Getting Started:Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni can be difficult for newcomers to understand due to the sheer number of story arcs, inconsistent adaptations, incomplete translations, and confusion regarding canonicity. This page is an attempt to clarify the story of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and how its various arcs work.

How should I experience the story?

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has been adapted into several different mediums, which can make it confusing for newcomers to know where to start. There are three easily accessible ways of experiencing the entirety of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni:

  1. The original visual novels. This version of the story is how Higurashi was first released and can be found on Steam or MangaGamer's official website with updated visuals and full English translations. If you go this route, be sure to check out 07th Mod, a fan-made patch which includes videos and CGs that are unavailable in the official English releases, as well as full voice acting and the ability to switch between Ryukishi07's original sprites, the PS2 sprites, and the Steam sprites (07th Mod is also the only means by which English-speaking audiences can read Taraimawashi-hen, Tsukiotoshi-hen, and Miotsukushi-hen, as these arcs are not included in the official Steam/MangaGamer release).
  2. The 2006 anime produced by Studio DEEN. This adaptation of the story faces some criticism for leaning excessively into the "horror" elements of the story at the expense of accurate adaptation. Nevertheless, the entirety of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni's main story can be viewed this way without missing any major plot details or character motivations. Physical copies can be found for sale at online retailers while digital copies can be purchased from Amazon Prime Video or streamed from HiDive.
  3. The manga adaptation. This adaptation was written by Ryukishi07, the author of the original visual novels, and adapts both the main story arcs as well as several side arcs. This adaptation is faithful to the visual novels while also taking advantage of the medium of manga to elevate the story. Physical and digital copies can be found at online retailers, however much of the manga is out-of-print and physical copies can be expensive or hard to find. Furthermore, the manga is spread over ~30 volumes, which can further complicate expense and availability.

Other adaptations of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, including the novels, light novels, films, and live-action television series are either untranslated or incomplete.

What should I read?

Regardless of which of the above methods you chose, there may be some difficulty in determining which arcs are "canon". The main story of Higurashi takes place over eight story arcs: Onikakushi-hen, Watanagashi-hen, Tatarigoroshi-hen, Himatsubushi-hen, Meakashi-hen, Tsumihoroboshi-hen, Minagoroshi-hen, and Matsuribayashi-hen. All eight of these arcs can be experienced through either the visual novels, anime, or manga.

  1. If you chose the visual novels, there are a total of eight arcs available to read in the Steam/MangaGamer release (15 if using 07th-Mod). These eight arcs comprise the entire main story of Higurashi and no further arcs are required. The additional seven arcs available via 07th-Mod are not part of the main story but are additional stories originally added in the Japanese PlayStation 2 port Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Matsuri.
  2. If you chose the anime, the eight main story arcs are fully adapted over two 26 episode anime, for a total of 52 episodes. The OVA Nekogoroshi-hen takes place between the first season and the second season and clears up some narrative confusion. It is recommended that you watch Nekogoroshi-hen after season one and then continue through season two. There are several other OVAs containing side stories, however these take the form of noncanon fanservice.
  3. If you chose the manga, there are additional arcs not present in other adaptations (e.g. the manga contains the side story Yoigoshi-hen, placing it between Himatsubushi-hen and Meakashi-hen, and contains several additional side stories after Matsuribayashi-hen). The eighth main story arc, Matsuribayashi-hen, concludes with Volume 25, thus any volumes after this point are not required to fully understand Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.

Understanding the story

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is a story that follows a small group of friends, informally called the club, as they experience the dark underbelly of their rural village, Hinamizawa. This story is divided into EIGHT ARCS which were released as part of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai. Seven of these eight arcs, Onikakushi-hen, Watanagashi-hen, Tatarigoroshi-hen, Meakashi-hen, Tsumihoroboshi-hen, Minagoroshi-hen, and Matsuribayashi-hen, cover roughly the same period of time in June 1983. AT THE END OF EACH STORY ARC, THE NARRATIVE RESTARTS TO THE BEGINNING OF JUNE. As such, any event that occurred in one arc is not guaranteed to happen in another. These are not different perspectives on the same story. Rather, they are all different "what if" outcomes to the same initial premise.
A majority of the canon Higurashi no Naku Koro ni experience exists solely in these eight arcs. There does exist a ninth arc, Saikoroshi-hen, which begins immediately after the ending of the eighth arc, Matsuribayashi-hen. Regardless of its potential canonicity, Saikoroshi-hen ends with its protagonist, Rika, in the world of Matsuribayashi-hen and no fragment-hopping takes place. There are two possibilities for how this occurs:
Something to keep in mind, especially if you've only read through the main arcs one time, is that the story actively lies to you. Re-reading early arcs such as Onikakushi-hen with the context of later arcs provides an entirely different understanding of the truth of what is happening. Please read at least Onikakushi-hen and Watanagashi-hen before proceeding.

Bonus content

There have been several arcs since the release of Matsuribayashi-hen that exist as side stories adjacent to the events of Hinamizawa and several arcs that are intended as non-canon fan service. None of these stories are required to understand Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, however if you enjoyed the main story arcs and want to further explore the world presented then these are valuable additions to the franchise.

Fanservice arc following Keiichi Maebara as he acquires "ladies man" swim trunks.
Side arc featuring the club as they learn about the dark history of Yagouchi. It was released as a special bridging the first and second seasons of the anime.
Side arc featured in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Matsuri. As a "dead end" story, it follows Keiichi Maebara as he intentionally avoids getting involved with any of the plot threads in Hinamizawa.
Side arc featured in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Matsuri. It is an alternate version of Tatarigoroshi-hen.
Side arc following the Kimiyoshi family in Okinomiya in the aftermath of the Great Hinamizawa Disaster.
Side arc following Satoko Houjou as she becomes concerned with Rika Furude's strange behavior. It serves as the first four episodes of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai.
Side arc taking place in 2006. It follows a group of strangers who travel to Hinamizawa together as part of a suicide pact.
Fanservice arc featuring Keiichi Maebara, Kyousuke Irie, Ooishi Kuraudo, and Jirou Tomitake fantasizing about the female cast.
Fanservice arc featuring Rena Ryuuguu accidentally swallowing a magical jewel, resulting in her falling in love with several male characters.