The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai

Title: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai aka When Cicadas Cry – Solutions
Genre: Drama/Horror
Company: Studio DEEN
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 6 Jul 2007 – 18 Dec 2007

Synopsis: Hinamizawa in June 1983 is a familiar setting to Furude Rika. While her days pass peacefully, having fun with the games club, she is all too aware of a certain fate that she must face… over and over again. Rika realizes that she must unravel the mysterious forces behind her fate in order to prevent a disaster from befalling the entire town.

The Highlights
Plot: Impressive; really well thought through.
Characters: Some come to the fore, while others are unfortunately relegated.
Drama: Confrontation scenes make for great drama.
Antagonist: One of the best character analyses of an antagonist in anime.
Seiyuu: Fantastic all round; Itou Miki is a revelation.
Atmosphere: Strangely inconsistent; not as tense as the first season.
Horror: Plays almost no part in this season.
Aesthetics: An improvement over the first season, but still woefully below par.

Higurashi is a real feat in many regards. What has clearly gone in to the show is a lot of thought and careful planning. What we’ve got out of it is an outstandingly well written plot that’s both elaborate and almost completely seamless. While there are some things that this sequel lacks, what it does is bring the mystery full circle, and it also gives the audience the full cavalcade of clever answers that we got a mere hint of in the first series. There’s a number of things in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai that deserve praise, but moreso than anything else is the simple fact that it takes the question-filled state of the first series, and manages to finish it off with hardly a plot hole. That, and one of the truly great anime antagonists, makes this a genuinely groundbreaking franchise.

The shocking Higurashi moments that were prolific in the first series aren’t as regular in this one. The atmosphere in this sequel is much more understated, and the plot is carried more by dialogue than by twisted acts and gore. Sure, this series has its psychopaths, but the focus has been shifted away from their attempts to wreak havoc and towards those trying to undermine them. Mind games and carefully thought through acts dominate, where, in the previous season, peering into the minds of characters often revealed a twisted and evolving insanity. What it makes for is a very involving and often very dramatic story. Speaking of dramatic, that’s exactly how I’d describe the confrontations, which make many of the highlights of the series. None of them are over the top, but almost all of them are dripping with tension and great dialogue.

It wouldn’t work without well written characters, which is something Higurashi has done superbly from day one. But it’s the antagonist which is this series’ most fascinating and dynamic character. I’ve always maintained that well rounded and developed antagonists make the most interesting conflicts. Here we have a character with a past and clear motivations, but we’re never insulted by a plea for sympathy. What we have instead is a genuine character study; the antagonist is evil, but they are motivated by things which are distinctly human. Unfortunately, some characters fall by the wayside in this series, particularly Rena, who’s almost reduced to comic relief. The seiyuu make the characters, though, and the entire cast turns in credible performances. Tamura Yukari and Itou Miki in particular are fantastic.

While the script is little short of brilliant, the technical execution leaves much to be desired. The animation is significantly improved from the first series, but it’s still below par. Kawai Kenji puts out a typically respectable soundtrack, but this is certainly not his best work, and there are times where the choice of music could be better. The latter part of the series begins to lose the perfect balance of comedy and drama/horror of the original, with comic relief being dropped at the most inappropriate of times. The penultimate episode was terrible in this regard; just as the story should have been building towards a dramatic climax, we get an episode which is uncharacteristically devoid of atmosphere and unintentionally funny… a real momentum killer.

Fortunately the finale makes up for it, providing a fitting end to a grand tale. While it does have its shortcomings, Higurashi is a true epic and one of the few mystery anime that has a set of solutions that do justice to the initial questions. While the execution is far from perfect, it’s not enough to hinder one of the best scripts the anime mystery genre has ever seen.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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