Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (TV Series 2006)
Produced by Geneon Universal Entertainment, Frontier Works, Sotsu, DAX Production
When writing anime reviews I do my damnedest to avoid spoiling anything that happens beyond the opening minutes of a series. I've always preferred going into a show with absolutely no idea of what's to come, and it's led to some wonderful surprises along with many a-quickly-dropped series. In the past I've mostly relied on recommendation charts, recommendations from friends or and the occasional magazine review to guide my choice in what to watch next. Sometimes it pays off to be a little random, however, so before I dive into the world of Hinamizawa for this review, allow me to share how I first came across the famous/infamous series.
It was late at night, sometime in 2010. I was coming off of an extended hiatus from anime, having recently watched series such as Dance in the Vampire Bund, So Ra No Wo To, Spice and Wolf. On this particular night there was nothing I had in mind to watch. But I wanted to watch something.So, I clicked my way to the anime list on some now-dead streaming site, closed my eyes and scrolled my way up and down the page. Opening my eyes, I uncovered the title “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni” from beneath my fingertip. I'd never heard the name. It meant nothing. I made myself comfortable and hit play on the first episode without any expectations.
Four episodes later, in a somewhat forceful way, I pried myself from the computer and went to sleep. That next morning I would wake up and immediately consume another chunk of episodes. The masterful demonstration of tension and suspense that is Higurashi's first arc had me hooked.
Higurashi, also known as When They Cry or When the Higurashi Cry, is a mystery/drama series based on 07th Expansion's 2002 visual novel of the same name. The series is primarily renowned for mixing torturous violence, a cute, unassuming group of friends, and framing it all within a very unusual format. It's setin the summer of 1983, in a discrete mountain village called Hinamizawa. The 26 episodes of Higurashi's first season follow the ragtag posse of Keiichi Maebara, Rena Ryugu, Mion Sonozaki, Satoko Hojo and Rika Furude who are entangled within a mysterious series of deaths and disappearances.
Let's first establish that the characters and setting of Higurashiare excellent. Throughout the series you really get a feeling for balance of power within the community, how the townspeople feel about things, who is liked and disliked and why. It's a great setting with as much character as any of the series' protagonists. The local deity of Oyashiro-sama and surrounding folklore make Hinamizawa an excellent setting.
The characters of Higurashi have translated well into merchandise with catchy designs, and, whether they're playing games or going mad, they mingle well with each other. Kittenlike Rika, prankster Satoko, Tomboyish Mion, obsessed-with-all-things-cute Rena–they all act as important parts of the fun and endearing lead bunch. They're backed by great voice talent and writers and surrounded by good supporting characters. Keiichi, the fallible star of Higurashi,isa lead of the self-sacrificing type. He's involved in most of the series' goofier moments and, while a bit on the bland side, possesses a certain charm.
The animation of Higurashi is difficult to pin down. Everything is drawn in a very passive way. The colors are light and warm, and shapes are gently defined with soft, gray lines. Humorous breaks in style are frequent (loads of distortion), and as characters go overboard their faces grow increasingly twisted and contorted. There are some laughable moments of inconsistency throughout the series, but overall the art of Higurashi is fine.
Kenji Kawai (credited composer of Ghost in the Shell, Fate/Stay night, Ranma ½) lays down an awesome soundtrack, featuring dozens and dozens of tracks with gripping atmospheres and haunting melodies. Impish tracks, heard when Keiichi and friends battle it out in club activities, capture the playful spirit perfectly as well. Opening and closing the tracks, “Higurash ino Naku Koro ni” and “Why, or Why Not” round out the series' enjoyable sounds.
The combination of gore, cute gals, lolis, over the top humor and fan service sounds like the formula for an incredible trashy and tacky anime, but Higurashi manages to execute on its premise in impressive fashion.
-2 Awful, ruined it
-1 Took away from the experience
0 Okay, didn't leave an impression good/bad
+1 Added to the experience
Personal Bias: 0