Spoilers of Higurashi and Higurashi Kai
The Internet has spoiled us. Of course, it is easy to say that when I grew up in the late 90s, literally having everything at my fingertips but that is the point. Imagine a world where one might find themselves at a loss, confused about a certain place’s history only to be stonewalled by the locals there. That is a harden fact that exists, when it comes to history, the winner gets to say. But the Internet changed that, suddenly we can see, even understand situations all around the world, something that has equally made us numb, and comfortable.
So think of a world that pre-dates the internet, yes, I mean the 80s. Higurashi is a series that has been in the anime world for a very long time. The first season coming out in 2006 from Studio DEEN and from the brain of Ryukishi07 the visual novel adaption quickly caused a buzz due to its dark, tragic nature. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a fan of the series, to be honest, it is one of my top 5 favorite anime of all time and has been since I first watched it back in 2010.
So a little over a decade later Ryukishi07 is back with what looks like a remastered of his classic series, Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU. It was a show that was loosely promoted as a stand-alone, one that even if someone didn’t watch the original runs back in the mid-2000s could still get into.
Something I quite disagree with.
Higurashi as a whole is a fairly large series at this point, well over 50 episodes so I could see the appeal of someone looking at this horror classic, seeing the new season being promoted as a stand-alone and think, this makes it much easier to get into. While I cannot disagree with that logic, I can say going into GOU without an understanding of what happens in the series would be a major disservice.
I guess I should take a step back and explain where I am coming from. For those who are unaware Higurashi is an arc reset story. In a nutshell, every 4-6 episodes follow some event that will lead to the death of one or many of the 6 main characters. Once that even happens the story starts over, meaning one of the 6 is causing the world to reset, attempting an outcome where no one dies.
This story is masterfully paired with an isolated village, Hinamizawa that has a deep entrenchment into its own dark past. This is complemented by the fact the series takes place in the 80s as the first arc follows Keiichi Maebara, a fellow that recently moved to the village as he tries to figure out its sinister history, though the whole village wants him to mind his own fucking business. Being forced to find things on his own Keiichi starts hiding things from his group of friends, specifically a girl that seems to be sweet on him Rena Ryuuguu. It is with these secrets Keiichi starts to see a scary side to the group, one laced with malice as he believes that not only Rena, but some of his other pals have literal blood on their hands.
It is at this time we learn that within this village there is a sickness of sorts. Hinamizawa Syndrome is a brain condition that instills a deep paranoia in its victim. Believed to be a curse it affects people in a way that makes them perceive things that may not be the case, like Keiichi thinking his dear friend Rena is a serial killer when she is indeed, just a 15-year-old girl.
20 some odd episodes later we discover in season two, Rika Furude, the 10-year-old head of the religious family of the village is the reset. She had lived the horrifying moments of her and her dear friend’s deaths for over 100 years, longing to be free of not only the events but of the village itself. It is only then GOU is set up, as the first episodes show Rika distraught to learn she had once again been reborn into the village, though she had beat all odds in season 2 years ago. Being able to reset his legendary game I wasn’t sure how Ryukishi07 was going to play this out.
One negative about Higurashi I always tell people, if you plan on watching the series you have to have one thing above all, patience. Since the story resets so many times, there is a lot of moments one will have to experience over and over, the difference of the arcs usually occurring in the last two episodes of the arc. So with this in mind, I was worried that Rika’s death post beating the loop in season two would be just that, some random event that triggered the repeat of an already dead, beaten horse.
Ignorant to what exactly happens, GOU starts out a lot like the original run of the show, with the watcher nor Rika really knowing what the fuck is going on. But suddenly something changes, Rika in the past never knew how or who killed her, but in this iteration of the series she does, a key clue as she discovers that in this loop it isn’t her that is resetting the world, but someone else.
Higurashi GOU is, much to my surprise a wonderful addition to a classic dark tale and it holds up to its original source claim to fame. Halfway through the season, we learn that Rika has little to no control over her new life, the last episodes showing Rika’s future much to the distaste of someone who loves her, forcing them to take both of their lives into their own hands to craft a world they see fit.
This is an interesting shift from the original series anyone who has watched it would notice. Another very weak point of Higurashi at least the second season (Kai) is all the cluster fuck that is going on is actually due to the malicious intent of a rouge government body, aka someone that is outside the realm of Hinamizawa making the impression of a cheap ending as the big baddy was someone the watchers knew little about. GOU took a different approach, making the resets much more personal and that much darker.
I will say on that note, GOU is much MUCH more gore-filled than the original run. In the first arc of GOU there is a stabbing, one that is censored on Funimations website. I thought it odd since the scene wasn’t that bad but figured that there on out most of the gore would be blacked out, god was I wrong. Episode 17 specifically has a chain of events that I had to physically pause and take a break from watching, and if one can’t really stomach such things, id stay away from GOU.
Overall I have been very pleased with the revamp of Higurashi. When I first heard they were toying with the idea of breathing life into a series that hadn’t been touched for the better part of a decade, I was, worried. But as of GOU and the first handful of episodes of SOTSU it brings back the nostalgia of why I loved this series and a dark new twist I never saw coming.
As always thanks for the read!