Who knew mixing lolis and horror would be such a fun and disturbing mix? Higurashi effectively mixes elements of mystery, slice of life, and horror to create a world out of the town of Hinamizawa that makes you wonder just what the heck is going on.
Looks are deceiving when you see the cute character art of Higurashi. This is a dark series that brings you into its world where you are sucked into what appears to be a slice-of-life anime focused on a circle of friends. But as Keiichi becomes acquainted with his friends and activities of the town, he realizes there are some pretty dark secrets that he doesn't know of with his friends and the town. Murders, torture, paranoia, conspiracies, belief in the occult. This is much of what you will find throughout Higurashi. This is one gory and disturbing title, especially as the girls who are supposed to be Keiichi's friends are a part of the mess in some way.
There are two unique things that brought me to be addicted to Higurashi. The first thing is how the arcs in the series are handled. The linearity of the plot development is twisted around as it can go back and forth between different events or take place in an alternate timeline. This would function like how one makes decisions in a storybook game. The first three arcs feature Keiichi becoming acquainted with one of the girls and learning more of the girl's history and personality as he understands them more. But as he gets closer to this girl, he comes to see one or more of these gals as being a part of the mystery surrounding the town festival murders and disappearances. If Keiichi goofs up with a gal, then he gets another chance in the next arc. Quite a fresh approach for an anime based on a storybook game.
The second aspect is something I haven't seen since Perfect Blue . Higurashi loves messing with your perceptions of events taking place throughout the series. If you think the plot is going one way, then the series throws in a plot twist to make you think otherwise. With the paranoia seen in some points of this series, you never know whether something really is happening to one character or they've just gone looney. Within these twists in plot, hints are also dropped at points within each arc to give you a clue regarding certain aspects of the plot or characters. This is done quite often in the first three arcs. The later three arcs unveil facts behind much of the events that take place in the earlier arcs. But, there are some mysteries to the series left unresolved until Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai .
Higurashi features some vibrant color in its artwork and character designs. There's not enough heavy movement in this title for me to rate the animation and character designs employ the typical moe look for the female characters. While this may seem like a turn-off for the series, it helps add to the show's disturbing thoughts of seeing young girls kill you. The music really adds to the suspense and drama of this series. The OP makes for a twisted intro as you become immersed with the duality and dreary sequences from the visuals and haunting lyrics. The ED has more gentle music featuring lyrics sung in English conveying hope of better times beyond the bloodshed that was inflicted.
Despite some open plot elements, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni is one of the best horror titles I've seen from an anime since seeing Perfect Blue. Just don't go into Higurashi thinking it's another plain moe title as this title's guaranteed to scare you witless with its crazy scenes.