27 May 2011

'Higurashi: When They Cry'

(CREDIT: to the creators of the video games and the anime)
Rank: 4.5 out of 5 <-- cute people scare me... o_O

"Please, uncover the truth. This is my only wish."
- Keiichi Maebara, "Spirited Away by the Demon, Part 4"

The picture above is my way of showing my frustration of the lack of Keiichi representation in any Higurashi product. *grumbles*

For some reason, no matter how scary a movie or show is, I get over my few hours of self-inflicting torture within a few days and move on. But Higurashi no Naku Koro ni? It's been nearly a week, and I'm still paranoid. Too many late-night viewings...

Without spoiling too much of the story, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (literally titled When the Cicadas Cry) is set in June of 1983 when Keiichi Maebara moved to the small town of Hinamizawa. While settling in during the warming summer, he befriends four girls: blue-haired Rika, mischievous Satako, bold and mature Mion, and Rena, the chick who puts her face on every single advertisement space for this show (must be that damned trademark weapon of hers.) ANYWHO. In each arc a series of various events occur that force these five kids to dive into the mysteries of Hinamizawa as a particular June festival arives.

Vague? Well, sorry. I don't want to say too much or I'll spoil some of the more important or interesting plot points or character development. But to say the very least, the story is not told in chronological order; to be blunt, everyone is in a time loop. Each arc begins at the start of June, covers the festival, unveils a mystery, and ends in late June. The next arc will go back to the beginning of June and follow the same formula. Once one gets used to this awkward way of storytelling, one can appreciate the various scenarios that play out for different characters. But the most helpful aspect of this is how everything is separated by "question arcs," telling a series of events, and "answer arcs," clarifying some concepts not well explained before.

To describe the show, first and foremost Higurashi is psychological horror. In each arc, one of the main characters plays a lead role and becomes a "victim" or a "villain" to his or her friends depending on the circumstances. It brings a unique experience to the character as us viewers can learn more about him/her by how the act, behave, and adapt to the world and people around them. Although each of the five characters get screwed at least once. Hell, I forgot how many times Rika and Keiichi die or how often Mion gets manipulated.

But what is so scary about teenagers becoming paranoid, killing people, or killing themselves? Atmosphere, buildup, and execution, ladies and gentlemen. This show knows how to lure you in with the thickening plot, great interactions, over-the-top yet natural reactions, and the intense scenes... gorgeous. It might be disturbing that I call the gory and graphic scenes of murder and torture beautiful, but there are no mindless insane slasher killers like Jason, Freddy, or Michael Myers. This is gore done well: realistic, but not in your face; sleek, yet messy - duh; and disturbing - obviously. These scenes become moments and do not dominate the show at all. But when they do appear, believe me, it is hard to forget them.

The anime art is average overall, but the facial expressions made during reveals and climaxes are superb. The voice acting in Japanese is... eh. I really prefer Keiichi's voice in the English dub. Normally I don't care if I watch an anime with subtitles or voices in English, but I enjoyed the story in my mother tongue more. By my ears, everyone - except Rena - sounds great, but maybe I'm deaf next to the rest of the world.

Drawbacks? I love just about every character... except Rena. I know, what a shock. I found her to be almost useless because she is a combination of Rika's quietness and Satako's happy personality... just armed with a cleaver/hatchet/billhook/thingamabob. Despite having the best weapon out of everyone else (except the epic metal baseball bat,) I guess I just found her pretty useless overall. Another problem is that the Higurashi anime has two seasons: When They Cry and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai (When They Cry Solutions.) Season one has four question arcs and two answer arcs while season two has the rest of the answer arcs to complete the story. At this point, I am on episode 5 of season two, and God, it feels like season four of Buffy...

Despite one needing to watch a total of 50 episodes to get the completed story behind this strange town, Higurashi is an anime I highly recommend to any horror, psychological, and mystery fan. Anime fans, check this out too. But if you get fearful easily over at least the sight of blood, save your soul and turn away.

I have on last request: check out the music to the show too. The opening and ending songs are heartbreakingly haunting and beautiful. I got them on my iPod after watching the show for three days. lol

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, in my opinion, strongly deserves a 4.5 out of 5. Great story, great atmosphere, great horror, great music, great f'ed up but lovable characters. You can't beat it.

Let's see how long it will take for me to get over myself... but cute people... *screams and hides under bed*

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