Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU
Episodes 1-3

by Lynzee Loveridge,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU ?

Welcome to the idyllic countryside of Hinamizawa. I'll be your tour guide through this charming rural town. Hinamizawa predates the Meiji era but was formally named Hinamizawa at that time. Here you'll find the multi-grade schoolhouse that serves our small population of youngsters. The town's most prominent landmark is the Furude Shrine, the site of the annual Cotton Drifting Festival that takes place on the third Sunday of June. Many of our residents have lived here for generations and the connection between the town's prominent families and the health of Hinamizawa itself is closely knit. It was only through close cooperation that the residents are able to still live in Hinamizawa today; what you see here would have been nothing more than a flooded swamp had the government succeeded with its dam project.

Ah, but that was a long time ago. The year is 1983 and Hinamizawa's turbulent history is far behind us...

I first settled into the world of Ryukishi07's Higurashi: When They Cry with Studio DEEN's anime adaptation that aired in 2006. The franchise has expanded with manga that play out alternate timelines, OAVs based on side stories, and even an alternate reality that includes zombies. There was something about the moe-meets-yandere aesthetic that really hit a sweet spot with audiences. When Higurashi: When They Cry – NEW (as it was originally titled) premiered, I was excited to get "demoned away" again as Keiichi tries to uncover all the mysteries of his new home town. I had a couple of things on my adaptation wishlist: elements that were left out from the last go around and others that I felt dragged on too long.

I did not expect to have the rug pulled out from under me during episode two. This was when the series officially revealed its title as Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU (Karma) and blew the door open for viewers. The fact that the characters are looping over about a week and that Rika has retained all her memories over the hundreds of thousands of loops was not revealed to original audiences until far, far into the series. The show was presented from Keiichi's perspective and while it became apparent that things were "restarting" for the audience, this fourth wall wasn't breached by the characters (nor did we know it was even an option) until much later.

Suffice to say "GOU" isn't a true remake. I'm not entirely sure what it is yet in relation to the original Higurashi story. Is it the same central story but with the narrative remixed a bit to be presented in a new way or is it another alternate loop? I'm sure longtime fans will have their hands full piecing that together. But it's that ambiguity that has ironically placed me in the unenviable position of trying to decide whether GOU is approachable for newbies or if I should refer them back to the original to watch first. I feel like I'm stuck in the Fate/Zero or Fate/stay night argument.

There certainly are narrative Easter Eggs that I can point to that won't mean anything to those who aren't already familiar with Higurashi, but I can't say you're "missing" some kind of important context because you don't know the owner of some items in a locker. Personally, I know I had a growing sense of dread when Keiichi approaches Rena at the dump on the second day but I can't explain why without dropping potential spoilers. Avoiding future spoilers but also articulating my feelings about GOU is going to prove difficult. I'm considering saving contextual Easter Eggs for a bullet point list at the bottom so newbies can easily skip it but I can still geek out until my heart is content.

As for the content of these first three episodes, they comprise most of the "Onidamashi-hen" Arc (Deceived by Demons). The arc's name references the original first arc but splits from the plot in a few ways, like in the aforementioned Rika reveal. We're introduced to most of the recurring cast of adults and the game club kids, given a few hints of what is lying underneath the surface, like Rena's temper and the supposed murder related to the dam site, the curse of Oyashiro-sama, and get our first glimpse at the Cotton Drifting Festival. "Deception" is the keyword here as all the prominent characters in this arc (Keiichi, Detective Ooishi, and Rena) are playing a con game. Keiichi gets caught up in it and begins lying about what he knows to Rena, incurring her wrath.

Studio Passione's efforts have mostly been satisfactory thus far but I do have some general trepidation about whether the production will hold up or not. We got a few wonky Ooishi faces in episode three and his car looked like something pulled from Initial D. Also, I can't tell if it was Funimation's player, but there were at least three prolonged "reaction face" shots of Keiichi in the third episode that were just...long stills? I'm also not convinced that they're pulling off creepy eyes nearly as well as the Studio DEEN original, either. The sudden switch to cat-eye pupils during a character freakout was a regular occurrence that just isn't getting the same reaction out of me this time. Also, as a related aside, the character designs' lighting makes them look shiny. I'm happy enough with the overall look, and I think my issue is more with the color design.

Episode four will bring the conclusion of the Deceived by Demons Arc. Will Keiichi find out the truth of Oyashiro's curse or will his lies catch up to him now that Rena's stalking around?

Rating:

Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU is currently streaming on Funimation and Hulu.


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