How Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Got Me into Old School Hip-Hop
Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (lit. When The Cicadas Cry) is a fantastic, intense horror anime, manga, and visual novel series filled with nerve-wracking suspense, psychological terror, bloody brutality, and relentless ultra-violence written by Japanese author Ryukishi07. Higurashi is beloved by both anime and visual novel fans globally and is considered by many as Ryukishi07’s best work, and for many great reasons.
By crafting a cocktail of classic narrative themes/conflicts, traditional Japanese folklore, and supernatural elements with real-world topics/issues (such as mental illness, child abuse/neglect, ethics in scientific research, citizens vs. government, etc.), Ryukishi07 delivered to the world of anime and visual novel a powerful and thought-provoking masterpiece. A masterpiece that ’s still respected and celebrated in anime and visual novel circles today; despite the visual novel ending in 2006 (not counting remakes, ports, remasters, etc. after 2006), and five years after the run of the anime (with Higurashi Outbreak in 2013).
With Halloween drawing near, I figured that it now would be the best time to talk about this marvelous series – but not in a way you may expect. Yes. The spooky holiday is almost here. Higurashi is a spooky anime. You would think that logically, I would talk about the spooky and horror themes of the series.
But, I’m going to take different approach.
A much different approach.
Would you call me crazy if I say that Higurashi, a Japanese otaku series, helped me get into old school Hip-Hop; a beloved urban American music artform?
Will it take me under?
I don’t know.
-Rika Furude probably
Yes. As wild as it may sound, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni got me into old-school hip-hop. Out of anything and everything that is a possibility in the world, it took a Japanese horror series for me to not only get into old-school hip-hop but have a strong love for it. You may be wondering how is that ’s even possible.
Well, in order for me to tell you this tale, we need to go back to the Summer of 2010.
I’ve been a fan of Higurashi for almost a year after discovering the series on YouTube (I was actually aware of it back in high school, but that’s for another tale). And by a fan, I was fucking obsessed with it. I spent most of that summer looking up anything Higurashi; in efforts to gain knowledge about it. The official manga. The Fan doujins. The voice actors. Video games. Ryukishi07 himself even. And of course, it’s music.
Goddamn, the music.
One night, I was bumpin’ Dear You: Destructive, one of many remixes of Shion’s image song You from the Higurashi visual novel. As the song was ending, there was a video in the suggestion bar of YouTube that made me a bit curious thanks to its thumbnail.
The thumbnail featured a transparent face of Rena in the foreground of a New York City borough with the word “You” in the top right corner in Old English font. The title of the video was in Japanese, sans one single word: “HIPHOP”. I merely assumed that a Japanese doujin music producer created a hip-hop sample beat of the song and was excited to hear a hip-hop version of the song.
Being ever so curious and my attention grabbed, I clicked on the link.
The song starts to play. A lone piano playing arpeggios rang out for four bars. The piano version of You no doubt. A drumbeat sample from Shing02 and Nujabee’s Luv Sic Pt. 1 played on the fifth beat and throughout the song, along with a woman (Lauryn Hill) vocalizing “ooo ooo ooooo”, and an East Coast hip-hop legend spitting.
‘Imagine smokin’ weed in the streets without cops harassin’
Imagine going to court with no trial…’
‘This is Nas! This is Nas rapping over a Higurashi song!’ I was in both awe and disbelief. Some visual novel otaku fuck in Japan mashed up Nas’s If I Ruled The World with You! Not only did he do that, but he also threw in the drum track from Luv Sic as an added bonus! Granted, I knew who Nas was thanks to a friend who’s a fan of his works – I just wasn’t a fan of him until I heard this mashup.
I instantly fell in love with both the mashup and the lyrics of If I Ruled The World, even if it wasn’t the original song itself. I let the song repeat itself for about seven times. Upon Hearing the sorrowful piano notes of You in unison of Nas’s speaking on of his vision of utopia for Black America, along with Lauryn Hill’s breathtaking vocals, and the cries of the summer cicadas, Goosebumps hit me hard.
I grew ever more curious about If I Ruled The World and the lyrics.
‘It’s elementary: they want us all gone eventually’.
‘Why does this fit well with how the Japanese government wants to wipe out Hinamizawa and the villagers in it?!’ I asked myself.
‘If I ruled the world (imagine that), I’d free all my sons!’.
‘I wonder; did the dude who made this thought about how Rika wanted to free herself from her tragic fate ?’ I pondered.
‘Strictly living longevity to the destiny
I thought I’d never see it, but reality struck
Better find out before your time’s out, what the fuck?’
‘I can see this for Rika and how she is desperately trying to find a way to cheat death for good before fate closes in on her.’
All Wild theories; but it made sense (in my head).
I had to let it marinate.
Even if the mashup creator didn’t mean to make certain lyrics relate to Higurashi, I couldn’t help but reflect. I let the song stop playing and decide to listen to the original version of Nas’s classic. There’s no denying that the beat was soaked in that definitive New York City hip-hop vibe. That electro notes playing up and down the scale. The simple yet deep pulse of the bass. The quiet layered strings.
I craved for more information.
Acting on a gut instinct that the beat for If I Ruled the World was a sample, I went on Google to see if my gut was correct – and it was. Not only was my gut was correct, but the sampled was also from Whodini’s 1984 classic Friends.
How many of us have them?
Ones we can depend on.’
It was like if the universe knew I was searching for a connection for the Higurashi mash up. The overarching theme of Higurashi is the power of friendship and there I was; listening to a classic hip-hop song with the hook asking if we have friends we can depend on.
‘Friends…Ones we can depend on.’
God. That’s powerful.
Satoko depended on her friends to save her from her abusive uncle – including her new friends; who were once her enemies (the villagers who once hated her and her family). Rena realized that no matter what, her friends love her: even if Rena was having a mental breakdown and couldn’t trust the friends she loved. Rika learned that how it was okay to open up to her friends about her depression and fear that Satoko – her best friend – was going to be taken away from her (by said abusive uncle mentioned earlier). Keiichi, like Rena, learned the value of trusting and opening up to his friends.
Was it all a coincidence that I would find a hip-hop song that has a famous hook that could relate to Higurashi? Perhaps. But there was no denying the fact by me researching the source of Nas’s If I Ruled The World sample, it opened an entirely new world of music for me. Sure, I was aware of classic 80s hip-hop legends such as KRS-One, N.W.A, Public Enemy, and Grandmaster Flash, but I never went out of my way to listen to them.
At the time, my mind only focused on listening to modern artists who were on the real shit (J. Cole for example) and 90s rappers such as Tupac. I thought I didn’t need to listen to classic rappers; I foolishly believed they were outdated! Nobody, sans OGs (original gangstas) and oldheads, went out their way to listen to the classic MCs. I was ignorant! Stupid even! For years, I allowed myself to miss out on what hip-hop legends of the past had to offer to the art form. My jaded attitude caused me to miss out.
You can even say it was a shame that it took some weeaboo bullshit to get me into the classics.
But, it did.
As I’m finishing up this little insight of my world for you guys, I am reflecting on how hip-hop has a lot in common with not only Higurashi but with anime in general.
Two completely art forms.
Many endless similarities.
Let’s start with Higurashi, of course. Both Higurashi and Hip-Hop share a common birth month: August. In fact, the first Higurashi game, Onikakushi-Hen (lit. Spirited Away By The Demon Chapter) dropped on August 10th, 2002. The official birthday of hip-hop? August 11th, 1973. A mere 29 years and a day apart, but it’s amazing on how they have back-to-back birthdays.
Hip-Hop, for generations, has been used as a platform to speak out against government oppression and corruption with hits such as N.W.A.’s Fuck The Police, Public Enemy’s By The Time I Get To Arizona, and Childish Gambino’s This is America. One could say that hip-hop inspires Black Americans to rise up and fight against the oppressive forces that threaten our quality of life.
During the second half of Higurashi (The Answer Arcs), the series switch from a supernatural, psychological thriller tale, to a story of the people of Hinamizawa rising up against the corrupt Japanese government (that was trying to wipe out the town and its people).
When it comes to the realm of anime in general, you can’t tell me there aren’t any hip-hop songs that can be used for anime and the characters and stories that make up this beloved art medium. Listen to Sky’s The Limit by Biggie Smalls: A song about the hustler’s rise to riches and achieving his dreams. After you listen to that go watch Gainax’s classic OVA Otaku no Video: an anime about an otaku becoming a hustler, to a businessman, to the world’s richest man.
Or maybe Tech N9ne’s Pyscho Bitch may persuade you. Listen to it and think about your classic psychotic yandere characters such as Yuno Gasai (The Future Diary), Kotonoha Katsura (School Days), Kaede Fuyou (Shuffle!), and since we’re talking about Higurashi, the series best girl Shion Sonozaki.
To end my tale, let’s go back to my previous question: Would you, after reading all of this, call me crazy for the fact that it took Higurashi no Naku Koro ni – a classic otaku horror series, to get me into hip-hop? I can understand if you say yes. Of course, it is. It shouldn’t even make sense.
But, without that You x If I Ruled The World mash up I discovered nearly ten years ago, I would have gone through life never knowing about timeless artists that paved that path for talented, iconic wordsmiths such as J. Cole, Logic, Tupac, KRS-One, Kendrick Lamar, and many more.
That would have been much, much crazier.
-Yuki The Snowman
Somebody on Wiz Khalifa’s team is a fucking weeaboo and sampled Main Theme Ai from the Higurashi anime for him to rap over: