Higurashi: When They Cry Review

by Chad

I never really watched anime that much anymore after high school, but this got me hooked me up again. I found out about Higurashi when a friend who went to Japan gave me Deformation Maniac Figures of some of its characters. I got curious on what kind of anime it was, and voila! I was watching again before I knew it.

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Synopsis: The story is set in a fictional rural village of Hinamizawa of 1983. Our protagonist Keiichi Maebara, who recently moves in, befriends his new classmates (Rena, Mion, Satoko and Rika) and participates in after-school club activities comprised mostly of card and board games. The village may seem peaceful and ordinary at first, but that all comes to an end at the village’s annual Watanagashi (Cotton-Drifting) Festival – to pay homage to their local god, Oyashiro-sama – when Keiichi discovers that for the past four years, one is always murdered and one disappears on the day of the festival. Keiichi is then drawn to the strange events happening, and the truth is slowly revealed.

The synopsis seems typical, but how the story unfolds is simply ingenious. The anime episodes are divided into question and answer arcs and each arc retells the general story in a character-dependent perspective. It’s not similar to ‘Vantage Point‘ where only one event is retold with varying character perspectives. Majority of the arcs happen at the ‘same time‘  but are ‘different‘. Finding out how that is is the fun part.

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Why the title? Other than ‘Higurashi: When They Cry‘, the franchise is also called ‘Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni‘ in Japanese or ‘When The Cicadas Cry‘ in it’s literal English translation. The title refers to the mournful chirps of the cicadas in the late summer.

This probably is one of the most disturbing anime I’ve watched, as each story arc starts with mundane child-like comedy but somewhere along the way things get psychologically insane and murderous. Don’t let the animation aesthetics deceive you. Things may be moe-moe for awhile but that’s just a way for prepping things up for the paranoia and emotional damage to come. Our example here is Rena being shy about something:

Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni, ryugu rena, cute rena, higurashi rena
Then after those cutesy scenes and fun-fun moments, the scenario turns a cheek and:

Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni, ryugu rena, crazy rena, higurashi rena
The main theme, which is emphasized more on the answer arcs (2nd season), is finding and working for that simple happiness one desires, trying his best to get it without stepping on anybody, but then in the end nothing will work out and everything just crashes and burns. He will be left with nothing after all his good intentions. Hopelessness will take over, and he will be led to his ultimate demise – and that’s when he looks for the external cause and eliminates it. Well, something like that.

Each character is placed in a situation where they are forced to choose between their own happiness in which they think they’ve worked hard for, or the happiness of others who they think are not deserving. Deciding between either options is a no-brainer. Hence, the birth of sin.

Upon watching the series, one may speculate that the plot is guided by a supernatural force, in which everything is explained by god, demons, magic and aliens: the ultimate scapegoats of poor scriptwriting. Let me assure you that it is not. Everything will be logically explained (with sound reasoning) at the later part of the series, specifically on the answer arcs of the 2nd season. That’s when your jumpy “Ah!!!” comes in.

I must say the ending song is a must-hear (Why, or Why Not by Ooshima Hiroyuki) as it really amplifies the emotions delivered at the end of each episode. Here are some of the lyrics:

To get my happiness I had done everything,
but had done nothing to be blamed and accused of.
The sound of footsteps became louder every day,
Then I noticed the fact there was no time.

Give me a reason why not to adopt in this way,
or judge me to be guilty of so many incurable sins.
Tell me why, or why not. Complaining way too much,
maybe I overlooked something fatal for me.

If you’re gonna watch this, you better watch ALL 55 episodes of all 3 seasons sequentially, or you won’t understand a thing. This anime isn’t for those with ADD, so you need to focus to fully enjoy. And you will, indeed! Anywho, I’ll wrap up this review with a mini-spoiler below. Jā mata ne!

All the main characters die at the 4th episode.

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