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mahius

  • Joined Jun 10, 2014
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When They Cry: Kai

Jul 14, 2015

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.

Characters
With 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)

8/10 story
5/10 animation
8/10 sound
9/10 characters
7.5/10 overall

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