I love Higurashi. It's a very interesting anime. As opposed to just reviewing Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry), I'd like to review Higurashi as a whole. The reason being that while it is a very enjoyable anime/manga as a stand-alone series, you can't fully appreciate it (or even comprehend it) without watching it's relations Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei as well.
STORY: The story of Higurashi always seems to go the same. Each series has several arcs or sagas in it. Each arc starts with the peaceful villagers of Hinamizawa enjoying themselves in their quiet little town. However, it always ends the same. Brutal murders and deaths. I like this aspect because you get a mixture of relaxed fun and delightful comedy along with a nice sprinkling of fan service, and then each arc ends with brutal violence, mysterious deaths, and psychological warfare that will leave your mind reeling how such a wonderful little town spiraled into such a damnable fate. As I mentioned before, you fully appreciate Higurashi only when you watch its relations. this is because Kai starts to explain why each arc resets all the horrible murders. All the same characters are present, but nobody remembers what happened or has any realization that they are in for a horrible twist of fate. This is because starting with Kai we find out about Rika Furude's secret mission of sorts to alter the horrible deaths that await them all. While Higurashi is interesting and hilarious and eventually gruesome, it will only leave you confused if you don't watch Kai. Rei also has an interesting storyline that really makes you think. In Rei, Rika finds herself in a world where absolutely no deaths occur, everybody seems to lead a perfect life, and there is no pressing conflict. But some of her friends are missing, don't associate with her, or just downright dislike her. She has to decide to stay in this new world that is at peace but none of her friends are friends anymore, or take away their happy lives to go back to the world they built together. Every arc of Higurashi differs slightly among who gets killed and how it happens, but they are all just a part of the whole. At the end of Kai and Rei, it all comes together into an amazing storyline with each and every event folding into one another, as each element explains why everything is the way it is.
ANIMATION: Part of the fun of Higurashi is that you get elements of comedy and horror at the same time. This is a combination you likely won't find anywhere else. During the start of each arc everything is bright, sunny, and cheerful. But as it progresses, things start to become more paranoid and devious, and the atmosphere of the show changes to a dark and scary torture festival with a non-stop river of blood, lies, and deceit. This anime is probably what you'd get if Lucky Star and Paranoia Agent had a baby.
SOUND: The thing that makes this anime truly make you listen is actually it's lack of sound. As you might expect, the lighter side of this show is filled with laughter and noise. But once you hear the telltale cicadas crying and there is less and less sound, you know things are getting suspenseful. After that, the only noises you'll hear are the tears and screams of the poor Hinamizawa victims. Don't let me scare anyone off though. As gruseome as the deaths are in this show (and they are in fact gruesome), the comedy part is absolutely delightful and will leave you fresh and renewed for the new string of god awful deaths. I mentioned the deaths, right? I'm certain I did somewhere here. When the cicadas start to cry and the world grows quiet, fear for your life and watch your back.
CHARACTERS: Any good series needs characters to move it forward. I've always firmly believed that "a great story makes you feel like you know the characters. you care about them like you really know them". The main characters of Higurashi include the "magician of words" Keiichi Maebara, the resourceful and kind "it's so cute I wanna take it home with me" Rena Ryuguu, the devious but loveable club leader Mion Sonozaki, her equally devious and fun-loving twin sister Shion, wicked trap-master Satoko Houjo, and adorable shrine priestess Rika Furude. These six characters are the ones you'll see the most of, and while it takes everybody to grease the wheels of fate you will find there is something truly special about this group. They're a hard lot to forget by a long shot. In my own opinion, I'd probably join them in their club activities even if I knew it meant a horrible death awaited me. I think from now on, I'm going to play penalty games with my friends and family instead of betting money on anything with them. For as much fun as they have, they also try hard at everything they do. they never give anything less than their best, and their efforts prove to be successful as they start to overcome the mysterious murders.
OVERALL: Higurashi is a very unique anime that combines fun-loving friendly activities, hilarious antics and some lovely girls with gruesome murders, dark twists of fate, lies, deceit, paranoia, and so much blood you could run enough blood transfusions to save a small country from whatever ails them. Once all your questions start to find some answers in Kai, you'll be amazed how every little detail fit into this complex battle of the mind. I tend to rate things highly, I'll admit that. But it's not that I'm lenient, I just know what I like and how to find it. Trust me, this anime is at least worth 1 episode to see if you like what you see. Now invite your friends to read this review or watch the anime and make a game of how many times something related to "horrible deaths" occurs.