Higurashi: When They Cry Rei Season 3 Collection (Cert 15)
1 Disc DVD (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 155 minutes approx.
It looks like we’re still not done with the incestuous pint-sized murderers of Hinamizawa village, returning to the psychotic blood soaked time warped world of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni aka When They Cry for another run. This time round however it is just five OVA episodes and not quite what you’d expect from this usually shocking franchise.
This collection is split into three parts – two silly, non-canon standalone chapters of extreme frivolous and uncharacteristic prurient goofiness and a three-part mini-arc with connotations relating to the main concept of the village caught in a constant cycle of time resets giving a fresh twist for its protagonist.
Most importantly, this is a horror free, largely violence free and certainly psychologically damage free outing, going firmly against the grain of what made Higurashi the infamous series it is. Take away these elements and the depth of the storytelling and we are left with a mere husk of a series that revels in subversion, intelligence, and bold examination into the flaws and foibles of the human psyche.
So what is left? Not much truth be told but this all depends on your mileage and how much leeway one is prepared to give in seeing a show dip its toes into uncharted waters for a one off. The first two series weren’t completely serious, quite often allowing wilfully zany comedy to lull us into a false sense of security before hitting us between the eyes with its gruesome, mind-bending shocks so the precedent has been set.
However, in this case, there is no surrounding context; the content of the first episode is shamelessly aimed at the fan service brigade, which given how young some of the girls are, is a little disconcerting but hardly new in anime. The plot revolves around Keiichi forgetting his swimming trunks for a day at the pool and borrows a pair which are said to be magic.
The catch is whoever writes their name in the trunks will fall in love with the wearer if he can keep them on for three hours; a mistake sees Keiichi write his own name in the trunks and the girls – Mion, Rika, Rena and Satoko – don’t want Keiichi falling in love with himself and try to get the trunks off him.
Under any other circumstances and as part of a show where the harem concept was its central conceit this would be a fine slice of bawdy comedy but it just doesn’t sit well when applied to a bunch of characters normally living in such a dark world and at one time have been homicidal maniacs. At least we learn from this episode that the Japanese have a euphemism for the male naughty bits – the fur seal!
Closing this set is another excursion into silliness with a similar plot, this time involving Rena accidentally swallowing the red half of the Fuwazaru Magatama charm and will fall in love with whoever holds the white half. No fan service this time, just members of the cast acting out of character as the white charm is passed around between men and woman.
For those who were attracted to Higurashi for its sinuous and complex storylines and darker edge, the three-part mini-arc is the closest thing to that in terms of narrative but, as mentioned earlier, lacking the grisly violence and psychosomatic behaviour. Rika, the cause of the constant time slips in the main story, is killed in a road accident but awakens in an alternate version of her world.
In this timeline, the sins of the past didn’t exist, meaning Satoko’s parents don’t die, her brother doesn’t run away and she isn’t left to be abused by her uncle, the scandal with the dam never happens, Rena’s parents don’t divorce and Keiichi doesn’t transfer to the village either and many other characters are also absent including Hanyu.
Rika manages to contact Hanyu, who tells her something from Rika’s past is preventing her from returning to her own world and she must destroy that fragment. Unfortunately, Rika finds that fragment is her own mother and has to choose between getting her old life and friends back or staying in a world free from sin.
As compelling as this all sounds, the execution is frankly dull with a capital “D”. Aside from Rika whooping a rude Satoko with a chair in the alternate world, there is almost nothing in the way of urgency or emotional energy. Rika spends most of her time consulting Hanyu meaning endless info dumps and exposition as a means of proxy story progression, a real momentum killer for a three-chapter arc.
There is a positive message to be found in this dilemma for Rika which has us wondering why on earth it wasn’t include in the main storylines, or preferably given all five episodes in this collection to explore it with greater depth and meaning. The drama that could have been milked from the premise of having to kill the parent you’ve just been reunited with to restore the balance of existence is squandered before our eyes when it could have been a crucial and powerful adjunct to the first two series.
On a brighter note, the improvement in the production values is a quantum leap from the previous outings. Made in 2009 at the start of the HD widescreen era of TV anime, the images are cleaner, the characters are better drawn and don’t drop off model and the animation is much smoother. Usually a clean up like this takes something away from the feel of the show but in this case, nothing is lost.
If you feel you’ve already had enough of the Higurashi: When They Cry saga after the first two series, not proceeding with Rei won’t be detrimental or compromising to your following of the continuing narrative. Considering what it had to follow up, Rei is a sad case of how the mighty has fallen.
Japanese Language 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ** ½
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