「Episode 01」

I tend to get overbearing with anecdotes when I talk about my experiences with anime, but watching Higurashi in anime club was my main introduction to fansubs. Week-in and week-out, it was freaky, interesting, and unique to revisit Hinamizawa to find out what horrors Keiichi has to face in each episode that he comes closer to finding out the truth behind the town’s secrets. Since Higurashi’s sequel anime finished, the series went through a number of bumps in the road, including a jokey OVA series.

With all of this in mind, I was skeptical about whether a reboot of Higurashi was going to be another depressing attempt to keep the franchise going into the next decade or a loving revitalization of the beloved horror anime with enough thrills and spills to make your hair stand on end as easily as the original adaptation. I’m more than happy to say that, at the moment, it’s living up to capturing a similar atmosphere by disarming the viewer with a light-hearted story up until the facade of normalcy starts to unravel.

At first, it was hard to digest the art style’s shift into a pastel, cutesy aesthetic. My main fear is that it would only be able to do justice to one particular tone by gearing the art style more towards the fluffy slice-of-life moments. If everyone looks like Karen from Monogatari and the colors are bright enough, will it be able to look convincing once it gets scarier?

But then something clicked. It made far more sense for the atmosphere to be imbalanced because of what the first episode aimed to accomplish. By establishing the friendship between Keiichi and the girls, it’s easier to get hurt or upset once the secrets of Hinamizawa start to sow the seeds for discord amongst the friend group.

While the old anime aimed to establish a “fish-out-of-water” feel for Keiichi, it helps that the first episode of this reboot gave us a better glimpse of how tightly-knit Keiichi’s friend circle is. The small-town feel came less from seeing the wear-and-tear of an old-fashioned village in the middle of the sticks during 1983, and more from how naturally everyone was able to have fun with each other and stay in close contact with one another during times of peace. That kind of close friend unit really helps to solidify why the art style heavily emphasized some of the goofier faces that carefree characters like Rena and Satoko had.

The first episode captured the slice-of-life scenes well enough, but it really stepped up to the plate whenever the mood shifted towards a darker tone. It brought back a ton of nostalgia to see how well the reboot captured that orange sunset hue that looms over the village as Keiichi starts to peel back some of the layers that keep the town from acknowledging the seedier aspects of Hinamizawa. You don’t get as much in the first episode with most of the signifiers being with how you only see the girls’ mouths whenever they are trying to conceal the town’s true nature.

However, the final moment of the episode has to be one of the more effective first episode outros I’ve seen from a horror anime in a while. Whoever did the editing for the sound/music direction needs a round of applause for getting the original ominous OP music by Shimamiya Eiko to play as Keiichi discovered the old magazine headlines found at the dump. Hearing that music creep in slowly as Keiichi got answers as to what happened to metropolitan government officials who tried to linger about Hinamizawa was very effective in creating that foreboding, dreadful vibe by the end, especially as the camera pans over to Rena with her signature hatchet. Rika showing up at the end was interesting as well, but that’s a secret that won’t need to be unearthed for a while.

Only time will tell if it will live up to the strong expectations of replicating the eerie feel of the original Higurashi anime, but so far, the first episode shows a ton of promise. They do a good job at establishing the light-hearted nature of the first parts of the visual novel and anime before they get into the meat and potatoes of the series. It might have a fresh coat of paint on it, but every “ni-pah” and “omochikaeri” sounds as refreshing and new as it did many years ago. There’s a lot of foreshadowing of events that will happen later on, but I’m enthused to see how they end up pulling off later parts of the series that are more grim and edgy.

17 Comments

  1. I feel show Rika at the end isn’t necessary at all because at this point show Rena with her hatchet is enough.
    Still remember when Higurashi old version aired,I refuse , for a few year , to watch this anime because I don’t like scary things. Nearly miss one of the best anime of decade. After I watch this first time I like this so much and watch it 2nd,3rd time (all episode)

    Topboy
  2. I had hoped they would keep the original OP song, and when I heard the first bar of it at the end of the episode, I was so happy I got chills.

    I’ve never played the VN, but have seen the og anime a couple times, but it has been a couple of years. Why would they put any focus on Rika like that in episode one? Now it’s like you want to know as a viewer why she had those eyes and was watching, just seems like it will dampen any kind of reveal when we start to get answers. Minor gripe/question, but other than that seriously loved this episode.

    Thomas Wilson
  3. I don’t really get why we would need a remake, but I loved the original, so I guess I’ll watch this as well, although already knowing what will happen evidently reduces the enjoyment.

    boingman
    1. I would have taken an entirely new story with the original author working with the studio. Even if it was just 12 episodes it would have been better than retreading & rehashing old ground.

      I want to be feel hyped for the show but the original anime holds up just fine making this remake somewhat pointless.

      Lyfe
  4. The way the characters stand out against the background is really weird. Looks like a moving visual novel. The coloring on the characters is way too bright and they look like they are made of plastic tbh. And like others say, the music is really is subpar to the original.

    Also why even remake this? Just seems like total laziness at every turn

    Avery
  5. The animation was, overall, better in the remake, but I do miss the more distinctive hairstyle of the original. The characterization was also a bit weaker this time around and there was just something missing from that “Nippah”.

  6. The main thing I was to know is how much they’re planning to adapt. All we know from the show’s site is that it will be more than one cour so I’m wondering if we’ll be getting four episode arcs a la the original or if they plan on expanding the story more

    Arche
  7. for those of you first time in a story, I am ot gonna spoil anything in classic sense, but will give you a hint every episode and see if you manage to guess what is the real story of Hinamizawa… because story is full of false leads and red herrings and you need to sift thru garage pile (pun intended!) to get real info…

    your hint for today:
    https://randomc.net/image/Higurashi/Higurashi%20no%20Naku%20Koro%20ni%20(2020)%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2019.jpg
    freelance photgrapher? my ass! EVERYTHING about this guy screams MILITARY!

    ewok40k
  8. As a “When They Cry” veteran, it feels really good to come back to HInamizawa… The fact that they brought back the OP song from the 2006 series makes me inordinately happy.

    Also seeing all the newcomers who know nothing of Higurashi experiencing the Onikakushi-arc’s cold open for the first time is weirdly satisfying.

    Veltharis

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