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.

Advertisements

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 10 – Keep Calm and Scary On

Boogiepop and Others is hard enough to follow without having surplus episodes piled atop one another, but the day after last week’s conclusion to the Imaginator arc, that’s just what happened: four episodes dropping at once, comprising an entire arc. Because this first of the four had its own OP, ED, and self-contained story, I’ve decided to watch and review them each separately, as if they aired on different days.

This is the story of how Boogiepop got her admittedly bizarre name. She’s responding to a question from our favorite benevolent alien, Echoes, while the two are wandering a ruined, post-apocalyptic landscape. A stuffed animal that crumbles in his hand suggests it’s Earth of the distant (or not-too-distant) future. Wherever and whenever it is, it’s super creepy.

Boogiepop’s name origin story starts with a detective named Kuroda, AKA Scarecrow. Like Orihata Aya/Camille, he’s a synthetic human working for the Towa Organization. His colleague Pigeon gives him his next mission: checking up on fellow member Teratsuki Kyouichirou, suspected of betraying Towa. We learn from Kuroda that Towa is a vast network primarily dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of human evolution; both how we got to where we are, and what comes next.

Teratsuki kinda fades into the background as Kuroda finds someone more intriguing at one of his sprawling medical facilities: a young Kirima Nagi (younger than the previous episodes in which we’ve seen her). She notes that her somewhat unusual first name is based on the sentiment of “keeping calm no matter the situation”, and her personal situation is not optimal: diagnosed as “growing pains,” she has fits of pain so intense she can’t even describe it.

Nagi is also very much like the young woman we’ve seen in the present thus far: gorgeous, upbeat, direct, intensely curious, and dedicated to the truth: a natural detective in larval form. Once Kuroda gets past her guard (Naoko), he presents the results of her request for him to investigate her: he discovered her agent was embezzling her money and got him fired.

But despite all the qualities that make our Nagi Nagi in the present, this past Nagi is deeply uncertain and apprehensive about who and what she should become, if and when her condition is healed. Kuroda asserts that everyone feels that way on the road to coming into themselves. He himself dreamed of becoming a superhero who, unlike a detective, didn’t have to worry about all of the peripheral crap that comes with solving crimes. Just rush in, get the job done, and call it a day.

This perks Nagi up, and she says Kuroda should definitely become a superhero. Their visit is cut short when she starts having fits of pain, but when she grabs him, it leaves a raw mark, almost like a burn. That clinches it for Kuroda: Nagi is one of the “NPSLs” its his usual mission to locate. She’s evolving to the next stage…but it’s a rough gestation, which is keeping her in a hospital bed, unable to realize her own dreams.

Thus Kuroda—”Scarecrow”—decides to make a grand, superheroic gesture to Nagi, whom he’s decided to be the recipient of his heroism. He ransacks a Towa facilities to find a serum that would normally act as a catalyst for human evolution. Because Nagi is already evolving without it, administering it offsets the “possibility” that is tearing her apart from within. With one injection, he enables her to live the (relatively) normal human life she enjoys in the present.

While his act was both heroic and kind from the perspective of those of us rooting for Nagi to survive and thrive, it also broke a lot of Towa rules, and they send an assassin to eliminate him for his treachery against the organization. That assassin, Sasaki, is lightning quick of foot and deadly with a knife, but Kuroda demonstrates he can be pretty fast himself. While the two may look like a couple of regular-looking schlubs, they move like superheroes.

While Kuroda gets away, it isn’t before Sasaki gives him a wound from which he knows he won’t recover. That’s when a “reaper” appears, in the form of Touka, offering a chance to judge him favorably for doing something heroic for someone, even if it led to his demise.

Kuroda wonders if he’s speaking to a near-death delusion, but we know she’s really there. He calls her “creepy bubble”—like a boogieman that pops into and out of existence. Thus the title “Boogiepop”. When Sasaki finds Kuroda’s body, the Scarecrow is smiling, and why not? It may have cost his life, but he saved Kishima Nagi. For one night, he was a superhero. And one night was enough.

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 – 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 – 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.