The Fall 2020 anime season is certainly being defined by the high number of continuing or rebooted anime series from the past. From Strike Witches to Golden Kamuy to Danmachi to Osomatsu-san, there are more quality series returning than any past anime season I can remember. And the cherry on top is Higurashi: When They Cry 2020, a totally new addition to the (beloved? feared? infamous?) murder/horror anime series based on doujin visual novels by 07th Expansion. Should you watch the new series? Let’s find out!
The Return of Higurashi: When They Cry
The new series, officially called Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Gou, retells the classic story of Keiichi, who comes to live in the picturesque village of Hinamizawa, making friends with the girls in the village’s small school. It’s a cute story of slow life in a rural part of Japan…until the existence of the “Curse of Oyashiro-sama” is revealed, which causes mysterious deaths and disappearances every year on the night of the Watanagashi Festival. Higurashi is basically part Non Non Biyori, part Another, and part Groundhog Day.
One of the first questions fans will have is, is Higurashi 2020 a reboot from scratch, or a continuation of the story? Thanks to the repeating element of the story, the answer can be whatever you want it to be. It’s the same reason fans can consider that Groundhog Day Jeep commercial to be part of the canon universe of the film, if they want to. It’s similar to the way the multiple “world lines” system in Steins;Gate enable any side-story to be considered official if fans want that.
Higurashi 2020 is a lot of fun, with all the original voice cast returning for the new series, and good production values that let us relive cognitive dissonance that arises when “cute girls doing cute things” becomes “cute girls doing gory violent things.” That said, hardcore fans of the original works might take issue with some elements of the series, including the updated character designs, the changed pacing from the original, and questions about whether the show is intended for new fans or existing ones.
One of the Best ‘Holy Land’ Anime Series
The boom of anime series being set in real locations both to add realism to the story and to promote “otaku tourism” was kicked off by Please Teacher and Please Twins in 2002, but another show that made it fun to visit real-life anime locations — dubbed 聖地巡礼 seichi junrei or “making a pilgrimage to a Holy Land” — was Higurashi. The story is set in the beautiful real village of Shirakawa-gou in Gifu Prefecture, north of Nagoya. Because the village is in such an inaccessible part of Japan, it was essentially forgotten while the country modernized from the end of the 19th century, and this is the only place you can go see the traditional architecture and classic thatches rooves that were common centuries ago. I made the journey with my kids a few years ago, and it certainly is a wonderful place to plan a visit to sometime in the future.
Should You Watch the new Higurashi Anime?
Although not all fans of the classic anime and visual novels will be on board with the re-envisioning of the story, I’m really enjoying having all our old friends back: Rena, Rika, Mion, Satoko, even good old Inspector Ooishi. Time will tell whether this will add something meaningful to the huge and complex world that fans of Higurashi enjoy so much.
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