Anime You Should Be Watching: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

Believe it or not, originally I was brought on to be the anime guy. Granted, I haven’t always been the most active of people, but that’s my natural laziness taking over. But with the season being what it is, and me having drank enough, allow me to enlighten everyone about one of the finer horror anime out there, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.

Previously Arleigh had posted up another yandere classic, School Days. The Higurashi visual novel predates said visual novel by three years. The big difference is that while School Days was a fairly well funded project (with many, many bugs in it!) and Higurashi was basically a doujinshi project.

Let me explain doujinshi for a very little bit. A lot of people make the mistake that doujinshi instantly equals porn comics. Now, if you attend Comiket, which is the single largest doujinshi convention in Japan, you could be excused for thinking that it’s all about comics, and more importantly, comics that solely deal in erotic content. However, doujinshi basically just means “self published”. Again, not a literal translation. You want literal? Fine. The literal translation is “same person periodical publication”. Basically this can be taken to mean a project taken on by someone without the financial backing of the mainstream media. This could mean either comics, games, or even anime. Yes, the more common genre are the comics, but there is a fairly decent market for self published games. Higurashi falls under the blanket of the self published games. From a visual standpoint, they were very raw. In fact, there’s a very good reason why it gets criticized for having bun hands.

Compare that to the anime character art, and the difference is quite obvious.

But if you can get past the rough character designs,  (keep in mind that the true meat of the game comes from the story, not the graphics) then you’re in for a very good story with many a twist and turn along the way.

One thing I must say, based on the experiences I’ve had with people is that you should probably watch the anime first. Perhaps I’ve just been subjected to extremely rabid fans, but too many of them have an irrational hatred of the anime. I’ll accept that there is a chance the complaints are valid, because I have not personally played the visual novel (you play them, not read them. Trust me on this) but having seen all of the anime, even if the transition is not perfect, it’s still a fun watch that will keep you guessing right up until the answer arcs are shown.

Each arc starts out in a very light hearted manner, but make no mistake, this is a horror series at its core.  The fact that such cute girls are at the center of it all makes it seem all the more horrific, especially with the actions that are taken throughout the various arcs.  While it’s very difficult for anime to effectively show gore without getting to the ridiculous buckets of blood level, Higurashi manages to be very effective in its depictions of it, and some scenes are actually a bit shocking to see.

The thing is, you have to watch both seasons of the show, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai, to get the true ending and find out the reason for all the happenings in the town of Hinamizawa during June of 1983, but it is well worth the time spent, and shows that anime can successfully pull off the horror genre.

Anime You Should Be Watching: School Days

For our latest Anime of the Day I have chosen the very controversial title School Days which aired from July through to September of 2007.

The series was adapted by anime studio TNK from the visual novel and eroge of the same title published by the company Overflow. School Days was your typical “harem” visual novel eroge where the main protagonist (most of the time male though there’s a few where it’s reversed and it’s a female) becomes involved with several of the female characters in the game. The goal of these eroge was to try and navigate through the many relationships between the protagonists and the many female characters around him (usualy in a sexual nature) and get the perfect ending which always ends up being the so-called “good ending”.

With School Days the main protagonist is one Makoto Ito who starts off as being a mild-mannered and polite high school student. This doesn’t last long as he become embroiled with the many female classmates he’s known for years and those he recently met. To say that the character of Makoto becomes addicted to having sex with his female classmates would be an understatement.

While there are several female characters in School Days who become involved with Makoto in one way or another it’s the duo of Kotonoha Katsura and Sekai Saionji who become rivals for Makoto’s affection. Just like the visual novel the anime series was adapted from (the visual novel was also adapted as a manga series) the complex and increasingly malicious attitudes by some of the leads in the series would lead to more than one tragedy for all involved. This is a series which starts off as a light-hearted harem title but as the series progresses towards its climactic finale it somehow takes a huge turn into the darkside that by the time it does make that turn the viewer has become so invested in the characters and the story that it becomes a major shock to the system.

School Days has become controversial since its release due to a real-life killing where a young high school girl kills her father with an axe which some thought as being too similar in tone to a sequence in the series. The controversy from such a real-life event caused the tv station broadcasting the series to replace almost half the running time of the final episode with an image of a nice boat and classical music playing in the background. This became such a major internet meme that saying “Nice Boat” has become the comment of choice when discussing controversial scenes and plot developments of any series that’d be ripe for studio censorship.

The series in all its form also emphasizes the character stereotype of yandere. School Days definitely has its major share of yandere characters and the many different endings to the visual novel shows how some of the yandere characters in the story deal with the callous way Makoto has dealt when dealing with their affections towards him. It gets bloody, violent and more than just a tad crazy-insane.

School Days is definitely one of the more seriously twisted anime offerings out there which doesn’t involved hentai in its description whatsoever. It’s a series that if it was a live-action series would be similar in tone and scope to many of filmmaker Ken Park’s films which deal with teenage highschool relationships, sex and the consequence which can come from it.

Highschool of the Dead: Episode 9 – First Impressions

yandere: A Japanese anime/manga character archetype, a character that is loving, sweet & gentle that can suddenly switch to brutal psychotic or deranged behavior

Why the quick brief lesson in Japanese anime/manga terms?

This brief lesson is due to the nature of episode 9 for Madhouse’s anime tv series adaptation of the horror manga title, Highschool of the Dead. This latest episode finally unleashed the dark secret one of the coolest characters in the series has been keeping to herself. For those who have been reading the manga on a regular basis already know of this secret, but for those whose experience of this title is only the anime this episode will open up Busujima Saeko.

The bokken wielding senior-class in the group has been one of the most level-headed in the group surviving since episode 1. Saeko never seems to panic and has shown to be expertly skilled in dispatching the unending stream of zombies with her wooden sword. Outside of the gun otaku himself, Kohta Hirano, she seems to be the one character in the group who has adapted well to the sudden and apocalyptic change in the world around them.

This episode puts her and Takashi Komuro (who is starting to gather quite the harem of hotties) on the run to find a way to the safety of Takagi Saya’s parents’ fortress compound. During their time running from the zombies to find a safe passage Saeko and Komuro get into all sorts of troubles with Saeko getting wet in more ways than one during their run. It’s during this time away from the rest of the group that we learn of Saeko’s penchant for just a bit of sadism.

A past encounter in her early highschool years convinced Saeko that she enjoys inflicting pain on those weaker than herself. This revelation becomes a huge 180 degrees from her earlier behavior. Out of the outside facade of being the cool-headed, elder student who never panics lies the heart of a sadistic yandere who has enjoyed killing “Them” with impunity. The changes in the world has allowed Saeko to indulge in her sadistic tendencies and maybe she’s in the right as it has helped her and her group survive the apocalypse, so far. Even Komuro has accepted this side of Saeko and sees it as a necessary evil in the days ahead.

The episode also hints at what could become a major love triangle (or is it quadrangle) as the relationship between Saeko and Komuro may have turned a particular intimate turn (before the scene faded to black). This episode has deftly laid the groundwork in what could become this series’ version of School Days and Higurashi no Naku Kuru ni. This new development in the series should quiet some of the nitpickers and naysayers (who still continue to watch despite their constant bitching about the series’ heavy fanservice) who wish for more character development and storytelling minus the constant oppai and pantsu shots.

One thing for sure, the anime has begun to take some liberties with details from the manga. This episode has changed the order of certain events and even changed the circumstances of how certain things occur. With four more episodes left in the season the question now is whether the series first season will end caught up to the manga (currently on chapter 26 or 27) or will it end on a cliffhanger that combines chapters 14-16 of the manga. Here’s to hoping that it’s the latter that way we get a follow-up season.