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I apologize in advance if this might sound like the ramblings a fanboy but I can't believe I missed Higurashi no Naku Koro ni's start. The good thing was I could watch all four episodes in two days. In most cases waiting a week or more for each episode is a bitch but in this case I would have loved to discuss theories about what's going on while I was waiting for the episodes. Well, I can still do that now, so it's a minor complaint.

This is a horror/mystery series, so don't get fooled by the cute and rather silly looking characters. It's not for people who don't like anime with blood and gore. There are going to be spoilers as usual, so if you hadn't watched it and have any intentions to do it I'd recommend to do that rather than read on now.

The anime is based on a game which apparently is a smashing hit in Japan and of course, I had never heard of it before learning a bit about the series. Anyway, it's set in Japan, the year is 1983 and the main character Keiichi lives happily in some village in the middle of nowhere. His friends are all female and at first it seems that the lucky bastard is going to have his own loli harem. Of course, you can guess that nothing is as it seems because I told you this was a mystery series. Keiichi learns about a series of murders which have taken place in this peaceful, idyllic village. The locals seem to think that the Shrine God, something of a local deity who seems to have a bit of a bad temper is to blame for the murders. And guess who is the number one candidate for privilege to be the next victim? That's right – our main character.

This is the last spoiler warning! Don't blame me for spoiling your enjoyment. šŸ™‚

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I will not summarise the events this time for two reasons – I am too lazy to bother with it and we don't know how many of these events were real and how many were products of Keiichi's wild imagination, supernatural forces or drugs. It's a deceptively simple, yet when one thinks about it, a rather complicated story. Basically Keiichi thinks his friends are trying to kill him so he ends up killing them as an act of self-defence (when I think of self-defence I immediately think of Ginza from Speed Grapher, lol) in a gruesome way and then he dies. Who needs happy endings anyway? However, it seems rather obvious that the murder plot is not as simple and straightforward as it looks in this first chapter of the story. I don't think the village is simply a place where all the lolies have gone mad and kill people from time to time. The dialogues are full with ambigious remarks which can be used as clues, the police behaves in a very suspicious way, maybe supernatural forces actually influence the events and so on. The bad news is that the anime won't provide all the answers because it will not cover all chapters of the game story. The good news is that one can discuss theories to no end in that case. šŸ™‚

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I will write down a few of my suspicions. It should be fun checking them later to see how wrong I have been. šŸ™‚ First, right now the policeman seems to me like the prime suspect. Assuming these events were not all imagined by Keiichi, I just don't see a policeman telling so much to a teenager, calling him at night, not informing the parents that the boy was in danger and so on. Another weird thing was Mion and Rena waiting for Keiichi to wake up before injecting the drug. or Keiichi having trouble pulling away from Rena's clutches before the injection was applied. Maybe he had been drugged by someone else and was seeing enemies everywhere? Man, I really need to watch these episodes again.

Animation is just above average, surely Studio Deen can do much better (just look at Simoun or Fate/stay night), the character designs are even annoying – it seems that a third of one's height is his or her hair but once you are immersed in the story that suddenly ceases to matter. And the bright and shiny colours contrast in an ominous way with the chilling events. I can't say much about the music, it was neither irritating, nor memorable.

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In this series we have great creepy atmosphere which can change in a matter of seconds into a light relaxing one fitting for some school life anime comedy. I have no idea how they achieved but these two very different things combine so naturally that it's a bit frightening in itself. Brilliant voice acting – I would have never believed that Nakahara Mai, who is best known for being the seiyuu of Mai from Mai-HiME, could pull off such a sinister voice and ominous laughter if I hadn't heard it with my own ears. The weird camera angles really achieve their goal of making the viewers just as confused and afraid as the main character. The effortless switch from cute girls to uber creepy maniacs that Rena and Mion achieved was just scary. And the best thing is – we still don't know the whole truth. Apparently it's going to be kind of like Kurosawa's Rashomon – every story arc will show Keiichi starting from the begining and trying a different approach to events and will uncover the truth bit by bit. Well, I think Rashomon is a very overrated movie but even if the mystery part does not turn out to be so great after all, we still have the horror part which is more than just promising. But still, the mystery element is more important, especially for someone like me who has read almost all of Agatha Christie's books and many more mystery novels and focuses a lot of his attention while watching a movie on guessing the ending. Well, I sure hope the reason for the game's success is not just its creepiness and I am looking for forward to more twists and turns in this mystery.

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