Higurashi no Naku Kori Ni
TV Series; 26 Episodes
Apr 5, 2006 to Sep 27, 2006
Genres: Comedy, Mystery, Drama, Horror, Psychological, Thriller
Original Creator: Ryukishi07
Production Studio: Studio DEEN, 07th Expansion,
Director: Chiaki Kon
Music Composition: Kenji Kawai, Tenmon
Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni [Higurashi] is a monstrous franchise that has spawned manga, anime, novels, films and drama CDs, but its roots began humbly enough as a dojin soft sound novel made by a small group of guys by the name of 07th Expansion. The small town of Hinamizawa, a sunny town in rural Japan, was born on that summer afternoon. Wild birds dot the vast landscape, and soft waves of veridian grass wash across the landscape. It's a small place, the local school only having one classroom with about fifteen students. Here we meet the young Keichii Maebara, a newcomer to the town. Here he spends time innocently enough, playing card games with his friends Rena, Satoko, Rika and Class President Mion. The sunny days idly roll by as the friends joke about without a care, a luxury offered to those not yet immersed in busy adulthood. These days of youthful joy seem like they will never end.
Tomorrow is the Watanagashi festival where the townsfolk let small balls of cotton swell with the misfortune of their lives and float down the river, erasing them from the tiny reality of Hinamizawa. The group of friends spend the day continuing their games, horsing around till the sun has finally set and the stars and moon paint themselves across the sky. Tomorrow will just be another day to celebrate.
A woman was found, her corpse burned, while another man had clawed on his own throat till he bled to death. The night of Watanagashi is anointed with their deaths. It's just a coincidence, right? Keichii finds out that this is the fifth set of murders that has occurred on the darkness of the town’s only festival. It can't just be... coincidence. Hinamizawa holds many secrets within the vile folds of its history – too many.
Higurashi’s plot left me guessing. Until the last few episodes, I never really knew what was going on. The story is dark and twisted, filled with blood, guts, death, insanity and despair. The innocence of the first few minutes of the show is quickly thrown away for an ominous atmosphere, which left me disoriented, but gave the story that much more impact.
The plot of Higurashi is structured into seemingly separate story arcs, each representing a separate story. Characters are reused and those that died in previous arcs come back for another round of horror and misfortune. At first, this structure makes a bright, flashing LED “WTF” sign go off in your head, but trust me, by Episode 26, it all comes together.
The characters gave the same feeling as the plot, apparently naïve and childlike at first. They appear to be two-dimensional clichés from any other slice-of-life anime, but as each arc develops, each character is given personality. Higurashi has some of the most memorable characters I’ve had the pleasure of seeing animated, as each tragedy adds layers of depth to each student.
The production was aimed for effect, not eye candy. The characters are of the super deformed variety: huge heads, large glassy eyes, barely visible noses and shoebox shoulders. Usually, I dislike this sort of design, but in Higurashi it works. The large eyes properly reflect the disturbances in the character’s souls, adding to the disturbing atmosphere, not detracting. The cuteness of the models against the backdrop of the gore makes terrifying scenes all the more unsettling.
The town of Hinamizawa itself is deliciously ironic. The art directors did a wonderful turning cheery settings into ominous stages for the next scene. The background itself isn’t anything special to look at, but it gets the job done.
The cinematography was excellent. I’ve heard Higurashi called disgusting, but most of the gruesome scenes are composed with cutaways and indirect shots. Episodes of brutality become that much more intense when all you can see is a silhouette, and all you can hear is the clank of a baseball bat shattering a skull.
The sounds of Higurashi were disappointing. The music did its job humbly without stealing much of my attention. My real complaint lies with the voice acting. Keichii and Rena’s voices have an annoying timbre that grated at my senses. Souichirou Hoshi work generally pleases me, but when delivering Keichii’s lines, his acting felt somewhat uninspired. The rest of the seiyuu do a plausible job, but nothing stood out as amazing.
Watchability and Enjoyment
Higurashi will be a hit or miss for the masses. If you can't sink your teeth into the morbid violence, you’ll instantly be turned off. But if such a thing tickles the fancy of the little voice hidden in the corner of your head (the one that asks you to buy a chainsaw and play lumberjack in a crowded train station), then Higurashi will keep you hooked. The mystery is addicting, every arc answering a few questions, but adding another set of riddles to be answered. I enjoyed Higurashi a great deal. I looked forward to each episode, shivering with sadistic anticipation to find out the many ways to skin a cheery, well-mannered anime schoolgirl. I mean, eating entrails is awesome! Did I tell you that this show is not for everyone…?
Higurashi poses an interesting question: how much can you take till your moral fibers snap, your iron rusts and crumbles and the tendrils of your sanity can no longer hold onto the edges of reality. Higurashi is an experiment of sorts: in what ways can you contort the mind without breaking anything? The answer: not many.
Sometimes, there is no hope. There is no light at the end of the tunnel; it just gets even darker. Higurashi is about annihilation, not just of the body, but the metaphorical death of identity, belief and ideals. Certain problems can’t be solved, and certain battles can’t be won. The piece serves to show that the hero can’t always win; sometimes he is trapped, waiting for the system to eventually turn him to ashes.
The depth of the show is immense, not only focusing on human interaction, but the psyche. Higurashi is ambitious in this regard, surprising considering it all began a doujin sound novel.
With an interesting mystery, deep characters and a twisted atmosphere, Higurashi is a unique show worth the watch. While some of the sound production could have been improved, it’s only a minor gripe. The story can more than compensate for the small flaws. So turn off the lights, grab your favorite plushie and hold it close because Higurashi no Naku Kori Ni will grab you by the neck and won't let go till the cicadas cry.