So today I watched all of Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (When Cicadas Cry). I have to say that after watching all 26 episodes I think my brain is going to explode, and more than likely my friends will end up blowing it up for me. Spoilers: everyone dies… at least once.

When Cicadas Cry is an anime based off a series of detective games by the same name. It transpires in the June of 1983 and centers around the goings on in the remote town of Hinamizawa. The story begins with Keiichi Maebara moving into the town and befriending his classmates in the one room school that he attends. His friends consist of a troupe of four girls: Rena Ryuguu, Mion Sonozaki, Rika Furude, and Satoko Houjou. Soon we learn of a tragic case of murder that happened four years prior because of protests of a dam project which threatened to flood the town. Every year since then someone has died and someone has vanished on the night of the annual Cotton Drifting Festival.

Being based off a series of detective games, the show is split into several arcs: question arcs and answer arcs. In each, the characters are the same and the setting is the same, but the interactions and outcome of the plot always differs. The following may contain spoilers.

Higurashi Arc 1The first arc, spanning the first four episodes, introduces all the characters and the backstory for the rest of the arcs. In this arc, Keiichi becomes convinced that his friends are behind the curse of Oyashiro-sama and that he is the next victim. This arc is probably the most terrifying as you don’t know who to trust and the only perspective on the story that you see is Keiichi’s.

Higurashi Arc 2The second arc, spanning episodes 5-8, introduces Mion’s twin sister Shion. Shion and Keiichi end up becoming a bit of an item much to Mion’s chagrin and at the festival they decide to break into the main shrine with an amateur photographer and a historian. Soon though, the latter two end up dead and Keiichi and Shion find themselves in the midst of an intricate plot which threatens everyone’s lives.

Higurashi Arc 3The third arc, spanning episodes 9-13, finds Keiichi comforting Satako since her brother’s disappearance a year prior has left her lonely this June. He soon learns that Satako’s uncle has come back to town to care for her, but is, in fact, abusing her. Keiichi makes it his mission to save Satako from her torment. This is probably the most depressing arc.

Higurashi Arc 4The fourth arc, spanning episodes 14-15, takes us back to the events four years ago involving Mion’s family and the dam building project. It is the first arc to be told from someone other than Keiichi’s perspective (it is told from the perspective of the investigator). This is the last of the question arcs where all were presented with is a jumble of information.

Higurashi Arc 5The fifth arc, spanning episodes 16-21, is the longest arc of the series and also the most disturbing. From this arc we begin learning what is actually going on in the town. This is a direct retelling of the second arc from Shion’s point of view and focuses on her infatuation with the disappearance of Satako’s brother Satoshi a year prior right through the end of the events of arc 2.

Higurashi Arc 6The sixth arc, spanning episodes 22-26, is the last arc of the first season but only the second of the answer arcs. In this arc we are shown Rena’s decent into madness and her friend’s attempts to bring her back. We are also given juicy clues as to how all the arcs tie together.

Really, this show should be treated as several different shows (hence all the synopses). Spoiling one of the question arcs will not effect any other arc, but obviously spoiling an answer arc would give things away. So I will try to do neither and merely review content.

The story of When Cicadas Cry at first seems to be extremely broken. After the first arc there is a kind of bewilderment that the show seems to restart and have another go with a different outcome. Even so, the plot seems to be very intricate and even more so when you learn how the arcs all might be linked together. Unfortunately, the end of the season does not answer all of the burning questions that the first four arcs pose. Given its detective background, we are never shown true introspective of anyone other than the main character of that arc. We are never shown the whole picture and thus we never know truly what’s going on.

The presentation of this series though is excellent. Not since the original Village of the Damned have I seen a show where I cant trust anyone but the main character and are actually afraid for his life. The first arc itself is something that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud. After this, the next few arcs become depressing and confusing rather than terrifying. There is very little gore ever shown, but there is a lot, a LOT of blood.

Probably the most horrifying part of this show is that fact that all the violence takes place just off screen and all you can see is the culprit’s eyes and the screams of the victims. The characters also are always happy and carefree at the beginning of the arc, but by the end, at least one of them have transformed into something horrific. The worst part is, the way they transform and the reasons they do are completely believable.

At the end of the series though we are left with a few burning questions:
Spoilers ▼

Hopefully, the new season will answer these questions by giving us the last two answer arcs.

Overall though, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni was a refreshing break from normal anime and a welcome chance to try to figure out what in the world is going on in that small town. I have also learned some valuable lessons:

  • Do NOT trust cute little girls.
  • If you live in a small rural town that has dark superstition surrounding it, your WILL die.
  • Give dolls to the right person.

Other than that, the story, believability, and the mystery all lend this series to a 4.5 out of 5.

Rating: ★★★★½

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