Higurashi: When They Cry
For one hundred years, Rika Furude had to relive the horrific events that befell the small village of Hinamizawa in June 1983. After great struggles and pain, Rika and her friends brought an end to the curse.
Or so she thought.
After five years of peace, Rika returns to that fateful June, and the nightmare begins again.
Rika is worried since this time, things are ever so slightly different. However, this means she had no idea how to save herself or her friends:
- Keiichi Maebara
- Rena Ryuuguu
- Mion and Shion Sonozaki
- Satoko Houjou
The endless cycle of death and suffering has returned.
Ugh, this will be a hard series to review.
Aside from being apart of the When They Cry series, where the stories are already so intricate that a reviewer risks spoilers at every turn, Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou (Gou) had its own challenges. If you are looking to try your hand at this franchise, which I encourage, you will need to go back to 2006 and start with the original release.
Gou might be branded as “new,” but make no mistake, this was a sequel. Not only that, this was a sequel more than a decade removed from its predecessor When They Cry – Kai (Kai). And not only THAT, Kai gave us a thoroughly satisfying ending, thus making this follow-up an unexpected, albeit intriguing, surprise.
Or, to put it as bluntly as I can, why the hell does Gou even exist? I think I have an answer to that question, but let’s set it aside for now.
For fans of the When They Cry series, Gou certainly recaptured the spirit of the original anime. Of course, it helped that the entire cast from the 2006/2007 releases reprised their roles, but this season went much further. This installment had the same intensity and, most importantly, the same brutality we have come to expect from this franchise. In fact, I would argue Gou was the most volatile of the three TV releases.
Now, I say that remembering full well the insanely violent torture scene from 2006’s When They Cry and the hauntingly chilling execution scene from 2007’s Kai.
Gou, not to put too fine a point on it, was bloody as s@#$. And just for comparison’s sake, this season’s most vicious moment was definitely the disembowelment scene.
On the off chance you know nothing about the When They Cry series, it is not for the faint of heart. Gou, in particular, didn’t hold much back.
I think what impressed me the most about this new season was its visuals. When When They Cry isn’t being all death, cruelty, and nightmare-fuel, it is cute, like slice-of-life comedy levels of cute. Granted, adorableness is a hallmark of this series, as well as its most giant trap. Chubby cheeks and goofy expressions are the masks of a much dark atmosphere.
Gou played this aspect up hard.
Consequently, the opposite side of this spectrum was true as well. When things took a turn – THINGS. TOOK. A. TURN.
Compared to its predecessors, Gou was a lot more colorful. The town of HInamizawa has never popped as much as it did here. This season was not afraid to throw in bright and vibrant shades of blues and greens and purples and every color of the rainbow you can imagine. And yes, when murder happened, there was a ton of red.
Gou’s use of color was no more prominent than with eyes. Let me put it this way; you always knew when someone had gone full deranged. It was a little frightening, and for a horror anime, that’s a pretty good accomplishment.
This season didn’t look fantastically different than what the originals did way back when. Still, the touch-ups were not a bad thing, not by a long shot.
And I think it is time we go back to our earlier question: Why does Gou exist? It exists so Higurashi: When They Cy – SOTSU (SOTSU) can exist.
As of this review going live (March 2021), SOTSU is currently scheduled for a summer 2021 release. Thanks to Gou, I am looking forward to it. I believe these new installments have found an exciting continuation to the original When They Cry story.
In this sense, Gou was a success. I want to keep going.
However, the reason I wasn’t looking forward to writing this review will seem like it came out of nowhere. For you see, although I think SOTSU can turn out to be fun, I don’t think I can recommend Gou.
Someone in the comments below; please tell me why Gou had to be twenty-four episodes long. From what was here, this story would have struggled to fill up twelve.
Gou might be a sequel, but I thought it was a straight-up remake after watching episode one; it followed the same exact steps from 2006. Hell, the infamous opening scene from the original When They Cry was recreated damn near shot for shot as the opening scene for this season.
Throughout Gou’s run, it kept dropping hints that things were slightly and critically altered, which was true. Each final tragedy at the end of the story arcs was different from what we have seen before. For example, at the end of the first story in 2006’s When They Cry, Keiichi Maebara went insane. In Gou, it was Rena Ryuuguu. That wasn’t an insignificant switch; there was a meaning behind it.
However, it ultimately didn’t matter because we got no new information from the switch. Most of this season was merely padding which led to some incredibly well-done (in a morbid sort of way) death scenes. I won’t deny the entertainment value in that, but the original When They Cry was more than just violence. It had a mystery you wanted to get to the bottom of.
That didn’t happen in Gou until episode fourteen. Even then, you could be skipping through the rest of the season and not get lost.
In Gou – and I guess to an extent When They Cry – it was always super obvious when you had to pay attention. If you only look for the right cues, you could probably get through this entire season in less than two hours.
Gou was so similar to its predecessor that nothing was a surprise. Once you know what the big twist is going to be, it can only apply to a single outcome. This season wasn’t exactly subtle with its hint-dropping.
The entire mystery aspect that has made When They Cry so much fun was a non-factor this time.
And like I said above, the foundation Gou laid down is something SOTSU can use to a great advantage. Except, did the ends justify the means? It’s impossible to say at the moment, but if they did, then that means SOTSU is going to be freaking amazing.
It’s going to have to be since you can basically skip this season. As long as you have seen the original When They Cry and Kai, you only need, like, four additional details from Gou to get ready for SOTSU. And there is no reason at all why you should have to sit through twenty-four episodes for that to happen.
I won’t say what those four details are until the SOTSU review for the sake of not wanting to spoil anything. Assuming the next season is also twenty-plus episodes long and there are no delays, you have until December 2021 to decide if you’re going to sit through Gou. Having done so myself, I don’t think it’s worth it.
Fundamentally, this was not a bad season; it had its enjoyable moments. The animation was excellent, we got more over-the-top deaths, the characters were still worth rooting for, and the groundwork for a potentially outstanding follow-up was laid.
The problem was, this show always felt like it was a waste of time, and that’s never a good thing.
Although it pains me to do this, Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou can be skipped.
Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou Series Review: The Nightmare Returns
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Plot - 7/107/10
- Character Development - 6/106/10
- Production - 7/107/10
- Music - 7/107/10