Title: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai
Encompasses: Second Season
Published by: Siren Visual (Australia and New Zealand)
Based on: The visual/sound novel series by Ryukishi07
Genre: Murder Mystery, Comedy, School-Life, Drama
Audio: Japanese Dub
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:9 Full-frame Original ratio
Runtime: 300 Minutes
Classification: MA15+ for Strong Animated Violence
Special Thanks: Siren Visual for providing me with a copy of this title for review
The endless cycle of hatred and death that befall the small village of Hinamizawa continues…
On a hot summer day in 1983, a transfer student named Maebara Keiichi comes to a peaceful rural village in Hinamizawa. There he befriends his classmates Rena, Mion, Rika and Satoko. Just as Keiichi is beginning to assimilate into simple rural life, he stumbles upon the dark history of Hinamizawa – every year for the past four years, one person has been murdered and another has gone missing on the day of the Watanagashi Festival. The construction of a dam nearby brings further chaos as the curse of Oyashiro-sama continues its miserable reign.
Several years ago, North American anime localizer and publisher Geneon Entertainment dubbed and released the first anime season of Ryukishi07′s popular series Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. When the company stopped distribution of such titles entirely there was question as to if any other company would take charge and pick up the second season which without would render watching the first season pointless. While several years have passed with no avail in North America, down here in Australia one of our major anime distributors Siren Visual have picked up the rights to and have subsequently released the first of two installments in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai which primarily focuses on the remaining “Answer Arcs”. Those who have read this site for a while now might remember me covering this show during my very early days where I did episodic reviews and my coverage of both Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Umineko no Naku Koro ni – but here is my formal review of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai Part 1 and the first 13 episodes of this season!
If you are reading this review, I assume you already are aware of the basic plot. But if in the off-chance you are reading this review before my ones for the first season HERE and HERE, the show follows a group of five (In this season 6) friends in the small rural town of Hinamizawa. Due to the small number of youth in the community they all take classes in a single building – therefore despite the differences in their ages they manage to get along very well and every day is a blast. However at some point during the month, things turn for the worse and their happy days turn into a murder mystery and upon their death time resets itself resulting in an endless loop of death and sorrow. In this release, there are two arcs, Yakusamashi-hen (Disaster Awakening Chapter) a short anime exclusive arc focusing on the viewpoint of Satoko and major arc Minagoroshi-hen (Mass-Murdering Chapter) which acts as an answer arc to the Curse Killing Chapter in the previous season and is told from the viewpoint of Rika.
Yakusamashi-hen is a short chapter which helps tie together the two seasons and fixes a few elements which I believe were left out of the first season which were in the visual novel series. The first episode of this is perhaps the most interesting as unlike the other three which combines elements from previous arcs with new content intermingled between them, this focuses on the events well into the future (2007) and concludes Tsumihoroboshi-hen and tells the back story of how Rena managed to survive the disaster that befell the town and the mysteries leading up to the event. The following four episodes were not really anything special after the first season however I felt it did have a strong purpose in delivering plot that had relevance to the rest of the season and acted as its own Answer Arc by showing a standard recount of what does occur rather than the mixed occurances from previous seasons where other characters have done a majority of the killing rather than Mystery Culprit X.
Perhaps the longest and most important chapter in the series so far, Minagoroshi-hen is eight episodes in length and delivered not only a proper ending to the respective arc from Season One, but reveals the characters ability to defy a fate that for many loops has been inevitable and also by the end reveals who the Mystery Culprit X really is. Told from the viewpoint of Rika – who since Season One has always been suspected of knowing more about the murderers than anyone else (Having been forced to live through them all for hundreds of years without her memory resetting), she is encouraged to defy her deadly fate unknowingly by her friends who have small glimpses of their past experiences. With Satoko’s abusive uncle Teppei back in Hinamizawa, instead of giving in she starts a town rebellion against social services in order to save Satoko and perhaps stop Keiichi going insane over pseudo-brotherly instincts.
Both of these are interesting plotlines and if you have enjoyed the arcs from season one than you have little to fear about disliking these. As this release only includes a Japanese dub, you will be happy to know that the translation work done with this release is of a really good quality and I found no issues with understanding the plotline from them.
While there were no major changes to any character or environment designs in this release, the actual animation deisgn was changed from the original release. The aesthetics have a more softer and realistic tone to them, forgoing the brighter and more colourful designs of the first season which given the more serious nature of this series I think complements the intended mood and plot better. Other than this, I have no issue with the design at all, and felt the video quality was of a high quality.
Naraku no Hana by Eiko Shimamiya
While it does not defeat the first seasons opening which was well tailored to the series in my opinion, this opening still does a great job at setting the more somber and series tone of this season so far – with a few changes added to it mid-season with the reveal of the main culprit. But let’s be honest…. it COULD have this very upbeat song from Higurashi Kira (Trailer Here)… so I have no real complaints with this one at all.
Taishō a by anNina
As many of you may already be aware, I hold ending sequences to the same standards as opening sequences – as I believe that if you want to get as many people to watch them you have to provide them with either something exciting to view or a really enjoyable theme. While I don’t think it was as enjoyable as the opening by any means I thought it had a really beautiful theme to it with some solid animation.
What was interesting about both of these themes were that they were slightly higher in pitch from the original songs (Own’s the soundtracks). This may be something they did with the initial DVD releases in Japan but has no real impact on the enjoyability of the songs – infact I think the higher tone suits the ending theme quite well.
The music in the rest of the series carried on from the same sorts of themes as last season and were used well to suit the intended mood. As I mentioned above, this release contains only the Japanese dub which means those of you who were introduced to this series through the initial English dub will have to become acquainted with the Japanese voice cast. Personally I think they had an overall solid Japanese voice cast – with strong performers of note being Yui Horie as the new character Hanyuu, Mai Nakahara as Rena and Yukari Tamura as Rika.
In terms of extra content, unfortunately there is not much on offer for fans of the series – only including a clean opening (Episode 13 version) and clean ending, along with one of Siren Visual’s usual slipcases with some very nice artwork of Rena on it (The DVD cover features Hanyuu using the same artwork I used briefly in a previous banner for this site). As we are actually seeing this released outside of Japan I am not so fussed about extra content as I would be with other series, but I would love to be able to see something along the lines of Dennou Coil where we got a bonus disc full of additional content with the second and final part.
While I did have a sneaking suspicion we might be seeing a release of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai when Siren Visual only released Season One last year, however it was a pleasant surprise just before Christmas last year where they announced their intents on distributing this season this year. Given previous comments on their Facebook wall, this was the most pre-ordered title they have had so far, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit given they have provided a title that was in demand by fans. Honestly, at anime conventions over here you will find a select few distributors selling imported North American anime that is not available over here by either Madman Entertainment or Siren Visual. It wouldn’t surprise me if you were to find Siren Visual’s release of Higurashi Kai as imports at North American anime conventions.
But I digress, if you enjoyed season one, there is a strong chance you will enjoy this season and I highly recommend it.
Storyline / Character Development: A
Music/Voice Acting: A-
Personal Preference: A
Extra Content: C
Overall Score: A