Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (Season 1) – Wait, What’s Going on?

Murder is Better with Friends

I’ve been really excited for this week of the October Review Fest because I get to talk about one of my favorite anime series, Higurashi. This was a series I watched not too far into my anime journey and I loved every minute of it. I’ve since seen the show a couple times over and it is still cemented as one of my favorites. Here’s my look at the first season and why you should watch Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.

Higurashi cold opens with a brutal murder in progress. The fact that the anime has a dated look, originally airing in the Spring season back in 2006, only enhances the horrific scene. Then we jump right into your typical slice-of-life anime. Wait, what’s going on here exactly?

Keiichi and his family have just moved to the sleepy village of Hinamizawa. It’s the summer of 1983 and his new life couldn’t be better! Unfortunately, Hinamizawa is not as sleepy and innocent a place to live as it first appears. Soon Keiichi learns of the village’s dark past as the annual cotton drifting festival approaches. It’s rumored that each time the festival occurs one person goes missing and another winds up murdered. What exactly is going on, and why won’t Keiichi’s friends tell him anything about it? Watch as the paranoia sets in and the darkest depths of the human soul are revealed!

Each arc of Higurashi follows this sort of pattern. Things are seemingly normal and then it becomes a crazy torture-murder fest. If you are going into this show blind, which is what I recommend, then this will be somewhat confusing as it is an unconventional way to tell the story.

However, this isn’t a bad thing. Higurashi is ridiculously entertaining and one of the better shows to come out of Studio Deen. Their inconsistent animation style works surprisingly well here and even created a new troupe called, “Higurashi Face” since the characters often have twisted and contorted facial expressions that are beyond sinister.

Obviously, the show looks dated but don’t let that turn you away. In the case of horror, this almost always adds to its creepiness. I can’t exactly capture the essence of this in words alone, it’s something you have to see in motion. What a convenient segue for bringing up Higurashi’s OP.

Making my top 25 anime openings list, this opening does a great job of establishing tone as well as showing off the visuals in motion. Not everything is super consistent, as is expected of a Studio Deen project, but again, this helps Higurashi more than it hurts. Give the opening a watch, the best part is when Rika takes off her mask, it’s sooooo good.

In general, the music does an excellent job of enhancing the anime. I love the cicadas that are always ominously “crying” in the background too. People knew what they were doing when they put this together.

After the first arc, the reset can be a bit jarring. This isn’t like “Endless Eight” since each arc has a fairly different outcome. Sometimes only some people die, other times everybody dies, and the reason why isn’t always clear. There is a real mystery here that compels you to finish it.

Every arc you get new information and added speculation as to why these crazy murders keep happening. Is it a curse? A demon? Maybe it’s aliens? Higurashi is pretty clever in that it actually gives away most of its secrets in season one but unfortunately you are not going to get everything answered here. That’s why you definitely need to watch season two.

In many ways season one is like a giant question arc. With the follow up season being the answer arc. So why even care about this show if things are so purposefully ambiguous? Well for starters this is a legitimate horror anime and it is definitely going to make you uncomfortable, which is exceedingly rare in anime.

Not for the faint of heart

 

The most famous, or rather infamous, scene that is sure to get your skin crawling is the fingernail removal scene. I absolutely hate watching that part, and the kicker is that you don’t actually see the gross bits. Higurashi understands that your mind makes things scarier if it doesn’t show you everything, a tool it utilizes quite often in this first season.

Higurashi is at its weakest with the slice-of-life comedy bits, but it shouldn’t be a bother because it is nice to cool down between arcs and it establishes some calm before the storm. Personally, I enjoyed these segments but there are folks who just absolutely hate them. They aren’t the focus, though they are relevant. Considering each arc only has one or two episodes max that are like this, it isn’t a big deal even if you don’t enjoy them.

If you were unaware, Higurashi is actually based on a visual novel. I have some of it (and boy is it long) but haven’t completed it. Why this is interesting is because in most visual adaptations the focus is put on romance and good endings. Well not in Higurashi! Instead, you get to see a bunch of bad ends in this first season and romance is a sub-plot at best, and only in some of the arcs.

This is pretty cool though because in the visual novels, to win you need to have experienced the bad endings in order to correctly navigate to the good ones. There are little hints and details in each one. I can really respect the fact that this is captured well in the anime. As you know, little details like this go a long way for me in terms of enjoyment.

Now to the elephant in the room:  The dub. Only season one has a dub, and it is even a Funimation dub, but it is considered by many to be one of the worst dubs ever made. Really, you should do yourself a favor and watch the whole thing subbed since you will have to switch for season two any way, but I didn’t think the dub was bad. Personally, prefer dubs so watched it this way.

I can’t deny that there are moments where the dub is awful, most noticeably when Rena talks. However, there is one major plus to the dub that the sub lacks, outside of Rika who is an exception, and that’s tone shifts in the vocals. I can’t tell most of the time in the Japanese dub when a character goes from normal to bonkers. In the dub, this change is clearly marked with vocal inflections in addition to the visual cues in the animation.

For me, this made these moments all the more creepy in Higurashi. Rena is this shrill cutesy sounding girl, but then something happens and she’s got this deeper serial killer voice. It’s one of those things that’s not easily explained in words. My point, the dub isn’t really that bad for this reason but you are better off with the sub for consistency.

No spoilers, but I would be amiss to not at least mention the ending. As I mentioned, it doesn’t wrap up the mystery but is conclusive in regards to that specific arc. If you hate the “power of friendship” thing that a lot of anime do, then you are going to be somewhat disappointed. It makes sense here, but it exists and is an integral part of the franchise. Them the breaks.

Rika is best girl, enjoy a picture of her for no reason

 

As a standalone work, Higurashi‘s first season leaves a lot to be desired in terms of plot. It’s very tense and you’ll want to know what’s going on but most of that won’t get resolved here. Fortunately, there is a season two! It is absolutely mandatory if you are going to get into this show. If season one doesn’t interest you, there is nothing for you in season two, or three.

Sentai has the license for this now and you can purchase all the seasons of Higurashi from Rightstuf. You might be able to stream this on Sentai’s weird streaming service but I really don’t know for sure. It’s well worth the money though as this is one of the best the genre has to offer in anime.


What are your thoughts on Higurashi‘s first season? Did you get caught up in the madness or was it just not for you? Let me know in the comments below. If you like what you read please consider helping me out by becoming a Patron. Just click the picture below for more info. As always, thanks for reading and I hope to see you back here at Jon Spencer Reviews again real soon!

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22 thoughts on “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (Season 1) – Wait, What’s Going on?

  1. I’ve heard a lot about this show but never seen it as there has never been a UK release, and by all accounts is unlikely to be one either (licensing issues as usual). Your write-up has made this even more painful to bear! >.< 😛

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    1. That’s so lame! It was unlicensed here for a long time too but it finally got a release so there is hope at least. You could always see if HiDive is available to you and stream it there since Sentai has it. I don’t really recommend the service (not really worth the money), but that’s what a trail is good for 😉

      Hope you get the chance to see it though. Thanks again for reading and stopping by! 🙂

      Like

      1. No worries! 🙂

        There are a ton of anime series (and world cinema films) just floating around the ether over the UK due to licensing issues that you wouldn’t believe.

        Annoyingly some titles are held off because they didn’t sell well in the US which has nothing to do with how they might or might not perform in the UK market but means we miss out as a result. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Just download it (with subs). It’s an AMAZING anime, and the subbed version is far better in my opinion. It is by far one of my favorites, if not my absolute favorite of all time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad to hear you are enjoying it! The remaining parts of the show are only subbed, so not watching the dub is probably the better option for most. I liked the dub, but I know that I’m in the minority here.

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  2. I know that it’s long, but I completely recommend giving the original material a thorough reading when you get the chance. It’s a little slow to start, but it does pick up. The author’s use of prose is really beautiful at times, and I think it gives a lot more room for the characters (and story) to breath.

    Overall I enjoy the Higurashi anime more than the other most commonly named horror anime (Another), it’s really amazing how a story written by one dude who’s bad at art can grow into such a large thing.

    As a side note, Higurashi is technically a ‘sound’ novel, not a visual novel. There’s essentially no choices or game play, and the focus is less on the art (particularly in the original) and more on the atmosphere. (Also the sequel series, Umineko no Naku Koro ni, is a good novel but a baaaad anime)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just can’t afford to keep up with the novels. There are a lot of them. That’s the only reason I haven’t gone through them. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know your thoughts though 🙂

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  3. I always think it’s amazing how different opinions can be for something. Earlier today I saw a review for this over on another blog and that review was not as positive as this one. Reading this though…I think this is a series I would definitely enjoy. It’s right up my alley especially the storyline sounds something I usually really like. I played the OP video, and I can understand why it made your top 25 😀 Truly great. Am going to try and see if I can watch this somewhere. As always great review 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words again 🙂 Finding this one for streaming is a bit difficult. I don’t know if you have access to HiDive, but that’s the only legal place that I know of (not that I recommend that service). Still, I hope you are able to give it a watch because it is fairly unique 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I still have flashbacks to the fingernail scene at least a few times every month. It’s pretty traumatizing.

    I liked how you broke how the scary bits work even without showing us the lovely details. Sometimes the imagination does all the work for you!

    The OPs and EDs for the franchise are all so amazing.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Body horror like that tends to get me compared to most things. Super gross XD

      Thank you very much! ^.^

      I don’t care for all the ED’s but the OP’s are pretty much top-shelf. I really like them for all aspects.

      Thank you for reading too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I actually saw season 2 first, which I loved so looked for the much referred to season 1. This is one of my favourite horror anime and I absolutely love watching things progress from normal to bat-shit and then seemingly reset. Still, it is that nothing is wasted and all of those failures and resets contribute to the final solution that makes this truly satisfying to watch. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Season 2 gives enough flashes of scenes from season 1 that you can piece together what happened and as season 2 is bringing it all together it is a very satisfying watch. Watching season 1 then filled in all the small details I was missing and I have immensely enjoyed rewatching both parts of this and finding all the little details that are hidden throughout.

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