Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (translated as Higurashi: When They Cry) is a horror franchise that started as a series of visual novels in the early 2000s, but has since been adapted into an entire arsenal of anime, manga, live-action dramas, OVAs, and much more. The newest entry into the canon is Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou, a Fall 2020 anime by studio Passione that follows its own original storyline. So, if you’ve never given this franchise a chance before, where’s the best place to start? How much do you need to know to understand the new anime? We’re here to help, so join us as we discuss in which order you should watch Higurashi: When They Cry!
The Visual Novels
The story of Higurashi takes place in June 1983, in an isolated village called Hinamizawa. Underneath the cheery surface lies a dark psychological curse that supposedly drives people to madness, and a group of kids must discover the truth of this curse before bodies start piling up and they become murderers themselves. The series follows a number of different scenarios that the kids find themselves in, often starting out similarly but leading to drastically different endings depending on the choices they make.
The original eight visual novels were developed by 07th Expansion, a doujin circle with limited resources for game design and art. As such, the games had no choices or routes (instead presenting each alternate scenario as a separate game) and the sprites were... well... freakish mitten-handed monstrosities, but they got the point across. Re-releases of the games for PS2 and Steam have remedied the artistic crimes and combined the separate routes into a proper branching narrative structure, but all of the important story beats have been adapted into anime form, so only play the visual novels if you really want to.
The First Anime and Its Spinoffs
Studio Deen’s 2006 adaptation of the visual novels is split into two seasons: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai. These are essential viewing, as they go through the main story arcs and answer all of the important questions that come up. Don’t be deterred by the janky animation and character designs – they get better over time, and at least they’re better than the source material! If you want the essential Higurashi experience, this is what you need to watch.
There are also several spinoffs, such as an alternate timeline version called Rei (based on a fandisc released after the visual novels), a fanservice-laden OVA series called Kira, a more serious side-story called Kaku: Outbreak, several manga adaptations, etc. You can consume some, all, or none of these – they’re essentially independent continuities for fans who can’t get enough of the characters and world. As long as you’ve seen the main two seasons of the 2006 anime, you’ll (most likely) be all set for Passione’s new project.
The New Anime
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou isn’t based on any pre-existing material (as far as we can tell so far, anyway) and is being produced by a different studio and director, so the only familiar elements are the voice cast and the basic story set-up. Pre-release trailers and press releases gave away very little information about the plot, so most fans thought that it would just be a slightly nicer-looking remake of the 2006 series – the first episode even played the original OP over its credits. By episode 2, however, it became clear that Gou is actually a sequel to the Studio Deen version and aims to explore even more dimensions of horror than the poor kids have been through already. We don’t know exactly where it’s going, but we’re excited!
If you’re after the full Higurashi experience, feel free to play all of the visual novels and delve into the questionably canon spinoffs until you know June 1983 like the back of your hand. But if you’re just trying to prepare for the new anime, watch Studio Deen’s Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and its sequel season, Kai. Then you can join longtime fans in the morbid anticipation for each new episode of Gou.. whatever it may bring.
What did you think of our overview? Have you been watching Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou this season? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!