Let’s try something a little different. Disney+’s release schedule for new shows is pretty tight, with episodes releasing weekly followed by a making-of documentary and kicking off with a new series the week after. For the time being I’m going to skip the Star Wars shows, but that still means that the majority of these Saturday posts will be tied up with the MCU, not leaving much time for anything else. Well, I’m instituting a new policy for the blog: when I’m in the middle of reviewing the latest MCU show on Saturdays, a completely different show’s posts will go up as a bonus on Sundays. Does this mean that the last half of the month will have a post every single day thanks to MCU March? Yup! Will I regret this? Probably! But enough of that, let’s talk about child murder.
When They Cry, AKA Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, AKA When the Cicadas Cry is a horror anime about school kids going insane and killing each other, but with a twist. I could describe it better but part of the fun is that I have only seen the first 5 episodes of the first season–this post is about the first 4–and know very little about the rest of the series. Like, I know a few things that sure sound important, but I’ll get to those when they come up. So if you have no idea what’s really going on, feel reassured that more often than not, I don’t either! Let’s find out what the fuck is going on together, starting with the first story arc, Spirited Away by the Demon.
We open with a young boy brutally murdering two girls with a baseball bat in the summer of 1983. Okay, going big. Flashing back a week or so we meet Keiichi Maebara, a young boy who has recently moved to the remote village of Hinamizawa. He has four friends who can best be described via Punnett square: Rena Ryugu is Keiichi’s age and sweet, Mion Sonozaki is Keiichi’s age and sassy, Satoko Hojo is an underclassman and sassy, and Rika Furude is an underclassman and sweet. While hanging with Rena after school one day, Keiichi learns from visiting photographer Jiro Tomitake that Hinamizawa was almost going to be completely underwater due to the construction of a nearby dam, but the village rallied against the idea and plans stopped. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that there was a brutal and bloody murder of the construction foreman. One of the killers is even still at large! Weird that no one mentioned this to Keiichi before this!
When the annual Cotton Drifting Festival comes around, Keiichi and his friends go have fun but are separated late at night. The young boy runs into Tomitake again along with a woman we eventually learn is named Miyo Takano. They tell him about the supposed “Oyashiro-sama’s Curse,” where every year on the night of the Festival, someone dies and someone close to them goes missing. The deaths range from brutal murder to possible accident to possible natural causes, but I think we all know it’s oops! all murder. The next day at school Keiichi is questioned by Oishi, a police officer, who informs him that Tomitake tore out his own throat and Takano is missing. Rena and Mion start acting… strangely. They become confrontational and seem to know things they shouldn’t. Oh, and their eyes have vertical slits like a cat… or possibly a demon?!
Now in full paranoia mode, Keiichi fakes being sick to avoid seeing the girls at school. Oishi meets with him and explains that every death in Oyashiro-sama’s Curse can be tied back to his friend group (although mostly to Satoko, a fact not addressed in this story). The cop also tells Keiichi that Rena was born in Hinamizawa and moved away for a while before having some kind of mental episode where she broke her school’s windows and attacked some students, claiming Oyashiro-sama came to her in the night. Rena and Mion stop by Keiichi’s house that night and give him food. But there’s a needle in one of the ohagi! That’s proof that the girls are out to get him! As well as others judging by the attempted hit and run made against him on his way to school the next morning. At school he grabs a baseball bat and starts to practice his swings for protection. Rena is scared by Keiichi’s behavior, pointing out that Satoko’s older brother, Satoshi–the person who disappeared last Festival–was doing the exact same things before he disappeared/”transfered”/was spirited away by a demon. That’s even Satoshi’s bat!
While Keiichi is home alone, Rena shows up and alternates between sweet and sinister. After he forces her to leave, she stands in the rain and stares up at his window while repeating, “I’m sorry,” over and over again. The next day at school Mion tells Keiichi that everyone is afraid of him, creating this tonal whiplash. Is he actually crazy? Well, no, because the same people who tried to run him over show up after school to knock him out. He wakes up in his bedroom with Rena and Mion watching over him. Things turn sinister when they inform him that “the Director” has been called, and then they inject him with a mysterious substance. He fights back and we get context for the opening scene: he beats Rena and Mion to death with Satoshi’s bat. He leaves a hidden note with the syringe, flees before the Director and his men can get him, and calls Oishi from a phone booth. But the cops arrive too late and under the influence of the drug injected into him, Keiichi rips out his own throat. His note is found with a section missing–we never saw the full note so we don’t know what was removed, either–and the needle is similarly gone.
So, uh… three-fifths of our main characters are dead. This could be the start of an elaborate murder mystery conspiracy series where the rest of the episodes focus on Oishi trying to piece everything together, but that’s not the direction the show goes. What do I mean by that? Well, remember that I said I watched the first 5 episodes of this series, so I know what the next episode is about and how it relates to the end of this story. Tune in next week for more possibly supernatural weirdness!
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