Higurashi: When they Cry kai: Conspiracies, Parasites and other things.

I finally got around to dusting this series off, and I’m glad I took my time with it. One of the classics of the early 2000s and the fan-sub era, Higurashi has been a show that has taken viewers for a ride, putting it mildly. But with the second half of the series comes some changes that may alter how one things of the show? Do they work? After the cut let’s take a dive into Higurashi: When they Cry kai.

When They Cry: Season 2 (2007) — The Movie Database (TMDb)
Things about to get deep

One of the hardest things to do in anime, or any medium is doing a paradigm shift. The process in which the core focus of your show shifts completely from one thing to another. Character focus may change, plot mechanics may alter, the whole genre may completely transform. There have been only a handful of shows which are able to do that, and only a few of them have done it well. YU-NO comes to mind, and thankfully Higurashi is another one of those. It’s middle of the act switch from horror to full on conspiratorial thriller is a masterstroke of storytelling.

It is also something I don’t think the series really needed.

It may just be me, but I was 100% satisfied with the direction the first half of Higurashi was going. A series of short self-contained stories that shifted characters and roles around so much, that it always kept things fresh. Each story was short and to the point, and the fact that who the villain was kept constantly changing made things always excited. Even when the first half gave hints at a larger force at work, I was completely content to accept “it’s something in the water” as the reason while Keiichi and friends often lose their minds. It was simple, effective, downright scary and full of blood and guts. Many times, it felt like Higurashi was just a series of grade-school horror stories, except take out the grade-school part and crank up the carnage to eleven. So as much as I enjoyed this second half, I did find myself at times wondering if it was really needed. I was satisfied, we didn’t need the explanations.

Rewatch][Spoilers] Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai (When They Cry) - Season 2  - Episode 14 Discussion : anime
Hanyuu as a character is kinda ‘eh’ and really just acts as another side of Riku’s personality.

However, that was not the story Higurashi and series creator Ryukishi07 had in mind. Instead of letting things be as they are, the second half of Higurashi goes full force in explaining everything behind the history of the village, the dam war, the origin of the disease, the whereabouts of Satoshi, and the motivations of the true villain. Rika Furude, the mysterious character in the background comes into full force, acting as the real hero as we learn she has been stuck in a two-week time-loop where she hopelessly tries to change her fate. We learn that the madness of Hinamizawa Syndrome has existed for years, and governmental secrets, and the drive of one woman has led things to grow out of control. By the time, the credits role on that final episode, there has been no stone left unturned, and Higurashi takes it final bow not just as a horror story, but a full-blown conspiratorial epic.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Series Review - 100 Word Anime
Riku being the main hero, stuck in a constant time loop is an interesting way for the story to unfold.

And as much as I question why that path was taken, I cannot deny that the path itself is well done. Everything is laid out carefully and explained so that there are few real questions or “wait a minute” moments that leave you guessing. While it is not perfect, Rika’s ability time-loop is not as explored as I would have liked, and the final climax feels like something out of a 90s made for TV kids movie,  the attention to details and the ability for Ryukishi07 to follow through on his ideas to their conclusion is downright impressive. Even more so is how he and Higurashi make the villain, Miyo Takano, sympathetic, and in some ways, you want to root for her, even when her obsessive desire to validate her grandfather’s research has caused so much chaos. The ability to do all of this, and stick the landing, after the series was so good at being straight up horror is, as a creator myself, so unbelievably impressive.

Tenka Seiha » Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai #14 — Matsuribayashi-Hen Part 1  » Blog Archive
Miyo’s backstory is honestly really good, and makes you feel for her struggle, even if she’s a baddie.

The second half of Higurashi: When they Cry, and the entire series itself is a classic that deserves every inch of that word. A gripping story that pulls you in with gore and horror, but makes you stick around for the deeper mysterious beyond. Dated animation aside, the series has stood the test of time, and earns all the praise it has been given. Out of the three anime that I’ve been opted to call the “Blood and Sex Trilogy” this year, Higurashi almost stands in a class of its own. If you haven’t watched this series or are just watching the 2020 continuation/remake/whatever, that is airing now. I highly suggest you jump back and start at the original. You won’t want to miss it. And hey, the opening theme is fucking killer.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai (When They Cry: Kai) Wallpaper #274159 -  Zerochan Anime Image Board
And god knows what kettle of fish this opens…

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