Monday, 30 May 2011

ひぐらしのなく頃に / Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni / When the Cicadas Cry / Higurashi: When They Cry

I’m not going to deny it. I only watched this because of its great impact on the anime community. If it were one of those obscure series I often watch, it also would have been one of very few series I’ve dropped, and it’s quite hard to get me to forget something permanently.

As it is, I watched all 26 episodes, and will most likely subject myself to …Kai, the second season. But I cannot for the life of me understand this series’ enduring popularity, over here as well as in Japan. It is just one of the worst anime I have ever seen, in every aspect. The only thing I can say without reservation is that I like the song played over the opening credits…and I can’t even phrase that as ‘I like the opening’, because I really wish they didn’t have Rena’s face appearing over that splat noise on the bass just before the beat kicks in, because it’s always unintentionally amusing.

Anyway, there is very little to recommend Higurashi. I can only think of two reasons you would like this: you’re extremely squeamish but like things that make you cringe just a little bit, or you like the fanservice of tiny girls who look about 5, drawn so close to super-deformed that it doesn’t look like their hands could actually touch the top of their heads. Me, I found the violence unimpressive and the fanservice unattractive. Yes, having to rip off your own fingernails as a form of atonement will make anyone cringe, but it just makes me think of the yakuza, who in real life famously cut off whole joints from their fingers to make amends or just to pledge loyalty, which is rather more horrific, and realer. As for the fanservice, there’s very little attractive in the girls here, partly because they’re really annoying and partly because they’re really badly drawn.

Let’s deal with those two things separately. First, the characters. There’s nothing wrong with the two main boys (Keiichi and Satoko's brother Satoshi), plain old everyman characters, nor with the peripheral, functional cast. But at the centre of the story are the five girls. And all of them – every single one – can suddenly change from cute to psychotic. Ridiculously, the voice actresses are directed to totally change voices, meaning that the tiny little blue-haired girl with the cute voice will suddenly start sounding like a middle-aged woman. Not creepy. Just makes you think of the Japanese actress in the booth. Otherwise, the characters are annoying anyway, especially the little ones, one of whom goes, ‘Nii-paa!’ for no reason and refers to herself as a boy, while the other has a fixation on her brother. Really aiming low, this series.

Then there’s the art. Presumably drawn from an amateurish game, it’s very ugly. Exaggerated hair colour and jarringly cutesy designs, very simple lines, lots of off-model frames and poor animation, especially when the girls go nuts. I’m sure it’s supposed to be creepy, but the ridiculous distortion of Shion’s face when she’s shaking the ladder is just totally laughable, and the size of Rena’s mouth when laughing just makes her look like Kimura from Azumanga Daioh – surely not the desired effect.

All of which would be fine with a good story. This ain’t a good story. Telling events out of order may confuse people, but it does not make a story clever. ‘Which identical twin is which?’ really is just so lazy. And the overall concept? Badly thought-out to fit around desired events, rather than them arising naturally from it. Convoluted, lazy and not exactly watertight. The series’ climax? A girl has taken a school hostage, threatening to blow it up, with a timed bomb they know is plugged into the mains.

Not once does anyone think of, y’know, just shutting off the power.

Cheesy, ugly and unintelligent, it makes me sad that people might think this is the best that anime has to offer. It’s a triumph for marketing, I suppose, because people are talking about this show. I just cannot fathom why anyone would think it was good.

(Originally written 19.6.08)


  1. Hm this is interesting, I've never heard anything bad about it yet, haven't got around to watching it yet though.

  2. I really don't understand why it was so popular. People hardly talk about it now, though.

  3. I admit it got confusing, but after the second season it all made perfect sense and everything fit together.

  4. Thanks for that - I'm very, very slowly getting through -kai, but to be honest, I'm not sure there's much confusion over plot by the end.