The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

Title: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni aka When Cicadas Cry
Genre: Drama/Horror
Company: Studio DEEN
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 5 Apr 2006 – 27 Sep 2006

Synopsis: Maebara Keiichi has moved back to his home country town of Hinamizawa with his family. There he attends school and is a (forced) member of the games club with his friends, Ryuuguu Rena, Sonozaki Mion, Houjou Satoko and Furude Rika. Even though Hinamizawa seems like a quaint, peaceful town to Keiichi, he soon finds out that the town hides a shocking history of regular murders.

The Highlights
Tension: Has numerous chilling, almost shocking scenes.
Plot Progression: Unique; story told through parallel universes.
Animation: Ugly; sometimes detracts from atmosphere.
Mystery: Finishes with several unanswered questions.

I’ve been continually disappointed by recent visual novel to anime conversions; the ones that haven’t been drab romances have squandered their interesting characters for tedious, sometimes cliched plotlines. Higurashi is not just a massive and welcome change from these staples, but is also a series that puts a new spin on the workings of both the mystery and horror genres in anime. Even though it has its flaws and is unfortunately an incomplete story, it is truly groundbreaking in many respects.

A lot of Higurashi’s concepts are clever and unique. The plot progresses in a totally non-linear time passage and actually consists of chapters that follow what are essentially parallel universes. The first four of these arcs pose the various questions that comprise Higurashi’s mystery, while the last two answer them, and, even though the mystery does leave an unsatisfactorily large number of questions unanswered, one can’t help but admire the cleverness of the solutions that are revealed. But the highlight of Higurashi are the scenes I like to refer to as the “Higurashi moments”, scenes of twisted insanity and gruesome torment set to an atmosphere drenched with suspense and tension. The obvious comparisons are Elfen Lied(1,2) and Narutaru, but I’d say Higurashi does such scenes better than both these titles; never do the scenes become about the violence itself but rather the impact of the violence on the characters involved. Speaking of characters, I was impressed by the attention given to them by the series. As intricate and complex as the mystery plot grew, it never relegated the characters to second fiddle or allowed them to become stagnant.

As an aesthetic piece, Higurashi is pitiful. The music never dominates and does its job of enhancing the mood with zero ado, but there aren’t many tunes that will stick with you afterwards, with the possible exceptions of the OP and ED pieces, “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni” by Shimamiyu Eiko and “why, or why not” by Oshima Hiroyuki feat. Katakiri Rekka. The animation is noticeably bad though, something that has become almost synonymous with Higurashi among anime fans and while most of the time one won’t notice it, it can serve to considerably disrupt the atmosphere in some of the more tense and violent moments. As far as the seiyuu are concerned, Tamura Yukari and Nakahara Mai (who is going to be a big star in the future) deliver their usual commendable performances, but Yukino Satsuki shines in her portrayal of both Sonozaki sisters—I can’t remember a role where I’ve heard her better.

It’s unfortunate that the final two chapters of Higurashi’s visual novel aren’t animated, since many of the major plot twists, as well as the solutions to the more significant questions in the mystery are revealed here. As it stands, the story told in this anime is a fascinating one, but an incomplete one. Higurashi also suffers from a middle section that is frustrating to follow. The “Higurashi moments” dry up, and question upon question is piled up on the audience with no sign of reprieve. However, even despite these significant flaws, there’s a lot to admire about Higurashi, particularly its unique use of non-linear timelines and elaborate mystery. Featuring several moments that are chillingly unforgettable, Higurashi may be as close to a successful horror anime as we may ever see on TV.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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