Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 18 (Fin) – No Time To Worry About Getting Lonely

Just when Habara is about to open the Moon Temple, he’s stopped—by the real King of Distortion, in the flesh, inhabiting the body of Tanaka Shirou, who was beside him all along. The King “collaborated” with the late Teratsuki for the purposes of a grand experiment in healing the distortion in peoples’ hearts, by first drawing it out and giving it form.

In Kei’s case, the distortion is Saotome Masami, but it’s her unrequited feelings for Takeda Keiji that caused the distortion. To be more precise, it was the embarrassment from having those feelings, then creating a personality that would uphold the fiction that it didn’t matter, when all that did was bottle up her pain and facilitate the distortion.

But Kei isn’t embarrassed by her feelings anymore, and she’s done running and hiding from them. She is able to walk away from the King, who applauds her effort, and she ends up with Shirou—and Boogiepop—in the control room.

There, Boogiepop deduces that the King of Distortion has been imprecise with his abilities (see: Zooragi) because he was only recently “born” when Shirou came to the Moon Temple that morning. He was born from Shirou’s guilt over not knowing what the late Kamikishirou Naoko, whom he used to date (and who died in the Manticore incident).

Kei can attest to Shirou’s guilt and pain, but not just for not knowing what Naoko thought. Boogiepop antagonizes the King into transporting the three of them into a suspended state several hundred feet above the city, warning him that, like other possibilities that took form in the human world, if he becomes a threat she’ll deal with it.

Kei, ever the disciplinary committee president (AKA “Natural Police“) plays peacemaker, and Boogiepop follows her lead. They don’t want to fight him; they still aren’t even sure he is a threat, just a possible one. But Kei manages to “free” Shirou from the King by getting to the root of his guilt: it’s less about knowing Naoko’s heart and more about his own.

The truth is, Shirou didn’t know how he felt about Naoko, even in the end. She then tells him what she thinks Naoko would say if she were there: “Before you start worrying about other people, you need to take care of yourself!” The King suddenly plummets to the ground, and suddenly Kei is back in the control room with the code to unlock the Temple.

People start waking up and exiting the Temple, all of them with some kind of great weight they once bore having been lifted. It could be said that even though it was cut short sooner than originally desired, the King of Distortion’s experiment was a success. Sakiko bids goodbye to Boogiepop, asking what they’d do if she became an “enemy” (Boogie wouldn’t hold back, natch).

While Keiji is scouring the Temple looking for Touka, he runs into Kei, who tells him she followed someone she was worried about, but that person wasn’t Keiji. With her distortion healed, she can smile and shake hands and remain friends with Keiji without any trouble.

Keiji and Touka eventually reunite, and Touka falls asleep on Keiji’s shoulder as they take the train home. In a dream, or something else, back on that ruined earth of the distant future, Keiji climbs up a hill to meet Boogiepop, who asks “how did you know it was me?”, to which he replies that he wouldn’t mistake “a friend’s face.” Like the King with Shirou, Touka is Boogie’s vessel in the human world, and Keiji is dating Touka. That’s never not going to be an interesting experience.

And that’s all for Boogiepop wa Warawanai, a bizarre, ambitious, and intriguing show that asked big questions and wasn’t afraid to philosophize at great length in between spurts of action. It was a pleasantly offbeat show in the same vein as Sakurada Reset, Subete ga F ni Naru,  or ACCA, other shows that are comfortable and confident spinning dense tapestries of their own quirky reality.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 17 – Ken And Shirou Are On The Case

While this week continues to check in with various parties affected by the King of Distortion, the consistent through line is that of Kentarou and Shirou, some of the first in the building to wake up, and the first to start investigating what the heck is going on and how to end it.

They come across Sakiko and wake her up, which like so many other events is probably meant to happen (after Ken teased her earlier). But Sakiko had a very different experience in her personal dream world, and doesn’t share Ken and Shiro’s desire to “defeat” the King.

So when they find what could be a maintenance hatch and climb down to investigate, she locks them down there and tries to find a way back to Hinako. Not long after, the Moon Temple turns black from the outside, and Taratsuki’s voice announces to anyone trying to get in that they shouldn’t bother, and to anyone inside that their supply of air has been cut off.

Outside, Keiji encounters Touka, but she’s neither the real Touka nor Boogiepop (Yuuki Aoi has a lot of voices in this show and they’re all great). She’s the King of Distortion, and leads Keiji into the temple via a “staff entrance”, where she runs and urges Keiji to follow.

Just as Kei figures out something of what the King of Distortion really is, and thus why he resembles Saotome to her, the real Boogiepop saves Sakiko from a falling ceiling tile and introduces themselves. Boogiepop confirms that they do kill people, but only those deemed enemies of humanity. Sakiko wants to know why she doesn’t qualify; she’s a “terrible, horrible person” in her own words.

The world should be full of only good people like Hina-chan. But Boogiepop tells Sakiko the Hina in her dream world isn’t Hina at all, but part of herself: in her case, her kindness. For years since her transgression, pain and anguish have built up and been borne by Sakiko’s heart, and is proof of Sakiko’s underlying kindness.

If Sakiko was truly an enemy of humanity, doing awful things wouldn’t cause her any pain whatsoever. Boogiepop determines that the King lacks a body, and so takes the form of the distortions in peoples’ hearts. They then lament that things aren’t going to end so easily.

Ken and Shirou reach the temple’s control room (or something akin to it), a massive, sparse space with grand arcing windows; their arrival is a wonderful extreme wide shot that continues to establish how vast the temple is. When Ken starts fiddling with the control panel, it triggers a giant monitor that plays a message by Teratsuki Kyouchirou.

What’s strange about this is that we cut to Teratsuki filming the message, suggesting we’re either glimpsing the past, or he’s filming it live. He certainly has a lot to say: He’s a synthetic human developed by the Towa Organization to manipulate the economy, but he’s evolved beyond their control and doing what he wants, even though that puts a target on his back.

Teratsuki isn’t aware of who’s watching, but deems whoever has gotten that far to be a potential enemy to Towa: a person who can understand things or go places most cannot, nor should. In other words, free, powerful minds. He used the remainder of the “real” late Teratsuki’s fortune to build the Moon Temple, a means of luring the kind of people who could challenge Towa’s desired hegemony.

Before his head is hacked off by a puff of black smoke he calls “Eugene”, Teratsuki tells his viewers to enter “STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN” to end the temple lockdown, and wishes them well. Ken is as confused as ever, especially since Teratsuki said nothing about any King of Distortion. A blank-eyed Shirou, on the other hand, seems to have come to some kind of realization.

What that realization is, whether he’ll be so kind as to explain it to Ken (and us), and the connection between Towa and the King, will be a matter for next week’s episode.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 16 – My Dad’s A Kaiju

Boogiepop is on the job…they just aren’t sure what the job is, at least not yet. Niitoki Kei assumes that because Boogiepop is there, there is a threat that requires elimination, but Boogiepop isn’t detecting a threat worth acting on, only that whatever is at work in the Moon Temple is trying to “draw some kind of reaction out of people.” She then offers Kei the lunch Touka made for Keiji, which Kei doesn’t feel right eating, but eventually starts to eat anyway.

Kei recalls what Suema said to her about dissociative identity disorder of the kind Touka might be suffering; about how it was merely a theory, and that there was no ironclad proof that anyone claiming to have DID isn’t simply acting. Furthermore, those multiple personalities are born out of a person’s desires, and because everyone has desires, everyone can conjure multiple personalities as conditions warrant.

In the Moon Temple, that other personality is manifested as the King of Distortion, be it Kei and Saotome, Sakiko and the Hinako who never was…or Makoto and the giganic kaiju “Zooragi.” That last one is creating a lot of problems.

Even though not everyone can see him, the fact of the matter is no one’s King of Distortion as grown as powerful and separate than Zooragi from Makoto. He apparently once drew him as he imagined his dad was, which is interesting since his mother suspected Teratsuki to be his father.

As for Keiji, he’s just worried about Touka, whose own alternate personality of Boogiepop may be a product of her desire to protect humanity from existential threats. As the ground around the Temple buckles (due to the invisible Zooragi), Keiji runs towards the danger, in order to help his girlfriend.

Boogiepop finally finds something to do when they meet Makoto, who is about to be eaten by his own alternate personality made flesh. They actually relish the opportunity to fight a kaiju for the first time.

Holding Makoto close to protect him, Boogiepop uses her trusty wire and vaunted nimbleness to spin around Zooragi’s neck and garrote its head clean off—a superhero move if ever there was one.

Relieving Zooragi of its head causes Makoto to pass out, then reveals a second head beneath, a Zooragi that’s more Stegosaurus than Tyrannosaurus. But a portion of Zooragi’s power still manages to “cross the boundary”, putting the Moon Temple structure—and everyone still in it, both asleep and awake—in mortal danger. A Boogiepop’s work is never done…

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 12 (Fin; Until the Blu-ray)

Can the wrong in a lifetime’s worth of indifference and passivity be righted in one glorious moment? It kinda is this week, the final episode of Denpa to air on TV. Makoto has been dreading the day of the big game, but Yashiro’s words moved him; he takes a stand and makes his big entrance as the hero for once. And he does a fairly nice job.

I like baseball settings, so I’m not annoyed in the slightest that this episode was all about baseball on the surface. But baseball can be a metaphor for countless things. Baseball is a sport with roles. There are background roles, temp roles, and lead roles. It’s all about specialization. But sometimes, one player has it all on their shoulders. The stress of this leads the ace pitcher of the market district, Maekawa’s dad, to go AWOL.

Sent by his aunt to look for him, Makoto finds him and finds a kindred spirit in terms of how he sees himself, the world, and his role in it. After he convinces him to come back with him, there’s a priceless and extremely hilarious scene where Mr. Maekawa, who has to sit behind Makoto on his bike, sternly interrogates him on his intentions with his daughter. Makoto just has to carrry everyone on his bike…

So yeah, Makoto gets out of his funk and steps out of the shadow of his doubt and fear and just goes for it. He manages to hit Hanazawa’s pitch, but it’s a pop fly until Yashiro apparently changes the wind to carry the ball all the way into the drink for a home run. Unfortunately for him, the only kiss he gets is from his aunt. It would seem that while he may have learned to be more assertive, Makoto still needs a lot of adolescence points before attaining his ultimate goal. The true conclusion will come in a few months. Rating: 3.5

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This episode is a turning point for Makoto, in which he actually openly reveals truths about himself to others. Since he was a youngin, he’d always been okay with giving up on things if he percieved them as too hard. We haven’t seen a lot of that, of course, because everything in the series has come to him very easily and with little or no effort.

Most of the episode is a series of conversations with all of the girls in his life. He’s kind of become a player of sorts without having done anything. Maekawa invites him to her house and makes him lunch, and then they play Mario Kart. How awesome an afternoon is that? Then a phone call with Ryuushi, that’s interrupted by an attention-starved Erio. His encounters are also sprinkled with the blindingly-white-haired space cadet Yashiro, who acts as a guru of sorts – with wisdom beyond her years.

As Makoto, Yashiro, Nakajima and Hanazawa (the latter two on a date) watch Ryuushi play basketball, Makoto recalls how he handled his apparent athletic inadequacies. He simply prevered observing. Playing the onlooker. This harkens back to something Maekawa said verbatim; she may be growing weary of being the onlooker. Makoto innocently thought she was talking more generally, but she was talking about her role in the show, watching Makoto progress with Ryuushi. She may not want to give up on him after all.

Ryuushi isn’t the best basketball player, but Yashiro blabbers on about her esper potential. Everything Makoto has heard thus far is stewing in his head and finally erupts in a “cheer” to Ryuushi that’s actually the most personal, heartfelt commentary he’s delivered yet…including his narration. It’s just the ticket for Ryuushi, and Yashiro has a look of knowing satisfaction. Well done, grasshopper. Makoto still faces tough choices. Will he give up and simply observe, or get off the sidelines and act? Rating: 4

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 10

Makoto meets his second “alien” since arriving in town. Her name is Yashiro, and he has a sneaking suspicion she’s a local runaway girl he’s heard about. And naturally, Meme invites her in. When her astronaut’s helmet finally comes off, she’s revealed to possess the same otherworldly beauty as cousin Erio, only with glowing white hair rather than blue. Erio’s beauty, btw, is what engenders so much envy and resentment among other girls in the town, according to Hanazawa-san.

Yashiro is more forward with Makoto, and readily insults him, due to the “half-assed” way he and Erio live their life. I’d beg to differ, especially since Makoto pops his phone-call-with-Ryuushi cherry this week as well. He even learns that Nakajima, the guy he played ball with last week, is a guy she turned down, and she heavily hints that if it was Makoto who confessed, her response would have been very different. She also invites him to join her at the town festival. Despite the fact they didn’t meet in person this week, things are moving along very nicely in the girlfriend arena.

But this Yashiro kid has the same bewitching power that Erio has; perhaps more concentrated. And even I can’t explain how she made so much water fall on Makoto when he was fifteen feet away behind a fence, except to concede that perhaps she is in fact an esper as well as an alien. It was certainly the most “supernatural” phenomenon to occur so far, if you don’t count the fact the rather plain Makoto is attracting so many ladies. Finally, was it just me, or did this episode contain an unusual amount of cutsiness? Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 9

In the midst of summer, Makoto continues to juggle all the various idiosyncratic women in his life. The one with who seems the most natural, obvious choice to be his girlfriend would be Ryuushi, obviously. They exchange phone numbers, and she starts texting him immediately. She also wants him to support her in sports. Her flirting is also the most intentional and most blatant out of everyone (well, except Meme, but Makoto has no designs on her).

Despite all her odd costumes, Maekawa seems far more mature and sly with her words than Ryuushi. She also seems to relish being a rival to Ryuushi for Makoto’s heart, although we don’t really know if her intention is to win it. Ryuushi’s mostly an open book; Maekawa’s murkier; an enigma. And then there’s the family: Meme annoys and even disturbs him most of the time, but there’s no disputing she is drop-dead gorgeous. His cousin Erio continues to cast an otherworldly spell on him.

This week, with its morning baseball game by the river played amongst people in business suits, space suits, and mackerel suits, aesthetic echoes of Arakawa Under the Bridge abound. It also contained lots of tongue-in-cheeck wordplay and jokes; I particularly liked Maekawa’s comment about “sports fishing.” She also calls the ace pitcher for the opposing team “Hanazawa-san” – before we learn that the short-skirted girl is indeed voiced by Kana Hanazawa. Man, that girl’s everywhere…not that I’m complaining.

So yeah, with three to four very different women around him all vying for his time and attention, Makoto is one busy adolescent. The appeal of this show isn’t just in the charm of the characters, but in reveling in just what a great life Makoto has. Fortunately, he seems to realize this himself, and isn’t constantly moping. Summertime; baseball; a serene town; cuties everywhere – this is the place to be. Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 6

This week could have been a really big mess: all the women in Makoto’s life end up under one roof, but he’s able to handle it, and they don’t all start grabbing at his limbs. I didn’t think it would descend to that; the relationships at play here are a lot more nuanced. Meme, Erio, Ryuushi and Maekawa all seem to like Makoto, but in different ways. Furthermore, Meme and Maekawa are willing to let Ryuushi right of first refusal where Makoto is concerned.

Of all the females, Ryuushi does seem the most realistic match for Makoto, but (of course) she considers herself a bad person for letting her friends badmouth Erio. Most everyone at school apparently still remember’s Erio; she probably wasn’t any less odd than she is now, and the whole cycling into the sea and dropping out of school doesn’t help matters. Erio also still needs a futon – anyone’s futon – in times when she’s feeling particularly insecure or anxious about the social situation.

Still, despite his lack of experience with girls (which he makes clear he’s well aware of in his narration), Makoto shows poise, if a little denseness where Ryuushi is concerned. The time might come for him to not worry about all the points to be scored from actions he takes, and rather focus on the actions of others, particularly Ryuushi. I don’t think she wants to be “just friends”. An aside: as in most SHAFT series, the close-ups are bangin’. Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna no Seishun Otoko 5

Underneath a glass-top coffee table while Meme sits on it wrapped in a futon; the inside of Ryuushi’s orange drink box; a forty year-old in twin tails offering her daughter, then herself to her nephew; a ‘cycloptic’ granny — Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko is full of unique angles and images. It’s the same ‘easily-distracted’ camera Akiyuki Shinbo has made a part of his visual style. It especially fits a series in which Mako is trying to bring his cousin back down to earth: back to reality. Because reality can be as, if not more, amazing than fantasies in one’s head.

It’s working, as Erio wants a part-time job. Gravity is pulling her back to society even more than Mako initially thinks: while he finds it odd she’d rather work than return to school. Meme later tells him, Erio is worried about the financial burden returning to school would be, hence working and saving up first. Getting shot down in her first interview – due to her infamous reputation around town, no less – crushes her, but its only temporary, as Meme points them to a candy shop where the old lady needs a hand. Meme does this while watching the end Mimi wo Sumaseba! SHIZUKU! I LOVE YOU!!

Of course, this may be a case of one step forward and two steps back, as the granny candy shop owner turns out to be an alien enthusiast who is obsessed with the possibility she could become a victim of cattle mutilation. The look in Erio’s eyes as this is revealed is troubling. After two seasons of a fairly static Nino in Arakawa, is it wrong for me to want Erio to not continue to regress into childlike eccentricity, and to continue striving to become normal? Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 3

Makoto goes on a date with the almost sickly-cute Ryuushi and really enjoys himself (although dude…you can’t handle fizzy drinks? wtf…), but he finds himself distracted by thoughts of Erio. What is her deal? Meme tells him (in a rather awkward bedroom scene) not to pry, just leave Erio be, like she does – she just wants to be left alone. While that may be true – Erio is in a futon most of the time – Mako simply can’t let her be. He wants to snap her out of it.

To crush her delusions, he decides to go on a bicycle ride with her in the same bike she rode off a bridge, essentially repeating the incident that caused her present trauma and memory loss. He makes her promise to renounce her claim of being alien if she can’t make them fly in the bike. Not surprisingly, they fail to fly, though they fall spectacularly into the sea and the bike is lost. This seems to awaken Erio a bit; her manner of speaking is much more normal, and she concedes defeat. Mako and Erio re-introduce themselves, as Mako believes this is the true beginnning of their friendship. Even though he didn’t mean to take the game of chicken so far (physics had other ideas), he seems quite happy with the result.

This series is really good with close-ups, particularly those of the female characters of the show. But I noticed some really crappy animation mixed in, as well as lots of poorly proportioned limbs, still shots and other instances were corners were clearly cut, which is a shame, especially when Puella Magi Madoka Magica looked consistently superb throughout. Also, the opening theme is easily the worst I’ve ever heard, and the ending isn’t much better (Etsuko Yakushimaru’s songs all sound the same to be now). Depsite these shortcomings, I’m confident the story and characters will continue to do the heavy lifting here. Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 2

Makoto wants to make the most of his new start in a new home and school, and he seems to be off to a good one so far. After all, he is in the “springtime of his life”. Meeting and hanging out with pretty girls is his priority, and its not a bad one. While Erio is his cousin, the next two ladies he meets – Ryuushi and Maekawa, aren’t. Ryuushi strikes me as a “Minorin” type (from Toradora): super-optimistic on the surface, perhaps hiding something deeper in; while Maekawa is a more demure, Senjogahara-type. Both are as weird as they are beautiful, and both are fine additions to the cast.

As for Erio, she keeps spouting apparent nonsense about alien abductions and whatnot, and Makoto humors her by listening and not being too judgmental. Maekawa professes to have known Erio, who is “famous” for having dropped out of school, claiming abduction at first, then changing her story to becoming an observer. When her mom comes home and Makoto asks her about it, she tells him Erio has a half-year gap in her memory. We don’t know which is true…yet. But the truth will be verrry interesting. Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – First Impressions

I’m a fan of Studio SHAFT, ever since the manic-hilarious stylings of Mr. Despair. Though still not complete, I’ve already placed Puella Magi Madoka Magica up amongst my favorite anime. While that Winter anime has a female lead, this show will focus on a male one, named Makoto.

Like another lead this season (Ohana in Hanasaku Iroha), he is in a new town and a new school, with new family of sorts, consisting of his doesn’t-look-39-at-all aunt, and what for most of the episode is nothing more than a pair of legs sticking out of a rolled-up futon.

This girl, Erio, who reveals herself later as an Earth “observer” descended from aliens, could also be related to Nino from Arakawa. She is stunningly beautiful; somebody Makoto will have no problem living with. But she and her “mother” are definitely oddities. Erio’s manner of speaking is very odd indeed. As the straight-man, Makoto wants to try to live as normal a life as possible; going to school, checking out the cute girls, et cetera.

Like Puella Magi, Denpa takes place in a very nice-looking – if less futuro-baroque – setting; a huge and proud-looking city. The animation is very smooth and the colors are very pleasing. We don’t know quite how much absurdity Erio will cause, but I’m sold enough on the charms of the characters and the quality of the dialogue and production to keep watching until I find out. Rating: 3.5