Genre: Horror, Psychological, Mystery, Supernatural, Thriller
Original Name: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni takes place during June 1983 in a fictional rural village called Hinamizawa (based on the village of Shirakawa, Gifu, a World Heritage Site), which has a population of approximately 2,000. The main character, Keiichi Maebara, moves to Hinamizawa and befriends his new classmates Rena Ryugu, Mion Sonozaki, Rika Furude, and Satoko Houjou. Keiichi joins their after-school club activities, which consist mostly of card and board games (and punishment games for the loser – usually him). Hinamizawa appears to be a normal, peaceful, rural village to Keiichi. However, the tranquility abruptly ends after the annual Watanagashi Festival, a celebration to commemorate and give thanks to the local god, Oyashiro. Keiichi learns that every year for the past four years, one person has been murdered, and another has gone missing on the evening of the Watanagashi Festival. Keiichi himself soon becomes drawn into the strange events surrounding the Watanagashi Festival and Oyashiro. In each story arc, he or one of his friends becomes paranoid and a crime is committed. Usually, the crime involves the murder of one of their own friends. While it seems impossible to tell their delusions apart from the mystery of Hinamizawa, slowly the truth is revealed.
While the story arcs follow various plots, the general basis is thus: During ancient times, the village where Hinamizawa sits was founded, unknowingly near a swamp that contained a parasite that caused paranoia and eventual madness. This parasite was interpreted by the villagers at the time to be demonic possession, and laws were placed that stated it was taboo to leave the village. This law was eventually enshrined as holy laws of a local deity, Oyashiro, and the punishment eventually became death by torture, as the village became paranoid of being wiped out if too many “demons” left the village. Living in the village, and the presence of the shrine maidens, who produced a sort of pheromone, held the disease in check.
Eventually, the village customs faded, and in 1983, a bioweapons researcher, Takano decided to deliberately release the disease to vindicate the work of her adoptive grandfather, who was mocked and shamed by the scientific community for his thesis about the disease, by killing the current shrine maiden, Rika. However, a spirit, Hanyu, rewound time to save Rika’s life. But rather than simply reset, the universe of the rewound time became slightly different, influenced by changed past events of the characters lives and personalities, with Hanyu and Rika being the only characters aware of this. This leads to the multiple plot lines that are independent, with the only common thread being Rika’s murder by Takano’s henchmen, which releases the disease on the village and wipes it out.
After several hundred loops, Keiichi becomes aware of them in a handful of flashbacks, and subconsciously remembers several of his past loops, which allows him to avoid several critical points where various characters would be murdered or driven insane, and the group of friends nearly manages to outwit Takano. In the final loop, the group asks Hanyu to join them, and the spirit manages to manifest a physical body. With her assistance, they manage to stay alive long enough to prevent Takano’s plan. Out of pity, Hanyu uses her abilities to alter Takano’s past, saving her father’s life and preventing her psychotic drive from forming.