It is the year 1983; and in the village of Hinamizawa, on the night of the cotton drifting festival and in the days following it, a series of deaths occurs. The only hope for the village and its inhabitants is the shrine maiden Furude Rika who, with the help of her invisible partner Hanyuu, is able to travel back in time and alter the events that led to disaster. Unfortunately, regardless of what changes are made, each voyage ultimately ends with the death of Rika and many of her friends. But when Rika’s friends start remembering things that happened to them in previous worlds and take steps to avoid the same outcomes, Rika realizes that their chances of survival have never been better. Can she really challenge and defeat fate itself?
StoryHigurashi no Naku Koro Ni was a force to be reckoned with in its first season-given its unique horror thematics and progression, it went from being a series I felt didn't quite make sense in the sum of its parts to one that I loved and didn‘t have qualms about watching multiple times, and with each rewatch finding something unique to take from it. So when I heard a sequel followed, I jumped at the chance to watch it in full. Part murder mystery, part psychological thriller, part school-based comedy- Higurashi drew me in with its likable characters and situational humor just as much as the intrigue of the realm of Hinamizawa and the Watanagashi festival, with all the complications and events that came alongside them.Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai fills in most of the holes that the first season left off. The central focus of this installment of the series is establishing the connections between the worlds/realms and roles the characters played in the first season, as well as presenting new stories with different perspectives in its overall mix. I actually felt this series was stronger than the last, in some aspects, because it does offer explanations as to why these worlds connected, and how the characters came into the situations they did., coupled with the problems Hinamizawa citizens encounter Rika comes front and center as the focus of the series, a "queen bee" if you will, traveling back in time with a new character Hanyuu, a spirit/god of the shrine. With revelations encountered within each of the worlds, Rika finds that, with the help of Keiichi, Shion, Mion, and Satoko, that they can fight their impending deaths with fortitude, as well as save those whom are destined to perish. Sometimes in success, but just as potent in futility.The blend of humor and murder mystery is just as on point as it was in the previous season-I think Higurashi fans will love the chance to reconnect with the characters again, and also be taken into its whirlwind of events surrounding the Watanagashi festival and the impending dooms the characters face, yet this series sheds some hope for the characters as they figure out, brick by brick, where the ultimate driving force in the deaths of the village lie. However, there's a flaw in this series that didn't quite come across in the first season -what the first season lacks in explanation, it makes up for in this season at the cost of becoming sluggish in overall progression, particularly in a few of the longer arcs. I did find myself trudging through in points because the themes of "fighting fate" and "changing the course" were quite overemphasized. Yet, it made me connect with the characters a bit more in their efforts, particularly when those efforts were in vain or coupled with a sizable twist in the plot.I also liked the note that this series ended a lot better than the last, because there was a definitive sense of closure, but with an element of mystery. Matter in point, the first episode of this series is the true end to the arc of the last season, something that might throw a few viewers off to start, but if you watch the series in succession, it shouldn't be so much of a shock. AnimationThe animation in Higurashi Kai is much better than the previous season, character designs, actions/reactions, and proportions are much more consistent for a 2007 standard, and its well noted. The backdrops and coloring are also of good standards. Fluid action sequences aren't as much noted in this or the previous season, but it works particularly in the scenes where the characters give or are in the heat of the chase. SoundI loved the soundtrack of this season just as much as the former. "Naraku no Hana" by Eiko Shimamiya may not be as dark and ominous as the title track of the first season, but then again, it's more appropriate considering this series' focal point. If Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni is etched in darkness, then Higurashi Kai is its contrasting, dim but present, light. The ending theme to this season is also just as beautiful, complacent and lovely. BGM isn't as much noted in this season, very minimalist but when it is, it works accordingly with the settings, both eerie and beautiful. Voice acting work for this season was on point, I really liked the contrast in Rika's VA, transitioning from her usual child-like adaptation to a more mature "wise beyond her years" figure. The collective cast of Higurashi Kai did an excellent job coming into their characters, never reaching beyond a certain saturation of emotions, yet making it enough to come into connection with the situation present. CharactersHigurashi Kai is essentially more character than event focused than the first season; unlike the first, Rika has a sizably larger role, and you follow her through the series almost through all of the arcs. Hanyuu is the only new character that comes into focus, and she's quite cute, having some of the same quirks as Rika herself (a good point of humor). The main five (or should I say, six) are well worth watching in their humorous interactions as well as their serious ones.Side characters that weren't as much in focus in the past season come much more to the forefront in this one. Dr. Irie; Takano Miyo, Tomitake, Detective Akasaka and Detective Ooishi are given much more considerable focus-and it's relevant because they have much more significant parts to play in this season than the last. I found this an element of strength in this season because it gave their characters, while likable in construction, much more dimension. OverallI'd definitely recommend Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai to those who enjoyed the first season, as well as to those who want a unique murder/mystery/thriller with elements of school based comedy.
StoryImagine everything Higurashi no Naku Koro ni was not, and you've got Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai. While Higurashi Kai certainly ties up a number of much needed loose strings causing incoherency issues within the first season, it ultimately degrades the series into meaningless tripe. It seems that the first season followed the original games/manga to the tee, but the second takes on extremely, and I emphasize extremely, watered down adaptations of the original storyline's ending. There is no gore or horror present save for perhaps one or two very light scenes, and the violence is toned down substantially as well, as most of what's present is almost comical in nature.Needless to say, I was immensely disappointed with Higurashi Kai, as it ended exactly like most anime intended for young children rather than an honorable, intellectual dramatic masterpiece. Save for perhaps one or two minor incidents, all the duplicitous aspects of the main cast of characters' personalities vanish, and it becomes a real chore to convince yourself you're watching the same show. The final two "answer" arcs also happen to be twice the length of the prior six arcs in season one, and are subsequently packed full of filler-esque material which really causes the series to drag in many places - completely opposite of the first season, where constant angst and tension kept you on the edge of your seat and constantly looking over your shoulder while you watched.Ending and conclusion aside, the sole purpose of Higurashi Kai is to provide the viewer with the story behind everything that occurs in the first season, and on that note it succeeds. Rika takes a much more central role in the second season, explaining many of her mysterious talents such as her vast score of knowledge and her prophetic capabilities; which, in essence, explains who Oyashiro-sama is and what his curse entails with rather great detail. Again, though, the enormous, anti-climactic ending dwarfs the importance of such revelations, as it sucks the very life out of the drama they were supposed to be explaining. While it provides closure, this closure is quite poor, and as such I have a hard time swallowing the series as a whole.AnimationAs far as color vibrancy goes, Higurashi Kai got a substantial boost in quality, but that's about the only noticeable difference in quality. I made a point not to increase the animation score, though, since the total lack of dramatic emphasis took away the first season's exemplary use of facial expressions to convey morbid atmospheres. The additions really didn't do much for me, especially with the huge abundance of stills in most of Higurashi Kai's action scenes.SoundWithout a doubt, my favorite aspect of Higurashi Kai is its second, absolutely superb opening theme. Aside from that, though, the musical score remains virtually identical as the first season, and the voice actors again do a great job, though their roles are made less intensive.CharactersI was really quite flustered with how the characters panned out. For obviously having severe paranoia issues, Keiichi seems perfectly normal for most of Higurashi Kai, a far cry from the neurotic xenophobe who has quite a difficult time distinguishing reality between the varying Himizawa worlds in the first season; Rena's random, sporadic violent tendencies disappear entirely, and I hardly see her lift a finger during the first half of the series; Shion displays one instance of her blood thirst, but it's tamed rather quickly and her character immediately seems to revert after with no future signs; the list goes on. The characters simply didn't carry the same feel, and that really gave me pause when trying to rationalize them in the context of the second season. In the first season each of the characters suffered from very fragile and delicate personality problems, and the fact that these problems cease to exist in the latter arcs is simply baffling.OverallUnfortunately, because of how Higurashi's first season pans out, Higurashi Kai is a must watch to understand the progression of the story. Perhaps I'm overreacting a bit to how much I disliked Higurashi Kai, as I did enjoy the first fourteen episodes, but the last arc was simply atrocious. All in all a settling sequel to the first season, but don't expect to have your brain played with in any sinister fashion - you'll just end up utterly disappointed.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai is the second season of a well-known psychological thriller horror based upon a visual novel (available on Steam). Season 1 was the first anime to legitimately scare me, not to say other anime of the genre are bad. But the thing that stood out about the original series and the major point of contention was the episodic nature and unexplained story. A mystery laid out, yet never uncovered. In that respect, this sequel is almost the complete opposite. It delves deep into the surprisingly rich backstory and the individual chapters are longer on average, also being branched and having some form of continuation as these are more clearly connected. The trade-off however, is less of the exciting psychological horror that made the first season popular. It might have been the fact that I watched most of this sequel during the day (and after moving, no longer living alone), but there were very few occasions where this anime made me feel scared. I haven’t done a review of season 1, so I’ll discuss things like animation, sound and characters here. Animation Animation of this anime is the same as season one. Quality isn’t actually too great, even for an anime made in 2006/2007 the best I could get was 567p . The movement left something to be desired. It was most noticeable in the unpleasant combat animations during a brawl scene. At least it isn’t terrible, just a bit underwhelming considering I’ve watched other anime made in the same year or before with better animation quality. Animation style isn’t too much better, the character designs aren’t unique. Keichi looks generic as all heck. But I must commend on Rena’s design, it’s one that stands out and seems rather unique. With the exception of the teacher Ms Chie who has the same look about her. The twins Mion and Shione also have interesting design, particularly their attire which allows them to be distinguished from one another, despite them being twins with identical bodies. Shion is the sexier of the two and along with Miyo Takano, the other ‘hot’ female character, is actually depicted rather sensibly. No fan service, though it comes close in an early episode when Rena uses her ‘female charm’ to beat Keichi in a club activity. I will have to mention the blood and gore, or rather the relative reduction of it. The camera is often pointed away from such things and my hopes were up when it was implied that torture would happen, only to find it a tame beating or they didn’t show it. If this was stuff of a ‘sexual nature’ then I wouldn’t mind them avoiding showing it on screen, but this is a horror anime. It needs a suitable amount of blood and gore. The nastiest thing I remember is just a slightly dismembered corpse. Perhaps other (gorier) anime have raised my expectations a bit too high. Sound The sound wasn’t too bad, the intro and outro don’t change throughout the 24 episodes. The intro music was decent, having an occasional sound that resembled a scream. The actual sequence itself was less scary and creepy when compared to the first season, but it showed off a lot of characters, including ones which would appear later and the shot with the girl crying in the rain… I don’t quite think it’s Satoko. This is representative of the whole anime itself, less scares and more plot. Sorry for going off on a tangent but back to music, the outro was quite chilled but given the atmosphere it reminded me of the Another outro. It felt a bit ominous and seemed to suggest that, well, the characters would die, which did happen multiple times in the previous season. The background music wasn’t 100% on point, but it was noticeable and at many points it helped the atmosphere, keeping it tense or calming it down when the kids are doing their club activities and picking on Keichi. One big departure from the first season is the lack of an English dub, this sequel season is only available in Japanese. Or that’s what I found anyway. Not sure why that’s the case, but the voices were pretty good and I realised that some of the voices were similar to each other. The dub to the sub that is. For example, Both VAs for Satoko seemed to give off the same impression of that character, so I don’t know why they decided to not bother with a dub, especially since season 1 was popular. A lot of big names in the Japanese VA industry here. The voice of Keichi Maebara is Souichiro Hoishi, who voiced roles including Goku in DBZ, Yukio Kasamatsu in Kuroko no Basuke, Kei Kusanagi in Please Techer and Tomoki Sakurai in Sora no Otoshimono. Satsuki Yukino does the voices of Mion and Shion, she’s also done Rose in FMA Brotherhood Nenene Sumiregawa in Read or Die TV and various other roles. Hanyuu is voiced by Yui Horie, the voice of Kotori Shirakawa and Yume Asakura in Da Capo, Ayu Tsukimiya in Kanon, Chie Satonaka in P4A and Aoi Misato from Tokyo Majin. Rika Furude is voiced by Yukari Tamura, famed as Mei Sunohara in Clannad, Sakura Yoshino from Da Capo, Mai Kawasumi from Kanon, Midori Sugiura and Ichigo Morino from Please Teacher. Other notable voices include Mika Kanai as Satoko Houjou, Miki Itou as Miyo Takano, Toshihiko Seki as Irie-sensei and Chafurin as the cop Oishi. CharactersWith such a large cast of characters, I will try my best to shorten this segment down. These characters also differ in personality at times (especially season one), so less I can say. The male lead one could argue here is Keichi Maebara, a teenage boy whose family has recently moved to Hinamizawa. He seems to be the typical anime protagonist, nothing special and he’s the only guy in the friend group, replacing Satoshi from the year before. He always gets picked on by the other’s, who gang up on him when playing games to make him loose and play the punishment game. He has a good sense of justice and strongly feels that nothing is written in stone, you can fight fate. He’s kinda charismatic too. Mion Sonozaki is the eldest of two identical twin sisters and is the same age as Kenichi. She is a tomboy, who likes to run around and loves to play games (a bit childish). She ties her green hair up into a ponytail and carries a toy gun with her. She is the leader of the activities club and enjoys coming up with punishments for those who lose the games, she rarely does because she is so skilled. She is greatly valued by her family, who are well off and the most powerful family in Hinamizawa. She has feelings for Kenichi and despite being a fun, youthful individual, she also cares a lot about her twin sister. Shion Sonozaki is the younger of the Sonozaki twins, though with the difference in the personality and behaviour of the two, one would mistake her for the older sister. Historically, the Sonozaki family doesn’t tolerate second children/twins so Shion is lucky to be alive. As such she lives separately, going to a different school, protected by her bodyguard, Tatsuyoshi Kasai. She seems much more adult than her twin, especially in appearance (wears her hair long) and her curvaceous figure is much more noticeably. Funny since Mion has the same figure. She works at a restaurant/cake shop called Angel Mort where she must wear a revealing maid-like outfit. She developed feelings towards Satoshi Houjou, who is no longer around. Rena Ryugu is the other girl around the same age as Keichi and goes to school with both Keichi and Mion. She wears a beret and her figure isn’t as curvaceous as Mion/Shion, but she doesn’t have too much of a childlike figure either. Her parents were divorced many years back and she choose to move away from Hinamizawa with her father. The two returned in recent years as Rena was developing aggressive behaviour and was expelled from school. Her father, still upset about the divorce was gullible enough to get caught with a two-faced crooked slut who planned to fleece him for every penny. Rena herself loves cute things and has a habit of trying to take her cute friends home, in a creepy way. Her signature weapon is a massive meat cleaver. Satoko Houjou is one of the younger kids in the activity club and group of friends, a blonde elementary school student who wears a hairband. She was always reliant on her older brother Satoshi, who disappeared as part of Oyashiro’s curse. She is mischievous and likes to lay traps, often making the cliché ojou-sama laugh. She and her brother were orphaned when their parents died as part of the Hinamizawa mystery murders and were taken in by their aunt and uncle who abused them. This ended when the next year, the aunt also died as part of the mystery murders and their uncle moved away. After her brother disappeared she moved in with Rika. This kid is actually a bit mentally unstable, often breaking down into tears and bawling her eyes out and being unable to handle Satoshi’s disappearance, blaming herself. Rika Furude is the only daughter of the Furude family, one of the 3 big families in Hinamizawa. As such, she is cherished by the whole town and she is the shrine maiden to Oyashiro’s shrine. The Hinamizawa mystery murders started when her parents died many years ago. She is the same as Satoko and is her best friend. Being in such a unique position, it is found that there is a plot to kill her, hence she dies and gets revived into a new world by her friend and the patron god of the town to whom she is spiritually linked with, Hanyuu. Her catchphrase is a colloquial term ‘Nippan’ which apparently translates to ‘nipping around.’ Hanyuu is the mysterious god of Hinamizawa and has been travelling through worlds with Rika. She takes the appearance of lilac haired child, the same age as Rika and has strange black horns, one of which seems to be kinda broken. She likes sweet food and since she is spiritually linked with Rika, Rika enjoys annoying Hanyuu by drinking alcohol and eating spicy food, since Hanyuu feels the effects. Rika is also the only one who can see Hanyuu. She’s a sweet and slightly timid individual, who often cries. Her catchphrase is ‘auuhwuaauu.’ Kuraudo Oishi is the police chief in town and does his best to try and solve the Hinamizawa mystery murders. He also becomes a key ally to them, since he’s so helpful and will be retiring soon after the Watanagashi festival of 1983. He smokes and I bet he enjoys eating donuts, since he seems to resemble an cliche American TV detective. Kyousuke Irie is the only doctor in the only clinic in town, the Irie clinic. He wears glasses and often is found imparting advice to the young protagonists. He is also the coach of the Hinamizawa junior baseball team, bringing him closer to the children. He is very protective over Satoko, dare I say he has a paedophilic attraction to her. He seems to enjoy it when little girls dress up as maids, especially Satoko. He is deeply involved in the mysterious goings on at Hinamizawa and is one of the characters who often dies/disappears in each world. Miyo Takano is the hot blonde nurse at the Irie clinic. The children see her similarly to Irie, someone they can go to for help. She and her apparent lover Jirou Tomitake are a constant in the tragic events of 1983, they are two characters that always seem to die during Hinimizawa as part of the mystery deaths of Hinamizawa. Miyo’s backstory is delved into quite deeply and she is an essential factor of this plot, in the last chapter of season 1 she seemed to be the only one who thought she had an idea about what was going on in the town of Hinamizawa. Story A quick recap before I comment on the plot. Rika and Hanyuu have lived for a very long time through various different parallel iterations of the events of June 1983 in Hinamizawa. In every world there are a few constants such as people going mad, the deaths of Miyo Takano, Jirou Tomitake and finally Rika herself. The episodic chapters in this season are directly linked and the length varies. The first chapter of episode one is an epilogue for the final chapter in season one and takes place 20 after its events. The next chapter is 7 episodes long and the final chapter takes up the rest of the anime. The biggest disappointment for many people is the move away from the horror, thriller aspect. There were quite a few scary bits in season one, which lacked overall plot cohesion. In this second season it’s the reverse, less scares and a lot of plot, especially explaining the mystery of Hinamizawa and the background to it all. I actually liked this injection of narrative, even though I was also a tad sour at the lack of horror. Or maybe it was, but it just couldn’t scare me like season one could. At first the whole plot and the explanation appears to be a whole load of elaborate nonsense. But that’s just a false start. Most of the second story was a big disappointment, the whole issue plaguing the early episodes is solved by something which could have easily been done sooner. There’s a bit of snowballing, in that unlikely things keep on happening or it could just be the charisma of a certain character. The third chapter has all of the backstory and continued progression. It eventually turns into a battle of wits, but I won’t go into more detail for fear of spoilers. While not having much horror, the story still manages to incorporate seriously messed-up matters such as torture, human experimentation, mass murder and conspiracy. Most of the shocking stuff is done off camera unfortunately. It gives plenty of explanation to why things occur the way they did, though the plot does seem to have a few flaws with the development. It kinda didn’t make sense to me why it had to go so far. A few points were predictable, but it was mostly surprising, unexpected developments. I'll alsp add that I found the conclusion to be satisfactory. Conclusion Is the disappointment in this sequel justified? Perhaps, since it is supposed to be a horror anime and doesn’t scare like the first season. But it also fixed the biggest issue with the first season, the lack of overall coherency in the plot and actually explaining things, which simply went unexplained in season 1. It provides a satisfying conclusion to the Higurashi saga, though withholding some of the cool, gory and scary stuff. Definitely watch season one. And if you want to know how it all ends, then watch this sequel, but don’t expect it to scare you. Despite the unsavoury ideas in this anime, I’d recommend it to most folks, once again I’m telling you not to expect scares. Heck if I wanted to introduce someone to anime, the first 4 episodes of season one would be a decent place to start. Family-friendliness Rating: Disturbing themes 4/5 (lower is better)Overall Rating: 7.5/10 (higher is better)
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