Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (When They Cry) Review
Keiichi Maebara- Protagonist who moves to the town and starts to hear about mysterious murders. His impact and involvement to the events is crucial.
Rena Ryugu- Main female protagonist whose parents divorced,and who believes she is cursed. Very cute and loves dumpster diving for cute things.
Mion Sonazaki- Next head of the Sonazaki family, she is also a friend of Keiichi's and twin of Shion.
Shion Sonazaki- Mion's twin sister who was sent away at birth because there can only be one head of the family. She returns to her hometown secretly to be close with her sister. Keiichi at first believes its just Mion playing a game until he sees them both at the same time.
Satoka Houjou- Satoka is a young girl who has been through childhood trauma's because of the curse. Also lost her brother mysteriously and is good friends with Rika.
Rika Furude- Heir to the local shrine she has been the head of the Furude family since the death of her parents. She appears cute and childish at first but we occasionally see a different side to her when she suddenly speaks in a mature woman's voice.
Introduction To Higurashi.
Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni is an anime series directed by Chiaki Kon, released in 2006, and comprising of 26 episodes, this Horror anime is certainly one to watch. Having heard very little about the show, I decided to give it a go anyway, and by the end of the first episode I was hooked. The story is told in an unusual way, with four question arcs, and two answer arcs. The question arcs basically set up the story, with different outcomes each time, giving viewers hints as to the truth behind what is happening, while the answer arcs show these truths through different perspectives.
Keiichi is a young boy who has only recently moved to the town of Hinamizawa, where he quickly becomes friends with three girls; Rika Furude, Satoko Houjou and Rena Ryuuguu. At first everything is lighthearted and fun as they spent their time playing games and having fun. After Keiichi hears of a brutal murder that happened soon before he arrived to the town, people start acting weird. The Town itself seems a normal, quaint place, and every year they hold an annual cotton drifting festival. Four years previous a company came to the town and tried to build a damn, which would have left the townspeople without homes. They fought against it and a man was killed mysteriously. The company vanished and the townspeople saved their home. However, since that year, people have started to mysteriously die and disappear without a trace during the cotton festival each year. Keiichi and his new friends try to figure out the truth behind these mysterious deaths and missing people.
Higurashi begins quite bright and cheerful. The four friends spend their time playing games and having fun. The animation appears to match this feel as its bright, colourful and always plays the most cheery music. Suddenly Keichi hears about a death that occurred before he arrived. Soon after things with his friends become weird, they start to act suspicious and become pretty creepy. He attempts to figure the mystery surrounding the death and finds himself falling at the hands of his friends. The next arc begins the story over, and certain things differ this time. We learn certain things about each character we hadn't previously known, like Mion who is next in line as the leader of the Sonazaki family, and that she has an identical sister, Shion.
What we previously knew about the Cotton drifting murders each year was that one victim was killed and the other always disappeared without a trace. This time around however, both were killed. Rika and Satoka disappear mysteriously. Rena and Keiichi figure out that it has something to do with Mion but have no proof. Instead they confront her and she admits she had something to do with it. She manages to convince them to give her a moment alone with Keichi, and lures him into a dungeon, where he see's Shion caged up. This story differs hugely from the previous, since he was first killed by Shion and Rika. This time around he still doesn't manage to escape to death.
Rewind yet again and the story begins anew. With each new take on the story (Stories) something is different, and yet they find themselves in the situation every time, just under different conditions. The curse too seems to have many theories, and the entire show is like an evaluation of all possible outcomes.
So while the show begins colorful and cheery, by the end, there are rarely any bright moments. The story finishes by explaining the situation but does so through various interpretations of the plot. We see a lot of gory, horrific death and torture scenes, that don't appear to waver at all by the last four or five episodes. It begins so colorful as a way of making the horror that much more effective. The cuteness of the characters and the juxtaposition they create does this also, as its not only hard for us to imagine such adorable little girls acting in such horrific ways, but when they are the victims it is even harder to watch. Its almost like the characters have no choice but to be either killers or be killed. They are forced into this role each and every time with no escape and each time the story is told from the perspective of a character that seems to know what is going on and their subsequent struggle to both overcome their fate and save their friends. From what I could gather, the characters are reliving these events each time through either parallel universes or a kind of Groundhog day phenomenon, without the knowledge of previous time lines, however one character seems the remember these previous experiences. Rika Furude appears to be a simple, cute little girl, but at certain points in this series we notice she is more intelligent that she seems, with knowledge of the events beyond what the others know. She herself is tormented by the events, lending to the tense atmosphere of the series. However, just because she can remember the previous events, the other characters all appear to reliving their own versions of hell, at different times appearing completely insane and at others quite sincere and normal.
The characters all fight their destiny, and believe that together they can change fate. ""We will break this so called 'fate' together." Of course they don't, and they all die horrible, violent and terrifying deaths. However, by the end we have an actual explanation for the curse, based on scientific evidence, that turns this story from a supernatural thriller into the somewhat realistic story of a disease turning people crazy. we are given answers to nearly everything that took place, and even with this, the fact that the characters never do escape this hell, creates a lingering terror. We as an audience know they cannot escape, and will continue to live through the events over and over, as if they are playing a game and trying to win with their prize for winning being their lives. In fact games are a significant part to this story, we first see them all together playing different games, and punishing the loser, and this has correlations to the events that eventually kill them with the entire scenario being similar to a game and the losers being killed.
Concluding the series
The series ends with explanations to a lot of the events that happened, we know that it is Hinamizawa syndrome is the cause of all the torment, causing paranoia in victims forcing them to commit strange and horrific acts, including murder and suicide. There is a vaccine for this, and we see it in the first arc where Keiichi gets killed. Rena and Mion try to inject him with something, then we see him calling the police and telling them he is being followed, and then finally we see he has been killed. Of course by the end of the series we know that both Mion and Rena were trying to help Keiichi who was obviously affected by Hinamizawa syndrome and due to his paranoia he killed them and then himself.
So these are the kinds of answers we get to the series, which wraps up most of the issues. However, there are still blatant questions left unanswered, like how the whole parallel universe thing works, why its happening and how Rika keeps her memories each time. And then there are smaller things like the character of Takano, who was burned alive on the night of the cotton drifting festival. We find out later that she has actually died the day before, even though Keiichi was offered a lift home a day later by her. Her story and character are still a mystery by the end of the series, along with other things, like how Rika knows the exact day of her own death.
These little unanswered questions are definitely going to have me watching season 2, No Naku Koro ni Kai. And with When They Cry being one of the best horror anime series out there, I'm confident I wont be disappointed.
How many Stars?
What did you think?
Was Higurashi as good for you as it was for me?
Well this series is everything I was looking for. Confusing, chaotic horrific and truly terrifying, it brings a whole new meaning to Horror Anime. With so many questions building throughout the series, and the plot becoming even more out there, its hard not to get invested in the characters journey to overcome fate and escape death. The cuteness and colorful look to the beginning only heightens the effect of the terror.