Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Review | Movie | Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Live Action

HIGURASHI NO NAKU KORO NI LIVE ACTION : Keiichi Maebara transfers to the small, peaceful town of Hinamizawa, where he befriends four girls in his class; Rena, Rika, Mion and Satoko. His new friends tell him all about the town, including the town's fearsome guardian god Oyashiro-sama, and its fury over any who dare enter its shrine. Keiichi is doubtful of the god's supposed wrath at first, but when he enters Oyashiro-sama's forbidden shrine, he becomes wrapped up in the town's horrible secret, and falls victim to the god's deadly curse.

I haven't yet gotten around to watching the Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni anime, which I probably should have watched prior to seeing the film. I've read so much about the series (including spoilers), I almost feel like it's unnecessary. The highly anticipated live action film of the popular horror series became a little less than highly anticipated once reviews and clips began to roll around. Fans went into an uproar over several missing key points of the original series; specifically, over Mion's twin sister Shion failing to appear in the film. Upon hearing Mion has become an only child for the film, it was boycotted by many. Shion's not the only character to be booted from the script. Such characters as Hanyu, Satoshi (who is merely referenced), and the rest of Mion's powerful family are nowhere to be seen.

We'll begin with the compliments. The film successfully captures the quaint atmosphere of the village of Hinamizawa. Word of Keiichi's arrival, and actions, get around quickly. You can feel the peace of the endless summer in the scenery welcomed to the movie, and yet as beautiful as it is, it maintains the wry, eerie gut feeling of the evil going on behind the scenes in the town.

A perfect blend of special effects are used to keep us tuned in. Nothing over the top, and not too little. Just enough to illustrate Keiichi's mental state of panic and chaos, and the Hinamizawa ladies' simple yet boisterous derangement. The overall set-up of the film gives excellent vibes to fit a horror film, giving off a strange sense of entrapment and peril, and not just for Keiichi, but for the viewer. There were times when I just had to hit pause and run to my kitchen for a refreshment of comfort to remind myself that it's Keiichi trapped, not me. That, to me, was one of the most exciting parts of seeing this film.

Now, onto the criticism: American actors and Japanese actors are very different, because they act in different manners, so it's often hard to tell who could be called a bad actor; An actor considered completely stale in Japan could be extraordinary to an American viewer. Despite that, Keiichi's actor could read as unengaged completely. His temper tantrums appear staged and many of his lines are given as if he is reading off of a script from far away. It's hard to watch him next to our sociopathic village girls, who are nicely fitting for their roles (though their triumphant laughter could have been more psychotic), except when they're diluted by Keiichi's bland disposition. Several Higurashi fans who have gotten a chance to see the film have noted that the producers could have landed a better actor for such a tough role.

I've read up on key points in the original anime series, and many of them could have served the film quite well, but alas, were left out. This may have been an attempt to transition out of Higurashi's typically chaotic atmosphere into a calmer, more psychological feel. Many would agree that due to the great reception the series received for the riotous blood carnival delivered to audiences, the film would hardly live up to its name when placed next to the anime, making the live action adaption seem tepid.

I think it may even be best to start this film before starting the series. A mind oblivious to the original anime may find this film quite enjoyable for its mind games, and can later look to the series for the pandemonium fans have come to expect from any adaption of the hit dojin.

Overall Rating:
/ 5



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Wheel of Fortune (opening theme)

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