This review does NOT contain storyline spoilers.
Welcome to Hinamizawa. Allow me to share my opinion on one of the best mystery anime out there. First, I would like to start with....
True enough, the main appeal of this anime is, of course, it's storyline. Higurashi is divided into chapters, each 4-5 episodes long. In each chapter, another character becomes the "main character". In other words, we see the story unfolding from different perspectives. The idea in it's self isn't new to the anime world, but the implementation is absolutely fantastic.
The whole anime is built like an extremely intelligent jigsaw puzzle. When I first watched it (during a two-day marathon run :D), theories and ideas on what the hell is happening surged through my brain at Mach 2. When I rewatched it for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th time, I still found clues placed so obvious but at the same time, so masterfully hidden. That's another major plus of this series: you can rewatch it again and again, and still find something new.
All in all, this anime is a mystery, in which you start with a mininum of information and gradually build your own conclusion. However, let's not forget that Higurashi was first and foremost a visual novel, so I had my doubts about the pacing. They proved unfounded: the storyline line picks you up gently and then slowly, slowly feeds you clues. I never felt rushed or bored.
So it's a straight 10 from me for the storyline.
Next, let's move on to...
For a 2006 anime, the animation is not ground-breaking in any means. The backgrounds are luscious and extremly well done; the characters move fluidly and are well drawn. Some may argue about the Uranus-sized eyes, but I find them extremly important to the overall feeling of the anime (and I like big eyes, so sue me). Plus, crazy-eye mode is imba (you'll see...oh yes, you'll see MWAAHAHAHA).
But, imba as it may be, eyes alone don't make a good mark. The animation is mediocre. Although I might be overthinking this, I strongly believe that the mediocre animation is there to suggest the rather normal life of the characters: they're just kids thrown into a whirlpool of madness.
In any case, it gets the job done. It's no Ghost in the Shell, but it looks good. 7/10
Ah....the sound. You know how I know the soundtrack of an anime is good? If I have it on my iPod. And guess what? After seeing this anime, I downloaded all of Eiko Shimamiya's albums. Yep, it's that good.
The opening is just...beautifull, setting the stage and pace extremely well. The ending, is so-so in my opinion, but it does give some kind of closure, like it's putting you back into the real world.
In general, the music of Higurashi creates the terrific atmosphere of the anime: by strong bass in some stressful situations or even by the lack of any sounds in other. That's the definition of a good soundtrack: it exists around you, creating and enticing you into the atmosphere of the anime without you even noticing that. 10/10
At first glance, it's looks like your random run-of-the-mill harem anime: 1 guy with 4 girls. Yeah, it's not. Although romance is hinted, that's not the main purpose of this anime. Like I said before, the main character is mobile. For that purpose, there's no secondary characters placed in the anime for the sole purpose of being there. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has a role to play in the mystery :D. And they play it masterfully.
We do, however, have stereotypes: the cute one, the tomboy with big titties, the mischievous one, the shrine maiden etc etc etc, but they don't look superficial. Each and everyone of them has a trait that escapes from most harem anime: depth. They have motives, reasons and above all, they evolve.
Because it doesn't introduce characters for the sake of introducing them and because it makes it's characters grow, Higurashi gets 10/10 from me.
Before I state my conclusion, I want to make a small suggestion: watch this anime at night, with the lights off and with your speakers/headphones set to max bass. You'll thank me later. :D
I seriously can't recommend this anime enough. It's a must-see because it brings together so perfectly cliches seen in most animes (harems, comedys, crazy girls with cleavers etc etc etc) but, in the meantime, giving them a new a fresh twist.
My favourite part is that Higurashi made me use my head, drew me in, made me feel it. I haven't felt so...there, alongside the characters, trying to solve the riddle, laughing with them, crying with them, feeling their frustrations, in a long, long time.
Meet Agatha Christie in anime form.
PS: Due to the explicit content which is extremly disturbing (for some) and the ideas prezent (which are not exactly child-safe), I recommend a 16+ age limit.