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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai - Review

Warning: Due to the show being a sequel and its premise of taking place of continuing right after the first, there's no way for me to avoid spoiling parts of both series.

Having first seen When the Cicadas Cry in Japan, I was almost instantly hooked onto the show. Seeing that they were going to make a sequel to wrap up the story and have anime exclusive content made me jump for joy. The "kai" in the title means solution and this sequel it will take all the knowledge you have learned from the first season and wrap up the series.

The Higurashi no Naku Koro ni series is a good example of how to do a visual novel to anime right. When considering how much of the actual game and it's characters are preserved, it truly makes you see how complex the story really is. Anime like Fate/Stay Night and Shunsetsugan Tsukihime are bad examples of visual novel to anime. Because they don't spend the time to try and develop the important secondary and tertiary characters, the result becomes a work that feels a bit rushed. But that's enough of the "genre." In addition, a lot of games to anime have been done pretty poorly (an exception is Gungrave), it feels like this kind of anime is similar to our movie games. They're all rushed and either the focus is so widespread that hardly any story is actually covered or they attempt to build only the development of the main hero and heroine and hope that things will work out (which they don't, by the way) but it only results in a half-assed supporting cast.

The first series could be considered the "de-sensitizer" showing the audience the complexity of the story as well as the consequences of one of the main characters distrusting the others. By the end Keiichi, the male protagonist, is somehow able to conjure memories of an alternate world of the same time allowing him to save Rena. After a quick recap episode, you're tossed right into where the story left off. The last episode of the previous series hinted that Rika was able to have knowledge of previous worlds. In addition, she seems to have an alternate personality, rather her "true" personality, that exists who is aware of the repeating story. We are immediately told by Rika exactly why the same story repeats as well her thoughts on the phenomenon involving Keiichi. We are then introduced to a new character, Hanyuu, the god who has been following Rika for about a thousand years. Whether that is to say they went through the scenario a thousand times or the amount of time that should have elapsed is a thousand years, I do not know. The point is that Hanyuu actually has been alongside Rika for some time now.

Because the first series introduced and fleshed out every character so well, the Second series really had no problems just diving into the story. The intensity of the psychological thriller from the first series is gone and in its place is quality story telling. Perhaps of all the characters, Rika was the most important and yet, it was also Rika who got the least amount of development in the first series. Because this is the "solution" chapters, the audience now sees everything from Rika's perspective. Nearly the entire show is shown from Rika's perspective and it changes your view on the story. Using the discussions between Rika and Hanyuu, the viewers gain insight into additional information that help explain these repeating scenarios.

You could say that the show is very "Rika-oriented" but I really have no problem with that. And seeing the show through Rika's perspective doesn't change Higurashi at all. Rather, it's probably about time that they focused on her. It is only because you learn more about Rika and her dilemma that you also gain insight into the roles of the other characters in the story. Her struggle is probably the most important part to the story and yet, it's quite impressive that she and Hanyuu take the role of the tragic heroine. I hate extrapolating a point that would refer to the a more general example as a whole but this show is really about the issues of the lack of supportive characters. Each character plays a distinct role that allows the story to progress in a good way. If any of them back out, the result would be one of the many "bad" scenarios in the first season.

There are bad parts to this show, no doubt. Some of the episodes crawl and there isn't any change in the other characters. They also (probably purposefully) leave one major plothole to leave you confused. There's also the prerequisite of having watched all of the first season required. Without it, newcomers would be confused. So it's really like saying, if you want to get into Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, you need to start from the beginning. I'll admit, that's a bit hard, daunting and not to mention, ridiculous that the second season assumes so much. But I feel that it's better to simply link the two series together into one large 51 (if you include the "cat-killing chapter" special) episode series known as Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. Finally, I have to say that the drastic change from the killings of the first season to the more story refined second season would be a slight turn-off. The intensity is definitely concentrated on something else, but for those who see it as a mindless bloodfest or a horror series would definitely be disappointed.

On the plus side, it's said that Umineko no Naku Koro ni (When the Seagulls cry) is not only greenlit but refers to its predecessor, so hopefully we can see more of the same great quality.

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