Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Returning to Higurashi When They Cry 10 Years Later

Isn't it funny how fast time flies? Ten years ago I was a 17 year old getting ready to finish High School, and I had no idea what my future would be like. Heck, I don't even think I thought that far ahead. During that time I was more focused on the here and now, and a lot of that revolved around the friends I had made, and the new games and anime I had gotten into. It was also the first year my family's bakery was open, so a lot of my time was spent there too. But either way, my normal daily life was what I cared about most, and the last thing on my mind was what I should be doing next. Sure I knew I had to go to college, and I had an idea of what I wanted to be, but whatever. It was soon going to be summer vacation, and I wouldn't have to worry about such things for at least a few months. Yeah, that flew by in no time...

Anyway, during that time of my life, almost every day was fun, and I really didn't have any worries. I was free to do what I wanted when I wanted, and often that involved hanging out with friends. It really was a great time in my life... But now you may be asking, what does this have to do with anything? Well, it's because of those friends and free time that I stumbled across a little anime called "Higurashi." I didn't know it at the time, but this anime would leave a lasting impression on me, and change how I viewed the horror genre forever.



Now I've mentioned in the past that I used to not do horror at all. Seriously, if anything was classified as horror, I avoided it. So when a friend sent me a video from Nico Nico featuring a song called "Dear You," I was pretty shocked to learn what it came from. In the surface it seemed like some generic school life anime, but in reality I learned it was much more. Of course I didn't want to believe this "happy" series would turn into something in the horror genre, but there was no denying the truth. Heck, I still remember asking my friend Hayley at school about it, and she just laughed it off. "Yeah it's a REAL happy series" was her reply, which was obviously a lie, but I decided to try it out anyway. I'm still not sure if I regret that or not.

The thing about Higurashi is, while it may be an anime, it actually started as a video game. Or sound novel to be exact. It was the story of a kid moving to a small town in Japan, and the "adventures" he and his new found (all female) group of friends go on. Typically they spent their time playing games where they have to cheat to win or face punishment, but sometimes they'd go out to the city and get involved in different events. I mean, it really does sound like a typical school life anime when you put it that way, but things take a dark turn pretty quickly.

After attending a town festival, the main character learns of the dam project and the horrible murder that happened during the protests against it's construction. A man was mutilated and split up among multiple people, who then hid his body parts in places only they knew. After hearing this story the main character gets involved in a series of incidents that cause him to start suspecting his friends have something to do with it. This is when his world slowly becomes distorted, and the true horror begins.

While the original sound novel relied only on text and sound to get it's points across, the anime took a different approach. The visuals change from scene to scene, the character's voices change to an eerie tone as their eyes become dilated, and graphic scenes unfold before the viewer's very eyes. What was once a kiddie looking anime, eventually becomes something straight out of hell. Characters ram their necks into knives as blood covers the room and onlookers let out demonic laughs, friends flatten other friends with baseball bats, and torture devices are explained in great detail as they are being used on the innocent. The things this series did went beyond expectations, and each new chapter brought something worse than the last. Eventually it "broke" me. After that horror stopped being horror to me.

Although graphic as it may be, Higurashi was a rare mystery series that completely had me hooked. I never knew what to expect out of it, and each new episode handed me a piece to the puzzle. Why are these things happening? Who is really behind it all? These were questions I wanted to find an answer to, and the only way to do so was to keep going. Of course I didn't want to be alone in this, so I drug local NGR Writer Cat along with me. Yeah, maybe I shouldn't have done that...


Anyway, that was ten years ago, and still to this day Higurashi is one of my all time favorite series. I loved the characters, the music, and most of all the story; however it's also a story I was never able to fully finish. The original games were out of reach back then, and for whatever reason I never did watch the last few episodes of the anime. (Yes I'm a bad fan.) But now times are different, and Higurashi has officially made it's way to the west on Steam. So I figured, what better way is there for me to start my summer?

So anyway, here I am now. After a long (LONG) wait I finally have the original story. In a way it's a dream come true for me, but even then there were some road bumps when it came to getting the game. Although it's up for sale on Steam, this version is only the original sound novel release with a new OST (so it's not even fully original). Thankfully fans are crazy and a mod has been created to restore it to it's PS2/PS3 days, but it took some time to actually get everything downloaded and working as it should. Even so it was well worth it. While some may prefer the original all text version, I just can't go without the voices and creepy visual style I've come to know and love. It's a part of what makes Higurashi Higurashi for me, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

On the flip side, if you're the type of person who enjoys psychological horror and mysteries, I highly recommend checking out the series. Either anime or game, it's really up to you. It's a unique story filled with twists and turns, and it's one of the few series that asks you (the player/viewer) to figure out the answer for yourself before it's spelled out to you. It's a rare gem, and one that deserves to be seen.

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