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  • Full Frame
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • 2 Teaser trailer
  • 4 Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • Animated menus
  • 1 Music video

Boogiepop Phantom Evolution 1

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 85 mins . MA15+ . PAL


In the wake of the hugely successful Neon Genesis Evangelion and more recently Serial Experiments: Lain, anime in Japan has opened itself up to more innovative and experimental forces than at any time in its history. By all accounts, the late night slot on Japanese television has fast become a fertile bed in which animation is being taken in new and exciting directions. Boogiepop Phantom, a direct result of this new trend, is the most recent in a fresh breed of anime series to reach our shores.

Most alike in concept to the aforementioned Lain, Boogiepop is a genuinely creepy series; arguably the first to succeed in bringing gothic horror elements to the animated screen. Easily ranking as one of the most confusing anime I've ever seen, Boogiepop is certainly not for anyone looking for light entertainment. And yet it's also totally engrossing and wickedly addictively. If I had to compare it with another program, my first thought would be The Twilight Zone with which it shares that intangible late-night vibe and a pervading, understated creepiness.

While its labyrinthine plot is genuinely hard to explain, especially given only the sneak preview afforded by these first three episodes, the story centres around a mysterious paranormal cataclysm that has afflicted a non-descript Japanese city. Ever since that day, when a strange beam of intense light brought down every electrical circuit for miles, teenagers have been disappearing and rumours have been circulating about a mysterious figure called Boogiepop. Not only that, a strange aurora has covered the city, and with it have come visions and strange powers.

"Looking at the world as a whole, this incident was just a small piece of the big puzzle. But it's the pieces of the puzzle that form the whole picture..."

Each episode deals not with the cataclysm itself, but with a particular person who has been affected by it. The show is really about them and their interwoven lives; and yet always returns to the mystery of the cataclysm, the enigmatic figure of Boogiepop, and a serial killer that is seemingly stalking the city. It’s kind of like an episodic series akin to the X-Files, with stand-alone episodes that also add, no matter how insignificantly, to a central, elusive narrative. Of course, to relate each story - many of which happen almost simultaneously - a non-linear narrative is employed, weaving in and out of the past and the present day at a mind-numbing pace.

Episode 1: Portraits From Memory A shy and introverted young girl, Moto, has spent the last few years pining after her best friend's ex-boyfriend, Saotome, whom she has not seen since junior high. Saotome, however, was one of the first to disappear after the mysterious cataclysm. Consumed by her delayed sense of grief, Moto aimlessly wanders the city, only half hearing the circulating rumours that Boogiepop, the Angel of Death, is stalking the city streets. Depressed and contemplating death, she stumbles into a shocking encounter with Boogiepop herself.

Episode 2: Light in Darkness Jonouchi, a popular young man and would-be athlete, is cut down in his prime by a malignant tumour. But the cataclysm has given him a chance to play the heroic role that he always dreamed for himself, for Jonouchi has been given the gift to identify and remove the suppressed and consuming emotions of others – grief, guilt, regret and remorse. However, as his good deeds slowly turn bad (you are what you eat!), Jonouchi realises he is addicted to the emotions of others and he falls into a madness that only Boogiepop can cure.

Episode 3: Life Can Be So Nice Treated by Jonouchi for her particular emotional malaise, the quiet and studious girl Yoko yearns for another way to relive her suffering. But her desire leaves her vulnerable to the evil forces prowling the city. For her friend Misuzu, who believes in loving the world and accepting everything at face value no matter how bad it seems, has exposed her to an evil force that promises the relief that she craves.


Visually reminiscent of its predecessor Serial Experiments: Lain (many Lain staff were recruited for the production), Boogiepop’s approach to animation is as experimental as the series itself. A very simple, realistic style has been utilised that incorporates a minimalist approach to character movement. Likewise, the backgrounds are typically static and devoid of detail. Despite featuring a cast of predominantly teenage schoolgirls, the character designs shy away from the distinctive large eyes and hair of more up-beat anime productions. The results are stark, realistic images that add to the unsettling tone of the production; a tone that is further enhanced by a visual style reminiscent of the early days of film. To this end, the majority of each episode is rendered in deep sepia tones and is enclosed in an old-fashioned iris. The overall effect is classic gothic horror; the iris in particular adding a constrictive, almost claustrophobic feel to proceedings.

Whilst suffering from a few compression artefacts, Madman’s full-frame transfer of Boogiepop volume 1 is certainly serviceable. Detail is high, with the sharp image introducing nothing in the way of aliasing or moire. Whilst the palette is intentionally muted and essentially monotone, contrast is good, and there's nothing in the way of cross-colouration or bleeding. Black level is perfect – an essential ingredient given the dark nature of some of the scenes. Shadow detail, or whatever passes for shadow detail in the animated medium, has been left intentionally low, with some of the darkest nighttime scenes nearly completely blacked out. In fact, all three episodes flip-flop continually between painfully bright, washed out daytime scenes, and the impenetrable dark of a featureless night.

It may well be this continual transition between opposite ends of the visual spectrum that are the source of the transfer’s slight compression problems. The darker scenes are most affected, displaying a regular amount of macro blocking (pixelation) in the darkest non-black areas of the image. But the light scenes do not escape unscathed, with the odd instance of chroma noise creeping in. At the 12-minute mark in episode one there is also a quite marked video glitch. I imagine that this is inherent in the source material, although I am surprised it wasn’t cleaned up by US distributor RightStuf for the US release!

All in all, there’s nothing here that will spoil your enjoyment of Boogiepop, but overall it’s not quite up to Madman’s normally impeccable standards.


Anime fans can rest easy – accompanying the English dub is the original Japanese soundtrack, and although the dub is the default audio track, the disc allows you to select Japanese dialogue with English subtitles in one easy hit. The original two-channel Dolby Digital mix that aired on Japanese television, the Japanese soundtrack sounds pretty damn effective through a Prologic decoder. Each episode opens with the obligatory (curiously upbeat) JPop theme that is well balanced between the front and rear channels, and the audio mix that follows is one of the most spookily ambient of any that I’ve heard created for television. An eclectic combination of piercing sirens, distorted carnival music, half-tuned radio broadcasts and white noise, the soundtrack succeeds in completely unnerving the viewer. With great use of the surround channel, and also featuring great front channel separation, this really is a wonderful audio experience that greatly enhances the creepy tone of the series.

The second mix is an English dub produced by RightStuf and remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1. Whilst essentially the same sounds can be heard, this 5.1 mix is much more dynamic than the Japanese mix, with the addition of channel separation across the rear and even improvements in the channel separation across the front. RightStuf have also done a reasonable job with the English language aspects of the disc. Although some of the words have been changed for the dub, they really don’t deviate too far from the original Japanese dialogue. However, in my mind any improvements that they may have made in the ambience and overall creepiness with the 5.1 remix have been lost due to the insertion of American voice actors. Whilst the actors themselves are competent, replacing the subtly underplayed performances of the Japanese cast with what sound like (in comparison) clueless Californian schoolgirls, just doesn’t work for me. If only they’d taken the opportunity to apply the Japanese dialogue over their remix to produce a Japanese 5.1 version (am I wrong in thinking this wouldn’t have been too big a job?), boy would that have been something.


Distinctive and subtly animated menus provide access to a small number of extras. Included with the normal Madman extras is a wonderful commentary by key members of the RightStuf English language production team.

  • Commentary: RightStuf producer Geoff Thompson and sound engineer Joe deGeorgie talk about Boogiepop; the material, their involvement, and the English cast. Talking continuously for the entire 80-odd minutes (including during the inter-episode interludes), their enthusiasm for the show, and pride in the 5.1 mix they have produced, is obvious. Although I was a little tentative about the commentary to begin with (who wants to hear about the production of a dub?) I found their light, informal comments a great addition to the disc. They certainly give you a greater appreciation of the show, pointing out fascinating little observations that you might have missed. Wonderful stuff.

  • 30sec and 15sec Promotions: A long and short version of the Japanese television advertisement used to publicise the series.

  • Music Video: (1min 4sec) A montage of the more horror-filled scenes from the series provides a backdrop to the series’ catchy JPop closing tune.

  • Madman Propaganda: Trailers for four other DVD releases produced by Madman for region 4, Cowboy Bebop, Gundam Wing. Lain and my personal favourite Rurouni Kenshin.


Like Lain before it, Boogiepop Phantom is a breath of fresh air in the historically restrictive anime genre. Although I can't guarantee it will give you goosebumps, no doubt Boogiepop is best enjoyed late at night all alone on the sofa; the creepy plot, gothic visuals, and unnerving audio all adding up to a unique anime experience. I must say I'm hooked - this first disc represents a compelling introduction to the Boogiepop universe, and I wait impatiently for the further volumes in the series.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1655
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      And I quote...
    "...although I can't guarantee it will give you goosebumps, the creepy plot, gothic visuals, and unnerving audio all add up to one unique anime experience."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
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          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
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    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
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          Yamaha RX-V795
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          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
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          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
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