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?
Boogiepop Phantom TV Collection contains episodes 1-12 of the anime directed by Takashi Watanabe and features the original uncensored version of the Japanese Home Video release.
The audio presentation for this release brings us back to older days as we get the Japanese and English language tracks in stereo along with an additional English track in 5.1, all of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. Much like past instances, 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. The lossless encoding for it just accentuates it all the more and watching this with a good system and without distractions or other ambient sounds in the room really ratchets things up nicely. Dialogue is straightforward with some good levels to it and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in the winter of 2000, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Madhouse, the twelve episodes are spread across two discs. This series is like a few others that we see every couple of years in just how dark and moody it is, especially from this time period, which made for some poor looking DVD releases as it tried to handle the black solid fields and other elements. 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. With a bit rate that looks like it spends its time largely in the low thirties, we get a very clean looking piece that still has that earthy feeling from the palette itself. It’s simply a more solid look now and everything feels a bit sharper and a touch more in focus while also eliminating the old issues of the previous 2000-era encode, such as cross coloration and other noise. I’m hard-pressed to call it a revelation compared to the prior release because of the general aesthetic, but it’s a significant improvement overall and definitely one that the show needed after all these years.
The packaging for this release is a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls with no hinges. The front cover gives us the key visual that really has defined the show for decades now and it looks good with the clock in the background, the shadowed edges, and the murky aspect of the main character and their costume. I like the logo along the left as well where it uses both the English and Japanese elements. The back cover continues the murky aspect too good effect with the TV designs and all the shots while some good character material is in front of it to the left. The summary is damn near impossible to read between the font, the size, and the color of it, but it mirrors what’s on the various sites so it’s a decent summary in that regard. The technical grid largely suffers from the same thing but it’s minimal overall and a little clearer since it’s not the same font. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release are nicely done with it working the clip approach showing off a number of creepy segments and more throughout it. It naturally dominates the screen and includes the logo along the left while the bottom has the navigation. It’s a decent-sized strip that has the murky green elements from the show itself with the text done up in the soft yellow-white that’s almost starting to disintegrate that looks good. Moving about is easy with quick language setup as well as episode access and getting into the extras as well that are spread across both discs.
The extras are spread across the two 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 music videos always felt a bit odd but they worked well overall to create a particular mood and they’re welcome here. We also get the commentary track run from the English language production and there’s plenty to enjoy to enhance the show overall.
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 someone’s 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.
I had pined for a higher-quality re-release about seven years ago when it last came to DVD and I’m glad that the show has finally made the leap. There are some shows that are a significant leap in how they look, especially with older shows and how colors come across, but Boogiepop Phantom is more of a subtle upgrade. The increased sound quality is a huge plus and the visual design definitely makes out from having a massive increase in bit rate – 8mbps MPEG-2 can’t hold a candle to 30mbps AVC. That ends up cleaning up all the noise issues, the blockiness, and cross coloration that made this very dark show underperform on DVD for years. And that’s definitely a huge plus to have fixed.
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.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, English Commentary for all 12 episodes, Clean Opening, Clean Endings, Music Videos for the Opening and Ending Songs, Fruits Music Video, TV Spots, and Boogiepop Phantom Commercials
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: November 5th, 2019
Running Time: 360 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
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.