The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Higurashi: When They Cry – Sotsu

Revisiting Higurashi GOU and SOTSU With Dewbond: Were The Sequels Worth It?

“If you’re wondering what I mean by ‘miracle’, it’s simple: a miracle is a shift in perspective from fear to love.” –Gabrielle Bernstein

2020’s Higurashi GOU and this year’s Higurashi SOTSU very quickly became entangled in controversy after revealing that Satoko had been the architect of Rika’s renewed suffering after her efforts to fit into life at St. Lucia were met with failure: on a reunion trip to Hinamizawa to meet up with Keiichi, Rena and Mion, Satoko declines an invite to go to dinner with the others, and instead, wanders the village, which is slowly changing as a sign of the times. Upon coming upon the ceremonial shed behind the temple, Satoko finds herself transported into another dimension and determines that she would very much like to take a shot at changing things in her favour. Now armed with the power of the gods, to live in loops, Satoko returns to old timelines and digs up old fights with the singular pursuit of utterly crushing Rika’s spirit. Higurashi and its sequel, KAI, had decisively wrapped up the series in 2007, so to see a sequel series appear some thirteen years after the originals had ended was a bit of a surprise. Viewers were even more surprised with the directions and outcomes that GOU and SOTSU have taken – the results were widely deemed unsatisfactory, and in the aftermath, some viewers raised the question of whether or not GOU and SOTSU should have even existed to begin with. This is a rather expansive topic, and certainly one that I am not going to be capable of adequately answering on my own.

  • This latest collaboration between Dewbond and myself actually began during the Canadian Thanksgiving Long Weekend, a short ways after SOTSU drew to a close. These discussions are always enjoyable, and it is fantastic to be able to get a fresh set of eyes on things. While our conversation this time around might not be as lengthy as some of our previous collaborations, I’m certain readers will find things interesting.

Within minutes of finishing SOTSU, it became clear to me that to tackle the topic of these Higurashi sequels, it would be wise to get another set of eyes on things. I thus welcome Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime back for our latest collaborative discussion. I do not mind admitting that, this time around, I’ve actually got no idea where things will begin: Dewbond, it’s great to have you back, and I turn the floor over to you!


Thanks for having me back once again Zen. I knew once SOTSU and the Higurashi sequel as a whole finished up, we would return to this topic once more. I’m glad I did, because while we briefly discussed this last time, we can now really dig into it with everything said and done.

I will say that I have not been surprised at the reception towards this series. Higurashi is a beloved and popular anime series, which means any attempt to cash in on a sequel wasn’t going to work. It never has. Very much like the endless loops, the idea of a sequel to a beloved property has never been successful. Gundam SEED, Code Geass, Inuyasha, all of them are examples. Higurashi had really no chance, especially when its story, a masterful transformation from ‘horror of the week’ to ‘fantasy/conspiracy thriller’ was so bloody well told. What chance did GOU and SOTSU really have?

This is made further clear, with the way that GOU seemed to play with people’s expectations. Many believed that it would be a full on remake of the original series, which it was, until it wasn’t. That turned a lot of people off. But what do you think Zen? What were your expectations going into Higurashi GOU?


My expectations upon hearing about GOU were practically non-existent. As you’ve noted, Higurashi and KAI had presented such a masterful twist, and wrapped things up so decisively that sequels were simply unnecessary: Rika got her ending, and even Miyo found a way to liberate herself from her curse.

After watching the early trailers, I decided I would give things a go: going purely from these, I too imagined that GOU would be a sort of HD remaster, of re-telling familiar stories with updated visuals, and perhaps, a bit of foreshadowing to show off small details that might’ve not been present. I certainly wasn’t expecting things to head where it did! How about you, Dewbond? At GOU‘s onset, was there a direction you were looking for the series to take?


I first expected it like you, to be an HD remaster of the series, or a top-down remake. However it didn’t take long for the series to be something else. A small change there, a little difference here. The fact that the show was so similar at the start probably rubbed people the wrong way. I went into it after my second re-watch of the series so I was a little bit more grated.

I think Higurashi GOU/SOTSU‘s biggest thing was that there was a clear lack of understanding of what it is. Most of that was because there was a brand new mystery to solve. Had that been brought up at the start, it might have gone down with viewers better.

With it all done as I said though, I enjoyed where the story went. And let’s save a bit of time and assume viewers know the general jist of the series, and get into the big changes. Zen, what were your thoughts on Rika being tossed back inside the loops, and the idea of Satoko being behind it?


I have mixed feelings about having Satoko being the architect of Rika’s renewed suffering. On one hand, Higurashi had ended on such a conclusive note that it felt gratuitous to bring things back to where they’d been before Rika begn actively working to overcome her curse. It’d be equivalent to winning a gold medal fair and square, only for the medal to be redacted for an arbiturary reason. On the flipside, viewers were indeed stuck in Hinamizawa during the first season and KAI: until GOU, we’d never actually saw what sort of life Rika had been yearning for. Seeing her survive through the Cotton-Drifting Festival, graduate from middle school and gain admittance to St. Lucia was a rather exciting direction, and I was quite fond of how the series portrayed the widening rift between the two close friends.

Having said this, subjecting Rika to the unending, gruesome fates that resulted from Satoko’s interventions was a bit of a shocker, and my gut reaction was that this seemed to stand against what Higurashi and KAI intended its themes to be. The Satoko of Higurashi and KAI had been instrumental in helping Rika, so it felt illogical to see this change of heart. It’s honestly something that I’m torn about, at least until I had a chance to read the excellent points in one of your posts about Satoko’s fear of change, of losing Rika, as driving force behind why she is driven to such extremes. In fact, it feels like the reason why things get as out-of-hand as they do sounds like it is a consequence of Rika and Satoko being so close to one another: is it fair to say that the closer these two were, the more inevitable that we would get what we saw in GOU and SOTSU?


I think you are right on the money. The one thing I do think GOU and SOTSU get full marks for, is the story they wanted to tell. Satoko and Rika’s conflict is a logical place for the story to go. Instead of trying to go back to the well of usual antics, it instead tries to tell a story about how characters change and involve. Just because Rika solved her predicament didn’t mean her life was now perfect. Life goes on, and new problems come. The push and pull between what these two characters want became that new problem, and Higurashi asks a new question: What is Satoko Hōjō without Rika Furude? And what is Rika Furude without Satoko Hōjō?

Rika and Satoko only had each other, and being the only two characters close in age, had a deep bond that can only come from two children growing up. They were each other’s world, and for Satoko, the only real positive and constant force in her life. The idea of that going away, and being removed from that safe space, its the biggest fear she ever has. Because just what is Satoko without Rika? Can there even be a Satoko, or would she become consumed by the traumas that had haunted her life? What did you think of this Zen?


The sheer strength of emotion driving Satoko to the lengths that she did in order to break Rika’s will reminded me of Mark Frost: “there is no light without darkness”. This bit of poetry spoke generally to the idea of Yin and Yang, of things that necessarily exist because the other exists. Satoko’s own life is no picnic, and considering that her friends had been her source of comfort and support, it was only natural that she would seek out the path that she believes would provide her these things. Rika, similarly, had lived lifetimes of suffering, and through it all, Satoko had been unequivocally there for her, too. Neither can exist without the other, and Rika’s sparing Satoko at the end of their fight speaks to that; no matter what comes between them, there are more important things yet.

The way things panned out in GOU and SOTSU creates a bit of a tragedy: it is so easy to fall onto our own values and think of Satoko poorly for her actions here, but looking back now, it turns out that Satoko’s resorting to increasingly extreme methods was a consequence of her own despair. At St. Lucia, she is isolated, and as she takes on the power to live in loops, she becomes even more alone. This in turn is what lead to GOU‘s most infamous moment, when Satoko bisects Rika with the implement. We humans are wired for companionship, and oftentimes, those around us guide us from poor decisions. Satoko does not have this luxury in GOU and SOTSU, so having had a chance to sleep on things, I think that the series did make a brave effort to portray this side of their friendship, and how far things can go if people are trapped in their own thoughts. These themes certainly answered my question of what led up to Satoko tearing Rika’s internal organs out in GOU. That particular moment had been quite shocking indeed, but otherwise, GOU and SOTSU was a bit inconsistent, even restrained for a series known for its graphic portrayal of violence. Dewbond, I’d love to hear about how this changes up the look-and-feel of GOU and SOTSU compared to their predecessors


This is an interesting question, because in a way you can’t really answer it. If you want a straight answer then no. The violence on display does not hold up to the original. I mean, perhaps for a new viewer, but if you came into this series from the first one, then what you see doesn’t hold a candle. There is just no equivalent of something like Shion’s breakdown, or Rika’s “You lie!”, moments that remain in the minds of an entire generation. The janky animation at the time, while you can laugh at it, actually adds a layer of creepiness and horror that surprisingly still works. Do I think the sequel looks better? I do, but there was something missing as well.

You can’t recreate that feeling, that shock of seeing what Higurashi actually is for the first time. But that doesn’t mean GOU/SOTSU doesn’t have some good moments. While they don’t hold a candle. While the hoe scene is probably the most iconic moment of the sequel, things like the smash cut of Rika being happy, and then dying on the floor was a great moment. As was the death montage that followed. Anytime a baseball bat is used is great, and the final fight where Satoko smashes Rika against the wall is fantastic. It is still a gory show, no question, but it doesn’t have the same “holy shit” feeling, probably because you can only feel that once.


The older visuals definitely had a more uncanny vibe to them: to be honest, I too like the general aesthetics of GOU and SOTSU, but for unsettling us, the classics hit harder because of how abrupt the changes were. There was also another piece that the originals did a little better: if memory serves, Higurashi and KAI struck a balance between outright showing the more graphic moments, and concealing things by shifting the camera angles, and then allowing sound to do the rest. By showing us things implicitly, the mind is allowed to wander, and this greatly contributed to the horror present within the original: I’ve always been terrified of scenes where people continue to desecrate a corpse long after the victim is dead, and it speaks to just far gone everyone was.

Conversely, GOU and SOTSU were a bit more explicit. This occasionally did work in the series’ favour: on top of Satoko bisecting Rika, GOU and SOTSU do have a few moments that were quite disturbing (such as Keiichi’s rampage through Angel Mort in one of the realities), but other moments were a bit gratuitous. Because of how the violence was presented in GOU and SOTSU, it feels more of a visual metaphor for Satoko gradually losing her humanity the longer she keeps at trying to roll the dice in her favour, being less of a shocker to keep viewers guessing. This also does lead to the question: Satoko was only able to resort to the means that she did after accepting Eua’s powers, but in the original Higurashi and KAI, the gods only had a minimal role, leaving Rika and her friends to resolve their own problems. Here in GOU and SOTSU, the gods seem to have a much larger role. What do you make of this, Dewbond?


I think this was a good idea to keep GOU/SOTSU from being too much of a re-hash. Like I said before, I think it was the right idea to get as much distance from the governmental thriller storyline and Miyo’s revenge as possible. We didn’t need to go back to the well, and it would cheapened what was a fun and good conclusion to that story.

So that left us with the idea of the witches, and I think this is where GOU/SOTSU both works and falters. The idea of the witches, and the author’s tying everything into his later visual novels is a cool piece of trivia and lore for deep Higurashi nerds, but for others, it might have been a little strange. Sometimes not everything needs to be explain or expanded upon. There is joy in letting some mysteries remain mysteries, or some concepts unexplained. I never really once questioned the idea of looping and witches, it all just made sense because the story was so good.

With the sequel, it was the same thing. Despite the focus on the supernatural aspects of the story, it didn’t overwhelm or distract from the plot. The character interactions and Sakoto’s desire to keep Rika and that conflict was far more interesting. It was a tool, and the best tools don’t take away attention from the story said tool is being used for.


As someone who’s unfamiliar with the 07th Expansion universe, I am in the camp who found things a little strange at first. Higurashi had established that the gods were indeed a presence, and that their power was very much a part of the world, so it wasn’t out of left field to see the story shift over, but the idea of Hanyū being a “failure”, and Eua’s familiarity with everything did come across as a bit unexpected. Once the initial shock wore off, however, the interaction between Eua and Satoko did become more interesting to watch: while ostensibly an antagonist, Eua doesn’t do more than grant Satoko the power she desires to pursue Rika and egg Satoko on to keep things, in her words, entertaining.

In retrospect, it makes sense that Eua and Hanyū’s remain enigmas – while I usually like seeing how all facets of a given story tie together, GOU and SOTSU‘s decision to leave the gods’ world unexplored is probably a hint to viewers that there are things that go on out there beyond our comprehension. This suits GOU and SOTSU just fine, and given that things aren’t terribly distracting, it works well enough for people like myself; I don’t feel that it is strictly necessary to do a little reading on Umineko: When They Cry in order to see what GOU and SOTSU are going for.


Do you need to read Umineko to enjoy this sequel? Absolutely not. It’s more of tidbits and fanservices for die-hard fans of the series, and really about confirming long held fan theories. I didn’t know much about it, and I still found GOU/SOTSU to be a very enjoyable affair, with a touching ending that even the original didn’t really capture.

So, with all of that said. Zen, do you feel that Higurashi GOU and Higurashi SOTSU were a worthy follow up to the original, putting aside fan expectations?


For me, GOU and SOTSU proved to be unexpected in many ways – the direction was unexpected, as were the outcomes, and when everything wrapped up, I wasn’t too sure what to make of it. Having now had a chance to sit down, digest things and give everything some thought, I feel that GOU and SOTSU succeeded in bringing us a new experience. The themes were different than the original, and the series cast off some limiters from the originals, allowing us to see more “what if” scenarios.

While GOU and SOTSU are unlikely to displace the originals in terms of impact, I am quite happy to give credit where it is due; GOU and SOTSU end up with a different theme than did the originals, conveyed a sense of mystery in its beginning that brought back memories of the originals, and looking back, the only real quibble I have is that things dragged out for a little longer than I would’ve liked. All told, I would likely amend my initial impressions of SOTSU and say that yes, GOU and SOTSU together as a whole do add something new to Higurashi in a worthy manner.

Having said this, GOU and SOTSU have been a bit more polarising, and some folks have counted the series unnecessary as a continuation and unwatchable, amongst other things that are a little less civilised. GOU and SOTSU does feel like a series where mileage will vary depending on the person, but where provided with the opportunity, Dewbond, what would you have to say for viewers who do not see any merits on GOU and SOTSU?


I would say this to those fans who do not see any merits to the sequel.

Every follow up to a popular series has to answer the one all consuming question: “Did we need this?” So far, the resounding answer all around has been no. GOU and SOTSU do not change that equation. They are unneeded sequels to a show that pretty much ended perfectly. They are unable to re-capture the feeling of watching Higurashi for the first time, and even the most impressive blood and guts can’t bring that feeling back.

That being said. GOU and SOTSU try to do what few follow ups try to do and move the story in new directions. Instead of running back to the well, they take a few risks and let the characters grow. It is a story about change, the inevitability of it, and how growing up means growing apart, but not the destruction of friendships and yes, love. If you go into the series with an open mind and not expecting to be thrown back to your first experiences, then you might really enjoy it.


I couldn’t have said it better myself, Dewbond. As you’ve stated, GOU and SOTSU is a sequel that took risks and has its own unique rewards. Especially now, where anime can become divisive very quickly, I would think that at the end of the day, people should make their own call as to whether or not something like GOU and SOTSU is up their alley. For me, I fall into the group who enjoyed seeing where things headed overall – having now had a chance to reflect on things a little, I am happy to put GOU and SOTSU in the “enjoyed it” column.

With this being said, it’s hard to begrudge those who disliked the series; perhaps this is an outlandish comparison, but GOU and SOTSU is to Higurashi what Halo 5: Guardians is to Halo as a whole. Mechanically, Halo 5 was excellent and advanced the franchise, but the story left folks quite divided, too. At the end of the day, I remain quite glad to have watched GOU and SOTSU to completion for the experience, and I am doubly happy to have you back to share a discussion of how this continuation fits into the Higurashi franchise!


Thanks for having me as always Zen, and I’m sure we’ll be talking again real soon.


  • I’ll wrap up this talk with Satoko waving at Mion, Rena and Keiichi in SOTSU‘s final moments. Dear You begins playing, and longtime viewers will be familiar with the song know it as being used to embody the character’s feelings, as well as the overall themes and motifs within Higurashi itself. I disagree with the prevailing sentiment about how using this song was “undeserved”: this was a pleasant way to wrap GOU and SOTSU up. Similarly, I will note that Kenji Kawai’s incidental music are solid. The compositions he provides has a very distinct Ip Man character about them, and this really helped to augment the emotions of a given moment.

I’m confident that I’ll be hosting Dewbond again in the near future. With our latest collaboration in the books, Dewbond has certainly helped me to clear up some of the lingering thoughts on my mind after Higurashi GOU and SOTSU ended; GOU began running last October, and then SOTSU picked up during the summer of this year: with thirty-nine weeks of stuff happening, watching both series as they aired proved to be no mean feat, and the series certainly did offer things to consider. The conclusion that we reach after stepping through both GOU and SOTSU should not be particularly surprising, as we indicate that credit should be given where it is due. Our discussion is an instance of why I’m fond of hearing out differing perspectives on the series: on one hand, Higurashi GOU and SOTSU were indeed extraneous, but simultaneously, and perhaps contradictorily so, GOU and SOTSU also does end up offering something new to the Higurashi franchise. Having an extra set of eyes on things means I can take a step back and understand what this sequel’s aims were, as well as appreciate where it did things well. Collaborative posts are always fun to write, and I will remark that I am open to such conversations: if readers are interested in collaborating, please let me know in the comments or on social media. In the meantime, I have not yet forgotten my promise to Dewbond about Fate/Zero: folks have suggested that the anime’s main themes are about how sacrifice is required to ensure peace, that one must always be critical of the social structure and to this extent, must resort to any means necessary to create one’s own vision of society, even if it comes at a great cost to others. In order to dispel any misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding my first impressions of the series, it is only fair to watch Fate/Zero myself and make my verdict after I’ve got a full picture. That could be a solid topic to review with Dewbond, and until then, I hope folks have enjoyed the conversation Dewbond and I have shared concerning GOU and SOTSU, and if our conversation here has kicked off an interest, both Dewbond and I have readers covered.

Dewbond’s Higurashi GOU and SOTSU Posts

Infinite Zenith’s Higurashi GOU and SOTSU Posts

Missed the earlier Higurashi collaborations between Dewbond and myself?

Higurashi SOTSU: Whole-Series Review and Reflection, Remarks on the Curtainfall

“This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” –The Joker, Dark Night

After gaining unearthly powers from Eua, Satoko’s humanity begins eroding as she enters countless loops in a bid to persuade Rika to back down from her dreams: the dæmonic energy eventually expels Satoko’s original spirit and takes over, leading Satoko to commit atrocities beyond description. However, Rika soon works out that Satoko is the one behind her return to suffering, and the two break out in open hostilities. Meanwhile, Hanyū is forced to watch Rika’s suffering, but in spite of what happens, declares that miracles will come to those who make it happen. When Satoko and Rika’s fight causes them to relinquish the Onigari-no-ryūou, an ancient blade forged to kill dæmons, the sword passes over to Hanyū, who uses it to defeat Eua. In the real world, Satoko and Rika continue their fist-fight until they are exhausted, upon which they return to their older selves. Keiichi, Rena and Mion find the pair in the river and drive them back, remarking that friends aren’t constrained by the idea of being together, that a part of friendship is the ability to let go and know that they can still get in touch with and count on the support from the other when needed. In 1987, Rika prepares to attend St. Lucia while Satoko chooses to remain behind in Hinamizawa, and growing weary of the peaceful life in Hinamizawa that Satoko had yearned for, the dæmonic form returns Satoko’s spirit to her body and departs, while Hanyū watches happily in the knowledge that a new peace is reached. This is Higurashi SOTSU, sequel to GOU and a series that has inevitably created among viewers an overwhelmingly negative impression: after all, KAI had ended on a very definitive and solid note, with Rika breaking free of her curse and finding happiness after overcoming all odds. Thus, when GOU finished, expectations were that SOTSU would properly explain what had happened in GOU. While SOTSU does roll back the curtain on why the events of GOU happened, the underlying conflict SOTSU presented was contrary to expectations, the result of Satoko’s inability to face the future and accepting a curse that sapped her of her humanity. In this way, SOTSU indicates that the events in GOU were the consequence of humans being made mere playthings for deities; although having the deities play a larger role (in particular, Hanyū is able to finally have a tangible impact on things, whereas before, she was a passive observer), this undermines what the original Higurashi and KAI had sought to convey.

While SOTSU and GOU lack their predecessor’s impact, these continuations did nonetheless manage to convey the idea that human desires, augmented by otherworldly powers, are a recipe for suffering; Satoko was simply never meant to possess the same power as Rika, and even though Rika is able to live endlessly by virtue of her bloodline, she certainly experiences no joy in reliving the same few weeks endlessly. Regardless of what Satoko’s objectives might’ve been, accepting Eua’s power ended up turning GOU and SOTSU into a crude approximation of the unstoppable force paradox, which asks the outcome of an unmovable object meeting an unstoppable force. From a physics standpoint, the paradox results because an unstoppable force has infinite energy and cannot be dispersed by any means, whereas the unmovable object has infinite inertia and cannot be displaced by any means. Physicists have found an answer for this by suggesting that the result is dependent on one’s frame of reference, while other philosophers have cleverly suggested that the object and the force are one and the same. Assuming this to hold true in SOTSU, the conflicting goals between Rika and Satoko (moving away from Hinamizawa to experience the world, and staying behind to appreciate things forever) is resolved by means of a compromise. Instead of allowing the forces to meet and clash, Satoko and Rika’s problems are addressed by approaching it from a different perspective; namely, friendship isn’t about being together forever, but about being together despite being apart. This is what SOTSU and GOU were likely to have been going for. However, rather like how the solution to the unstoppable force paradox requires an unconventional solution that does not yield a satisfying answer, SOTSU and GOU together do not yield a story that is fully rewarding. This leads to the inevitable question of whether or not SOTSU and GOU are worthwhile for fans. For my answer, I fall back on an old classic from my health science days: “it depends”.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The elevator version of this post is simple: “while I wouldn’t recommend SOTSU or sing praises for it, there’s still a theme and the music was pretty good, so I don’t hate it as much as I would something like Glasslip“. I particularly care about incidental music because it can be used to tell a story where visuals and dialogue fail. In stronger anime, the music is typically a part of the background, accentuating the tenour of a given moment, but if absent, the moment can retain all of its impact. Conversely, when a scene is poorly executed, but the series has a strong soundtrack, the music can actually carry the scene and do what the dialogue and visuals cannot.

  • The original Higurashi and KAI had suggested to me that individuals could take control of their destiny: both the original first and second seasons did a wonderful job of portraying how horror and fear come from a lack of control, and the second season had shown that by taking the initiative to regain that control, one could make miracles happen. However, GOU and SOTSU‘s portrayal of Eua and Hanyū was an example of supernatural beings clashing, and given what these entities were capable of, even the best firearms and training would prove useless against the gods themselves.

  • As such, it did feel as though GOU and SOTSU was saying that, in a duel between the gods themselves, we humans were only capable of being taken along for the ride and otherwise, lack the agency to master our own destinies. This implication didn’t particularly sit well with me, since Higurashi was previously about the exact opposite of this. Eua remarks that Rika and Satoko are destined to continue fighting one another until the end of their days, since neither are resolute enough to kill the other, but simultaneously refuse to back down and compromise.

  • For me, watching Satoko killing Rika in ways that would probably impress the Doom Slayer in a repeated manner eventually became tiresome, and so, when Rika finally comes to realise what’s happened and fights back, I’ll admit that there was a satisfaction in this. Their fight takes them through various timelines, and for the other shortcomings in SOTSU, this was a bit of a visual treat that took me back to iconic locations and moments, including the first season’s confrontation at the top of Hinamizawa School. However, whereas the originals made these an emotionally-charged moment, I didn’t feel the same investment into the fight’s outcome upon returning here.

  • The fight gets kicked upstairs when Rika reveals she’s still got a Shard of Narsil Onigari-no-ryūou, the weapon that could be used to kill dæmons. Her initial stroke looks like it would’ve dealt some damage, but what follows next ends up being something I did not expect: Satoko has more or less the full swords and subsequently engages Rika in a battle that was reminiscent of Setsuna squaring off against Ali Al-Saachez’s Enact Custom during the Middle Eastern intervention in Gundam 00‘s first season. That fight was a pivotal one in Gundam 00, marking the first time anyone had engaged the Exia with such ferocity (Union ace Graham Aker was a bit of reserved when dealing with Setsuna and only really went all-out after piloting a GN Flag into battle).

  • Such a fight did indeed come unexpectedly, although I wouldn’t go quite so far as to call this moment a meme. The reaction I have to SOTSU is rather different than that of the community at large: when I watch something I didn’t find satisfactory, I am content to let it go and at most, remark it wasn’t suited for me. The only exception to this rule is when I’m actively being told that a work is a philosophical masterpiece demanding that I go back to university and take a few courses on Albert Camus’ literary works (e.g. The Myth of Sisyphus).

  • While there are legitimate use-cases where philosophy can be used to discuss anime, it is not adequate to simply say that a given anime is an allegory for something that people wouldn’t ordinarily study as a counterargument for the fact that a given anime failed to deliver a discernible theme. Glasslip‘s messages were obscured, and the messages in The Myth of Sisyphus do nothing to clarify what Kakeru and Touko were about. Conversely, SOTSU and its viewers has not made this particular ask of me: however quickly thrown in the theme was, at least it was present to some capacity.

  • Given the fact that Satoko had essentially sent viewers on a wild goose chase for a year, I was personally hoping that Rika would finish the fight here: a part of breaking curses can mean making difficult decisions, but at the same time, executing Satoko would also go against the themes that the original Higurashi had presented. Originally, no matter how irredeemable and reviled someone was, there existed a set of conditions where even these individuals could be saved. KAI had shown that even Miyo could find happiness, and in GOU, it was shown that Teppei could indeed turn over a new leaf where given the chance. Against all odds, I actually did feel sympathy for Teppei in several of the timelines where he had genuinely tried to make amends with Satoko.

  • In keeping with the older themes, Rika spares Satoko from death and contends herself with beating her up instead. Onigari-no-ryūou is discarded and falls into the river. Hanyū recovers it, and now armed, is able to fight Eua on even terms. Here was another aspect that SOTSU ended up doing differently than its predecessors; Hanyū had previously been little more than a passive observer, resigned to Rika’s fate in the timelines where things failed, but having seen this many iterations, Hanyū begins to take a more active role in shaping Rika’s future.

  • The end result is that Hanyū defeats Eua, stripping her of her powers. Hanyū might’ve been all talk about miracles and taking the initiative to shape one’s future, but given her constant efforts to overcome Eua, the sword levels the playing field. It was satisfying to see Eua get her comeuppance; it felt like all of the events in GOU and SOTSU simply emerged from a bored deity looking for some amusement. Having seen what the consequences were, Eua thus became a grating character to watch. Some folks have speculated that Eua is a powered-down version of Dawn of the Golden Witch‘s Featherine Augustus Aurora, a similar deity with the power to rewrite reality at will, holds a high opinion of herself and whose ultimate foe is boredom.

  • Of course, being immortals, the gods themselves don’t look like they can be killed: Eua somehow just reverts to a child-like form, not unlike Hanyū, and disappears to fulfil her end of the bargain. With interference from the heavens gone, everything that occurs now is left for those in the mortal realm to sort out. While deities and spirits did play a role in the original Higurashi, they were secondary to all that was going on; the first season gripped viewers with its horror-mystery piece, and KAI was right up my alley, being a science-fiction thriller with a government conspiracy piece.

  • The execution seen in the originals, coupled with how decisive and conclusive ending, meant that strictly speaking, Higurashi and KAI are the definitive experience: the story was intriguing, engaging and satisfying. GOU and SOTSU adds nothing to the themes the originals had sought to convey in this regard: I felt that these continuations ended up being an alternate “what if” scenario, if Satoko were to be given the powers Rika possessed and allowed to go to town on Hinamizawa. The end result started out shocking, but this gradually wore thin when it became clear the sorts of atrocities we witnessed were for what more or less amounts to childish whims.

  • Childish whims result in immature antics, which manifests as a fistfight between Satoko and Rika that certainly did not merit the emotional tenour of Kenji Kawai’s music: my ears told me I was watching Donnie Yen vs Mike Tyson, but my eyes saw otherwise. The music in GOU and SOTSU was being the piece that I came to enjoy most; I first came upon Kenji Kawai’s music through 2007’s Gundam 00, and subsequently came to associate his style with Ip Man. Characterised by a heavy use use of strings and choir, Kawai’s style is very distinct: while Kawai’s motifs are iconic, the more emotional pieces Kawai composes all possess a similar style.

  • Hearing the same elements in SOTSU and GOU as those in Ip Man 3 and Ip Man 4 meant that for me, the same feelings of melancholy and struggle Ip Man faced in handling Wing-sing’s cancer, or when Ip Man discovers that he himself has cancer. Thus, while it was quite difficult to empathise with Satoko and Rika’s situation in and of itself, having Kawai’s music present meant I had something familiar to ground myself to. This is why music is such an integral part of anything I watch, whether it be anime or a film: the music can tell stories that the writing alone might not, and here in SOTSU, Kawai’s music carries some of the moments.

  • With Kawai’s music, the same conflict, longing and desire for reconciliation in spite of their differences could be heard. This is unfortunate; since not everyone is going to be looking at the soundtrack and utilising that: a story should stand of its own accord and give viewers precisely what the authors intended. It also goes without saying that Satoko and Rika’s fistfight is several orders of magnitude removed from the most iconic fights in Ip Man, lacking the same emotional intensity and desperation that was conveyed when Ip Man squared off against General Miura, Taylor “The Twister” Miller, Cheung Tin-chi and Barton Geddes.

  • Besides the music, one aspect about GOU and SOTSU that also helped me to find some positives were the backgrounds and scenery artwork: Passione did an excellent job here, bringing Hinamizawa and its surroundings to life. Passione had previously worked in Rail WarsHinako Note and Ishuzoku Reviewers, works with above-average visuals. I am aware that the character designs in GOU and SOTSU are not well-received by everyone (facial expressions appear pinched and constrained compared to their original incarnations, for instance), but they’re serviceable, and Passione does successfully capture Rena’s kyute moments.

  • Towards the end of SOTSU, it appears that all of the timelines have converged back to one point: Rika is bound for St. Lucia as she’d dreamed, and prepares to part ways with the others for the present. Mion, Rena and Keiichi are present to see her off, but Satoko is noticeably absent. However, she does show up fashionably late, and in a manner reminiscent of Homura’s words to Madoka at the end of Rebellion, suggests that while they’re going to be parting ways for now, their destinies would be bound together. To me, this signifies the possibility that there could be a continuation is non-zero: I’d thought Rebellion marked the end of Madoka Magica, but recently, it was revealed that a fourth movie would be released at some point in the future.

  • I’m not sure where Higurashi intends to go from here on out, but SOTSU and GOU had already stretched things by reviving a story that had already been neatly wrapped up. Folks wondering why all of my screenshots are concentrated towards the final few episodes will find the answer to be unremarkable: the whole of SOTSU presents the events of GOU from a different angle to show how Satoko had manipulated things in each timeline, but from a discussions perspective, this didn’t offer me much to consider, so I’ve opted to skip to the end, where there was new content.

  • Overall, Higurashi GOU and SOTSU are experiences that will depend on the viewer. The completionist fans of the series who want to see every corner of Higurashi through to the end will probably find time for GOU and SOTSU, but for most fans, it’s going to be up to the individual. to determine whether or not GOU and SOTSU is worthwhile. For me, I managed to get a message out of it, and the music helped in some places: SOTSU and GOU don’t have the magic that Higurashi and KAI did, and I didn’t get anything new from the experience. However, I’m also not going to be a piece of shit about it and say that I laughed sarcastically at what I saw: it’s okay if works don’t hit home runs a hundred percent of the time.

  • The ending of SOTSU appears to be indicative of a new status quo (Satoko is restored to her old self, and even Teppei seems cool now), but I’m also going to be more cautious, since GOU and SOTSU shows how writers can find ways of resurrecting series that ended on a high note, even when it’s not necessary to continue. With this post in the books, I will note that I’ve probably only scratched the surface for the discussions, and I intend on inviting Dewbond over for a collaborative post such that we might look at SOTSU in a more comprehensive (but still fair) manner. Finally, with SOTSU‘s soundtrack coming on November 26, I am rather looking forwards to hearing how much Ip Man made it into the music for this season.

My enjoyment of a given anime and the subsequent verdict is not dependent on a predetermined rubric composed of a checklist; typically, my experience is based on whether or not I got anything meaningful out of something, and since I tend to be looking for this actively, most of the time, I do end up with some sort of discernible theme. In this area, SOTSU has not failed for me, and at the very minimum, even though the anime goes about doing so in a lengthy and roundabout manner, SOTSU still has a message to leave with viewers. The other aspect of SOTSU (and GOU) I found enjoyable were the pieces of incidental music that Kenji Kawai composed: Kawai has been with Higurashi since the beginning, and the stylistic elements he uses here is consistent with how he had scored the Ip Man soundtrack. While Higurashi and Ip Man have drastically different motifs, Kawai’s use of strings and percussion are virtually identical in their respective series’ most emotional songs. Eua’s inclusion into GOU and SOTSU had made the anime very inconsistent in terms of emotional impact; on their own, Eua’s over-the-top mannerisms and irreverent attitude had diminished what was going on for Satoko and Rika. She laughs at the tragedy, and invites the viewer to do the same even as Hanyū represents the opposite end of the spectrum, desperately trying to stave off another calamity. Viewers are pulled in two directions, but familiar music helped to ground a given moment and remind me that there was a point being made. In this area, having Kawai’s signature style was an asset: listening to the music in each moment clarified what it was intended to do, and this in turn helped me to understand why something was happening. When everything is said and done, SOTSU made a brave stab at bringing an old classic into the present, and covers a side of Higurashi I certainly thought to be impossible; it’s not easy to make a recommendation for SOTSU, especially for fans of the original Higurashi and KAI, but on the flipside, I do not feel the same level of vitriol towards SOTSU as others out there have: the story wasn’t something that impresses, but at the very least, there’s still a discernible theme, and the music is pretty good. On these grounds, Higurashi SOTSU does not dethrone Glasslip as my least favourite anime of all time: Glasslip‘s lack of a theme means that at least, for the time being, it continues to sit in the unenviable position of being the worst anime I’ve watched to completion.