published in Empire No.70, Sydney
Boogie Pop Phantom is a story about ghosts – about their unseen presence in everyday life as well those mortals afflicted with the ability to see them. The series profiles a range of traumatised and near-suicidal high-schoolers whose empty sense of life has rendered them prey for ‘soul eaters’ – modern versions of the ancient ‘hungry ghosts’ of Japanese lore. Across the episodes, a complex web entwines these teens as they interconnect with the mysterious Boogie Pop Phantom – an apparition of death – and Nagi Kirima, a tough psychic battler. Others weave in and out the overlapping episodes and their time-shifting stories, with ghosts, clones and copies from the past and present haunting everyone as they loose themselves down labyrinthine paths. This is a series with no clear journey, but a riveting maze of aligned forces.
Boogie Pop Phantom forges its split between the real world and the ghost world with perceptiveness and clarity. What could have been a mere spook show becomes an amazing audiovisual work which places you deep inside the mind of its possessed personnel. The visuals are remarkably static, often capturing the teens in disembodied solitary environments. Filtered light effects and chiascuro overlays mark the series’ rejection of the brighter Pop palette expected of anime. Movement and dynamics mostly occur when spirits and ghosts enter the real world, usually channelled throughout the wired city, its buildings, and any electrical devices. Human, cloned and ghost voices are orchestrated in ways that drives the series with an unrelenting anxiety. The soundtrack’s sharp edits, reverberant speech, dissonant tones and distorted electronica greatly enhances this.
Ultimately, Boogie Pop Phantom’s story is a chilling yet precious poem of loneliness and alienation – a tone in contrast to the lighter fantasy of much spirit anime. If you want to get lost in the abyss of nothingness, this anime is calling your name.