What They Say:
The first wave of madness that consumed the town of Hinamizawa in 1983 may be finished, but the nightmare is far from over as the time loops that have ensnared the populace continue to wreak carnage and mayhem.
As the survivors struggle to cope with the lethal aftermath, the annual cycle of betrayal and murder continues, and only Rena — ironically spared as she was safe in jail after her arrest for her part in the bombing and massacre — may hold the keys to unlocking the mystery.
Get ready for a grim post-mortem as Mamoru Akasaka and Officer Oishi dig into the past to solve the hidden secrets of the Great Hinamizawa Disaster, while Keiichi, Rika, Satoko and the others fight to stay alive as the nightmarish curse continues in When They Cry Season 2!
Higurashi’s second season is brought to you with standard Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Despite the first season receiving the English dub treatment, Kai goes without one — only retaining its original Japanese audio. That being said, audio quality is actually crystal clear for this release and far exceeds expectations for a DVD release. Also, bonus points for the most realistic cicada sounds in any anime ever. (There are a lot of them.)
Considering this is a standard DVD release, video quality isn’t exactly breathtaking. In fact, with Higurashi’s rather blase’ art style, the blu-ray probably doesn’t look much better. Obviously, there’s some dilution of color and the series maintains a rather grey tint all the way through. But, let’s be honest for a second, no one watches Higurashi for its artwork. The gore looks intense and all that you sick jerks care about. So yeah, that still looks fine.
I love the look of this DVD set just as much as I loved the look of the first season’s. The front cover aptly displays Rika Furude standing next to the Hinamizawa river with several cotton balls in her hands and the trademark Higurashi font pictured above. The back is splattered with blood and a plethora of messed-up thumbnails from the series as Rena is shown off to the side looking just as creepy as she always does. Each disc has a different character pictured and all of them look beautiful and smooth (The discs, not the girls). This release is just an incredibly well-rounded and neat set that is easily several steps above most Sentai releases.
Somehow, Sentai Filmworks has managed to make the static ‘character + episode titles’ look good. Despite being a reformat of how they normally tackle menu selection, Higurashi’s episode screen is detailed and nostalgic. It’s clearly reminiscent of its original time, even if it’s technically a 2016 release. As always, the opening song loops in the background, but I don’t care because I could listen to that song for approximately 48 hours before I start slaughtering my friends.
Apart from the textless opening and ending songs, there are no special features in this release. However, that isn’t all that surprising considering it took years to even get this series a Western DVD set. Let’s not be pushy, now.
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
I remember watching Higurashi Kai like it was yesterday. My best friend [at the time] and I stayed up and watched the entire series in one night, eating popcorn and gorging ourselves on soda throughout all 24 episodes. In fact, I remember my father coming into the garage at 5 AM and grounding me for staying up so late on a school night — but I didn’t care. We finished the next five episodes anyway and, to this day, it was one of the greatest nights of my life. It was the first time I’d ever been exposed to a story so captivating and so suspenseful that I’ve actually put this review off for some time now, afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. But that all changes today as I just revisited the series and watched all 24 episodes in one go, yet again.
Kai, just like the first season, is broken up into several arcs — each arc, for the most part, representing alternate timelines in the secluded village of Hinamizawa (Based and modelled after Shirakawa, Gifu). In this season, however, the protagonist switches from Keiichi Maebara to the girl who has secretly been the true protagonist the entire time — Rika Furude. Without going into detail as to why Rika is the true protagonist, I will say that each of these three arcs center around her existence, with the focus only drifting away from her [And toward Satoko] for several episodes in total. In Layman’s terms, the world of Hinamizawa can not progress without Rika (Though there are several scenarios/plotholes in which that is disproven). This all gets even more complicated when we find out that Rika has a ghost named Hanyuu living inside of her, experiencing everything that Rika goes ultimately goes through.
One of the more interesting facets of this season is that Rika essentially knows she’s the protagonist. For years and years, she has been jumping through timelines, witnessing the fall of Hinamizawa time after time due to a psychological curse known as Hinamizawa syndrome. Each new timeline, she tries desperately to deviate from tragedy, all to no avail. However, Rika soon begins to learn more about the world(s) she has been inhabiting and begins bringing that knowledge with her when she starts over in new timelines. Each and every timeline, she gets closer to a world in which she can prevent the unneeded deaths of the ones she loves. But isn’t until she lets those loved ones in that hidden truths begin to pour out. All of this time and all of these timelines begin to coagulate once again as Rika and her friends cling desperately to any hope they can find. Unfortunately, there’s been someone working against them the entire time.
What makes Higurashi Kai so gripping is that, unlike its first season, there is an omnipresent sense of progression. Every episode, we learn more and more about the world these characters live, and every second of it will bring you to the edge of your seat. While maintaining all of the characteristics that caused us to fall in love with the first season, Kai brings forth the idea of ‘Good vs. Evil’ and dedicates every aspect of itself to propelling us toward a unified conclusion — a definitive end. However, the idea of a definitive ending in a world as complex as Higurashi is nothing short of a pipe dream.
Or is it?
Higurashi Kai is beaming with just as much, if not more, story than a George Orwell novel. Character development and plot advancement move faster than a bullet train, not leaving the brain a single second to process anything that’s going on. And, even with this in mind, the series never, not even once, feels rushed. Kai is better than the first season of Higurashi in every single way, and that statement is nothing short of colossal considering just how many doors were opened by the original anime. Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni was a gateway to anime for so many people and, to this day, still emphasizes the darkest depths of the anime industry. It isn’t just a series about cute girls killing each other, it is one of the most complex stories on the market and will forever be a treasure in the world of anime. Please, for the love of Oyashiro-sama, watch this series.
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio, English subtitles, textless opening and ending songs.
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A-
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen