Garden of Phantoms

hisui_icon_4040_round I recently showed my roommate a video about the origins of metal music. The main take away for this post is that with any musical genre it is hard to point to a definitive moment, song, or band that acts as a hard boundary. For ease of conversation and understanding, you usually pick a few iconic selections to help provide a shared vocabulary but any amount of conversion with other fans will usually teach you that there is rarely a universal standard shared by everyone. Most of this comes from the fact that artists are usually taking in many different streams of inspiration that influence what they do while changes within a medium are usually very gradually incremental even if they might seem hugely iterative on a case by case basis. The major groundbreaking works are usually the accumulation of many other works even if they are not overtly obvious.

What I am saying is often not always a simple straight line of inspiration for anything. But connections can be made if you dig. They are rarely 1:1 affair but tracking major influences are often enlightening to the creation of a work or prove interesting insight into the mind of a creator. I recently stumbled on a pair of characters that made me start a bit of research into who inspired who. Those characters are Boogiepop from the Boogiepop series and Ryougi Shiki from Kara no Kyoukai.

If nothing else you can’t complain that the Boogiepop series is written in an overly simplistic writing style that often exemplifies the worst light novels. The layered narratives of any Boogiepop story can make untangling what is happening a bit of a challenge. It is a central characteristic of the series that earns it many of its most devoted fans but also makes a number of people bounce off the series. Since I am the only person in our little anime group watching Boogiepop and Others who has read any of the novels I have unofficially become the guy who tries to explain things. (Al’s Protip: Reading the first three Boogiepop novels in English or watching Boogiepop and Others makes Boogiepop Phantom 100 times easier to understand.) This made me start taking apart the mechanics of the world of Boogiepop even more than usual. Now let’s be honest. I was going to do that anyway. It is just in this case it occupied my head space a little more than usual. Thinking about how Boogiepop worked like a supernatural creature mechanically made me realize something.

So Boogiepop is a genderless being that generally exists outside of normal existence and only really interacts with the mundane universe when a world-threatening supernatural phenomenon rears its head. When Boogiepop pops up it does so by enhancing a young woman for as long as it takes to remove the threat to the world. Boogiepop’s host, Touka Miyashita, is mainly unaware of the entity possessing them and is unable to call them on their own. When Boogiepop appears it is tremendously wise if inhuman and is a god of combat.

Now if you exchange Void Shiki for Boogiepop and Ryougi Shiki for Touka Miyashita I do not have to change a single word in the previous paragraph. Now there are hardly complete copy pastes. Ryougi Shiki is a very dangerous supernatural warrior even without Void Shiki whereas Touka Miyashita is borderline stereotypically mundane. Also, their thematic and narrative purposes in the story are drastically different. It is just as a magical device they function remarkably similar.

At first, I just assumed that one title inspired the other either Kinoko Nasu read Boogiepop or Kouhei Kadono read Kara no Kyoukai and decided to put their own spin on a character they found interesting. So I decided to check which title came first. It turns out that Kara no Kyoukai started in October of 1998 and Boogiepop and Others was released in February of 1998. So theoretically Nasu could have read Boogiepop and Others and then imminently decided to write Kara no Kyoukai in response to his experience. It is hardly out of the question but I think there is a more likely solution.

My guess would be that they are both inspired by the same thing. It could be something in a popular book, movie, game, TV show. It might have been a story, legend, movement, or piece of mythology that had existed for a while but had recently gained a resurgence at the time. It could be nothing more than synchronicity. It also could be a greater wave that I’m also only seeing two data points of. So far I am mainly in the realm of supposition.

If you are expecting answers here I am sad to tell you I don’t currently have answers. This is more me announcing an attempt to discover an answer. Theoretically, someone could already have the answer. The simplest solution would be pointing me to an interview with Nasu or Kadono where they discuss the origin of their character. A more complex answer might come from a knowledgeable person who has a good idea of what one or both characters are based on. This might not be a definitive answer but it could give us an extremely likely candidate. “Boogiepop sound exactly like this Ainu legend” or “Void Shiki reminds me of this one yokai” might be open to dispute but a solid match would be worth discussing.

So if I find something resembling a good candidate I will do a follow-up post. Until then any suggestions or solutions are very much welcome.

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