Higurashi no Naku Koro ni – A delightful return

The Higurashi franchise returns with a new rendition of the classic 2006 series. Most of the original Japanese voice actors reprise their roles once more to finally settle the mysteries of Hinamizawa. This article contains no spoilers.

After a grueling long three month delay, the latest adaptation of the horror-drama Higurashi franchise, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou, has finally made its debut for the fall 2020 anime season. Despite the horrific story that takes place in the fictional Hinamizawa, fans of the franchise were more than willing to relive those dire moments, this time in high-definition.

It has been long speculated whether the new season would be a reboot, remake or potential sequel of the original Higurashi anime that aired back in 2006. Regardless of the outcome, the amount of hype that surrounded Gou’s debut made it abundantly clear that fans were excited and wanted more Higurashi, regardless of rendition.

Long waited reunion

The first episode was a sigh of relief as they brought back all the familiar faces and lovable characters of the original series. The personalities and interactions with one another were all too familiar, like reuniting with an old batch of friends after countless years. Keiichi still pretending to be aloof, Rena’s overwhelming obsession with all things cute, and Shion always acting like the geezer of the group, were all the very same unique traits that encompassed who they were in the original adaptation.

An even more delightful surprise, perhaps, was the reassembly of the original Japanese voice actors from nearly 15 years ago. Gou managed to bring most of the cast back, with all of them reprising their original role. Although most of the cast are now well into their adult years, like true professionals, they portray their younger counterparts without missing a step. Yukari Tamura, Yui Horie and Mai Nakahara, all of which have since become renowned voice actors and singers in Japan since casting for Higurashi, will also be returning.

If that didn’t bring back nostalgic memories for previous watchers, then maybe the familiar soundtracks will. Not only does Gou feature soundtracks from the older seasons, devoted fans will quickly notice that it also includes music from the original visual novel game that was released way back in 2002. As simple as they were from a composer’s point of view, they helped put together everlasting scenes and moments that players and watchers would remember years later.

Future like no other

Fans of the franchise will quickly notice the vibrant new art style of the anime, courtesy of studio Passione. The rural village of Hinamizawa looks more alive and vastly colourful than all of its predecessors put together. Although the layout of the village looks the same, the sharper animation and brilliant colouring make it feel much more immersive and memorable. The characters’ newly drawn style should draw some comparisons to another popular anime known for their subtle yet terrifyingly accurate portrayal of facial expressions, Nisio Isin’s Monogatari series. That is because the lead character designer for that anime, Akio Watanabe, is also the lead designer for Gou.

Less than halfway through the first episode, it should come as no surprise that the same events from the original anime were unfolding, this time with some additional new scenes. Keiichi is still regarded as the new kid on the block while he learns more about the history of Hinamizawa as well as his friends, Rena, Shion, Satoko and Rika. As secrets slip out, trickles of doubt and mistrust begin to cloud Keiichi’s mind and long before he begins to even realize, the warm sunny days spent hanging out with his most precious friends are that of the past.

From the mastermind himself

To the resounding joy of many, Gou begins its story by retelling the first arc, Onikakushi-hen, only this time being more faithful to its original source material, the visual novels released nearly two decades ago. After the premiere of the first episode, the original creator of the Higurashi series, Ryukishi Zero-Nana or more notably by his pen name Ryukishi07, shared his thoughts and insight on it for an interview with Funimation.

It was Ryukishi’s intention to find a perfect medium that would appeal to both those who’ve seen Higurashi before and for those who are first time watchers. He ended the interview by thanking his longtime supporters and reminding everyone to tune into the next episode. “Things are finally going to start moving with the next episode, so I hope you watch carefully from episode two on,” he concluded.

Regardless of how episode two will unfold, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou has managed to bring back warm yet chilling memories of the past, and has us tense in excitement for the unexpected outcomes of the next episode onwards. It matters not whether Gou is a remake, reboot, sequel or anything else in between, studio Passione has done a phenomenal job bringing these illustrious characters back to life and the staff have done well to incorporate everything the fans have cherished in the previous seasons back into this one.

With the gifted mind of Ryukishi at the helm of the production staff, there is no doubt that Gou will become a series that longtime fans can adore, while also serving as a gateway for new fans to explore the frightening beauty of the magnificent Higurashi universe.

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