When They Cry

Japanese Title: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
Genre: Horror
Format: 26 Episodes
Allegiance: Studio DEEN
Director: Kon Chiaki
Vintage: 2006

Intelligence Agency Report by: I

Maebara Keiichi hasn’t lived in the small rural town ofHinamizawa for long, but he’s stayed long enough to realize that there is something very wrong with the place.  Every year around the time of the town’s Watanagashi Festival, people are murdered and “spirited away,” and Keiichi is inevitably drawn into the string of events by his friends.  The orphaned Satoko has lost her entire family to these strange occurrences, and she might be next; the young shrine maiden Rika seems to know more about the murders than she lets on; Mion is the future head of a cultish family connected to the killings; and Rena has a history of violent behavior that just might make the course of events end in tragedy.  Is there a way to survive Hinamizawa’s curse?

Field Agent Report by: I

Plot 8.75
Characters 8.25
Impact 8.50
Visual 8.75
Audio 9.50

Overall 8.50

Horror and harem may not seem like the most obvious genre crossover, but Higurashi no Naku Koro ni somehow makes it work.  The combination of the two story types exploits some useful genre similarities, such as the general stock nature of the characters and the emphasis on art styles to get moods across.  Elsewhere, though, Higurashi made some unexpected decisions about the plot and the story’s continuity that really managed to set it apart from the crowd.

The characters are the most typical parts of this show and, like many characters in horror or harem anime, serve as vehicles through which to channel facets of the genres that draw in fans.  All of the main characters are derivatives of standard personality types, and most of the female characters have cutesy voice intonations, such as speaking extremely formal Japanese or repeating words.  I found all of this highly irritating; however, being a horror fan, I appreciated the standard horror elements that came into play.  Really, the characters are adjusted to the target audience’s tastes, so it’s best to be wary if you’re not a fan of either genre.  However, they also develop new facets that transcend the cookie cutter nature of their original genre settings.  I was especially impressed by the second Mion arc, in which psychological horror brings about relationships in ways that caught me off-guard.

The aesthetics of the series are wholly devoted to supporting the show’s genre aspirations, and they succeed admirably.  The character designs are clean and appealing, and pretty standard fare for your average visual novel—until the character in question has a panic attack, falls into a psychotic rage, or just decides that she doesn’t like you.  The changes in the characters’ faces, the way the scenes are shot—everything does a 180 from a pleasant walk home with the cute girl from class to freakish, paranoid fear.  The contrast between the two sides of Hinamizawa and its residents only serves to heighten the drama.  The voice acting is similarly superb: cute, high voices suddenly become low and sinister, and the acting is well done.  It is, however, rather odd sometimes to hear a ten-year-old’s voice go into the tonal depths that only one past puberty could manage.

The story is divided into six arcs in which different events occur involving the same cast.  The setup thus avoids the unnatural nature of the rinse-and-repeat story continuity that other visual novel anime such as Kanon fall prey to, and seeing the various facets of the complex situations in Hinamizawa slowly open up in this manner is extremely satisfying.  It keeps the lighter points of the series from dropping off completely halfway through the show and reveals a lot more about the characters’ personalities than a single plot line could hope for.  The last arc, however, failed when it tried to safely wrap up the series in its second half: a hackneyed half-romance and an attempt to supernaturally explain why the reset button is hit after each arc really aren’t necessary, thanks.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is a good addition to harem and horror fans’ collections, but the moments in which it surpasses expectations with its genre twists are what make it distinct from other girl-get and gore series.  If you like your Marys bloody, you should definitely pick it up.