Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and its sequel (Kai) are the best horror themed anything (anime, real life, whatever) that I’ve ever seen. They do the creepiness, the gore, the horror all very well, but what I think makes it stand out from everything else, is how they develop their characters and make you feel like you’re part of their crowd. When they suffer, you suffer with them. When they vainly try to break out from the horror they’re in, you’re pulling for them as if you’re in the same nightmare. When you get past the guro fanboys cries for bloodlust (and actually its reputation for gore is exaggerated, as it’s not a bloodfest by any means. Rather, Higurashi’s terror is created by what it chooses to not show), Higurashi’s greatness comes from how it treats its characters. This is illustrated perfectly in the OP for the Kai, the second season (or the answer arc).
The song’s called Naraku no Hana by Eiko Shimamiya, and it starts off with a somber tone with Rika in the forefront, and a seemingly new character in the background, while interspersing shots of the rest of the gang standing by their lonesome within the static bursts. It’s pretty straightforward symbolism. Without giving the story away, Kai is Rika’s story and the OP makes that clear. What really gets me about the song is at the :40 mark, the song picks up and we see Rika running, stumbling desperately across the water, reaching out for a helping hand that never comes. We see images of Rena, swaying disconsolately, tears in her eyes, quick images of the torture machines, and a young, crying Takano. I get chills everytime I see it. And the lyrics just fit perfectly (Hauu~ translation):
Come let us forget about the future
Ending up stained in blood again
If the soft wind coils up
That is probably a sign
Break free. Break free.
From your heart-wrenching fate
You are not a flower in hell
Don’t blossom in such a place
Don’t blossom there. Don’t blossom there.
Don’t get entangled
Fragments of time flutter without a sound
And while the sad parts are heart-wrenching, Kai is really also a story of hope and friendship and we see that in the end, with the gang together, crossing the bridge, Rika flashing a smile and later in the season, waving to Hanyuu to come join them.
It helps that it’s a great song, but I think this is a great example of what an OP can be when the music, the lyrics and the imagery come together really well to tell a story of its own.
I’ve decided to rate songs on chillworthiness (does it give you chills?) and on a scale of 1-10, I’d rate this a 10 in chillworthy.