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Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

Madness!
Madness!

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni was recommended to me by members of Namsoc – so I went ahead, knowing it was going to be a rather strange mystery-psychological-crazy series. This might contain minor spoilers, but nothing much – I wrote most of this before the final episodes of the first series, and you really need to watch both series’ to get the entire thing.

Mystery Plots from Visual Novel Material

Interestingly, from reading up on it now I’ve watched it, the anime I watched was one of a half dozen ways to experience it. They originally had it as as a videogame (more sound novel – a slightly interactive book), then drama CD’s then manga, then anime, then a set of anime OVA’s, live action film. Wow, breadth of it sure is stunning, and I should try a few of the other ones if they’re translated, since it is said the original games had supplemental bits that helped explain some things much earlier and nicely.

It’s also interesting because the actual series (and I presume the other media) is highly fascinating, amazingly violent in places, and cutting all sorts of strange psychology, messed up people (or people driven to do messed up things) and situations and all sorts of other strange unexplained bits and pieces. I’d certainly recommend it if you’re into mysteries – which this most certainly is. You’re just never quite sure of things…it’s pretty gripping.

This ain’t no Groundhog Day…

Junkyard; where different scenes happen each time
Junkyard; where different scenes happen each time

Since I presume this came from the original games, the actual series has a common cast, location and several reoccurring plot threads (and common things happening) but all are different arcs – and it’s brilliant and startling how on episode 5, after episode 4 basically had several major characters killed off, it entirely resets, for lack of a better word – and so continues afresh (this is not just done for the sake of it either). The focus of the story, the protagonist and so forth all alter. Some stories are revisited, spun out in different ways – it’s done really well (facts you’ve already heard about or characters you know are revisited quickly, new characters introduced slowly), although quite a few cut off moments lead you to suspect you’re never seeing the entire picture, even if you see that characters entire perspective.

The anime surprisingly does have some good themes – about friendship, keeping secrets, cults and belief, hiding feelings, and the past, and lying to people (well, it is mystery series…). Serious crimes – murder, which is common, but also kidnapping, disappearing people, and other things are lead out in interesting ways. The main theme is constantly death and torture and how to, perhaps, stop it. The mystery part does get left to the back a bit, although some face it head on nicely and don’t stick just to insanity :)

The Characters

It does gloss over some parts however – the characters rarely explain their actions (the protagonists change from each episode nicely though giving some unique insights). The police are basically fact reporters (along with other inept adults you scream at for not doing anything), and the plot is highly interesting, but I think could have possibly have a better supporting cast.

The main characters are pretty all okay and well done, especially since they have a set of strong female roles (despite the played-generally-for-laughs lolicon and cuteness factors), and good male characters too (some again, with insanely silly parts played for laughs). It’s certainly very adult in theme and content, despite some obvious introductory fun episodes which set the series up as a pretty typical school drama, harem thing or whatever you think it might be, at first what it appears as anyway…

Give it a try!

Not always this silly - a third season "one off" episode, contrasting the original material.
Not always this silly - a third season "one off" episode, contrasting the original material.

Luckily it is well produced anime – high production values (the second containing more sillyness which probably pronounces the serious parts more to be honest, but throughout has great voicework, script, setting and good visuals) and several mould-breakers I think are all for me (things never quite go how you think, and it pulls some very nice fast ones on the viewer).

The way it dips perfectly between criminally insane moments and your standard high school fun, is brilliant, and I think it builds up well, despite TV Tropes suggesting things are missing. The arcs are well constructed, timing works well – spread out but not too thin, and it does make you want to watch on, and really reveal the mystery some more, giving fresh ideas and possibilities each time. The use of arcs and time like it does is probably the most unique thing about it, and well worth watching to see if you like how it unfolds piece by piece. It also does also actually end – which while it perhaps wasn’t pulled off to the higher standards of some parts, still works (although I’d kill for a good epilogue – so many shows don’t do them).

However, if you don’t get it in the first 4 episodes, perhaps give it a miss – the show is pretty unique in some ways, but not for everyone. There is some real worthwhile stuff to watch there though, if you give it a try.

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