Boogiepop Phantom is a series which immediately makes one wonder whether their television is functioning correctly. Shortly after the melancholy opening it adds the speakers to that list. By the end of the first episode it adds the viewer's brain. It is a reverie of madness, murder, altered states and narrative intrigue: each episode teasing an explanation but rarely delivering in full, each appearance of the titular Boogiepop - or is it the Manticore? - promising a new thread to tie in with the myriad others. Existing in a microcosm of light novels, manga and a live-action movie as well as sharing idiosyncrasies and the brutally obtuse style of its spiritual predecessor, Serial Experiments Lain, the question the series' lineage poses is whether it can stand by itself or whether it relies too much on its forebears and source material to support itself.
some of the darkest aspects of humanity are explored with obsession, madness and memories playing a key role
A month before the opening of the series, a pillar of light erupts in a nameless cityscape, dragging it into darkness. Those who witness the light began to change, much like the city itself, now with a permanent aurora in the sky and a magnetic field that makes compasses useless and corrodes metal at a frightening rate. Those who changed exhibit strange powers: the ability to see and consume insects clutching peoples' chests, the power to separate composite objects like coffee or humans even the capability to show people scenes of their pasts. All the while they are stalked by the urban legend Boogiepop, supposedly the personification of death, who appears without warning to rid the world of the deviations that have sprung up. Clandestine talk of impossibly powerful corporations and unnatural evolution ensure that understanding the circumstances behind all of the strange occurrences will not be straightforward.
Casting Aya Hirano as the lead character is not the worst thing that Fairy Tail does, but it comes close. Her voice is so identifiable and her status so confoundingly overwhelming that it overshadows many of the other more accomplished actors such as Rie Kugimiya (Alphonse from Fullmetal Alchemist) and Tetsuya Kakihara (Simon from Gurren Lagann). The worst thing Fairy Tail does however is through a concerted and continuous effort, wringing all aspects of originality from itself; one would have a more rewarding experience staring at a beige rug than watching the first three episodes.
poor characters can't be rectified by multiplying the number of them
Lucy is a seventeen year old wizard whose uselessness is matched only by her peppiness. No back story is given to her, no parents or family members mentioned, a blank canvas to scrawl childlike motives on in crayon. Living in a world where every gawping twit can buy magically imbued items, she of course wants to join a most notorious and powerful guild, the titular Fairy Tail. After being duped onto a boat and subsequently kidnapped, she is saved by a powerful but sloppy member of the guild, Natsu, and by the end of the first episode she is unceremoniously inducted into the supposedly elitist group. The following two have her run errands for the group. Hilarity ensues.
Visually at least, Letter Bee is remarkably striking: washes of indigo and pinpricks of grey-whites make it aesthetically strong; however in the perpetual twilight of the fantasy world it portrays, appreciation turns quickly into indifference. The motif of particles drifting softly from the sky is overused to the point where its original implication is questionable; sepia flashbacks are replete with translucent stars while during the initial two episode journey, spores and whatever else constantly accompany the bland dialogue and sloth-like storyline.
The first of what is likely to many other ridiculously named comrades is Niche
The first three episodes describe Lag Seeing's - just one of a number of absurd names - journey towards becoming a Letter Bee - essentially an armed postman. Lag is initially found tethered to a monument next to the charred remains of a village, from there he is taken by Gauche - a current Letter Bee - across the mountains, encountering terrible CG beasties along the way. The set up is painfully typical and Lag spends the majority of the opening episodes leaking from all of his facial orifices and whining incessantly, compounded by the addition of a surly, alien looking toddler who, by some kind of perverse skill, magnifies Lag's annoying mannerisms. Dull, plodding and lifeless, Letter Bee is impossible to enjoy and difficult to tolerate.
How many eyes? 11eyes. Certainly more than 3×3 Eyes and The Girl with the Blue Eye, numerically at least. A fascination with eyes and in particular eyepatches (see also Rental Magica, Tenjou Tenge et. al.), this series has the standard outfitting of an enigmatic past and hidden powers connected with said eye as well as a natty patch to keep it all under wraps. Even though it exists as a blatant amalgam of many other ideas and series that have gone before it, 11eyes: Tsumi to Batsu to Aganai no Shoujo (Sin, Damnation and the Atonement Girl) cracks the barrier of dense nomenclature and proves moderately watchable.
it wouldn't be surprising to see a frivolous and inconsequential beach or hot spring storyline in succeeding episodes
A lot of this is down to its refusal to wholly mollycoddle the viewer. By the middle of the second episode the cycloptic protagonist has already worked out it is him that draws those around him into the monster-infested "Red Night" and by the end of the third episode the most recently introduced cast member is given a serviceable raison dêtre. The slow reveal of new party members is still present, again robbed of any interest by the revelatory opening, and the typical standby of the desire to grow stronger and protect those close is bolted to the lead male. By keep the most interesting mysteries close and trivialising the more mundane aspects, the series' introductory episodes maintain interest but demand little further thought.
There are many good panty episodes in anime: episode four of Mai-HiME springs to mind as one, episode three of Yoku wakaru gendai mahou is not. Whereas the former had comic timing well beyond what one would have expected its studio to be able to produce, the latter is tawdry, boring tripe and is just the crowning achievement of an another muddled and bland instalment in the chicks-with-sticks and magic genre.
arcane magic of the hand-waving, runic variety and the "modern" magic of binary and cellphones
The series opens strongly with a battle against a sharply dressed wizard by two small girls who promptly get pummelled; rewinding six hours, the viewer is then treated to the first (and likely not the last) exposure of a criminally underage girl's posterior - while being chased by the impossibly sedate antagonist and engaging in some cryptic dialogue with other notable cast members. The public display of flesh is uncomfortable viewing, not only for the implied age of the participant but the futility of its inclusion - lacking any development of characters or story, it borders on pornography. From this low starting point, the first three episodes stumble haphazardly around like a late-night drunkard: first episode events are neither explained or explored and it's only upon reflection that the upcoming twist is made obvious. Elsewhere, characters who were no more than bystanders are now learning magic with the protagonist while incidents are nothing more than contrivances for character collisions. All of this set to a constant barrage of camera angles designed to place the poorly drawn breasts of the more well endowed females front-and-centre.