Character Development: 4.5/5
Comedy value: 3.5/5
Storyline Focus: 4/5
Quality of Animation: 5/5
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Psychological thriller
Recently I finished watching this anime, and while I have actually watched the second season as well (Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai), I'm only going to be covering the first. Simple reason for that too: You can watch the first season and have a sense of conclusion.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is roughly translated to "When the Cicadas Cry". Higurashi are a certain type of Cicada found in Japan. Like most cicada, they often do the majority of their chirping in the mornings and evenings in the summer (tells you something about the setting). Their chirp/cry is often described as very sad. It was an oh so fitting sound effect for this show.
First episode, before the opening theme, a dark figure is shown beating two girls to death with a bat. My impression?... It certainly didn't sit well with me. I'm not a fan of senseless violence in the slightest, so it was a little disturbing... Main theme passes and everything is normal with no explanation of what just happened. Right.
Now meet Maebara Keiichi. A middle school boy who had just transferred to the small town of Hinamizawa from "the city". He meets four new friends at school whom, depending on how you look at it, could be described as sugar coated sour or sour coated sugar.. Despite this, in a village of 2,000 people, he doesn't have many other options for friends his age.
All of his friends are female, and each are very playful and competitive... But how competitive you ask? In a modified version of Old Maid, which they call "Old Geezer", each card is damaged in their own unique ways. All four girls memorized each card by the damage visible from the backside, and used that knowledge against Keiichi to make him last out.
It seems like all fun and games from here out. Watching their twisted card games, gambles, regular school routines, and last but not least, Watanagashi. The festival of Watanagashi is Hinamizawa's annual festival to give thanks to the local shrine god, Oyashiro. Every year on this night, one person is said to die from the shrine god's curse, and one person ends up going missing.. And this year is no exception.
Shortly after this year's Watanagashi festival, the police report that the local photographer has died by means of suicide. They claim that he had clawed at his throat with his fingernails until it broke through to main blood vessels, causing him to bleed to death. Mysteriously, the woman with him had gone missing.. Later they find her remains, discovering she had been burnt to ashes.. But something's not right.
Keiichi in particular shows a lot of curiosity in these murder events, and his interest gets sparked even more after seeing odd behavior in his friends. He starts suspecting two of them for being the people behind the shrine god's "curse". After talking to the police about it, he decides it's best he stays home from school for a day.
Later, his two friends Mion and Rena come to his house to see how he's doing (as he called in "sick"). They come to the door with bentos (packed lunches) in hand to give to him, and have a little bit of small talk.. Both of their eyes start to look demonic at this point.. They proceed to interrogate him, almost demanding him to tell them what he had for lunch and with who (the police), claiming that he's hiding something.. And whatever it is, they "already know everything".
The three of them wave goodbye and Keiichi goes in to eat the sweet rice balls that they brought him. As he bites into the first one, he spits it out instantly and finds a needles in the rice balls. Keiichi goes crazy and throws it against the wall, then later disposes of it.
But it gets weirder and weirder. In each Season, there are chapters to the story, and each chapter someone goes crazy and brutally murders people out of paranoia or some other strange motive.. Eventually coming to a bitter end. And then the next episode, everyone who died is back and as cheery as they were before... Huhh?
Fortunately, the chapters of the second half of this season are the "answer" chapters to all the questions of the first, and you slowly start to understand how everything falls into place.. But I personally couldn't get over all this senseless violence. It was painful to watch the characters I learned to love (through the series' spontaneous style of humor) get beaten, stabbed, poisoned and in general just mutilated. I kept on thinking "How could anyone be so horrible and merciless?", and it reminded me of an In Flames song called "Your Bedtime Story Is Scaring Everyone". A beautiful song, by the way.
Find time and play with innocence, Like you ever would
I don’t see you make any sense, I guess you deliver misery just like you should
9 o’clock and you paint the skies grey, It isn't your fault we’re the ones who betray
But how can you say it with such ease.. You want to take a stand or just wanna please?
Your bedtime story is scaring everyone, But you make me understand..
The evil that men do.. The evil that men do...
Extra Audio Aid: In Flames - Your Bedtime Story Is Scaring Everyone
If you like this first season and want more answers, be sure to watch the second season, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai. It has a little less focus on violence, and a bit more on answers and justice. I also reccomend it if the first season disturbs you at all, as it'll put all that to rest. It did for me.
All comments welcome.