Higurashi is an anime that I initially thought would be nothing more than loli’s killing stuff. Cute, adorable characters do cute, adorable things but secretly harbor murderous intent. If that had been the plot of Higurashi, it would have probably sucked pretty bad. Thankfully, Higurashi is a lot more complex than that, and while the loli killers are definitely the selling point of the anime and the main draw, what you will ultimately be sucked in by is the plot more so than the characters. And admittedly, I was going to drop Higurashi about halfway through as I couldn’t understand what the hell was taking place, nor did I really care at all for any of the characters. Thankfully, I stuck with it because while the series is very confusing and the drama and violence is pretty low-key for much of the series, the final two arcs really rectify everything with very satisfying drama, torture, and bloodshed.
Higurashi is not so much the story of a group of characters, more so the story of the small town of Hinamizawa. Five years previous to when Maebara Keiichi joins the town’s population, a dam construction project was going to take place. It would wipe out the entire town, so of course there was resistance to it. At some point during the resistance people died and the dam project was scrapped. It was during a town festival, Watanagashi, that this happened, and for every Watanagashi since people have died. It’s in groups of two, where one person is killed and the other is “demoned away”; basically he or she disappears.
Maebara Keiichi seems to be the main character of Higurashi. He’s new to the town and ends up making friends with some of the girls in his class; Rena, Mion, Satoko, and Rika. Each has a pretty harsh past and one in particular is very involved in the goings on of the town. That said, I can’t really tell you a lot about what happens in Higurashi without spoiling anything. Suffice it to say, these girls are all caught up in what is considered “Oyashiro’s Curse”, the two deaths that happen during the Watanagashi festival, and Keiichi is caught in the middle of family feuds, crimes of passion, and much more.
As I stated, the series doesn’t really pick up steam until the final two acts. It is divided into quite a few arcs, all of which are self-contained to an extent and focus on a different character. The story is tough to follow because of these different arcs overlapping, and sometimes being negated by the next arc. It’s very mysterious and sometimes tough to get through because you have no idea what the hell you’re watching and what to believe. Higurashi explains a lot of what is going on toward the end with an amazingly well-done arc concerning Mion’s twin, Shion. Shion becomes the most memorable character in the anime through this arc, as well as produces the best drama in the entire show. Further explanation is given in the final arc, though I can safely say that not a lot is resolved and there are a lot of questions left unanswered, though you can probably make a few inferences for yourself on what’s happening.
That said, as far as gore and violence goes (the reason many probably watched this anime), it’s not really too bad until the Shion arc. There are some pretty brutal moments sprinkled throughout, but the Shion arc is the darkest of all of them and is sometimes downright disturbing in the gore department. That said, the beginning of the anime is not as disturbing for its’ gore and violence as the creepy way that the girls act. When shit’s about to go down, their eyes turn cat-like, and this small change in the eyes is just creepy enough to make you feel uncomfortable. It’s like the red eyes in Shiki, just a small little thing but very effective as far as making the person watching feel a little disturbed.
There’s a lot of disturbing content. Even by my standards (and trust me, it’s pretty hard to make me cringe at gore and violence). There was one scene concerning a knife and a neck in particular that was pretty damn gross. And the part where one of the characters has to have her fingernails torn out. That was pretty gross too.
Higurashi’s characters don’t follow any conventions really, they are all disturbing in their own ways and negate any genericism through their insanity. As I said before, I wasn’t pulled into Higurashi by the characters as much as the plot. Maebara Keiichi is a decent protagonist, though I never grew to like him. The same can be said of Rena; while she has a lot of back story and is a very good character as far as story is concerned, she’s meek but for those violent mood swings. The same can basically be said for all the girls. They aren’t really entertaining unless they are ready to murder someone.
The exception: Shion. Shion is an interesting specimen in that you really get to see her develop into her craziness and you can understand completely where she’s coming from. Shion’s the only character who you get to see one hundred percent of the bad things that have happened to her and get to follow her fall. While Higurashi focuses continually on the latest Watanagashi festival; with the Shion arc it focuses on more than a year worth of plot and her character really shines due to all that attention. She’s quite possibly the greatest insane character I’ve ever seen in an anime, whose passion for a man leads her to kill and torture so many in such brutal ways.
One of the best parts of the anime is the theme song, which is fantastic. It’s eerie and haunting. It has great vocals and is a delight to listen to.
One of the bad parts of the anime is the animation. Sadly, characters can look really weird, especially during faster action sequences where they become blurry Picasso’s rather than people. Even up close the girls always seem to look emaciated.
Higurashi is a fun anime that takes a while to get into. Some of the more slice-of-life moments are unnecessary and boring, but if you can get through those you are rewarded with a pretty deep plot with a lot of disturbing and dramatic moments. It’s not a masterpiece by any regard and some moments can be painful to watch ("Thankfully nobody notices I’m wearing an earpiece and talking to myself!") but it’s overall worth your time and really enjoyable.