Back when I was in my youth when I was hanging out on silly abridged series forum. Several of my fellow posters were gushing about a certain show. A show that they couldn’t get enough off, that apparently spoke to them in ways that only something could to a teenager. I never really looked into this show, it just didn’t pass my radar. As the years, and then decade passed, I had heard rumblings of this show, but again never really paid attention. Flash forward to Fall 2020, and it’s remake, (or sequel, or re-quel, whatever) is airing. I figured I had some free time, so I decided to take a look at the 2006 original and see what I had been missing. What I saw was a pretty fucked up ride. After the cut, let’s take a dive into the horror series When the Higurashi Cry.
Back when I talked about Mirai Nikki, I said that the best part of that anime was how well it spoke to the viewer’s inner 13 year old. It was a show that had everything a young teenager would think is ‘badass’: over the top violence, a girl who was cute and crazy, and of course uncensored titty. While I ended up finding Nikki to be a solid show in desperate need of a second draft, I admitted that this show probably was a massive moment for it’s time and the kids who had watched it.
Going into Higurashi, I expected to walk out with the same feeling, thinking that the show was decent, but pushed all the right buttons that a young teenager wants in their shows. So it has been surprising to see that I just didn’t like Higurashi, I fucking loved it. Set in the early 1980s, in the sleeping and forgotten village of Hinamizawa, the story follows a group of young kids who, upon discovering that a series of murders have taken place on the same day, each year for the past five years, race to uncover the mystery. Or so you think. What follows is several individual stories where loyalties are constantly changing, friends become enemies, enemies become friends, answers raise more questions and all of it is coated in a river of blood.
At its core, Higurashi is probably anime’s quintessential horror flick. If you have ever watched a scary movie, or seen a parody of one, you will see the markings of that in this anime. The changing emotions, the dramatic close ups, and all the blood is what you’d expect for any good slasher, and Higurashi delivers the goods and then some. It also helps that as an anime, Higurashi is allowed a bit more freedom in showing it’s chaos than other types of entertainment, and boy oh boy does it show it. Like with School Days and Yosuga no Sora, Higurashi pulls zero punches in its depiction of its content. People are relentlessly killed, brutally murdered, paranoia and rage is copious, and the cute little girls you are supposed to love, well the phrase “wolf in sheep’s clothing” is an apt definition for them. Blackmail, abuse, unrequited love, obsessiveness, hatred of liars. Higurashi talks about all of these things, and always ends up going the worst possible way.
It also helps though that Higurashi remembers to also tell a story. While that story is fragmented into several different routes and timelines, owing to the origins as a multi-route visual novel. The constantly changing plot beats and ideas always remember to be interconnected. A story about Rena and Mion in one episode might drop tantalizing clues for what happens with Shion and Sakoto in another. Furthermore, the constantly changing parameters of the cast, allow every character to switch up their roles. Keiichi, the male lead may be the hero in one arc, but then the ruthless and insane villain in the other. Rena may be the cute memeable girl in one arc, then the insane memeable girl in the next. And let’s not even get started on twins Mion and Shion.
However, that also means some routes end up better than others, and Higurashi has moments where certain stories or ideas don’t do as well. Shion and Mion’s route remains the series best, a relentless bloodbath of insanity, but something like Rika, despite having massive implications for the story as a whole, doesn’t have the same sort of strength. Thankfully most of the routes are entertaining, and the constant shifting of roles and allegiances means they always remain fresh and unique. It’s a type of storytelling that is frankly ingenious and something I wish I’d see more of. The use of ‘question’ and ‘answer’ routes, where one is meant to fill in the blanks for the former is also quite effective, as it keeps you clicking on the next episode, eager to find out more.
The first season of When the Higurashi Cry is one of those rare ‘classic’ shows that absolutely lives up to the reputation it has earned. If you like blood, violence, paranoia and sheer horror, then you can’t do much better than this. The animation may be a little dated and frayed in places, but I guess that’s what the new outing is for. Still I absolutely loved my time with this series, and I look forward to cracking open the second season in a week or two. There is plenty of story left to tell, and this won’t be over until the last Higurashi cries.