movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link (S1) S2/Kai s3/5 OVAs each have separate IMDB pages] [Netflix link (6 S1 discs only, S2-S3 may not yet be available)] [live action movie that we haven’t seen] Found this series by cruising the adult animation tag on IMDB for the highest rated *series* [not movie or short] I had not yet seen. Of course this meant going past the first 20 entries…

PLOT SUMMARY: Oh man, where do I begin? The story happens over and over, but different each time. Some members of town are proponents of a dam that would destroy the town. A cotton drifting festival is held every year, and someone gets killed each year. It’s not even the same killer each time. And yet, everything, by episode 52, makes perfect sense. And you won’t see it coming. Any of it.

UNCOMFORTABLE PLOT SUMMARY (inspired by this): Retcon, retcon, retcon, retcon, retcon, retcon, retcon, retcon, retcon, retcon, retcon, [highlight for spoilers] everybody dies.

QUIRKS: Survival thriller anime masked by cuteness — You think it’s some cutesey schoolkid anime show. By episode 3 or 4, you’re totally creeped out. Even scared. Then the violence begins. Then it gets REAL confusing. In fact, you have to watch the 26 episode first season just to know all of the questions — you don’t get all the answers until the NEXT 26 episode season (“Kai”).

It’s like this, in great part due to the fact that it is based on a doujin (fan created) sound novel game. The “game” has no real interaction, players simply read. The original “game” had 8 chapters: 4 question chapters and 4 answer chapters. The alternate-worlds in the series are a result of transforming this from a “game” to an anime.

VISUALS: Standard anime appearance.

SOUNDTRACK: Standard anime j-pop.

MORALS: Friendship is so important — that it can help you get through the problems of multiple worlds.

POLITICS: As usual, don’t expect the government to look out for you. As usual, small towns are not always the best place for outsiders to be.

GOOD STUFF: The plot and story. Just…wow. Although they aren’t alike, the experience is similar to that of watching Twin Peaks: You’re addicted, the story is always changing, you’re not sure where you came from or where you’re going, questions get answered slowly, and answers beg more questions. The story itself is not surreal like Twin Peaks, but it does have small town demonic elements. You could say that Oyashiro’s curse is analogous to the curse of “Bob” from Twin Peaks. Really, though, I pulled the Twin Peaks comparison out of my ass. It’s just my way of saying DAMN this is a good series. We actually kept notes [which I’ve included below] as we watched the series, as my pre-watching research indicated that this was going to be complicated.

BAD STUFF: The main characters being school students. But then, this is anime, and that’s how anime typically rolls. And the very nature of the medium of this series is that a lot of things are going to be retconned. You’re going to find out who the killer is in one arc, then in another arc they won’t be the killer, then in another arc things might be completely different. And yet, everything is still amazingly consistent. Even with Hanyuu appearing out of thin air for the 2nd series.

CONCLUSION: This very well may be the favorite anime series out of all the anime series I’ve ever seen.

RATINGS:
Clint: Netflix: 5/5 stars. IMDB: 9/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 5/5 stars. IMDB: 9/10.
This is top grade anime.

The native public rating for this series is: IMDB: 8.6/10 (S1), 8.3/10 (S2), S3 OVAs: 7.9/10, 8.0/10, 7.8/10, 7.1/10, 7.7/10.
The native public rating for this series (Season 1 only) on Netflix is: 3.9/5 stars (Netflix‘s predicted rating for us was 3.6/5 stars–WRONG!).

The 1st series is rated VERY high on IMDB – 52% rating 10/10, 72.5% rating 9-10/10, only 8% rating less than 7.
Yes, the 2nd series is rated VERY high on IMDB – 45% rating 10/10, 65% rating 9-10/10, only 9% rating less than 7.

RECOMMENDATION: OMG! One of my favorite animes ever! Watch it on Hulu or something. But for Kai and Rei, you’re going to have to look on bittorrent. IT’S WORTH IT. Even if you hate anime, the story here is excellent. Excellent!

SIMILAR MOVIES: When The Seagulls Cry aka Umineko No Naku Koro Ni — is considered a “season 3” or “series 3” to this, although none of the events or characters have anything to do with the 57 episodes of When They Cry / Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni / Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai / Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Rei.

COINCIDENCES: (Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni #13, Escaflowne manga vision#2) After a [highlight for spoilers] volcano killing a whole village in an anime, Clint went to bed, and read some manga with a [highlight for spoilers] volcano that killed everyone. Them Japanese sure hate volcanoes!
+(real life, Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai #9) They talked about Satako missing school for 3 days and never showing up to the clinic, much like Clint who was in his 3rd day of what was quite likely swine flu, and he, too, hadn’t gone to the doctor.

PLOT SUMMARIES OF EACH EPISODE, TO KEEP THE STORY STRAIGHT: (STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS)

S1:
Spirited Away By The Demon: 1=Rena is creepy (wielding axe), 2=murders introduced,Rena is MORE creepy (eavesdropping on call with cop), 3=OMG more creepy girls,needle in cake+van murder attempts, 4=Rena+Mion did it,Keeichi beats them both to death,leaves note behind clock,claws throat out,piece of note was missing,
The Cotton Drifting[not as creepy as Spirited Away By The Demon]: 5=Reset!?!? Mion/Shion(greenhair) is twins?!, 6=going into shrine they aren’t supposed to,cotton drifting festival deaths are different this time:2, 7=Mion(but really Shion,see#19,but they hint at it) did it. “Too many walking corpses in this case”
Curse Killing: 9=Reset! Pedo-guy wants Satoko(blonde little girl),Rena was cursed once, 10=Satoko’s abuse,pedo-guy’s good,cop’s bad,vomit in the classroom, 11=Keiichi kills Satoko’s uncle (her older bro Satoshi previously killed the aunt), 12=No he didn’t, 13=He killed everyone (whole village). Keiichi did it.
Time Wasting: 14=Reset! About cops now,national safety Akasaka(“Tamitake #2”),town elders revealed, 15=whole village already died,way past 1983;flashbacks,Rika knew it all. Major note with future spoilers: Rika is actually the main character, which is not revealed until the second series.
Eye Opening: 16=Reset! 1981 instead of 1983. Shion has to pretend to be Mion to stay alive,Satoshi introduced(saves Shion from bikers),Shion(Mion?) curses Satoshi+aunt, 17=Shion’s fingernails ripped out to save 3 lives;Satoshi disappears anyway, 18=Shion strangles then forgives Mion,time passes,going into shrine they aren’t supposed to,cotton drifting festival, 19=Shion switches places with Mion[relates to #7],puts Mion in dungeon w/granny(died),abducts grandad, 20=Shion interrogates grandad,Rika fails to kill Shion,killed, 21=basically #7 again,Sonozaki(Mion) family *didn’t* do it all,Shion goes splat,
Atonement: 22=Reset! Rena’s parents explained,her father’s in the process of being duped by a blackmailing whore, 23=Rena kills whore+pimp, 24=they’re after Rena,the curse is simply a virus!,redefining everything, 25=Rena’s infected,Keeichi was a serial child shooter,Keeichi remembers the Spirited Away By The Demon plot above and recognizes Rena is going through the same thing,Rika is mature and understands,Mion’s family not involved but willing to provide lawyer for Rena if they find her, 26=Rena takes schoolkids hostage

S2 (Kai):
Intro: 1=30yrs later(i.e. “now”,2008),still in Atonement chronology,Tokyo detective Asaka[i.e. ‘Tamatake #2’ in S1E14{Time Wasting}],Rena survived,alien theory probably bunk,the 3 families researched an old virus,f’ed up,accidentally killed everybody,creepy Rika is looking for the next Hinimazawa
Disaster Awakening: 2=cutesey,Mion/Shion both present simultaneously always,Rika is still the same Rika aware of multi-worlds [and is actually the main character, soon-to-be-revealed], 3=Rika wallowing in her misery,basically,She tells Satoko she’s gonna be killed but then denies it, 4=Dr. Irie/Tamitake died,Satoko wants to protect Rika,Rika’s noticing new differences in events,creepy men following her,cop killed, 5=Satoko’s parents killed,Rika killed,Satoko chased,falls in river,disaster happens again,Satoko survives instead of Keiichi,but can’t speak,Rena survived too,Satoko killed(by nurse?)once she could speak,Rena chased by “army” men who killed others,
Massacre: 6=Rika quite aware she’s been repeating things for 100 yrs,ghost/demon horn girl(Hanyuu)shows up and it’s like she’s always been here,Satoko has some weird terminal disease, 7=everyone is remembering alternate lives,Rika must save Tamitake+Takano to save herself,Akasaka thanks Rika for saving his wife[he didn’t listen to her in S1:Time Wasting],Rika gets bodyguards that save her from the bikers, 8=must save Satako from abuse,Rika says fuck it to life,Shion wants to kill abusing uncle but Keiichi stops her,they appeal to child services,Keiichi then says fuck it but Rika dis-disenheartens him, 9=increasing #s of ppl appeal to child services for Satako,Sonozaki family now aware of this(Satoko’s of the Houjou/dam-proponent/cursed family),Rika must convince Satako to confess the abuse, 10=granny convinced to help and now likes Keiichi,protest at main office,they finally give in but Satoko’s already bleeding, 11=Satoko saved,back to saving Tamitake+Takano,holy shit Takano has been working with the ones who killed the whole village every frickin’ time!,24 hour ‘walking corpse’ from S1E7 explained, 12=Irie being framed,Rika brings everyone in w/best explanation of everything that’s happened yet,Oishi killed, 13=”Tokyo” trying to kill Rika[+Satako],everyone saves her at first,but then they all get killed,team up for the next world,Takano kills all the villagers,the volcano was just some zyclon-b type shit,wow,
Festival Accompanying: 14=Reset! Takano nightmareish childhood orphanage mass escape(then she’s begging to die in the woods),establishment of Tokyo organization, 15=Worst. Orphanage. Ever. Takano recaptured,Hifumi Takano[her dad’s sensei]saves her,has his research rejected,she grows up wanting revenge,now it’s Takano vs. Hanyuu, 16=flashing back between the Dam War[’78ish] and when Satoshi was around[’82ish?]and Satako’s abuse had already started,Takano is gonna examine live brain for parasite,Rika finally back in epilogue, 17=Rika gets examined,Satoko dying,govt-sponsored killing of town set up by Takano,Takano kills Rika’s parents,revealed that Satoko killed her own parents,research project now shut down with 3 yrs left,mysterious woman, 18=Satoshi affected,getting job,quit baseball,Rena no longer Reina,tried to suicide when mom left,origin of gaming club,granny set stage for Keiichi to move in, 19=Hanyuu’s real,joins club,everyone’s brought in again but only thinking it’s manga,govt involved, 20=now they’re brought in for real,decide to fake Rika’s death,Oishi+Akasaka in, 21=Operation 48 hrs commences:Takano freaking out that 48hrs of passed since Rika’s “death”,evil ones starting to come out of the woodwork,Oishi+Sonozaki cockblock Tokyo exec trying to identify Rika’s body for Takano, 22=things falling apart,Tamitake captured,Irie hurt,Sonozaki safe house,going down to the well,defeat,Akasaka saves the day, 23=attack in the mountains,raid to save Satoshi from clinic but oh hey he’s vegetative,enemy starting to realize they’re losing, 24=Takano defeated,told to kill self but runs away,arrested,treated for the syndrome,cotton drifting festival finally happens without incident! …. A better explanation of the end can be found here.

S3/OVA (Rei):
1=comedy:magic underwear WTF!!!!!!!!!!,
Dice Killing: 2=Rika dies,Reset!,everything the most different ever,no dam war/Tokyo/H-Syndrome/Keiichi/Takano/Irie, 3=Rika must kill mother to return, 4=Rika chooses old world,returns,now appreciates life,Hanyuu made her have the dream out of spite, haha,
Day Crushing: 5=comedy:Demon love charms

Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kira (2011 OVAs):
1=Love Penalty Chapter: Bliss=Irie(pedo-doc)/Tamitake(photographer)/Oishi(cop)/Keichii have a pedophile brainstorming party, ultimate 10-year-anniversary fan-service fetish scenes, but oh shit, things take a turn for the dark, call the cops, it was all a dream, no it wasn’t, new Hinamizawa syndrome – use your power of delusions, Keichii!
2=Specter Battling Chapter: Effort: Parallel world, Tokyo Magica four generals, fog making people homicidal.
3=Intertwined Destiny Chapter: Love: Mion crushing on Keichii, then Shion, then Rena…But he has to take the grandma for a girlfriend instead.
4=Daydreaming Chapter: Ease: Rika from past ends up in future, Hanyuu helps her, others join, Keiichi finds out how to return Rika, Hanyuu now accepted as one of them. For real real.

Alas, these last 4 were not intertwined. Specter Battling in particular seemed to be a huge loose end. I think I’d only give these 2011 OVAs 3/5 stars on Netflix (3.4 from Carolyn), 7/10 on IMDB.

Mood: annoyed
Music: Atari Teenage Riot – Paranoid