While I am a massive fan of horror anime and manga, it may come as quite a shock that I’ve never watched the original Higurashi When They Cry (2006). I also own the visual novels that the anime is based off, but haven’t gotten around to playing them (oh that ever growing Steam backlog). So while I was aware of Higurashi and how infamous it was, I really went into this episode was not much background.
In episode one, we’re introduced to Keiichi Maebara, who has just moved to the country village of Hinamizawa. Despite being the new comer to what appears to be a tight knit community, he quickly settles in and makes friends with his female classmates. However, when he meets a photographer exploring the village he learns that his new hometown may not be as quiet as he thought, and his friends not as sweet.
While the episode starts off with a rather jarring scene of a boy (presumably Maebara) brutally murdering his friends, the rest of the episode is pretty much the definition of a slow burn. And that’s not an insult in of itself. There’s definitely something to be applauded when a horror series can build a sense of dread and incoming doom. But what I did struggle with this episode was the ‘slice of life’ gags that peppered the episode. In one sequence Maebara and the girls play a scavenger hunt and in another they have a picnic. The girl’s characters seemed to be almost cutesy caricatures just waiting to deliver a punchline.
To be fair, having the female characters seem so carefree one moment and then tense up when a certain past incident is mentioned was effective. And I wouldn’t be surprised if down the track the series flips this on its head by showing the female characters were purposely playing caricatures for some insidious reason. But watching it, at episode one and with no idea how the story will play out, it was unappealing.
Art-wise I loved the background scenery, I felt immediately drawn into the small town. But it also served to remind viewers just how isolated they are with forrest and mountains surrounding the village. I do remember when the anime was first announced viewers of the old series were unsure about how the new animation style would be. Personally, I didn’t mind the character designs all too much but I did find there were some awkward shots. For example in the image below, the way Keiichi’s legs are drawn looks so disproportional.
Overall, the first episode of the new Higurashi: When They Cry anime is certainly intriguing! I’m not a big fan of slice-of-life series where characters goof around, so I wasn’t as drawn into these parts of the episode. But I can definitely appreciate how they’re being used as the base to build up to some shocking events. I’m a little uncertain if I’ll be watching this one week to week, or wait to binge it at the end. But I do like the idea of seeing theories crop up on social media or reading what other bloggers have to say. I’m also not sure if I’ll do week-to-week reviews of this. Anyway, for a first episode it definitely did what it set out to do – introduced characters, premise and intrigue!
What did you think of the first episode of Higurashi: When They Cry – New? Let me know in the comments (also no spoilers for the VN and old anime please)!