Category Archives: Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni

The Balanced Diet – Sorely Lacking In Kisses

No, this has nothing to do with the blog by a similar name.

Chairwoman Mao Yoshino

But the idea behind this rant is the same: there are different stories out there; as a genre or a medium, anime offers some variety of themes and stories. Even more importantly, anime offers a wide varieties of storytelling.

Moyashimon is an inspiration of sorts for this post: The Eskimos cuisine, kiviak, was the center of a joke when Dr. Moleman came out and sucked the juices of dead birds, straight from a dead seal. The show went on and explained that as Eskimo cuisine started to use cooked meat instead of raw meat, the Eskimo then used fermented seabird juices to supplement their vitamin-lacking diet as heating the meat broke down some of the essential vitamins within the food. Indeed, it was not like taking a multivitamin pill in the morning as you rush off to school or work.

Point: all people enjoy a wide variety of stories, but delivered in a format that works for them.

A fine example of this is Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. To be honest the story behind it is pretty uninteresting once you know what it is, but because it’s packaged in a fairly fresh, layered and intriguing way, with a lot of superimposed and juxtaposing moe and gore, it works. Indeed, compared to shows like Shigurui, Higurashi is almost like an episode of Dragon Ball Z.

But I am not saying DBZ is bad. It is good, at times. It’s like while delicious steak is delicious, you probably don’t want to have that for breakfast everyday. It’s okay to learn about life through a kid’s dialog with a ghost while playing go. It just won’t have the same effect of learning about life through a kid’s dialog with her friends while planning a school festival. Or a kid’s dialog with his friends while riding on a giant robot. Or a kid’s dialog with her friends while riding on a dog. We need all of them, at different times in our lives, for different people.

The bigger framework here is simple: there are stories, and there are different ways to tell it. A character-driven monologue-heavy narrative will have different effects than a crew-gathering boss-fighting mecha show. Both kind of shows will draw different crowds even if the underlying story and theme is pretty much the same, with characters running on the same set of outlook and perspective, in drastically different situations

Problem: Perhaps you are like myself and watch a lot of new anime. If you follow what’s new and fresh from Japan’s airwaves then you are prone to not having a balanced anime diet. We are at the mercy of whatever delicious morsel of cartoons fansubbers, anime studios, and your preferred means of obtaining these shows, to deliver what captures your attention. Instead, we should also seek to watch some other shows to balance out of what you have seen the near past. Variety is a cure in of itself, let alone enabling a more balanced view of anime both as a hobby and as a medium. If all you watch is tentacle porn, I guess that’s fine too but that might be a bit Eskimo-esque, and you might want to look into something odd to keep your perspective fresh. Same can be said of people who watch mostly action anime, or mecha anime, or shoujo, or romance, or generally not getting a good grip of what it is like out there, what anime generally can offer to its viewers. A balanced diet is recommended, even if it’s in the form of a weird alternative. What’s key is with the right delivery. For example, Touka Gettan on DVD… or Colorful?

I jest.

Actually, I think I just wrote this up because I just can’t quite fathom my obsession with Mao and Kimikiss anime. After giving the weird impulse I had some thought, I think, besides the “hot for <insert chara name here>” factor, I have this deep craving for a good shounen/seinen pure romance story. I know there was a “Shizuka” thing a year ago, but that was no where near as … moe. The delivery didn’t work for me. I suppose the Ah My Goddess TV series counted too, but those are more like “old” stories rehashed. Shows like H&C and Nodame were great, but they’re incomplete substitutes as josei manga adopted. In other words, there’s just a lack in this category of anime in recent years. A bishoujo game adaptation just doesn’t work like that unless it’s rewritten alike to Kimikiss Pure Rouge.

Nice School Days


Trying to make sense of School Days is easy. I think the guys doing this adaptation already knew they have a winning case of source material on their hands. Ignoring the whines of people who thought “the game was better” I think the anime is probably as good as it could come while incorporating as much as possible, of the bombs of joy and LULZ that the game was renowned for.

But I think I feel like talking about how it relates to Elfen Lied and Higurashi a lot more, because those shows apply similar plot mechanics to evoke emotional responses, and both achieved (or failed to achieve) those goals in ways that shed light as to why School Days was so good.

For time’s sake I’ll make this short. Two main points.

Sympathy. For a lot of people it’s much easier to sympathize with a bunch of high school sluts sleeping around and a guy who knows not love but only of the mire of selfish desires he is stuck in. That’s something counter-cultural folks have been preaching for decades since the 70s, religious or otherwise. But seeing it in anime is a bit of a refresher simply because, hey, you’d think this wouldn’t appeal to the otaku segment. But sure enough, we are all human and we can sympathize with Makoto, Sekai, and Kotonoha, in their foolishness. Needless to say, that’s already a case for the win when you compare settings: a couple youngsters living in an abandoned shrine-like mansion taking in random naked people who NYUUS? Or being transferred to the boondocks, going to a school with 1 classroom from grades K to 12, and having your life terminated every 5 episodes then reset?

Believability. The gruesome death quotient for Americans is probably higher than most other viewer demographic. American entertainment glorifies violence, but that’s not to say no one else does; it’s just a matter of making a point with said violence versus mere glorifying it, as a societal norm. In all three cases, violence is NOT glorified. In fact, in Higurashi one can make a case about the violence being a device for parody. It certainly seems comical, at times, for Elfen Lied and School Days. Instead, violence is, in turn, to draw emotional response from people either who deserves the wrong end of a sharp, pointy object or to demonstrate some kind of plot-oriented balance in terms of theme, or to illustrate or symbolize some thematic concept (like lost innocence). I guess that doesn’t speak so much as to why it’s funny, but it certainly can be if you’re in the inappropriate state of mind (ie. one that is more in tune of watching for violence per se–what’s usually required in enjoying violence, rather than extracting the reason behind it). The absurdity in all three cases is astronomically high, but School Days spend a good 11 episodes to set that up for you, so it is, at least, the least incredible of the three. Elfen Lied would likewise be well-served with violence if the show’s main schtik–that slice-of-life/slice-of-death tension–wasn’t so abused to oblivion so early on. Or maybe alien with invisible, stretch hands just seems a little too weird for suspension of belief. You pick.

So, yeah, School Days is a job well done, although it is definitely not something you want to recommend to people who watch anime purely for cutesy harems OR lol blood gore violence vampires.

The Nice Boat thing is just bonus material, thank you Japan!

Trying to Get Simoun Out of My System, Attempt #2

With the shows I’ve been following coming to an end, a quick review is in order. Maybe it’ll remind me that there’s more to life than the girls onboard Arctus Prima.

If you didn't get it, it has to do with Otome

Simoun vs. Ouran High Host Club

It’s not that I am not afraid of comparing apples with oranges, but it struck me that what is missing in Ouran Host Club is exactly what makes Simoun so good.

I like to criticize Suzumiya Haruhi no Uuutsu on the basis that Kyoani, outside of maybe Air, has generally gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to adding that “feel” to a show. I have a hard time putting it to words, but it can be said that the same effect can be replicated when you cook chicken breasts the wrong way, that they come out tasting like soft chalk. Granted, the effect is nowhere nearly as bad. FMP: TSR was as bad as it gets, and it isn’t that bad at all. Maybe it’s the consistency? Does it lack “soul”?

But I feel that is exactly what makes Ouran Host Club remind me of Suzumiya Haruhi no Uuutsu. Ouran, as visually impressive as it is, fails to reach that visceral-ness Suzumiya Haruhi did. But like Suzumiya Haruhi, Ouran is a very cerebral experience, it is very smart. The characters are both flat and round in order for the gags, both visual and mental, to work, and I think the show did a decent job of that. That’s not to mention my favorite part of the show–the direction. It’s sharp and clever. Even in its weaker moments it doesn’t fail to impress. In some ways it surpasses most anime that I can remember on the technicals, even if it couldn’t hit those “we pour love and money into this episode!” peaks that shorter, TV anime this past year did.

I can foresee that in the near future I’ll come around to enjoy Haruhi again. But for now, this show is the diametric opposite to Simoun: it’s clean, it doesn’t leave you attached, it impresses visually and mentally, but leaving you a little longing inside.

Tsuyokiss vs. Simoun

In some ways Tsuyokiss only reached the first step of what Simoun did, but since it gambled all 13 episodes on that one thing, it came out pretty well when we look at Tsuyokiss on that one thing, and only that one thing. That one thing, well, it is probably best described as a dialogue the anime production people have with the audience. It tries to tease you, it tries to please you. It knows what it has to work with is crap and it doesn’t care even if it is the worse case of original-adaptation-cide ever. It is unapologetic about it, but in a way it expects you to know that much. In the end it delivers on a platter of something that is like a B- high school group project, but since you were a part of the group, you get sentimental over it.

Simoun, on the other hand, has gotten that bit over with when Mamiina broke out with fists and claws. Since it is twice longer than 13 episodes, it can’t afford to do the same either. Their first tour with Wauf was all about it.

Simoun vs. Blood+

Blood+ is a very clean show. The production value shines through. It is intelligent yet it has the pacing of a typical 90s anime that aims to dramatize. The story, in retrospect, is a powerful one. However, most of the power was robbed by its mechanical, one-fight-per-episode formula that is as mediocre as it gets. There is some sense of overall planning and vision, but on the ground it doesn’t please or tease or amuse anyone. It tries too hard being cool the whole way, when it could have gotten a lot farther by shedding the drama and just get things done, and offer up some twists.

On the other hand you can look at it as a sign of respect. Blood+ knows we know what it has up its sleeves, and it’s just a matter of waiting it out. However it feels like all this formalistic pretense just gets in the way of me trying to enjoy Saya’s plea.

Simoun vs. Honey & Clover 2

I hope Mamiina didn’t mistake rats with hamsters.

The concluding 12 episodes of Honey & Clover was rather good, I thought. But the break between episodes 26 and the recapping episode 27 really spoiled things. As here we were, all ready to accept things as it was with how the first 26 episodes ended (and it was a decent way to end something that “doesn’t end” I thought). Yet now there’s real closure.

Of course, by episode 26 you get a good idea how Takemoto is going to take things, and what happens between Rika, Mayama; Yamada, Nomiya; and obviously Hagu… Can’t say I am NOT surprised but somehow how it ended felt right; things ended as it should (save for the little oddness with Hanamoto-sensei that will boggle and mislead a bunch of fools).

But was it all just ending for having an ending’s sake? Is it really just a long-ass ending thing? It would certainly make Honey & Clover one hella unique anime. Not only as a romantic comedy it was rather unconventional, it has the longest ending sequence ever.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni vs. Simoun

Satoshi visits the Spring, only to realize boycotts and local conspiracies murdered Onashia and her relatives over dam construction at the ruins. Add drugs, dogfighting, gruesome torture, and identity crisis. Tempus Spatium makes a guest appearance in the form of Mion’s tatoo.

Higurashi was great up to episode 5. From then on it tries to explain and continue to add more to the wholesome mix of loli horror, but it never quite reaches the same peak. A mostly linear downhill ride, I’d say. Admittedly this genre is fairly NOT my bag of tea but I enjoyed what little there was to enjoy about this show. The OP itself was awesome for setting the mood and all.

Bokura ga Ita vs. Simoun

One makes me feel gay, the other doesn’t? And while I think I would be pretty comfortable watching Bokura ga Ita with other, non-anime people, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with myself watching Bokura ga Ita even if I was by myself. Those times I wish I was watching Ouran High instead. Less yucky, more pretty.

But nonetheless it’s a nice, alternative take to the same genre. I’m just not sure if I can take it…period. It drives me insane.

And let’s not forget. I’d rather have other people walk in on me watching Neviril kissing some other equally “moe-looking” chick than stick-figure Yano and Bokura ga Ita’s simple visuals. It’s that bad. Or it’s that good? I suppose that’s shoujo anime in its bare form.

Simoun vs. Coyote Ragtime Show

I’d be pretty happy if Angelica hooks up with Amuria or Onashia or something. She is a pretty, enlightened, old fashion gal and I think without her the Coyote Ragtime show would be only a shadow of its current self. I enjoyed the show, that said, because it has this die hard feel to it. Too bad objectively the show kind of tanked in some major aspects. I blame it squarely on Katana, Bishop, and Mister themselves. Being such important aspects to the show they are really pretty … lame. Swamp, being the token black guy, at least did his job well enough. Considering we have three (to 4 to 5 if the Coyotes break up) narrative perspectives, at least 2 out of 3 involves something less lame, like the 12 Sisters or Chelsea and Angelica, the show wasn’t too terrible to watch. But as a proof of concept I think it fails terribly. Maybe it would have been better if Bishop and Katana had more going on rather than being sidekicks.

Simoun vs. Aria the Natural

An episode of Aria is like an episode of Simoun once you remove any trace of conflict. The girls do not kiss each other, but they might as well. I think what really makes Aria works is the SD. I hated Aria-prez when Aria first got animated a while back, and now that’s all but a remote memory–it shows just how powerful your brain is in ignoring or filtering out stuff that it really doesn’t like. And that can include those girl-on-girl kisses. It would be just as an irritant as Aria-prez’s incessant whining.

And some might even like that!

The Tried and Tiresome Sound of the Cicada’s Cries

Yes, Eureka7 != Higurashi

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is, by all means, a wonderful telling of a fairly creepy story. Those who’ve seen it look forward it being solved; the rise and release of tension, and the confusing reconstruction of its repeated performance like an eternal groundhog day. The rustic, country Japanese feel the show gives it an unique flavor as the bulk of the show ran over the course of this summer.

But like its powerful performance in the OP animation sequence that shadows what is to come in an episode, the rest of the series pales to the first 5 episodes, the first story arc “Onikakushi.” It’s not particularly surprising–the most powerful trick of a horror thriller is surprise, and after its first performance most of the surprises have transformed into speculation and exposition.

For sake of coherence and narrative integrity, the piecemeal visual novel is adopted into small, repeated performances, each replay spiraling up the complexity and gruesome ladder. And as it should. As the audience familiarize with the, sadly, one-track-path Higurashi is taking, even if we cannot fathom the precise mechanism the plot works off of, we know the color and flavor out of its prior consistency. The ultimate saving grace that comes of Higurashi’s narrative, maybe, is its ultimate appeal to the supernatural: Oyashiro-sama. Maybe it’ll actually poise itself to try to leave that unanswered!

If I was a compulsive curious Sherlock, I might be amused with trying to figure out the mechanics; but I am not. It’s sad to say, but at this point of the game I am just done with Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. It may still have a lot of tricks up its sleeves, but they’re all of substance, not of mannerism and flair. While nothing has been explained, nothing needs explanation. Maybe it can promise me that somewhere down the next 2 arcs something more exciting could happen, but for someone who watches it out of the fresh scare and creep and, well, the awesome OP/ED sequences, I just don’t think I can believe that easily.

I remember when I was younger and less jaded, I lived in a country with a lot of cicadas. Their cries marked the call of the season and invariably if you want to have a good night of sleep, you learn to live with their twilight symphonies. After moving to a place where there are no cicadas except the rare one or two per acre, you notice their distinct cries. It very well may be the same trick in play with When the Cicadas Cry.

Fight the Loli

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, a world of horror.

In a lot of ways Higurashi’s tricks are nothing special. The unassuming loli doing a crazy psychological horror twist to haunt the consciousness of a male-protagonist-harem-lead-ero-game-player is probably the most straight-forward incantation of this narrative spell. But like any good mystery, there are some elements that are worth watching for, even if they are the mundane, everyday elements that every mystery story shares. The start, the setup, the final collapse of the scheme, the unraveling of the charade spiraling to the end of the story, the 4th-wall self-satire, all of that, I say, is what make a mystery story any good.

In some ways Higurashi anime cheats, too. Its nonlinear, nonsequential-parallel, alternate approach to the narrative gives us at least 3 different way to look at the same setup and that’s like having the Luftwaffe doing 3 hit-and-run passes at Allied bombers than the single pass. Unfair. But it does work out very well to diffuse those inevitable problems with other adaptations that did not share the same format–lack of traction after a time, poor pacing, and the ability to stick with the source material while maintaining enjoyment as a different medium.

In the end, however, does it really matter? We’re treated to a show that is all about form and the form is so unique that I can’t remember any show like it. Elfen Lied? Not even close. It doesn’t quite drive you to apathy; rather it drives you to amusement because in a very close-by perspective to “ZOMG that is actually creepy” is “HAHAHA this is so ridiculous.” I suppose that is good, too, because it does keep you guessing to a degree. And to that, it’s kudos to the source material.

Maybe if it wasn’t a show about harem-like loli killing each other, it might actually be taken for serious. Even if it won’t be half as funny as is.