Higurashi: When They Cry – NEW – 1st Episode Review
Note: Due to a recent announcement by Funimation, as well as events at the start of Episode 2, it should be noted that this Higurashi title is not actually new comer friendly, as initially presented. Thus, we will be retracting our Recommended rating, which was based off Episode 1 alone. Otherwise, the review remains below without alteration.
Synopsis: New kid Keiichi Maebara is settling into his new home of peaceful Hinamizawa village. Making quick friends with the girls from his school, he’s arrived in time for the big festival of the year. But something about this isolated town seems “off,” and his feelings of dread continue to grow. With a gnawing fear that he’s right, what dark secrets could this small community be hiding? (Official Funimation Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Higurashi is a long-running murder, mystery, psychological franchise that’s been going now for almost two decades. It started in 2002 with a Visual Novel that garnered a cult following, and has since seen entry after entry and adaptation after adaptation. Now, Higurashi returns to the world of anime after a break of seven years, taking us back to that very first game that first set the franchise in motion, with a brand new adaptation featuring updated art that sits much closer to the Visual Novels designs. It’s a chance for younger viewers to experience the original story without having to go back and find the original anime adaptation (Known simply as When They Cry in the west, which is available on HIDIVE.) This first episode plays quite close to the original adaptation, only subbing out the more slice of life sequences with different/alternate events. Otherwise this first episode is all about dripping in a general sense of unease and mystery, letting audiences know there’s far more in store for Keiichi than the lazy existence you’d expect in an easy-going, remote village.
Linny: The first few minutes of Higurashi’s premiere make it very clear that it is not going to be all rainbows and butterflies. We literally open the episode with a scene of someone repeatedly smashing a bat down on a limp body. While most of it is darkened and semi-censored, there’s no mistaking what is happening. It’s a good way to judge if this show might end up being too brutal for you and also immediately helps to establish the troubled tone and mystery horror vibe the series will gradually build to.
Tom: While I agree that audience gets a taste for what’s in store, I can’t help but feel like opening with such aggressive violence dampens the unease, suspense and mystery trickled in throughout the rest of the episode. The heights of how violent this series will get have been spoiled, and it then feels like any talk of murder, cover ups, or friends turning out to be psychotic feels tame and lacking in surprise.
Linny: While I do somewhat agree that the opening violence perhaps does give away a bit too much for those who wanted a more blind beginning, I also feel that the potential audience for the show probably knows to expect the horrid twists ahead. What audiences should look forward to is how the show and episode then build up to that extreme start as we immediately cut to what feels like a very fluffy slice of life like sequence of school kids meeting up and hanging out together both at school and after. But even in those scenes, Higurashi makes sure to pepper in hints and moments that clash against the otherwise fuzzy tone and really tease the viewer’s curiosity, making one likely to tune in to the next episode.
Tom: Certainly that sense of mystery is what’s keeping me around. I do want to know how we get from Keiichi have a grand, ole, time with his bubbly group of anime girls to him bashing skulls in. However, those slice of life segments do little for me. Keiichi’s ‘harem’ is little more than a gaggle of your most typical, eccentric, bubbly anime girl stereotypes. What’s presented in these segments does little to endear me towards the cast, making each segment feel like padding between the far more interesting teases of mystery and unease that pepper the episode. Perhaps it’s another effect of that brutal flash forward that opens the story. I already know everything isn’t as it seems, and Keiichi will eventually turn on his friends, making these bubbly segments feel only that much more superficial. Ultimately, while I am curious how we get from Point A to Point B, I’m not enthralled just yet, which means I can’t yet say Higurashi’s latest adaptation is worth your time.
Linny: As someone fond of horror, thrillers and mysteries and only vaguely familiar with the franchise, I was definitely entertained by Higurashi’s first episode. This means if like me you are unfamiliar with the series, it is pretty welcoming to newcomers so far. However, I did have a bit of an issue with the art being rather uneven. Maybe it is partly an effort to remain faithful to the source material’s designs but in wide angle shots with more than one character, the characters sometimes looked rushed, suffering from off-model work. Close ups are usually where the show looks its best, as the characters look like they were drawn with detailed care but anytime the camera zooms out, there’s a chance a character suddenly looks not only less detailed but even so far as almost like someone else entirely. All in all though, this was a hopeful start for the Autumn anime season and if you’re someone who enjoys more creepy, unnerving stories, you should definitely give Higurashi a chance. This mix of slice of life and impending horror is sure to pique your curiosity.
Higurashi: When They Cry – NEW is available for streaming via Funimation.com