Mai NakaharaSatsuki YukinoHigurashiNaoko Matsui
Higurashi When They Cry: Outbreak
Also known as: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kaku: Outbreak
Medium: OVA
Year: 2013
Writer/director: Toshifumi Kawase
Actor: Mai Nakahara, Mika Kanai, Naoko Matsui, Rie Tanaka, Satsuki Yukino, Soichiro Hoshi, Toshihiko Seki, Yasunori Matsumoto, Yui Horie, Yukari Tamura
Keywords: Higurashi, anime, horror
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 52 minutes
Website category: Anime 2013
Review date: 15 November 2019
Unlike Rei and Kira, it's a serious post-2007 Higurashi anime that's aiming for horror. I can respect it. I still don't like it, though.
It's 27 June 1983 and the government's announced a virus outbreak in Hinamizawa. The village is under quarantine. Soldiers are moving in. That's the starting point, from which things only get worse.
The good news is that it's consciously old school. Higurashi's going back to its roots, in a way we hadn't seen for years. It's got horror, blood, death and people getting a nata in the face. (I don't mean the Portuguese custard tarts, but those Japanese square-ended cleavers that resemble old-fashioned cut-throat razors, as long as your arm.) It's got soldiers in quarantine suits gunning down ordinary people. Can't argue with any of that.
However there are also a few things that break the mood and make it feel, to me, a little like fanfic. (I don't mind the fact that it doesn't start out light and fluffy, incidentally, although I notice that lack and I think the original story arcs were stronger for that.)
Firstly, it's got fan theories. (They're official and come from the show's creators, but they feel like fan theories.) Its virus's origin is a significant rewrite of previous continuity and a bit eye-rolling in how it tries to "explain" the differences between countries. There's something smug about it that rubbed me up the wrong way. After that, the stuff with Hanyuu and Rika at the end is nailing down stuff that had previously been ambiguous. Well, technically. I don't think anyone was in doubt by that point, but even so it's the difference between belief in God and finding out His address, postcode, mobile phone number and Facebook account.
For me, that stuff didn't work. Theoretically it's interesting as a new direction, but it's also a bunch of heavy-handed over-explanations that land with a thud. I didn't like them.
Secondly, it doesn't star the cast of Higurashi. Instead, it stars memetic exaggerations of the cast of Higurashi. Keiichi and Rena go on a hero rampage with their most iconic weapons, which looks cool. "They'll definitely rescue Satoko!" There's no real sense that they might fail or die. The episode becomes an vehicle for heroes to kick arse, instead of being a doom-laden plunge to hell where failure is most definitely an option. Satoko's "why did you come to save me?" feels like an action movie cliche to make the heroes look good, rather than anything the character would say in that situation.
Frankly, I was happy when Keiichi and Rena got shot. I like the characters, don't get me wrong, but I dislike this use of them. I was then distressed when the shooting was just an action hero beat and they were immediately okay again.
Overall, it's okay. I respect the apocalyptic ending. The ideas are also interesting, up a point. At least they're pushing things forward and attempting something new, instead of just regurgitating the past. I also learned about an Edo-era method of execution I hadn't known about before. (You tied up the accused in a mat and threw them in a river to drown.) It's a reasonably sincere, if flawed, attempt at old-school Higurashi and I can appreciate that. However I'm not sure if I'd call it good.