Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 09 – The Tower

All quotes are from Biddy Tarot.

The Tower shows a tall tower perched on the top of a rocky mountain. Lightning strikes set the building alight, and two people leap from the windows, head first and arms outstretched. It is a scene of chaos and destruction.

The Tower itself is a solid structure, but because it has been built on shaky foundations, it only takes one bolt of lightning to bring it down. It represents ambitions and goals made on false premises.

When Masaki visits Aya’s flat, he quickly finds evidence that she was up to all kinds of strange, and when Aya answers, she’s reluctant to involve him any further than he is. After all, she’s been using and betraying him all this time. Their relationship was built on lies, so it’s only natural for it to crumble now.

Except that Masaki doesn’t care what Aya says she’s done to him. He cherishes the time they spent together, and he fell in love with her. So no matter how shaky she insists the foundation of his love may be, he’s still willing to take a leap of faith for her. He won’t give up on her, even after she’s given up on herself.

The lightning represents a sudden surge of energy and insight that leads to a break-through or revelation.

It enters via the top of the building and knocks off the crown, symbolising energy flowing down from the Universe, through the crown chakra.

Desperate to solve—and witness the resolution of—the case of the Imaginator, Suema speaks with Kotoe, who tells her where she was when Spooky E first brainwashed her: the abandoned Paisley Park, with its tower called The Ladder. It’s the tower Masaki sees a plane fly over—a plane he can hear on Aya’s end during their call.

Thus both Masaki and Suema head towards this Tower: a symbol of change, upheaval, chaos, revelation, and awakening. Atop that tower, Jin/Imaginator seek to bring about all of those things by tearing out Aya’s heart a creating a seed that will take root in the hearts of everyone in the city, bringing them under Imaginator’s control. From there, the seed will spread across Japan and eventually, the rest of the world.

The people are desperate to escape from the burning building, not knowing what awaits them as they fall.

Around them are 22 flames, representing the 12 signs of the zodiac and 10 points of the Tree of Life, suggesting that even in times of disaster, there is always divine intervention.

Masaki gets a head start to Paisley Park by borrowing Nagi’s motorcycle, but he’s met by Jin’s army of “thralls”, all of them protected by the thick padding of mascot costumes. Just as he’s about to be injected with nothing good, the real Boogiepop suddenly comes to the fake Boogiepop’s aid.

After dispatching the thralls, Boogiepop blares some Wagner on the park’s loudspeakers while she explains to Masaki that all his fear had been brainwashed away by Spooky E. This leads him to question whether his feelings for Aya were genuine or a product of his brainwashing.

Boogiepop puts the question to him: how does he know when, if ever, he’s exercised his true free will? After all, isn’t the process of adapting oneself to society its own kind of brainwashing? In the context of not having freedom one way or another, her next question is: what does he value most?

Thankfully, the Tower doesn’t always associate with pain and turmoil. If you are highly aware and in tune with your inner guidance system, then this Tarot card can indicate a spiritual awakening or revelation.

You may be able to see the cracks forming and take action before the whole structure comes tumbling down.

Boogiepop leaves Masaki and reappears atop the tower, where Jin is poised to sacrifice an Aya seemingly resigned to this fate. When he looks into her heart and finds nothing, Jin panics; this is someone he can’t manipulate. Yet after a brief interlude with a gun, she assures him he can do what he was planning to do and she won’t stop him.

When Jin attempts to tear out Aya’s heart, his hand goes right through the rose. Aya laments that she expected such a thing to happen, because Jin needed a human sacrifice, and she’s not a real human. Boogiepop revels in the fact that even had she not intervened, Imaginator had already lost by choosing Aya. By only looking towards a new future under her control,  Imaginator chose “shaky foundations” to build her tower, and now it’s crumbling.

You may create a massive transformation before you reach the point where change is your only option.

In its most positive form, the Tower card is your opportunity to break free from the old ways of thinking that have been holding you back.

Imaginator separates herself from Jin, who leaps out of the tower in the process. But like the divine intervention suggested in the Tower Card, Boogiepop arrests his fall before he dies. Without Imaginator, Asukai Jin is no enemy of Boogiepop’s, and Boogiepop doesn’t take lives without purpose.

She tells Aya that even if Imaginator had succeeded in changing everyone’s hearts and removing the pain, that change would only be temporary, and eventually fade away. Imaginator and Jin alike were missing a very important fact about the hearts they saw: that they can change without their help; and grow through communication with others. Boogiepop also assures Aya there’s something deep in her heart that would have protected her from tampering.

Be it real or synthetic, a different kind of seed has taken root in her heart; that of love for Masaki. It’s a seed that’s replicated in his own heart, and survived all emotional attacks against it. Before disappearing into the either, Imaginator salutes the half-paralyzed Masaki and the love in his and AYa’s hearts, which neither she nor Jin could manage to break through.

Suema, disappointed she arrived too late to have any significant role in the resolution of the case, is asked by a departing Boogiepop to go up the tower and bring Aya down so she can be with Masaki, whose head is again in Aya’s lap when he comes to, while Nagi is by their side, glad he’s okay.

Aya and Masaki built a stronger structure than they thought, and it holds together even after those of Spooky E, Towa, Asukai Jin, and Imaginator have crumbled to dust…all with nothing more than a little help from that plucky reaper, Boogiepop. Suema takes comfort in knowing some like that really is out there.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 08 – What Friends Are For

This week all the disparate parties involved in this arc begin to confront and communicate with one another, starting with Suema meeting Jin. She watches one of the girls Jin “initiated” walk by while engaged in a phone call, and decides she can’t let this go on. She wants answers. Boogiepop momentarily speaks through Touka offering help, but Suema insists she’s got this.

In the case of Imaginator, I consider it fine for Suema to ask for any help offered; she’s quite out of her depth here. While Jin is initially taken aback by how much she’s been able to figure out for herself, he manages to successfully gaslight her, and even if she doesn’t walk away a convert, it remains to be seen if his plan-reveal-couched-in-artistic-rhetoric proves useful to her solving the case.

Then again, maybe I’m underestimating Suema just as Jin is, or just as Spooky-KotoE underestimates Masaki when he realizes he’s being followed by six or more people. He heads underground to confront them, and uses a nice bit of misdirection to catch KotoE’s goons off-guard (Towa should invest in less disposable goons) and put KotoE herself on her back.

The only problem is, she won’t talk, he can’t really make her talk, and if he kills her he’ll be branded a murderer. Like Suema, Masaki seems doomed to be disappointed in his efforts to crack the case. He’s only caught a pawn, just as Jin can shrug off everything he told Suema as messing around.

When Nagi suddenly shows up to keep his half-brother in check, he slips away, and KotoE reveals she was keeping some goons in reserve. But these goons aren’t any match for Nagi’s skills any more than the first wave were to Masaki’s. She makes quick work of them, including KotoE’s attempts to attack her with a butterfly knife, but isn’t interested in getting any information from her. Her focus is probably catching up to her brother.

When KotoE wakes up, she’s still in her brainwashed mode, but Jin appears and manages to snap her out of it by reaching into her soul and taking note of the missing blooms on her rose (much like Suema’s problem). But while he’s always known of Kotoe’s feelings and yearning, she was mistaken in thinking her sadness mirrored his own; he’s never been able to feel sadness; only despair.

Jin also laments he can’t save her, but will change the world to a place where no one has to feel like she feels ever again. With Spooky E’s brainwashing undone, Kotoe breaks down, but engenders no more sympathy from Jin than a stranger, which is a devastating sight to see. Then Jin moves on to Spooky E’s command center atop the amusement park tower, apparently led there by the part of Spooky that copied his will into Kotoe in the first place.

Jin introduces himself as Imaginator, the one Spooky and Towa have been looking for, but calmly warns Spooky that they’re on completely different levels. They may possess similar brainwashing abilities, but while Spooky basically mind-rapes people by shoving information into their brains, Jin’s is far more…therapeutic? Horticultural? Since he can see everyone’s plant—even Spooky’s—he can control them as he sees fit, adding or removing parts with Imaginator’s help.

Rather than stuff info in the brain, he finds what is lacking, and offers whatever a person desperately desires: to be whole. The result of this: Imaginator will “normalize the psyche” of the human race, eliminating all emotional want and yearning. There are a LOT of problems with such a world, so it goes without saying Imaginator can’t get away with this.

But Spooky E can’t do shit about it; Jin removes his aggression in the blink of an eye, intending to use him to take over Towa, in order to expand his reach and accelerate his plans. While unable to attack Jin, Spooky E decides it better to attack and kill himself, so at least he won’t be the conduit through which the enemy takes control of Towa.

Jin, however, doesn’t believe in enemies, except as parties who exist to be turned into allies with the right manipulation. His plan to use Spooky E as an ally thus backfired, he discovers Orihata tied up in that same location. She begs for help, but Jin isn’t there to save her. He’s there to use her as a sacrifice; the kind that will propel his dreams forward and make them a reality for the next generation.

Poor Orihata: poised to become a tool for Imaginator immediately after Spooky E and Towa did the same. Is there any saving her or Kotoe, and are Suema and Masaki up to the task?

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 07 – Great Kid! Don’t Get Cocky

Aya and Masaki have begun running a little act where she serves as bait against drug dealers while he swoops in as Boogiepop and takes them out. It’s worked so far, and Masaki is happy they’re keeping hundreds of people from being hurt or destroyed by the drugs they steal. You even get the sense that Aya’s taking a shine to Masaki, since she seems hesitant when Spooky E orders her to cut off ties with him pending new orders.

Meanwhile, Spooky E is trying to get his hands on Imaginator, and finds an in in Kinukawa Kotoe. We get a little backstory about how she’s known Jin since she was five and fell in love at first sight. Unfortunately, Spooky E gets a hold of her, and doesn’t turn her into a terminal, but copies himself into her body, so he can more easily gather information from a local bar.

Using cash from the vast Kinukata coffers to bribe someone in the know, Spooky KotoE learns that Imaginator can control peoples’ minds and turn former allies against one another, in addition to sending them flying without touching them.

The next day Masaki finds KotoE with Aya, and she knows about their Boogiepop charade. Spooky tells Aya, a synthetic human who has been trying for some time to crossbreed with normal ones, to try crossbreeding with Masaki before they “cut him loose.” But Masaki doesn’t want to stop the Boogiepop act; he wants to do it alone, without exposing Aya to danger.

Of course, Aya’s already in a heap of danger, as is he; Spooky E switches up the plans once again; he’ll let Masaki go off and keep being Boogiepop, right up until he ends up a corpse in an alley. Aya wants to go after Masaki to help him, but Spooky E disables her, informing her that Towa and Axis have abandoned her. As far as he’s concerned she’s a tool he no longer needs.

As for Masaki, everyone may think he’s stupid, a moron, or according to Nagi, in danger of getting too cocky, something clicks about what Jin said to him about Aya not being as calm as she seems. To properly protect her, he’ll need to learn more about what’s going on…a lot more.

This week didn’t close the Imaginator arc, but by eschewing Touka/Boogiepop, Jin, and Anou Shinjirou, it felt a bit more focused and grounded than last week, while still propelling the story. I don’t know if the classic shounen hero in Masaki will be able to prevail, but I’m pretty sure it will involve the real Boogiepop at some point.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 06 – Protecting Unstable Hearts

For whatever reason Orihata Aya, AKA “Camille”, is beholden to the Towa Organization’s Spooky E, and he treats her like a disposable tool, urging her to hurry up and sleep with Anou Shinjirou, as well as gather clues that will lead to finding Boogiepop. Already, we see that “Camille” is bound in chains of fear, deference, and servitude. Who will break her chains, and is that even what she wants?

At least in this instance, Masaki intervenes, “saving” Aya from Spooky, who assumes the kid is an enemy of Towa when he’s just good at martial arts. Spooky shocks Masaki unconscious, and when he comes to he doesn’t remember his assailant. She apologizes, but Masaki likes her, and wants to do anything he can for her. So she asks him if he knows anything about Boogiepop.

Back at Shinyou Academy, Asukai Jin’s cousin Kinukawa Kotoe reaches out to Suema Kazuko, the school’s resident researcher of weird tings, regarding Jin’s odd and suspicious behavior of late. Suema promises to look into it, and before you know it, she’s hiding in a classroom into which Jin invites two girls, who promptly remove their tops and undergo some kind of magical ritual.

When it’s over, they feel like all the weight of their lives has been lifted and that they can do anything…for Jin. This is how Jin and Imaginator are taking over the world: one schoolgirl—one fragile adolescent mind—at a time. At some point someone’s going to have to stop them, but I imaging Boogiepop will again only play a supporting role. Suema, for her part, has always longed to “take on the darkness [her]self.”

In an auspicious crossing of paths, Suema encounters Anou as she’s talking with Niitoki Kei. Kei has kept her distance from Suema’s friend Touka (and vice versa), but not just because Touka’s guy rejected her, but because she knows Touka’s “other side.” Anou still seems pretty out of it, unable to remember what he’s doing at the academy while feeling like something important is missing.

Scenes of Aya talking to Masaki are intercut with scenes of Suema finding Aya on the roof, ready to die. Aya wants death to free others from her, not to free herself from Spooky E and Towa. Her self seems to the least important thing to her, whether that self has been tampered with by supernatural forces, or if it was always in a troubled, fragile, easily manipulated state…as most kids entering adulthood after all.

Both Aya and Masaki have initially believed the rumors going around that Boogiepop is a reaper that takes the lives of girls at the peak of their beauty so they’ll never become ugly, but Suema corrects her: Boogiepop is there to lend the helping hand to fragile young hearts that adults won’t provide, as adults they feel adolescence is just a phase everyone goes through, and will pass.

The reality is that sometimes it doesn’t pass, and you either get kids who kill themselves rather than continue suffering, or try to make others suffer as a salve to their own. In that regard, Boogiepop is there to protect them from themselves as much as those forces that would hurt or use them.

Rather than Boogiepop, the one doing the reaping here, or rather gardening, is Jin/Imaginator, as we see him “convert” more and more willing and in some cases eager young women to “their side.” The fact that this is visualized as Jin tending the roses so that they have roots, stems, leaves, and blooms – the height of their beauty.

Their hearts may thus be said to be complete and at peace, but they’re paying for it with their free will. It’s swapping one set of chains for another. I for one hope Suema, no doubt with help from Boogiepop (and others), can manage to shine a light on that darkness.

So…everything’s starting to make a little more sense, but this still felt like yet more setup, and with so many characters shuffling around, it’s hard to find firm ground on which to plant my feet and actually care about anything consistently.

Hopefully, as with previous mini-arcs, the payoff will be satisfying enough to make it worth all the setup. This seems like a show in which the destination is better than the journeys, or at least in which the destinations must be known before the journeys can be fully understood or appreciated.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 05 – Love at First Sight

This week the POV shifts from Asukai Jin to Taniguchi Masaki, the kid he saved from bullies along with the girl he was with. We learn more about both Masaki and the girl, Orihata Aya, who had actually just met him in that alley and tried to save him by offering her body to the guys.

Masaki is a transfer student from abroad who is just trying to do well, but gains some unwanted attention. Fortunately for him he not only had Asukai on his side when things got rough, but met Aya and basically fell for her the day he met her, due to her courage in that situation.

While Masaki seems normal enough (and is apparently Kirima Nagi’s brother, another interesting connection) there’s something off about Aya, and even he, who likes her, notices it. She’s extremely eager to please, as if she has no will of her own, but is rather driven by a curious pair of edicts: no one is allowed to hate her, and she has no right to fall in love.

Shift again to Anou Shinjirou, who played along with the other classmates who eventually beat up Masaki in the alley, but didn’t get killed by Asukai because he didn’t participate. He was just putting up a front for the other guys; in reality, he fell for Masaki as quickly as Masaki fell for Aya, and wanted to get closer to him. But he found that hard due to Aya, whom he learns is famous at her school for being promiscuous.

Anou finds where Aya lives and spies on her, but is interrupted by a very large, very ugly man who looks like a roadie for Aerosmith in the 90s. The roadie, whom we later learn has the name “Spooky E”, proceeds to “reprogram” Anou’s mind, wiping all his personal desires and ordering him to attend Shinyou Academy to await further instructions.

Now Anou is a part of the Towa Organization as a sleeper agent, only with no agency…essentially a puppet (Spooky calls him a “terminal”). His change in behavior endears him to a girl, who sends him a love letter that Spooky makes him forget. But Asukai has been watching Anou since the alley incident, and intentionally or not manages to remove the Towa programming, restoring his memories and free will.

Anou re-discovers the love letter and answers it, meeting the girl in question in a dark, deserted office building. But the “girl” there is Boogiepop in disguise, and when Spooky E appears to re-reprogram Anou (he set a trap), Boogiepop stops him and decides to go on the attack. Spooky gets away, but Anou is still of sound mind…for now.

Boogiepop promises if Anou gets in trouble again, she’ll be there for him. Then she gives him the real love letter, urging him to show up on the actual meeting date the day after tomorrow. Meanwhile, Masaki asks Aya out again, and of course Aya agrees. But while apparently waiting for Masaki, she’s confronted by Spooky E, who calls her “Camile” and wonders what she’s doing there.

This episode connected a few more strings in an increasingly dense narrative web, bringing into focus players that were present in last week’s events but not given emphasis until now, and seemingly opening a third party in the present situation. You have Boogiepop, Asukai/Imaginator, and now Towa Organization.

And then there’s Aya: is she one of Towa’s terminals, whose emotional engagement with Masaki may be degrading her programming? Will she stop worrying about being hated and let herself be loved? Lots of question marks floating around.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 04 – Snowing In April

Boogiepop switches gears completely to a new mysterious, twisting tale with a new batch of players; only Boogiepop herself is the constant from previous episodes. We seemingly begin at the end, as she confronts her new enemy and enemy of the world, “Imaginator.” But Imaginator (Hanazawa Kana) tells her endings are just beginnings. Jumping off the ledge, she says there’s “plenty of time” before she hits the ground for Boogiepop to find her.

From there, the POV switches to starving artist and guidance counselor Asukai Jin, who has a very unique ability to detect what is missing in the heart of virtually everyone he meets. The heart is depicted as a rose plant, either lacking root, stem, leaves, or buds. Everyone lacks something, and that lack can never be resolved, and Asukai can’t see his own heart, so he doesn’t know what he himself lacks. He does what he can with this ability, but he feels powerless to truly help people.

That’s when Imaginator finds him. Like him, she can see things no one else can; in her case, their deaths, or rather the possibility of their deaths. Living creatures generate a certain kind of energy before their lives burn out, and she can detect that. This makes her a valuable tool for anyone who would choose to manipulate death. She exists to “recreate the world” with that ability, but she could use some help, so she asks Asukai to assist her.

As Asukai has some dinner his cute neighbor prepared, suddenly the young woman is possessed by Imaginator and speaks with her voice. She reiterates her desire to join forces, indicating that the one thing Asukai definitely lacks is a “calling”; which she can provide.

Imaginator kisses him to show him that calling, in which he uses his right hand to “prune” the roses from people’s hearts like some kind of dark angel of death. The prospect frightens him, and he believes himself incapable of such brutality, but Imaginator tells him his calling is his calling, and he is capable of it, period. It’s ultimately up to him whether to utilize that capability.

As he wrestles with what Imaginator has said and shown him, Asukai is distracted from his work, even sketching her to perhaps make her feel more real and tangible, all the while considering what he could do with her “assistance.”

Fast forward to Asukai being questioned by police after an incident in which Imazaki Shizuko, a former student he counseled and drug addict and dealer, tried to rob him at knifepoint before committing suicide. We shift between the questioning, during which the police don’t suspect him at all, and the incident itself, when Imaginator possesses Imazaki’s body to further illustrate how their partnership will work.

She shows Asukai that Imazaki was at the end of her tether and would be dead anyway in a matter of months, likely alone and after more suffering. But she tells Asukai there’s something he can do for her, before plunging the knife into Imazaki’s neck. As she dies, he can see her rose, which he cradles in his hands.

Before heading home, one of the detectives asks if Asukai said anything to Imazaki before she died, since she seemed so peaceful, as if all the thorns had been pulled from her heart. Asukai tells the cop he said nothing, and he seems to be telling the truth. It’s not something he said, but something he did, along with simply being there.

In another incident in which three delinquents are harrassing a fourth boy who is protecting a girl they want to “have some fun with”, Asukai decides to experiment with his new “alliance” with Imaginator. He has the boy run off to safety with the girl, freezes two of the delinquents, then has the ringleader turn his knife on himself.

Back on the rooftop of Touka’s school, a girl named Komiya who was good friends with the late Minahoshi Suiko (the girl whose body Imaginator inhabits) prepares to leap off to “follow” her, but is stopped by Boogiepop, who tells her she be able to join her that way, then admits to killing Suiko, since she was an “enemy of the world.”

But hearkening back to the episode’s beginning, Suiko hasn’t “hit the ground” yet; she hasn’t reached the next world. Indeed, she’s working with Asukai to recreate this one. Will Boogiepop need help from a human (other than Touka that is) to defeat Imaginator?