Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou
Another season, another reboot of an old anime series… it seems like we’ve had quite a few of these recently what with the recent remakes of old shows like Digimon, Fruits Basket, and so on. At least, Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou seems like a remake at first. Until you get to the end of the first episode that is and realise that this is not quite the same story we first saw back in the day. No, this new series is actually a sequel of sorts, a new arc set in the Higurashi universe. It’s a nice twist and one that definitely shocked some of the die-hard fans who were expecting to know exactly where this series was taking them. But then, Higurashi never has been a series that played with the rules…
I’m something of a horror/mystery fan myself, and the original Higurashi: When They Cry is up there in one of my favourite psychological series. The original anime is a masterclass in instilling a subtle sense of fear about what is going on beneath the surface of the character’s minds, playing with themes of paranoia, fear, and anger to brilliant effect. Created by Ryukishi07 as a series of visual novels in parts (Question arcs and Answer arcs), the series began as a standard slice of life series about a group of students in a rural village before taking a horrifying twist. The series was famous for these horrifying surprises and the time loop mechanic which saw each arc in the series, essentially resetting the clock to a new series of events, the truth of which was never fully revealed until the second season of the anime aired. Dated as the original is now, it’s still a classic and from the moment the original opening song appeared in the ending of this new anime’s credits, that old nostalgic chill got me again.
But how is the new series? Honestly, my thoughts on the first episode were rather mixed. The new series is produced by the same people who made the Monogatari series, and this very much shows in the stylistic choices. The characters have all been brightened up considerably in terms of colours (the original show has a much more muted colour palette), and everyone too looks almost painfully bright at times. It’s in keeping perhaps with many other animes out now, but to me, there’s something that doesn’t quite work here. The characters themselves have all had slight redesigns also, with varying effects. For me, Keiichi and Rika came off the worst here and I didn’t find them anywhere near as likable or endearing as in the original. The style best suited Mion, and of the group she was the only one who I felt really improved at all in terms of the update.
The storyline of the first episode follows almost scene to scene the same as the original – Keiichi has just returned to the small school after being away for a funeral and is reunited with his friends: sweet Rena, fun Mion, mischievous Satoko, and adorable Rika. They engage in fun activities such as picnics and games, but little by little Keiichi starts to notice some things which don’t quite match the happy atmosphere – a chance mention from a wandering photographer caused him to start looking into the events around the area. Meanwhile, Rena starts behaving oddly, and any mention of his investigation draws sharp denials that anything untoward may have happened. So far it’s nothing particularly new, and perhaps because of this, I didn’t quite get the same sense of impending dread which I got the first time around. But the cold ending really got me, precisely because it was the only thing I hadn’t predicted and the meaning of it revealed that this was going to be more than just a shiny remake.
All in all, this is a series which first seemed like it would be perfect for fans of the old series and viewers who had never watched the original but given the ending… it’s possible that this is maybe not a series for people with no prior knowledge. Certain stylistic changes in this anime served to detract a little for me, but there was just enough of that old tonal shift in there to give that same vibe and I’m hoping the new story lives up to the same heights as the original series did.
Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou
A sequel rather than a direct remake, Higurashi is showing that even now it still has some surprises in store...