Boogiepop - Music Inspired by Boogiepop and Others

Yushiro (Former Staff) — March 26th, 2003
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The anime Boogiepop Phantom is just one later incarnation of the original Boogiepop novels written by Kouhei Kadono - there was another retelling of the novels in the form of the manga illustrated by Kouji Ogata, Boogiepop wa Warawanai (literally, "Boogiepop doesn't laugh", though also known as Boogiepop and Others). Though essentially based on the same material, the manga and the anime take different approaches to the story and characters. In an similar contrast, albeit sharper, the soundtracks crafted for the two incarnations are both very different works, which I hope to demonstrate in the two reviews.

Obviously, the Boogiepop and Others album is not a soundtrack per-se, but carries the familiar "inspired by" moniker. I'd like to tell you to look past the stigma normally associated with this label (and how it applies to most motion picture soundtracks released these days, where the music only has passing connection to the work, at best), but I never truly felt the songs to be immediately evocative of the Boogiepop world. One can feel certain themes and moods latent in the music that it shares with Boogiepop - it just isn't readily related, in my mind anyway, despite the fact that each song is said to be inspired by a certain character. In some ways, this does make the Boogiepop Phantom soundtrack, with its generally long drawn out instrumentation, a better match for the series. But it simply doesn't make for music as good as the Others album, regardless of where the music does and doesn't 'belong' in the scheme of things.

I do have to make mention of how painfully short the album is, standing at just under forty minutes, which inevitably leaves me longing for more. Each song could have easily been longer, as they all have small "movements" and changes in style/tempo that could have certainly been expanded upon, but cut off relatively quickly, oftentimes rather abruptly. Perhaps there were constraints placed on Kajiura or some other desire of her own that I'm unaware of, but the unusually short running time is something I think most people will question.

The music itself... is a bit hard to pin down. The songs are less of a fusion of old and new that can been seen in Kajiura's more recent work, such as in Noir and .hack, and more of an inclusion of an element of the old in a mostly modern style song, that style being a somewhat conservative form of electronic. While this is usually seen as a piano leading into or carrying itself along with the main sequence of the song, it can range from something like a riding saxophone (as in the Nepenthe songs) to the organ in Egotism.

The Nepenthe songs are probably the best illustration of what to expect from the album, as the songs encompass both the haunting and driving attitude exuded from the music. I'll let the sample below speak for itself as to the quality of the song. (I should mention, though, that the songs are essentially the same - the second song is merely "Nepenthe #1 light", lacking the forcefulness of the first.) Criss-Cross takes the "driving" portion of the album and magnifies it ten-fold, resulting in a truly energetic song, which would be perfectly set to a fast-paced, but graceful, battle. The "haunting" aspect is a bit more subtle on the rest of the album than in the voice-overs in the Nepenthe songs. Some of the quieter songs are a good place to find these, such as Porcelain which starts with parrying piano and synth track (the later of which is done by Kajiura herself), then rising in pace with a mild percussion beat. Suffice to say, the music isn't any one thing or another, to be categorized anymore than I already have - it'll keep you entertained with everything it has to offer.

There is an odd inclusion on the record, a purely classical song, though slightly altered from the original in a "Boogiepop Version", Wagner's Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg. It is fairly standard classical fare, so it may or may not appeal to you, depending on how your tastes run. Not being an active classical fan myself, I found to to be enjoyable, if a bit... more barren, instrumentation-wise, than I was expecting in comparison to the rest of the songs on the album (though certainly with more going on than most traditional music in the genre from the past few centuries).

Egotism, though, is one song I feel to be almost entirely out of place. It is far too jazzy and upbeat in the main section to mesh well with the rest of the album, especially an album meant to be representative of the Boogiepop universe. Not only that, but it is said to be modeled after the Manticore, which I find to be incomprehensible. Perhaps I'm just beating on a dead horse, but it is hard not to stress how little the music and manga relate when the differences are this easy to see. It still doesn't change the fact that this is a wonderful album to listen to, and will probably have greater longevity as regular listening for me than most anime albums.

The packaging, while not overflowing with content, is notable in what it does have. The booklet is comprised mostly of random poignant quotes from the books, translated in the US release and with page notations, interspersed with a few black and white pieces of Kouji Ogata's beautiful artwork. (The book The Art of Kouji Ogata is a fantastic buy, too, if I may plug that here. If you liked the artistic style of anime at all, it is well worth picking up. It, like the soundtrack, is available at Animenation... but you can get it cheaper at Amazon Japan.) Finally, in what is probably of less interest to most people, it has full (and I mean everybody) song credits for musicians and technicians. Probably what pleased me the most was the full translation of this in the US release, as it is good to the time take to give credit where it is due. (I hate it when translators skimp on credits, in any medium.)

The songs on this album feel like tunes you've know intimately in ages past, but infused with greater depth and activity than what you knew them to be, with complexities wrapped in, around, and through each song. I love the album. And I love how the album doesn't just resort to ambient noise as the centerpiece of a song, as it would have been so easy to do (and was done on the Boogiepop Phantom soundtrack), but keeps you engaged with a variety of styles and methods. Though the music isn't exactly what I would associate with Boogiepop, it is still absolutely gorgeous, and some of Kajiura's best work. It is on the short side, but the low retail price of the US release makes it a great buy.