night in search of fresh victims. Meet her, and you simply… vanish. In the darkness, glass shatters and time stands still… There’s something out there, and it’s coming closer. Are you safe?
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is fairly decent but about what you’d expect as the stereo tracks for both languages are encoded at 192kbps while the English 5.1 mix gets a 384kbps encoding. Pity the commentary track that’s in mono at 112kbps. This is one of those series where the sound, not necessarily the music, but just the layering of the sound is as much of a character as those inhabiting it. There’s one sequence early on where two characters are standing outside in a dark rainy street, and in one of those rare moments you actually get thunder to go along with it (thunder seems to be rarely reproduced during rain sequences for some reason). This sequence just sounds fantastic, and other bits of detail used throughout give the audio track real life.
Originally airing in the winter of 2000, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The twelve episodes are spread across four volumes that comprised the original single volume releases we had years ago and are the same transfers as then. This isn’t remastered or cleaned up, so there are some hard subs in there and I believe some replaced title cards as well. The show is one that doesn’t hold up as well years later with its encoding when it comes to modern high definition sets. The series uses a very dark palette with lots of shadows and olive greens tied to it, making for a murky work that is built on the atmosphere. That part of ti works, but with a middling bitrate, it just doesn’t hold up that well years later as you can see a lot more of the noise and grain, some minor cross coloration and a lot of movements in the background. This doesn’t make the show a travesty to watch or anything, but it’s not a show that’s really well optimized here and could definitely use a source remaster from Japan before anything else.
The packaging for this release takes the original four discs and puts them in a lite box case that’s the size of a single keepcase and the discs are all against the interior walls. The front cover shows the look of the show well with the title character in full dress with the ticking clock behind her. It’s dark, murky but has a very distinctive look about it. The layout uses the mixed language title approach as well along the bottom which is decent to be sure but feels like it could have used a refresh. The back cover does a full length shot along the left of the lead while the right is half shots from the show, very dark and murky, while there’s a brief summary below it of what the premise is. The sets contents are clearly listed and the extras are as well. The technical grid along the bottom is simple but effective in listing what makes up the disc. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release are the same across all four volumes and definitely set the mood as the lead character is given a close-up view set against the murky dark background. Set to a bit of appropriate music, it gives it the right feeling to start things off with a bit of active music but also a sense of darkness because of all the black in it. The layout is simple and effective, though it definitely feels a little dated at this point. Submenus load quickly and easily and the language navigation is a breeze, especially as it defaulted to our players’ presets and played without issue.
The extras are spread across the four discs and there’s some good stuff to be had that you can dig into. We get the standards with the clean opening and closing done as a music video and there’s other familiar things for promos and the like. The art gallery is solid and there’s some good sections of notes that goes into the program as a whole to help flesh it out. Add in a few other music videos and a commentary track from the English language production and there’s plenty to enjoy to enhance the show overall.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series of the same name by Kouhei Kadono, Boogiepop Phantom is a twelve episode series that does tell an overall tale but is also just a piece of a larger storyline. The series conveys a significant segment of what Kadono was writing across his novels and is one that certainly stands alone, but it’s also a series that requires a fair bit of work to go through. It’s reminiscent to me of the TV series Fringe in its first season in that it has a lot of mysterious events going on, and it retells parts of them over the course of it, and then reveals itself more towards the end. It’s a bit familiar in structure, but the narrative is very difficult to get through because it teases things out in such a small fashion.
The basis of the story is definitely solid as it deals with a fictional city that a month prior went through an event that has left an impression. A pillar of light hit within the city and from that, it unleashed something throughout the city that ends up with a series of unexplained events that impact a lot of people, pretty much all of the middle school and high school level. These unexplained events have that X-Files kind of feeling where there’s an unnaturalness about it. Part of it is shown at times with people walking around that have red balloons in their hands that only some can see, those that are tuned into these events that are related to the electromagnetic field that has impacted the city.
Within all of this, there’s someone using the name, whispered in hushes amongst the students, called the Boogiepop Phantom. This mysterious woman in an elaborate outfit travels throughout the city and disappears people, though they’re not truly there in the end as it’s related to the pillar of light. She often spends her time more as an observer, but there are times when she’s fully involved in trying to stop the things that are going on. One of the main things she’s after is a thing called Manticore which inhabits someones body and uses them for its own dark ends. And even in the midst of this, there’s something else going on as there are supposed hints about an agency related to aliens that may be monitoring things, but it’s played in a way that it feels like a feint.
The series works through these small stories of pain and suffering amongst the varied characters that we’re introduced to, but it also revisits them along the way from different perspectives with other characters stories that provide a tangent connection. It can be confusing as it’s easy to lose track of some similarly designed characters and situations and you get a bit of that deja vu at times. It does work well for a lot of it, but it’s the last couple of episodes where the threads are pulled together and we get a better understanding of what all these mysteries really mean. That gives you the impetus to finish it out and then go back to the beginning again to see the connections all the more clearly.
While the work stands on its own, it is a series that will make much, much more sense if you delve into the other works. With the light novels and the live action movie, they bring a lot of the events that precede the series into light and makes a lot of what happens here a lot more understandable. They’re certainly not required viewing or reading, but it’s the kind of thing where if you do like the series, they’re very much worth hunting down in order to gain a greater understanding of the property as a whole. Or you can just cheat and read up on the Wikipedia page in order to see how this ties into the other aspects.
Boogiepop Phantom is a series that on first viewing, it’s not going to make a lot of sense for the majority of it. The small, unusual stories with a wide variety of characters is intriguing to watch as you try to put it all together and figure out where it’s trying to go. When the thing does come together, it makes a lot more sense and it goes big in its own way as it reveals where it’s going. With a lot of flashbacks going to the event a month prior to the start of the series and then more that goes back five years, it can be tough to keep track of things. But the effort does have payoff to it and there’s replay value to it as well because of this as you gain a lot more from it. I do think it’s a work that is far better when taken with the novels and the movie, but it stands well enough on its own. I do wish ti had gotten a full remaster job and cleaned up with a fresh encoding, ejecting the unnecessary track as well, but for a priced down re-release, it’s about what you’d expect. The show is something a love/hate work but it definitely has its merits and has earned itself a solid following over the years.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Music Videos, Commentary Track, Promos, Line Art Gallery, Production Notes
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: June 5th, 2012
Running Time: 360 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.