#14: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Kai
(Spoilers ahead, you have been warned)
So, if there are any “dark horse” candidates in my list, Higurashi is most likely one of the biggest. The horror themes and the brutal imagery at several points throughout the series are a far cry from several other entries in my list and the cute girl cover definitely masks a far darker story, filled with brutal and sometimes disturbing deaths, characters teetering on the brink of insanity, and an underlying story about the dark history of the small mountain village of Hinamizawa. So, what is it about Higurashi that stood out so much for me? Higurashi is, by far, one of the most gripping experiences I’ve ever had with an anime. Having been curious for a long time about the show before finally watching it last year, I had never expected such a thrilling, captivating story from which I could never turn away.
So, what was it about Higurashi that kept me so entertained and so enthralled throughout the entirety of its run? The biggest factor of the show had to lie in the characters. Throughout each different arc of the show, we got to take a deeper look at the hidden lives of several different members of the predominantly female main cast. As each character’s story arc continued further, they strayed farther from the character we first meet at the beginning, showing a more twisted underside to their personality with most arcs of the first season ending in the brutal deaths of several members of the main cast. What was so fascinating throughout the second season were revelations about the structure of the story. Within each story arc of the first season, the timeline was seemingly reset to the beginning of the story, following a different character with the story progressing differently each time. However, with the second season’s onset, we learn that the repeating timeline is due to a time-loop being caused by supernatural events within the village. Progressing through Season 2 was a fascinating joyride as we follow the main characters trying to deduce the reason for the time loop and bring it to an end once and for all. The entire show held a level of enthrallment that effectively made it impossible for me to look away as the story progressed and new details emerged.
Favorite Episode: Season 1, Episode 25, “Retake (Atonement Chapter, Part 5)
To be entirely honest, picking a favorite episode of Higurashi is near impossible for me. Each episode of the show was just so well crafted and flowed into one another that it makes picking a particular favorite extremely difficult. Each episode works off the strengths of the ones preceding and following it, which makes picking a particular favorite extremely difficult. The finale to the First Season, “Retake”, was one I particularly enjoyed for its resolution. Contrasting the ending of every arc before it, Retake featured a relatively happy ending, with Rena being brought back from her break and making up with her friends. Contrasting the dark, bloody ending of each arc prior, Retake gave a feeling of hope and the idea that such tragedies could be averted, which carries into the tone and general progression of Kai.
Higurashi is not for the faint of heart. At its most extreme, the show is bloody, violent, uncomfortable, and at parts plain disturbing. There is a lot of graphic imagery and shocking depictions throughout the story. However, it contains one of the most gripping, enthralling stories I’ve ever found in anime. I’ve rarely found a show that’s kept me so captivated and on the edge of my seat, wondering what’s going to happen next and what drastic turn each arc will take. Watching the build-up and eventual payoff of Season 2 was a spectacular experience and it was a viewing experience I will always hold very special to my heart, as it is one that will rarely be replicated.