Before I started to watch anime, I was scared of anything and everything. So then, I picked up my first volume of manga--one of the earlier volumes of "Bleach." I was so terrified, I couldn't even look at "Bleach" for a few years. So I decided to overcome my fears and watch a horror anime (horror manga would come later). I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep, but I didn't want to be such a wimp. Therefore, I started to watch the only horror anime of which I'd heard. I missed the first episode, so I watched the second. It was so not-scary; I was laughing the whole time. How was this horror?
That anime goes by the unsuspecting name of "Higurashi no Naku Koro ni."
Story: Maebara Keiichi moves to a new town, Hinamizawa. Well, it's more of a village, actually. There he soon meets new students in his class--Ryuugu Rena, who's weakness is anything cute; Sonozaki Mion, the tomboy and leader of the gang; Furude Rika, the shy girl who is ace at most games; and Houjou Satoko, the loud girl who often teases Keiichi. (If you haven't noticed, this is a harem anime. Come on. How the hell is a harem horror?) They play a card game, and if you are the loser, you have to play a punishment game. Keiichi tends to lose and therefore has to dress up in drag (it's quite entertaining, actually). Soon after, he meets Sonozaki Shion, the busty identical twin of Mion. Keiichi doesn't believe Mion has a twin, but after seeing them together, he comes to accept the fact that he another friend.
That's the point of the anime: friendship.
This is where friendship really comes into play.
The anime probably sounds like some stupid harem right about now, and yes, it may seem that way. But then you hit episodes three and four (or four and five; I can't remember). As it turns out, Hinamizawa has a curse where every night of the Watanagashi (Cotton Drifting) festival, a person dies and another goes missing (that's the gist of it, anyway). Keiichi soon learns that this is true, and he is kind of confused. It's June, and Watanagashi is arriving very, very soon.
To make a long story short, I didn't sleep for a week after that. I don't want to say exactly what happens, but Rena and Mion die, followed by Keiichi.
WHAT?! Three main characters are DEAD?!
Then the next episode comes up, and Rena, Mion, Keiichi and everyone are sitting around, playing games and laughing like usual.
Here's what makes "Higurashi" so scary: the suspense and mystery. The "reset" storyline (it's explained later) means that our beloved cast can murder and be murdered over and over.
But the gore isn't the scary part... watch it to find out what is.
Animation: The animation is, in a word, hideous. No sparkly eyes, no fancy lolita dresses, no shiny hair. (But the art for the VN looked even worse.) But the ugliest thing of all is the grotesque faces which add to the overal fear factor of the show. The animators take advantage of the fact that this is an anime--unnatural lighting comes into play. For example...
(This is an actual screenshot.)
WTF the sun is behind her!
The backgrounds are not very detailed, the animation is average, character designs are mediocre, and the blood and torture scenes are downright disturbing.
Sound: The opening song, "Higurashi no Naku Koro ni," is hauntingly trippy and great. The ED isn't very memorable. Insert music is creepy within the series, but listen to the OST on their own and you will be both horrified and entranced (some of my favorite OST are here). The only purposeful insert sound is the sound of the cicadas crying (chirping, I guess). Voice acting is effing incredible... at least in Japanese. None of these characters are easy to portray. All of the seiyuu do superb jobs (and the infamous laughs are done well, too). English voice acting is so inferior, it's disappointing. I haven't heard much (obviously, if the Japanese is so good, why would I want to waste my time with English?), but among the lack of emotion, laughs and turning "Nippah~~:3" into "Nee-PAH," the English is not worth it.
Characters: Hurrah! There is are backstories and some development, and a super high risk of spoilers! But don't worry about that; I'll evade the spoilers by shutting up. >.>
(Note: This flowery stuff never happened! Keiichi and Satoshi never even meet.) Characters: Brown-haired boy: Maebara Keiichi; blonde boy: Houjou Satoshi; green-haired girl in front of Keiichi and Satoshi: Sonozaki Shion (I'm guessing); blonde girl in yellow kimono: Houjou Satoko; blue-haired girl next to Satoko: Furude Rika; purple-haired girl next to Rika: Hanyuu; orange-haired girl in pink kimono: Ryuugu Rena; green-haired girl next to Rena: Sonozaki Mion.
Maebara Keiichi: Has anyone here read Stephen King's "The Langoliers?" Perhaps the most memorable character in it is Craig Toomy, who brings paranoia to a whole new level. I mention this because Keiichi may be even more paranoid. He honestly thinks that the entire village is out to get him, and that everyone around his is completely insane. He, being the main character, truly defines the "friendship" message... in a very, very odd way.
Furude Rika: Her extreme cuteness and unnaturally calm attitude could be seen as creepy, but I think the unsettling air about her (it's there, but you can't put your finger on it) is the creepiest thing. I may spoil if I continue, so on to the next character.
Ryuugu Rena: Remember the picture in the "Animation" section? That's her. She is incredible schizophrenic and switches from innocent schoolgirl to cleaver-wielding sociopath loli and back again in a span of about fifteen seconds. She is a contender for "scariest character," and she truly is terrifying.
Sonozaki Mion: The only really friendly person in the group, her relationship with Shion forms the core of the torture scenes in the anime.
Sonozaki Shion: I will spoil if I go any farther.
Houjou Satoko: She is annoying most of the time, but one can build sympathy for her once Satoshi's arc rolls around.
Takano Miyo: I think she is the scariest character, or at least a close second to Rena. There is something seriously wrong with her. She is completely messed up, but her backstory is so sob-worthy... T.T
Ooishi Kuraudo: He is rarely called by his first name, mostly because only Keiichi talks to him. He is the police officer who helps to solve the mystery.
Houjou Satoshi: Despite the fact that he rarely even appears in the anime, he is one of the most important characters. I run an insanely high risk of spoiling, so I'll stop.
Hanyuu: I'm going to spoil.
Overall: "Higurashi no Naku Koro ni," which translates to "when the cicadas cry," is an incredible addition to the horror genre. I, like so many people, am still searching for a better and more terrifying horror anime. You won't notice it's a harem, which I guess makes it the best harem anime of all time, and the rewatch value is really high. Why do I say this? (SPOILER ALERT UNTIL THE END OF THE WHOLE THING, SO IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO READ ANY SPOILERS, STOP HERE AND DO NOT READ ON, AND YOU MIGHT NOT WANT TO LOOK AT THE PICTURES, EITHER. SPOILERS FOR "UMINEKO NO NAKU KORO NI," TOO.) The thing about "Higurashi" is that it's one big conspiracy. Watch it once and have nightmares. Watch it again and be amazed at how seamlessly the mystery works. Then, watch "Umineko no Naku Koro ni" and find out how incredibly the two blend.
Oh, and one more thing about "Umineko" and this... many people don't seem to know how the Rikas and Bernkastel work.
Frederika (if you put that name into romanji and change one letter, you get Furuderika. OHOHOHOH) represents all the Rikas, since Rika is her game piece in the game that is "Higurashi" (Lambdadelta's piece is Takano).
Here's another thing to notice...
(This is Bernkastel, by the way.) Bernkastel and Rika look exactly the same, except for Bernkastel's dead eyes. Actually, with this in mind...
Lambdadelta and Satoko--I MEAN Takano look kind of similar, too.
(By the way, sorry about the boring pictures. All the gorgeous ones are of the two of them together. Hmm... to end on a high note...)
Feast your eyes on this. :D
Wow. I REALLY got off topic. Now here's to hoping all these pictures show up.