I have been highly anticipating this series. It is no secret that my genre(s) of choice are horror/psychological thrillers, but they are not common, so many seasons may pass without a dark anime. Thankfully, fall 2020 has gifted me a darker anime to watch.
Full disclosure. I have not watched any of the original release (2006) episodes, read any of the manga, or played any of the video games. I am watching this reboot without any preconceptions of what this show should be or could be. I haven’t read any spoilers. My only knowledge of the anime is from the synopsis below:
Keiichi Maebara has just moved to the quiet little village of Hinamizawa in the summer of 1983, and quickly becomes inseparable friends with schoolmates Rena Ryuuguu, Mion Sonozaki, Satoko Houjou, and Rika Furude. However, darkness lurks underneath the seemingly idyllic life they lead.
As the village prepares for its annual festival, Keiichi learns about the local legends surrounding it. To his horror, he discovers that there have been several murders and disappearances in the village in the recent years, and that they all seem to be connected to the festival and the village’s patron god, Oyashiro. Keiichi tries to ask his new friends about these incidents, but they are suspiciously silent and refuse to give him the answers he needs. As more and more bizarre events occur, he wonders just what else his friends might be keeping from him, and if he can even trust them at all.https://myanimelist.net/anime/934/Higurashi_no_Naku_Koro_ni
SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED EPISODE 1.
Know the best way to open a show? Blunt force trauma and the visual of blood splashing on the walls and pooling on the floor. Set it in a dark room with the sounds of a body being pummeled as the point of view focuses on the hand of the victim so you can watch the hand bounce with each hit. THAT is how you start a show.
The episode then quickly changes mood and enters our protagonist looking out at the beautiful countryside and beginning a normal school day. Right off the bat (no pun intended with the show’s intro), there was a lot of focus on the date. It appears it is June 10, 1983 and that immediately made me wonder what significance the date has. Is this an indicator of a Steins;Gate scenario where time travel or alternate time lines exist? It definitely piqued my interest.
And, as in any anime, we are slowly introduced to all the players as they meet up to walk to school together. First, we meet Rena, a sweet, orange-haired girl who has a talent for cooking. Then, the green-haired Mion who pesters Keiichi (the protagonist) about finding a Western gaming guide while he was out of town.
Of particular note, I had noticed that Mion greeted Keiichi by saying something along the lines of, “How long has it been? Two years?”
I was already sensitive to the flashing of the date, so I can’t help but feel maybe this off-hand comment might mean something in the future. Keiichi reveals that he was only gone for two days to attend a funeral.
As they arrive at school, the classroom door is booby-trapped by the younger, blonde-haired, Satoko. This happens to be a normal daily interaction between Satoko and Keiichi. Keiichi is then comforted by the purple-haired, Rika. In the first five minutes, we’ve met the cast of characters and fast forward to June 12th, which happens to be a Sunday.
Mion, Keiichi, and Rena are going on a tour of town. Rena cooks a large feast. But, as they were walking, I noticed that Mion is strapped. She is wearing, what I am going to assume, is an airsoft pellet gun. Regardless, she is open carrying that thing with no remorse. They head to the local shrine and lay out the picnic where we learn that there will be a festival the following Sunday.
Rugjen and I were also curious about a few lines in particular. Keiichi mentions that it is too early for summer festivals, and Mion states that it is an end of winter festival. We were a bit confused as the end of winter really is in March, and not June. Maybe it is nothing, but it stuck out to us.
On their way home, Rena stops by what I can only gather is the local dump to forage. While she is foraging, a photographer sneaks up on Keiichi giving him a startle. And, THIS is where the slice-of-life comes to a screeching halt and you are instantly reminded that there is something lurking beneath the surface. He asks Keiichi why Rena was scrounging in the trash and Keiichi makes the joke of “maybe she is checking in on a dismembered corpse”. He feels the mood change and Keiichi says he is joking. And, that is where the tone completely changes and the photographer refers to a grisly incident and that “one of his arms is still missing”.
Probably one of the cutest things is Rena telling Keiichi that she found a “Kenta-kun” statute to which he replies, “You mean the ones you see in front of those fried chicken joints?”
Rena wants to take Kenta-kun home, but is getting dark and he is at the bottom of the pile. Keiichi decides to ask Rena about the incident the photographer was referencing. At first, Rena is compliant to divulge that there was a dam project. When he asks whether there was an accident, a swelling sound of the locusts suddenly disappear and Rena replies in a different voice, “I don’t know.”
Rena switches back to her sing-songy voice and tells Keiichi that she just moved there a year prior, so she doesn’t know the history of the events before that.
We start back up on June 13th after school. It appears they are all part of a gaming club and engage in a scavenger hunt for a permanent marker which Keiichi referred to as a “torture device”. My Spidey-senses went off. He made such a big deal out of it and then it was the subject of the scavenger hunt. I guess we will have to see how accurate my Spidey-senses are later in the season.
Satoko wins the scavenger hunt, but we have a moment where Rena is staring off into space with dead eyes. She chalks it up to being tired and excuses herself to go lay down in the nurse’s office before she leaves for home.
On the walk home with Mion, Keiichi asks Mion about the dam project. She tells them that a war broke out. She mentions that the Mayor and local politicians used up their clout, went to Tokyo, and the dam project was canceled. Happy end to the story, right?
When Keiichi asks if anyone was murdered, silence surrounds Mion’s, “Of course not.”
Something is definitely being hidden about the dam project.
We fast forward to the 15th of June. Keiichi has ventured to the dump where he finds Rena digging in the trash. As promised, he announces that he is there to help her. Something doesn’t seem right with Rena. She asks him why he is there and seems startled. She directs him to Kenta-kun, and sure enough, it is a KFC Colonel knock-off.
Keiichi does a fair amount of digging and can’t get to Kenta-kun. Exhausted, he wants to take a break and mentions that he should have brought an axe. Rena announces that her home isn’t too far away and will bring some barley tea. It is starting to get dark, and he notices a stack of old magazines. He is immediately reminded of the photographer’s words. As he unwraps the bundle, he read the headline, “…a construction worker was lynched, murdered, then dismembered.”
Standing at the top of cliff is Rena with dead eyes, holding a sword-like weapon. And, that’s where the episode ends.
I am obviously intrigued but many a small thing like the importance of the timeline and how everything is intertwined. I loved how it was gory and violent from the very first second. I am definitely going to continue watching this show and am excited to see where it goes.
I will say that I’ve seen some complaints about the animation. I’ll reiterate what I’ve said in past posts. I will never condemn an anime’s content because I don’t like the animation style. The animation style is an older, more manga-like style. If you base your opinion of a show on the animation style, you will most likely not like this show. I, personally, had no issue with the anime style.
I will most likely not do an episodic recount of every episode. There are plenty of bloggers that do that. I’ll probably revisit every few episodes to touch base on the show’s progress.
Did you catch Higurashi? What are your thoughts and/or opinions? Let me know down in comments!