12 Days, 12 Moments: Day 8–Higurashi Ceases to be Horrible

No, not horrible as in poor quality! 2006 was a very strong year for originality and good writing in anime, and one of the year’s great standouts (the winner of the Originality award along with Haruhi Suzumiya) was the horror-mystery series Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni. However, with this year’s season, it has long since departed from the strict horror genre, which marks a significant turn in the way we are supposed to understand the show. That’s the subject of today’s Anime Blogging Collective “12 Moments” series.

Warning: today’s entry contains significant spoilers for Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni. If you are unfamiliar with the series/game and wish to remain virginal this is not for you. 😉

You’<p>re too moe to be in a horrorshow 

Day 8: Higurashi Ceases to be Horrible

Having yet to finish Higurashi Kai, I still have yet to formulate a final opinion on this season, but I will say this. One of the things that really made Higurashi so intriguing the first time around was the ambiguity between the natural and supernatural. The town of Hinamizawa really did seem afflicted by a supernatural curse by the capricious, cruel god Oyashiro-sama. Through multiple overlapping and recurring arcs–a brilliant way to use the structure of the game for artistic effect–Higurashi was unequaled in its ability to trace through the roots of insanity and outright evil, how it starts from small little actions and the chain of incidents, while building different characters up in each arc as complex and even unexpectedly sympathetic figures if they were the “villain.” In past reviews, I’ve noted how relatively complex its view of evil is: simultaneously external (demonic) and internal, much like Tolkien’s Ring of Power and its curse.

This season marked the turn away from the demonic to a fairly standard government conspiracy plot involving a biological weapon, led by the now-sinister-and-sympathetic (because of her past) Takano. That is the “curse,” with a fully natural explanation. It’s notable that along with this revelation, the amount of gore, torture, and violence has decreased dramatically–ironically because it was one of the shows that fell victim to Incident Nice Boat this summer. Had the girl murdered her father during the Detective Arc of season 1, that would have been understandable–it is one of the darkest and most harrowing stories I’ve seen in anime, while still remaining intelligent. The censors apparently were judging the show based on prior reputation, which it had long shed and, depending on your point of view, grew or fell away from.

Again, mostly due to laziness and the time needed to review other new shows, I’ve fallen behind in my viewing of Kai, so I’m not sure how the show ends. (No spoilers please.) But I do see this as a significant moment because it shows, for one, that a series can sustain dramatic changes such as this without surrendering momentum or intelligence. By now the characters are ones we’ve come to know and the town a place familiar to our eyes. The world of Hinamizawa 1983 is a rich, multi-layered one, and even when the focus changes from the horror to the mystery there is still much to enjoy in this accomplished series.

This is an Anime Blogging Collective post. Other participants include 


Author: gendomike

Michael lives in the Los Angeles area, and has been into anime since he saw Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1999. Some of his favorite shows include Full Metal Alchemist, Honey and Clover, and Welcome to the NHK!. Since 2003 he has gone to at least one anime convention every year. A public radio junkie, which naturally led to podcasting, he now holds a seminary degree and is looking to become Dr. Rev. Otaku Bible Man any day now. Michael can be reached at mike.huang@animediet.net. You can also find his Twitter account at @gendomike.

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