In the sea of horror anime, only a few titles stand out. Higurashi is one of those titles, loved by horror fans, but also known by those who don’t follow the genre. Even though the main anime series technically ended years ago, the new adaptation by studio Passione is airing at the moment. Sadly, it’s flying under the radar.
You perhaps played the visual novels or watched the old series, but didn’t continue after Gou came out. Or you never watched it and it seems too intimidating to start now. Well, you shouldn’t be waiting because now is the perfect time to get (back) into Higurashi, and here is why (along with the watching order).
First, some basic background on the Higurashi: When They Cry franchise. Originally a visual novel from 2002 by 07th Expansion doujin circle, this series is set in the When They Cry universe, along with Umineko and Ciconia. The Higurashi and Umineko stories both received anime adaptations, along with manga and light novels. But we are here for Higurashi alone.
The first season of Higurashi came out in 2006, followed by the second season titled When They Cry: Kai. The third and final season is the 5-episode OVA When They Cry: Rei. Rei adapted the light novel with the same name and wrapped up some loose threads. The franchise also has a few other OVAs and specials, but these side stories don’t add much to the main plot. Studio DEEN animated all of these.
In January 2020, a new Higurashi anime project was announced. Studio Passione is animating the new adaptation, titled Higurashi: When They Cry – New. The new project supposedly isn’t a remake, reboot, or a sequel, but instead a completely new beginning that will later be called Gou. At the time, many of us were curious as to what this new adaptation would look like, and now that it finished airing there’s a bone to pick with the classification that was given. In theory, you can say that Gou isn’t a sequel, or a remake, or a reboot, but the reality is kind of different. You most definitely SHOULD watch DEEN’s original series before starting on Gou and its sequel – Sotsu, but I will elaborate on that later.
Welcome to Hinamizawa, a small Japanese village with its own set of rules. The year is 1983, and June is in full swing. Keiichi just transferred to the local Hinamizawa school is trying to adapt. He was born there, but his family moved away and then came back. He immediately makes friends and joins the school’s game club. His friends are Rena, a great cook with slightly weird hobbies, Mion, a bossy club leader who comes from one of Hinamizawa’s top families, Satoko, a mischievous elementary school student with an undying love for pranks, and Rika, the orphan heiress to Furude shrine who lives with Satoko.
June is when Hinamizawa celebrates its annual Watanagashi Festival. Preparations for it are undergoing, but Keiichi can’t help but think his friends are hiding something from him. He keeps hearing snippets about the “great dam war”, a clash that nearly destroyed Hinamizawa a few years ago. What’s more, a few people died back then, and villagers keep talking about Oyashiro-sama’s curse which now supposedly claims casualties every year. Keiichi wants to think these are all urban legends, but his friends are acting weird and his paranoia is growing. Can he figure out what is happening before tragedy strikes?
If you love horror anime, you know how difficult it is to find something that actually has substance and isn’t just an edgy gorefest. Higurashi succeeds in combining all the aspects of good horror – the creepy atmosphere, mysterious characters, the violence, and the overarching plot that brings everything together.
The first season immediately throws you into the story. You know something bad happened, but you get the meet the characters along with Keiichi. At first, you don’t know who to trust or what is happening. It actually takes a whole season to get to the point where the first arcs are actually explained, and that is just perfect for the mystery aspect of Higurashi. The anime is very full of gore, violence, and torture scenes that keep repeating. But, this doesn’t mean the psychological horror aspect is removed. You will forget the gore eventually, but the truly iconic, creepy scenes with zero violence will stick with you long after you finish the anime. Every time you hear a cicada you will think of June in Hinamizawa, and this is something studio DEEN really managed to pull off well.
The answers given in Kei and Rei nicely wrap up the story, and give us a satisfying ending. The new adaptation takes a slightly different approach, but we’ll avoid spoilers here so more on that later.
With all this said, you may be wondering where to start and what to watch. Some will say that you don’t need to watch DEEN’s anime before the Gou and Sotsu adaptations, but you will be confused if you don’t. Furthermore, if you watch Gou first you will spoil the original series right away, so do yourself a favor and follow this table, because the original Higurashi anime is really worth it.
Below is the watching order for Higurashi anime. Keep in mind that side stories should be watched after Rei, but aren’t mandatory for Gou.
|#||Title||Year||No. of episodes||Format||Main storyline|
|1||When They Cry: Higurashi||2006||26||Anime||Yes|
|2||When They Cry: Kai||2007||24||Anime||Yes|
|3||When They Cry: Rei||2009||5||OVA||Yes|
|*||Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kira||2011||4||OVA||Side-story|
|*||Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kaku Outbreak||2013||1 (50 minutes)||OVA||Side-story|
|*||When They Cry: Higurashi – Nekogoroshi-hen||2007||1 (24 minutes)||DVD Special||Side-story|
|*||When They Cry: Kai – Ura Higu||2007||24 (1 minute)||DVD Special||Side-story|
|4||Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou||2020||24||Anime||Yes|
|5||Higurashi: When They Cry – Sotsu||2021||15||Anime||Yes|
There is more new anime being produced now than ever, with many older franchises getting reboots, sequels, remakes, and even with all this, we are still short on quality horror anime. I can’t begin to guess the reason for this new Higurashi series and Gou came out of nowhere. It surprised everyone, even the hardcore fans, but it was something we really needed. It’s surprising to say that, seeing as no one had thought we’d be watching a new Higurashi anime in 2021, but here we are.
So, why now? First off, as previously mentioned, horror anime is a rare find these days. If you love the genre, you should get into Higurashi because it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon. Second, the Gou and Sotsu installments – they’re not just a cash-grab, they actually offer a continuation to the plot and hint to possible expansions of the universe. Even though all the mysteries were resolved in Kei and Rei, Gou still managed to offer something new and intriguing. The Japanese cast was also the same, which adds to the experience.
You will see people complaining about the new adaptation, from bashing Passione’s style to asking why it was needed. As a fan of the franchise, I can safely say that I’m glad they turned out like this, and here is why:
While Gou was still airing I admit I was wondering what the point was. The first episode was just the original first episode, with shiny character designs (thanks Akio Watanabe) and slightly different art. Then, the second episode threw us a bone by introducing Hanyuu right away and semi-revealing Rika’s secret. However, if you haven’t seen the original anime at this point you would have been confused because nothing made sense, and this particular plot point isn’t brought up properly for another 10+ episodes. Again, this is why the Higurashi watching order above is important.
If you’re still reading but haven’t seen the series and plan on doing so, skip this section. Spoilers ahead – for both original Higurashi and Gou!
The moment Gou became worth watching and actually interesting was episode 14. The speed re-telling of the original season 1 was finally over, and Nekodamashi-hen (Cat Deceiving Chapter) arc was nearing its end. Rika finally learned why she died again and Satoko had a lot of explaining to do. But the arc ends, and instead of a confrontation we finally get to learn what happened.
Satoko’s point of view is introduced in Satokowashi-hen (Village Destroying Chapter). The story goes from a gory killing game where Rika has to fight to survive the fated June of 1983, to Rika trying to find out who is behind her newest setback. The psychological game of cat and mouse carries the final arc, as Satoko finds a new ally and swears to punish Rika for abandoning her and moving on. Sotsu continues this perfectly, as it mirrors Rei and gives us answers and explanations about what happened in the first season, but this time from Satoko’s point of view. And boy, all sympathy we may have had for Satoko is gone by this point, as she joins forces with Eua and makes her friends suffer for her own selfish goals.
Eua is another interesting addition to Gou’s story. Fans of When They Cry universe couldn’t help but notice just how much she resembles Featherine Augustus Aurora, one of the witches who spectates Beatrice’s parties in Umineko visual novels. Even though Ryukishi07 acknowledged their similarities, he wouldn’t confirm nor deny if they were the same person. However, Eua does seem to be competing with Hanyuu and she does say some things that are clear references to other series in the franchise, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the end.
Umineko’s original anime adaptation did have some Higurashi references. We got to meet Bernkastel, who shares striking similarities with Rika, but this connection was never explored and the series never got a second season. Studio DEEN finished the original Higurashi anime and fans had to pick up visual novels for more lore and theory crafting. Studio Passione will hopefully manage to explore this storyline a bit more in the remaining episodes of Sotsu.
It seems like there is a lot in store for the future of Higurashi. Studio Passione was certainly a surprising studio pick and combined with Akio Watanabe’s (Monogatari) character designs the new adaptation raised some eyebrows. But, as explained above don’t let that keep you from watching it. They managed to capture the eerie atmosphere of Hinamizawa perfectly, and the shift from gore horror to more of a psychological horror did wonders for the series.
Higurashi is certainly one of the modern anime classics, especially for horror anime fans. Everything from the plot to music choices is memorable and it’s hard to find a horror franchise that easily tops it with interesting storylines that keep on giving. Hopefully, the watching order will help you find a starting point in the Higurashi universe. Seeing as only a few horror titles are among seasonals these days (Shadows House was the only one last season) getting into it now will keep you set with things to watch for a while.
All images via legal streams