Boogiepop and Others, officially titled Boogiepop wa Warawanai (2019) is a masterpiece of the supernatural, psychological and philosophical genres. It’s my favorite of the Winter 2019 anime and one which abruptly claimed a spot in my top twenty favorite anime ever. There are many different characters in the show who have their own stories and troubles highlighted. Sakiko is one them. For most of the series, she isn’t a central character at all. In the last arc, however, Sakiko becomes an ally of the King of Distortion in order to be Boogiepop’s enemy. Why?
Her story is shown through her talk with the King of Distortion in episode 15. In the last days of elementary school, a girl named Hina was Sakiko’s best friend. Sakiko percieved her friend as less pretty than herself since Hina had a less curvy body and no apparent breasts. One day, Sakiko realized that the boy she had a crush on had feelings for Hina. Jealous and angry, Sakiko lashed out at Hina, insulting her body, and breaking up the friendship. They both started middle school, but Sakiko couldn’t get up the courage to apologize to Hina and try to rebuild their relationship.
Before long, a tragedy occured. Hina and her parents were all killed in a car accident. From the first year of middle school to the first year of high school, Sakiko’s guilt and grief left her emotionally broken. She could never forgive herself for not apologizing to Hina. She could never get over the loss of Hina, who had always been such a kind best friend. Somehow, the accident seemed like it was Sakiko’s own fault. Doing drugs in highschool was just one sign that Sakiko was in a bad place. Hina’s death was the trauma that shaped Sakiko’s mentality, as she struggled with survivor’s guilt.
During her talk with the King of Distortion, Sakiko was told that she should turn her pain into gold. What exactly the Distortion King meant with this phrase is up to interpretation. Sakiko took it to mean that she needed to find a way to be reunited with Hina and/or create a world that was worthy of people as kind as Hina. But those things were impossible, so Sakiko decided the only thing she could do was die. By dying, she would be free of her pain, and if there was an afterlife, she might see Hina again. She reasoned that the world would be a better, more “golden” place if people like her just died.
It’s likely that Sakiko already struggled with suicidal ideation long before meeting the King of Distortion. A person has suicidal ideation when they are preoccupied with intrusive thoughts wanting to die all the time. If someone is actively trying to die, they are suicidal, but with suicidal ideation, the person may not actually try to hurt or kill themselves. Some people with suicidal ideation look for ways to die in accidents or ways to get other people to kill them. They don’t want to be the one to end things.
Sakiko knew that Boogiepop killed people sometimes, so she sought her out and essentially begged to be killed. In Boogiepop and Others episode 17, the following conversation takes place.
“No human really wants to die,” says Boogiepop.
“That’s not true!” Sakiko insists. “There are plenty of people, sick of life, who really do want to die!”
“That just means they have a choice to make. If they keep living, then everything they have lived for until then will die.” By defining death as the psychological concept of one’s life becoming worthless, Boogiepop clarifies what she meant when she said no human wants to die. In order to despair at one’s life, one must have lived a life they believed in, participated in, or enjoyed.
“To have the right to ask to be killed,” Boogiepop continues, “you have to actually live first. Do you really have that right?”
Here, the phantom being is showing that she’s aware Sakiko hasn’t been participating in or trying to live her own life. She has only been running away from reality, or suffering by dwelling on the past. It seems Sakiko can’t argue with the fact that she’s not really living, so she tries to change her reasoning.
“But,” she stammers. “But I’m really horrible! I’m really a hopelessly bad person!”
I empathize so deeply with Sakiko here. Like me, and many people who have struggled with suicidal ideation, she experiences self-loathing. Sakiko hates herself. She hates herself so much that it also became easy to act hateful toward others. Plus, she truly believes she is a bad person. That is justification for others to kill her, as far as she is concerned. I remember feeling this way too.
“Does being ‘bad’ make it ok for me to kill you?” asks Boogiepop calmly.
“Of course it does!” Sakiko exclaims. “The world would be better off with fewer bad people!”
“So, you want a world with only ‘good’ people?”
Sakiko answers yes. She says that she shouldn’t be allowed to live, because the world should be a place where only people like Hina can live peacefully. Reiterating what the King of Distortion told her, she says she “I must turn my pain to gold.” It seems like she can’t think of how to do this, except by dying.
Revealing what she really wants, Sakiko exclaims, “I’d do anything to live in a world with Hina!”
Again, I feel so much for Sakiko. This is personal for me. I also had a Hina. A best friend who was the kindest person in the world from my perspective. She didn’t die, but she cut me out of her life forever. I will never get over it, not completely. The loss of my Hina shattered and twisted me more than any breakup I’ve had with a significant other, and more than the deaths of my relatives who passed on. I would do anything to live in a world where my best and dearest friend acknowledged me again.
That’s when Boogiepop simply states the following. “Hina is part of you. If she was kind, that’s actually your own kindness. … That means you’ve been distorting your kind nature this whole time. That’s not easy to do. I’m sure the distortion has been causing you pain for a very long while. But the amount of pain you’ve felt shows how kind you are. Hina appeared so she could show you that. You’ve already achieved it. If your feelings now aren’t gold, then truly nothing in this world glitters.”
This moved me from being a little teared up to sobbing in a rather lame and embarrassing way. It wasn’t the first time I had heard something like this; I have a few friends and a very understanding therapist who have told me equally eye-opening things. Unlike Hina in the anime, my friend was the one who was horrible to me, leaving me for a very prejudiced reason. I am actually a far kinder person than her because even after she pushed me away, I have missed her every day for four years. Even so, hearing about Sakiko and her similar situation in Boogiepop was deeply touching to me.
Putting my personal issues aside, I think Boogiepop meant for Sakiko to understand that Hina is still alive within her. The part of a person that stays behind with you after they leave you or die can never replace the lost person or end your loneliness; however, if you accept that it’s there, it can bring you peace. A part of Hina lives on in the dreams, memories, and imagination of Sakiko. Plus, Hina’s kindness lives on through the kindness of Sakiko herself, which she had never recognized.
For Sakiko, “turning pain into gold” meant acknowleding her own goodness. By continuing to do this, Sakiko might see a full recovery from survivor’s guilt and suicidal ideation, eventually. But nothing is ever simple or easy. Sakiko asks if Boogiepop would kill her if she ever became an enemy of the world. When Boogiepop answers in the affirmative, Sakiko smiles. It’s an ambiguous ending that’s just right for a show like Boogiepop and Others.