Year Release in English: 2006
Content warnings: Gaslighting, violence, blood, gore, murder, dismemberment, kidnapping, threats of sexual assault
I’m back to reading my favorite genderfuck Shinigami, Boogiepop. I was in the mood for something unsettling in its presentation, where the visuals are scary, but as is the fact that the reader has to pay close attention to the narrators of different sections. No one is as they seem in this prequel to the fight with the Manticore, an enemy less overtly violent but worse in terms of how they transform their victims: Imaginator. Perfect for a modern tale, despite having been originally released in the late 90’s.
I’ve been really feeling the boogiepop this week because I wanted something unsettling, but atmospheric. This series of light novels absolutely delivers.
In this non-linear series, our titular shinigami isn’t even all that present. There are very real human forces at play, both in terms of fear and organizations. There’s Towa, who have uncertain goals, and, most importantly, the Imaginator themself. Kind of a ghoul, they take on the appearance of others while also trying to steal their essense.
This entry, however, is more subtle, I found, with regards to its plot. It’s established that it takes place a year before Boogiepop and Others, and Boogiepop truly only appears as an urban legend, an excuse for violence but also a means to prevent other supernatural entities from gaining power. Here enters Imaginator, who’s obsessed with the core of humanity. The imagery is scary, with roots and flowers both metaphorical and literal. I found this entry a lot more introspective and, as a result, there’s a lot more to pay attention to, especially as perspectives and characters shift per chapter. Unmooring and intense, I read this so quickly, I had to immediately dive into the second part.
Part 2 of this saga leaves the reader with some answers: just who is Asukai Jin? Does Boogiepop actually exist or are they also a phantom used as an excuse for violence?
This volume went by really quickly, as all the pieces and dream crumbs established in the previous entry come together. What I find interesting is how all these entities have different plans for humanity, but different manifestations. Where Manticore, who came a year later, is all about subjugation, Imaginator seems to be about setting them free…in a very narrow definition of that freedom that excludes the entire concept of free will. The way technology and contemporary drugs factor into the story make it a great vehicle for such exploration, in addition to the unsettlement that comes with no one being who they seem.
These themes also are something the characters grapple with. Orihata Aya wants to be in a relationship with Taniguchi Masaki, while he also wants to please her by pretending to be Boogiepop. It’s complex and the solutions aren’t neat.
I’m not sure I’ll be reading the remaining volumes this spooky season, but I’m absolutely going to keep on reading. Boogiepop as strange and fascinating as it is scary.