The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei

Title: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei aka When Cicadas Cry – Gratitude
Genre: Drama/Horror
Company: Studio DEEN
Format: 5 OVA
Date: 25 Feb 2009 – 21 Aug 2009

Synopsis: Rika and her friends have battled and deservedly won against fate after a thousand years. Just when she thought the worst is over, tragedy strikes when she supposedly gets killed in a horrifying truck accident. She miraculously wakes up, alive and well, but she realizes that something’s wrong: the reality now is completely different from the one she and her friends have fought for. People that should be around don’t exist, there are people who aren’t supposed to be around and, most significantly, important events have never taken place. She finds out that she is stuck in an alternate reality, and must make a cruel decision: return to the world where one “faces one’s sins” by doing the unthinkable, or permanently live in a world “without tragedy”.

The Highlights
Aesthetics: Drastic improvement from Higurashi and Higurashi Kai.
Story development: Suffers from flawed chapter arrangement.
Plot development: A gaping plot hole that could’ve been easily avoided.
Saikoroshi chapter: Reminiscent of Higurashi Kai; engrossing plot and appropriate ending.
Hajisarashi chapter: Frilly light-hearted fun; characters present will initially confuse some viewers.
Hirukoroshi chapter: Similar to Hajisarashi; clever use of certain elements for humor purposes.

Higurashi became famous a few years ago for its raw violence and spine-chilling plot, and also its combination with moe-style aesthetics which resulted in a series where both elements’ contrasts usually complement each other well. Higurashi Kai, which came a year later, takes a slightly different approach compared to the prequel by toning down the violence and emphasizing more on revelations, and how the story comes to a positive conclusion. Higurashi Rei is a collection of three chapters, one of which takes place after Higurashi Kai, and the chapters range from hilarious comedy to a heart wrenching dilemma. One chapter resumes from the end of the main story, and creates a highly grim situation where the protagonist Rika must inevitably decide her fate. The other two chapters are merely hijinks and hilarious situations, and are somewhat independent of the main storyline. From this description, it isn’t very surprising to find viewers confused at the premises of the different chapters in Higurashi Rei.

As the title suggests, the main motif of Higurashi Rei is “gratitude”, exemplified by the lighthearted fun Rika and her friends deservedly enjoy, after their hard-fought battle against fate. It is also explored through the Saikoroshi chapter, where the complacent Rika gets stuck in a parallel world completely different from her original world. This “tragedy-free” world is so perfect that it’s unsettling, and this contradictory situation puts Rika in a dire dilemma. The use of the storytelling elements, which made the prequel famous, instills a sense of suspense and unpredictability to the story. Furthermore, ethical issues are put under the magnifying glass as well, such as how far one is willing to go to in order to regain her fate, and whether it is selfish to live in the original world at the expense of destroying the other. In short, it’s not only about which fate Rika chooses, but the thinking process she goes through in choosing it and the different opinions of the people around her on her choices.

The Saikoroshi chapter would have been a great story to complement the main storyline, if it wasn’t for the flawed arrangement of the remaining chapters. Hajisarashi and Hirukoroshi are two chapters where all the characters in Higurashi get embroiled in hilarious situations. More importantly, both chapters are unrelated to the main storyline and their purpose is simply to tickle the viewers’ funny bone. Both aren’t terrible per se; Hajisarashi is fun to watch despite some hackneyed jokes, and Hirukoroshi makes clever use of the elements of shock and suspense from the prequels to drive up the humorous mess the club members get into. The problem is, there are a number of inconsistencies pertaining to how the chapters are assembled, especially the transition from the Hajisarashi chapter to the Saikoroshi chapter. The dialogue shared by the club members in the second OVA throws the viewers off-track and creates a gaping plot hole that could have been easily avoided if the chapters were better arranged.

Higurashi Rei somewhat falls victim to its own chapter arrangement, which is confusing at first and results in unnecessary discrepancies that affect all the chapters as a whole. However, each chapter is interesting to watch and the Saikoroshi chapter in particular, is a great continuation of the main storyline. This is also shown in full view of improved aesthetics; the artwork and animation are respectively more crisp and fluid this time. Although Higurashi Rei is neither as shocking as Higurashi nor is it as revealing as Higurashi Kai, it is still an entertaining set of stories complementary to the main story, even if there are a few chapter concatenation issues.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: AC

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