Higurashi no naku koro ni happens to be a particular favourite of mine, not only because of its horrifically high gore content, but for the number of times it managed to catch me off guard. I found it hard to believe how someone could commit such stomach-churning acts of violence and mental torture. It’s the original shock at this fact that compels the viewer to continue watching this highly addictive bloodbath of an anime.
The concept of the anime is simple enough. It follows a teenage boy, Maebara Keiichi adjusting to his new life in Hinamizawa, an isolated village buried deep in the mountains. It’s not long before he makes friends with a group of girls. At first glance they seem like the average group of teenage girls but all is not as it seems because they’re actually hiding things from Keiichi, things like the mysterious string of murders that seem to occur the same night every year and the gruesome dismemberment of a dam construction worker. The more Keiichi learns about these past events and about his new ‘friends’ the more danger he begins to find himself in.
It is important to remember that Higurashi is divided into 6 separate arcs that feature completely different scenarios. This means that if a character were to meet their unfortunate demise in one arc they would return once again at the start of the next arc. It is this separation of the arcs that often confuses or deters people from watching the show. I too confused by the sudden, miraculous ‘revival’ of a few of the characters at first but the sooner you adjust to the ever-changing alternate storylines the sooner you can start to piece together the puzzle and work out why the murders are being carried out in the first place.
The art style of this anime is nothing spectacular; in fact it seems pretty inappropriate for this particular genre of anime. The girls could very well have been plucked straight from a harem anime, but for some wacky reason that seems to work for this anime. The outward ‘Lolita’ appearances of the girls only make their actions more shocking in contrast; in a sense their design lulls you into a false sense of security.
Unlike in other anime of this particular genre it is difficult not to find someone to like in Higurashi, which is highly unusual considering the sickening acts of torture these girls perform on each other and with those around them. As you begin to get to know the characters better, you begin to sympathise with them and hope that they too won’t meet an untimely fate, thus you begin to feel more involved. Each character has their own interesting perspective and heart-breaking story to tell, it is this that alleviates the anime from being a bloodbath to a bloodbath with depth.
Both the Higurashi OP and EN themes are hauntingly beautiful and nigh on impossible to fault. Shimamiya Eiko does an amazing job at capturing the show’s otherworldly aspect with her almost ethereal voice during the OP theme. The instrumental themes used throughout the show can both send chills down your spine or even cause you to laugh out loud given the right moment. I found that the show’s use of chilling piano solos or mellow flute pieces helped to build tension and inspire fear within myself as a viewer, so by keeping the themes themselves simple they’ve helped to accentuate the atmosphere of the show rather than outshine it completely.
As the viewer becomes more intertwined in both the storyline and with the characters their desire for the characters to be set free from the horrific chain of events grows stronger, it is this that hooks the viewer into watching episode after episode. So overall, for being able to manipulate its viewers emotions so well I’d give this anime a near perfect score of 9/10.