The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Keiichi Maebara

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.

Higurashi GOU: Whole-Series Review and Reflection, A Return to Hinamizawa

“This is how things are now! You and me, trapped in this moment, endlessly.”
“Then you will spend eternity dying!”

– Doctor Strange and Dormammu, Doctor Strange

Keiichi Maebara moves to a remote mountain village in 1983 and discovers that this seemingly sleepy village conceals a dark secret that has consistently claimed the life of one individual and resulted in the disappearance of another every year during the town’s Cotton-Drifting Festival. At least, this is what Higurashi was originally about: 2020’s Higurashi GOU was quite unexpected and surprising given that KAI had satisfactorily answered all of the questions that Higurashi had raised. Thus, when GOU began airing, the first half of the season felt to be an incomplete retreading of the original Higurashi, as different arcs saw Keiichi and Mion succumb to madness. However, as the story progresses, Rika begins to realise that something is off: having broken the cursed cycle, she finds herself suffering tragedies anew. Rike learns that the culprit is none other than Satoko; after defeating the Yamainu and revealing there never was Oyashiro-sama’s curse, she decides to pursue a future at St. Lucia’s, a prestigious academy for young women. It turns out that Satoko had joined Rika on her journey, but, lacking the academics and social skills to fit in, became increasingly withdrawn. When Keiichi, Rena and Mion invite her and Rika back to Hinamizawa, Satoko begins to long for the days of old and decides to take a walk around, eventually reaching the old storehouse holding the statue of Oyashiro-sama. When she comes into contact with a piece of the statue, she is transported into a void and comes face-to-face with the entity that consents to be known as Eua. Here, Satoko gains the same power Rika has, and vows to do whatever it takes to stop Rika from leaving Hinamizawa, even if it means endlessly killing her best friend to utterly smash her resilence. Satoko’s constant resetting of time begins to be felt across different realities: her uncle, Teppei, begins to realise the horrors he subjected Satoko to and makes amends, while Miyo follows a feeling in her heart and learns her adoptive grandfather had intended her to live a happy life. Miyo decides to stand down from her research, but Satoko capitalises on the moment and takes possession of a vial of agent H-173, promising Eua that Hinamizawa’s fate is now hers to control. From shaky beginnings to a shocking middle and gripping ending, GOU thus sets the stage for the upcoming SOTSU by posing the questions that had allowed Higurashi to be so successful. Despite treading on familiar ground, GOU thus manages to reignite interest in Higurashi and creates a compelling story to follow.

Despite being a question arc, in which the story is only partially told from several viewpoints to pique the viewer’s curiosity and set the table for the big reveal, GOU nonetheless establishes that Higurashi has returned to demonstrate that the notion of a happy ending is only thus from a certain point of view. The outcome of KAI had decisively finished off Higurashi and ostensibly eliminated any chance that evil could rise where it was once buried, but in GOU, this is precisely what happens anyways. In fact, GOU ends up being even more brutal than its predecessor: the instrument of Rika’s suffering is none other than Satoko, and during a particularly horrific episode where Satoko had sawn Rika in half with the ritual hoe, it becomes clear that KAI left Satoko’s wishes unattended; it was Rika who’d defeated her fate to create a path for her future, and nowhere else in GOU was Satoko’s longing more pronounced. While seemingly gratuitous and unnecessary, the reason for such an outcome would later be explored as Satoko found herself increasingly shut out from Rika’s world after the pair had gained admittance to St. Lucia. Melancholy turns to pure hatred, speaking yet again to the horrors that lay dormant. Higurashi had nailed this particular concept, only to demonstrate that despair can be beaten back through hope in KAI. However, with Satoko seemingly holding all of the cards as we leave GOU, it becomes clear that the renewed Higurashi has something else in mind for viewers. GOU had appeared to suggest that an unwillingness to change is an instrument of suffering, causing people to cling to the past, but so far, GOU depicts Satoko as having no remorse, and understanding Rika’s determination only increases her own twisted desire to destroy Rika utterly. The extreme lengths Satoko has gone to in doing a deal with the devil, and the disregard for those around her so long as she achieves her ends, has not been met with a response in equal and opposite manner just yet, but such a path can only be self-destructive: I therefore expect that the upcoming SOTSU will aim to demonstrate the cost of reactionary behaviours, and potentially, how even the foulest and despairing minds can yet be redeemed.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It feels a little strange to be back in Hinamizawa again after six years: as my story goes, I had a friend who had been quite interested to hear my thoughts about it, and so, I kicked off the series in the knowledge that I had also been watching GochiUsa, as well as working on the Giant Walkthrough Brain on the side. While graphic violence has never been something that I do well with, especially in anime, it turns out that Higurashi‘s art style wasn’t of the disturbing sort. So, I shot through the series, found it superbly enjoyable, but also found myself at a loss for words: back in those days, I wasn’t too effective with condensing out an entire series’ worth of thoughts into a single post.

  • Thus, the first I’d ever talked about Higurashi here was with Dewbond, a peer blogger with a keen eye for character dynamics and the importance of certain events on a story’s overall messages. Higurashi had left a trail of questions in its wake, but by the second season, KAI, it became clear that Higurashi had been stressing the importance of winning hearts and mind; the tragedies of Hinamizawa are averted when characters learn to forgive past evils and accept one another, as well as demonstrating the patience to hear even one’s foes out in conversation.

  • As Dewbond and I mentioned in our collaborations, the Black Ops approach would probably result in total devastation: the reason there is such a disparity between Call of Duty Black Ops and Higurashi, despite both sharing in common ordinary men and women trying to do good in a world entangled in ancient conspiracies and shadowy actors manipulating things from behind the scenes is simply because of their respective genres. Higurashi is about speaking to players, of making good decisions in the shoes of an ordinary person whose small actions can have a massive difference, and Black Ops is a first-person shooter whose entertainment value comes precisely from blowing stuff up.

  • GOU‘s portrayal of Hinamizawa brings the place to life with updated visuals. Modelled after Gifu’s Shirakawa, this remote mountain village has a population of two thousand and is host to a unique set of beliefs, with Oyashiro-sama’s curse being the chief of them. With mysterious disappearances and unexplained murders darkening the area, the village was host to the dam conflict, during which villagers succeeded in convincing the government to withdraw approval to construct a hydroelectric dam in the area.

  • Classic elements like outrageous club activities, Rika’s nipaa and mii, and Satoko’s trademark ojou-sama laugh all return in GOU: when the series began, it initially felt like a reboot of the original Higurashi and GOU. Familiar elements are presented, along with a lingering sense of mystery and multiple, distinct timelines that sees characters make mistakes and end up committing murder or walking towards their own destruction. However, GOU also had characters demonstrate a vague awareness of the past, as well, akin to what had happened in KAI.

  • One of the most memorable events in Higurashi and KAI was when Keiichi gives a doll he’d won at games day to Mion rather than Rena. Originally, this was intended to signify that Keiichi does see Mion as a girl and staves off the outcome where her twin, Shion, succumbs to Hinamizawa Syndrome. A recurring theme in KAI was how small differences in the choices people make can have a knock-on effect on things, and moreover, that if given the choice, people generally would choose to pursue acts that they know will help those around them.

  • Angel Mort makes a return in GOU: Keiichi initially believes Mion to be working here, but it turns out to be her twin, Shion. This initially created no shortage of confusion in me during the original series; the pair are tricky to differentiate from one another on the virtue of appearances alone, and instead, it is subtle differences in their personalities that allow one to tell Mion and Shion apart. Mion, despite her tough-talking exterior, is shy and girly at heart, while Shion’s girly personality is a façade masking her violent and unstable traits.

  • Detective Kuraudo Ōishi is seen throughout Higurashi, and while he initially appears to be a hostile member of the law enforcement, it turns out his interest in Hinamizawa stems from the death of a friend here and is search for justice. His direct and forward methods leave Hinamizawa’s residents thinking poorly of him, and his words can often imply that he’s no friend of Keiichi’s, but in most arcs, Ōishi is an ally, looking out for the characters and helping them to achieve their goals.

  • The frequent resets in GOU betrayed nothing about where the series was headed, but once the series ventures into Satoko’s arc, it becomes clear that something’s off: in KAI, Keiichi leads a titanic effort to get the local government to recognise that Satoko has trouble at home with her uncle, Teppei, and in the end, manage to free Satoko from his clutches. GOU revisits this route in vivid detail, showing that Keiichi takes a very similar route that had originally worked well: he even manages to convince Shion to stand down, feeling that if they were to off him, something worse might happen.

  • Convincing child services to support Satoko was an integral part of KAI to show how Keiichi could affect positive change, but in GOU, Satoko’s older brother, Satoshi, is completely absent from the proceedings. Despite doing his best to protect Satoko, Satoshi ended up succumbing to Hinamizawa Syndrome and is currently held at the Irie Clinic, with doctor Kyosuke Irie working tirelessly to cure him and redeem himself from his past misdeeds. Like Satoshi, Kyosuke only shows up briefly in GOU, and only serves to encourage Keiichi on his quest to free Satoko of Teppei’s abuse.

  • Despite the success Keiichi has in liberating Satoko from Teppei, GOU ultimately took an unexpected turn when Teppei ambushes Keiichi after he walks Satoko home. While Keiichi is initially caught unawares, he manages to fend off Teppei and kills him, but passes out in the process. Later, it turns out that Ōishi himself succumbed to Hinamizawa syndrome and opened fire on the festival-goers with his service revolver, killing Rika, Satoko, Mion and Shion. This handily undoes everything that was accomplished in KAI and is the turning point in GOU where it becomes clear that there is something affecting the timeline, forcing Rika to suffer anew.

  • Whereas GOU had not particularly impressed up until this point, the series decides to then take viewers for a shock-filled ride. Many began wondering what GOU had intended to accomplish with this, as the sudden increase in violence wouldn’t likely be enough to compel one to approach the series with renewed interest when the series’ direction had not appeared clear. This is one of the reasons why I elected not to write about the series while it was airing – Higurashi is a series that is always filled with surprises, and my impressions at any given moment may not be a fair assessment of things, especially when the context isn’t known yet.

  • As it was, I sat through a full episode of Rika getting killed off in gruesome ways, some of which have been described by others as “torture porn”. As Rika’s resolve weakens, she decides that if she can’t get to a desirable ending in five attempts, she’ll use the shard of an ancient sword to take her own life. Hanyū, who’d been assisting Rika all this time, is beginning to fade, and without her support, Rika begins to wonder if there is anything left in her world worth fighting for.

  • Most infamous of all was when Rika reawakens in a world where Satoko is the one to end up killing Rika: after using a ceremonial implement to cut Rika in half, Satoko administers a high dosage of painkillers and explains to Rika that her actions led to this moment. Without any context, only questions linger: what led up to such a moment, and what could drive Satoko to do this? As painful as it was to continue watching, the enormity of what happens here ultimately has an important role in setting up the remainder of GOU: it is in the series final acts that things really begin to take on an interesting turn.

  • It therefore seems especially jarring to switch over to a scene of ordinary summer fun in the rivers of Hinamizawa moments later; Rika’s curse means she is doomed to repeat suffering eternally, and the Rika here seems utterly defeated, playing the part of a beaten individual resigned to the sanctuary of idle days in a remote mountain town. This is a dramatic departure from the Rika we’d previously known, whose resolve had been so great she was willing to spend the equivalent of centuries living those same weeks over and over again in the hope for a better future.

  • There’s an uneasy feeling as GOU enters its endgame – while tragedies are seemingly averted, viewers are surprised again when Satoko draws a sidearm on Rika. While Rika retains her memories of her previous loops, that Satoko appears to have knowledge of what’s happening becomes a bit of a surprise. This outcome sets in motion the final story of GOU, and it is a thrilling one once the pieces fall into place.

  • GOU thus sends viewers back to the point where Miyo is apprehended once more, and this time, it really does seem like Rika is able to continue on and embrace the future she had been cruelly denied earlier. KAI had ended here on the note that Rika was free to follow whatever her aspirations had been, so this would mark the first time I’ve seen life in Hinamizawa after 1983.

  • Rika and Satoko thus enter middle school in 1984, a year when the Soviet Union and her allies boycotted the 1984 Summer Games. While Satoko is content to live life out as she and the others had previously, Rika begins turning her attention towards gaining admittance at St. Lucia, a school that makes ladies out of young woman. Unable to bear the thought of being separated from Rika, Sotoko reluctantly follows suit even as Keiichi and Rena continue to run the club that Mion left behind.

  • After a gruelling effort, Satoko manages to pass the entrance exams, but rapidly finds herself falling behind in academics, as well as feeling the culture at St. Lucia’s to be too formal and stuffy for her liking. Despite doing her best, Satoko feels as though Rika is leaving her behind in the past, and resentment grows. The gap between Satoko and Rika’s experiences at St. Lucia is indicative of what the difference between people are when they do something by choice, and those who do something because they have no choice.

  • Had Satoko chosen to accept that Rika and her futures diverged, the events of GOU would not occur, and that would correspondingly mean there’d be no SOTSU, either; in real life, people often have guidance as to how they should best handle challenges and difficult decisions such as these, but where common sense and reason may have an influence in reality, stories are written to accommodate the story, and as such, characters act in a way that drives the narrative forwards. Satoko’s choice is therefore logical in the context of Higurashi even if it may seem foolish in reality.

  • Satoko’s story really takes off after she and Rika receive an invitation to hang with the old crew in Hinamizawa for old time’s sake, their afternoon is spent retreading old club traditions with Mion, Keiichi and Rena, who are now post secondary students. While times have changed quite a bit, everyone’s still more or less who they were before they’d left, creating an old sense of nostalgia reminiscent whenever I gather with old friends for raclette or other events. By this point in time, Mion’s obtained her operator’s license and is able to transport everyone around without trouble.

  • Despite the time that’s passed, some things have evidently not changed: beyond Mion’s love for classic club activities, Rena retains her love for all things kawai and practically bulldozes Keiichi and Satoko into the ground in her haste to hug her. With the catching up over on short order, it’s back to classic club activities again with the same familiar rules and penalties. These moments evoke memories in Satoko and make her yearn for the world to be perpetually trapped in the June of 1983, where all seemed possible. However, resisting change is something that brings upon suffering to varying extents; Satoko’s wish of keeping things as they were have a significant impact on the remainder of GOU.

  • While I started my Higurashi journey with a fondness for Rena (bonus points for the fact that Mai Nakahara also voices CLANNAD‘s Nagisa Furukawa), time has led me to appreciate Mion greatly: despite her boisterous nature and a love of creative punishments, Mion is also fiercely loyal to those around her. With an indefatigable resolve and spirit, Mion is the only member of the main group to never fire a shot in anger. In short, she acts as a constant throughout Higurashi, being the energetic club president leader who looks out for her friends while at the same time, embodying the themes that Higurashi strives to convey.

  • After the day’s activities end, Mion and the others end up swinging by Angel Mort for dinner, but Satoko uncharacteristically declines, wishing to tread along familiar paths in Hinamizawa. She discovers that the village itself is changing when seeing that Rika’s old house has collapsed from snow load, and when following an instinctive feeling to return to the temple storehouse housing Oyashiro-sama’s statue, Satoko suddenly finds herself transported into a void known as the Sea of Fragments. Here, an enigmatic being greets her and grants her the power to live in loops, feeling Satoko to be an interesting character. She later accepts the name Eua and walks Satoko through the details, helping viewers to fill in gaps in the process.

  • Thus, Satoko’s effort to stave off the future where Rika leaves for St. Lucia begins. However, to her frustration, nothing works on Rika: Eua explains that Rika was no stranger to pain, and as such, her determination to escape tragedy had resulted in the fabric of reality reflecting this. It would thus be very difficult for Satoko to find the outcome that she desires: despite imbibing the memories that Rika retained, Satoko is unsuccessful in all of her attempts and winds up committing suicide to gain a fresh start on multiple occasions.

  • Satoko’s frustration becomes increasingly apparent with each failed attempt, and one can quickly see how GOU‘s most horrific moment came to fruition: on one of the particularly bad timelines, Satoko’s emotions get the better of her, and she presumably cuts Rika in half before committing suicide again. GOU‘s final act speaks to the dangers of clinging to the past, and while a traditional story would go the route of telling how this negatively impacts the individual, Higurashi boldly chooses to show how much damage can occur when misguided individuals are given the power to affect their fate, but understand little of what this power actually entails.

  • Indeed, while Satoko herself certainly hasn’t been made to learn any lessons yet from her actions, her constant resets are beginning to affect the world, to the point where other individuals are beginning to recall memories from alternate timelines. Much as a database lacking normalisation would have many redundant entries, which slows down search and insert operations, the accumulated memories (i.e. data) Satoko’s created appears to be breeding instability in her timeline. As of GOU, no ill effects are noticed yet, but if other works of fiction (including the new MCU mini-series, Loki) are anything to go by, the increasing instability will demand correction in the form of what could be a violent return to equilibrium: for one, I doubt Eua can be bargained with.

  • One of the things GOU absolutely succeeded with was showing how even the most irredeemable individuals, if given a second chance, might be able to accept their mistakes and make amends. Teppei had been presented as a wholly detestable character, but towards the end of GOU, after recalling his own sufferings and the pain he’s caused, he attempts to reconcile with Satoko, who is shocked that such a thing could happen. In any other timeline, this would be a pivotal moment that accentuates Higurashi‘s themes, but Satoko seems to be intent on turning even this to her advantage; in a manner of speaking, Satoko has become a greater evil than Teppei and even the Hinamizawa Syndrome itself.

  • If I had to guess, Eua would probably be most similar to Death Note‘s Ryuk, who dropped his Death Note in the human world out of boredom. Eua similarly has no concern for Satoko’s well-being and only facilitates her actions because she deems them interesting. Assuming this to be the case, Satoko’s fate would be doomed to be similar to that of Light’s, and it would take a titanic effort from Rika and the others to bring Satoko back from the precipice. This is merely speculation from my end for the present: with SOTSU only a few weeks away, I’m curious to see where things will head. Having said this, Higurashi‘s always been an unpredictable series, and as such, I am not particularly invested in any of my own personal theories: as long as things are compelling, I’ll be happy.

  • The stakes are amplified by the fact that Satoko is exploiting Miyo’s change of heart to steal a vial of H-173, which is a chemical agent that induces the same symptoms from Hinamizawa Syndrome. Declaring that she’s now able to dictate when tragedy strikes, Satoko sets off with the determination of obtaining what she feels she is owed, no matter how much suffering occurs. That each timeline is a proper reality in its own right speaks volumes to how callous Satoko’s become: loops had simply made Rika more resilient and understanding of things like kindness, but Satoko’s become more selfish and stubborn. Where these opposing forces meet will doubtlessly form the bulk of SOTSU‘s story.

Higurashi GOU is, like Black Ops: Cold War, something that didn’t necessarily need to be made, but now that it exists, serves as a powerful and enjoyable instalment in their respective franchises, further developing and expanding out their worlds further and giving them a fresh coat of paint. The new character designs in GOU aren’t particularly distracting or jarring, and the updated background artwork is solid. Kenji Kawai returns to score GOU‘s soundtrack and as usual, excels in creating atmosphere for both ordinary and horrifying moments. The story, despite starting off slowly, accelerates wildly towards the end; familiar events and outcomes are gradually displaced by the presence of something much more sinister, and GOU absolutely delivers a stunning reason to give the continuation a go; in the knowledge of what’d been established in Higurashi, and then how things reached a resolution in KAI, GOU shows that there remains a ways to go yet before a new equilibrium can be established. The journey will doubtlessly be a part of SOTSU, and if the trailer is anything to go by, SOTSU will not be pulling any punches at all. I appreciate that some viewers did find the violence to be more brazen than anything seen previously in Higurashi, where things were more implicit, but shock factor aside, the choice to portray things directly is meant to suggest that Higurashi and KAI, being Rika’s stories, had been about the fear that lies within her heart. The open portrayals of violence in GOU, on the other hand, mirror how Satoko is more direct and forward than Rika, acting rashly without thinking things through. It’s a clever bit of a contrast to indicate that GOU is Satoko’s story, and my only remarks here are that, as long as I’m not made to watch heads being mangled in SOTSU, I will accept the more explicit violence as a part of GOU and SOTSU‘s storytelling. With this post in the books, I think that at some point, it’ll probably be prudent to invite Dewbond back – as I’ve demonstrated, my thoughts on Higurashi are feeble at best and lean quite heavily on my making remarks about the series’ unusual connection to the Black Ops series. Having an extra set of eyes on things means being able to really delve into how GOU turned around from being a middle-of-the-road experience to something I’ve become quite excited to check out.

Higurashi: When They Cry, Collaborating with Dewbond, and Solving The Enigma of Agent H173 Nano Desu

“Hōjō brainwashed you, but Takano had plans of her own. He was never in Hinamizawa. The real defector with the H-173 dossier died during the attack on U-731. He was never at the Cotton-drifting Festival. He was never at Irie Clinic. Satoshi Hōjō’s been dead for five years. He died at Harbin during the escape! All the years you thought he was with you, that was just in your mind!” –Jason Hudson

As Higurashi revealed that the Curse of Oyashiro-sama was the consequence of a pathogen that resulted in what was known as Hinamizawa Syndrome, the series transitioned away from a supernatural horror mystery into a science-fiction thriller. In Higurashi‘s final moments, Rena discovers that Curse of Oyashiro-sama had a scientific origin, and moreover, Miyo Takano had been researching the phenomenon extensively. In the process, Rena becomes a person of interest and develops increasing paranoia, eventually holding her school hostage. Rika, unfortunately does not bear witness to what happens after Keiichi manages to save Rena: she dies yet again. Higurashi: Kai continued on with the story and really began delving into Hinamizawa Syndrome and Tokyo, a shadowy organisation, coveting it as a biological weapon. From here on out, Higurashi ventures into the realm of military conspiracies and a race against time to overcome fate itself. Having set the table with the previous season, and illustrating the consequences of acting upon incomplete information, Higurashi: Kai has its characters acting with some knowledge of what might happen should they make unwise decisions, choosing the things that favour their friendship and ultimately, with the aim of preventing Tokyo from achieving their ends and destroying Hinamizawa in the process. It is no surprise that Kai is very much up my wheelhouse, and I could write a small book on how well Kai was executed with regard to compelling viewers through the thriller aspects. However, characters remain the heart of Higurashi, and so, I welcome Dewbond back to continue on with our coverage of the characters, traits and significance to the unfolding events.

  • There’s nothing like a little healthy discussion to really gain a solid appreciation of a series and its aims: Higurashi was one of those works that I’d greatly enjoyed, but never really found the right words to describe and discuss. I believe that this is the sixth collaborative post I’ve done with Dewbond, which cover contents from four different series. However, with Higurashi, it marks the first time where I’ve hosted anything related to this series: collaborations are a wonderful way of pushing the envelope and stepping outside my comfort zone, so for me, they’re always a joy to work on.

In our previous part, Dewbond, we covered Rena, Mion, Shion and Satoko’s stories, as well as their significance in creating the iconic atmosphere that cemented Higurashi as a mystery-horror. We had chosen to save Rika and Miyo’s roles in Higurashi because it is in Kai that they become truly significant. Rika’s deaths in various timelines, and Miyo’s involvement in some of her deaths have ramifications on the choices Rika makes, as well as the fate of the entire village. Should Miyo kill Rika, it’s game over for Hinamizawa: a disaster befalls the village, and the government typically covers it up with reports of a hydrogen sulfide release from the nearby Onigafuchi Swamp as the cause of total casualties in the town. Coverups and conspiracies notwithstanding, let’s get started with the characters most critical to Kai, the season that acts as the answer arc to the first season’s question arc!


Before we start that, I want to comment on the shifting narratives for Higurashi.

Changing the nature of a story, or anime is a difficult thing to do. Often times it doesn’t work, and can feel out of place, or even worse, damage the series. We saw this with Darling in the Franxx where the last minute addition of aliens ruined what had been, at that point, a very interesting story. Babylon completely shit the bed by trying to switch up its story and go too big. Even Re:Zero was able to shift it’s paradigms in the first season to a story about redemption and admitting your flaws, and while the shift back has been good, there has been some bumps in the road.

Higurashi in my view, doesn’t have this problem. While I did greatly enjoy the ‘horror of the week’ aspect of its first season, I was floored by just how effective and deep the second season changes things. Everything we suspect about what is happening turns on its head. From Rika ending up being the heroine, stuck in a constant time-loop, fated to die. To Miyo’s backstory and the revelations that everything we’ve seen is the result of a virus run amok, and and a military and governmental conspiracy that stretches out decades. All at once we see that Keiichi and the rest of the gang are just pawns in a much larger world, bystanders caught up in things they shouldn’t have.

And what is the most terrifying in this terror-filled anime is that Higurashi makes it work. It all just falls into place so damn well. Everything makes sense, everything checks out, and when you see everything that has happened and why it did, you find yourself going “Holy shit.”

It is a very rare thing, to have a show completely change direction and still maintain viewer interest. Yes, the second season is lighter on the blood and gore, but the story, especially Miyo and Rika’s pulls you in all the same. What did you think of the shifting paradigms Zen? Did Higurashi need to do this? Could it have all fallen apart?


I’m getting ahead of myself here. The transition in Higurashi from a frightening look at human nature’s dark side to a Clancy-esque thriller was so fluid that I never found it to be jarring or unexpected – the writers had been setting us viewers up for this, and the first season saw Rena beginning to discover hints of the truth. Thus, by the events of Kai, with the big reveal, things fall into place in an elegant fashion. I’m no stranger to dramatic changes in where a story is going – Half-Life initially began its story as a story about a scientist trying to contain a disaster at a research facility, only to be whisked away to an alien dimension with the task of defeating an alien overlord. Halo felt like a classic space marine story, and the Master Chief’s initial goal was helping to support allied forces after they crash land on a ring world and resist the alien Covenant forces. However, when the Covenant release the ancient horror known as the Flood, it becomes a rush to destroy Halo before the Flood can escape the ring world and spread.

In both Half-Life and Halo, the unexpected twist caught me by surprise on first glance, but upon closer inspection, it speaks to the strength of the writing. YU-NO surprises players in a manner reminiscent to that of Half-Life, and I find that Higurashi joins the ranks of these giants in being a work to successfully turn things around and run with it. I imagine that in each case, the story and gameplay was written in advance, so the element of surprise lay in timing. From the sounds of it, Darling in the Franxx and Babylon may have had a new idea come up after the initial story was written, and revisions were made to accommodate these new ideas.

While it is conceivable to have Higurashi succumb to failure, this seems unlikely. For me, I feel that there are hints that Higurashi had always been intended to be a thriller rather than a horror: historically, the supernatural had always been used to explain phenomenon that we humans did not fully understand. In the context of Hinamizawa Syndrome, a mysterious disease in a world where pathology was not well-characterised would seem like a curse. I would hazard a guess that the thriller was written as the underlying cause, and then around this central piece, horror could be introduced in a measured manner. To Keiichi, Rena, the Sonozakis and others, Hinamizawa Syndrome’s mechanisms and the mysteries surrounding the village do seem as mysterious as a supernatural curse. With this in mind, by deliberately withholding the explanation, Higurashi could successfully use this unknown to terrify viewers. In this, the series is completely successful.


That is a pretty in depth way to view it, but you always like to dive into the real meat of an issue. Stories are always evolving, and some of the best often either keep in their lane, or change to take on bigger and better ideas. Higurashi is the latter for sure, and we see that with the revelation that Rika is in fact the main character, a girl caught in a time-loop, force to relive the same two weeks over and over again. We saw hints of this in the first season, but now it has come into full force.

Before I give my take, what are your thoughts on Rika?


Rika was a bit of a surprise, to be sure: the first season did not really give us much in the way of story, save the fact that Rika would see a gruesome end at the hands of Hinamizawa Syndrome induced madness. However, over time, as it became clear Rika was trapped in an unending cycle, desperate for a way to break her fate and live life on her own terms, her mannerisms and traits became clear. Rika represents optimism and determination, in that no matter how many times she’s forced to die or watch her friends fall, she continues to return, making use of her previous knowledge to sway events away from a course leading to calamity. While she would fail, the accumulated knowledge leaves Rika incrementally more prepared to handle her new timeline, even if the exhaustion from reliving a timeline over and over again begins to weigh heavily on Rika.

I found that this was probably one of the most well-designed, clever narrative approaches I’d seen in a given work of fiction – Rika’s experiences are immensely encouraging from a thematic perspective, but from a gameplay perspective, do a vivid job of standing in for us viewers: by going through the different arcs, we are, in effect, experiencing things as Rika does. Initially, it’s a mystery as to what’s happening, but as we read more perspectives and beginning drawing our own conclusions, more of the story becomes clear. The mysteries of Hinamizawa become apparent, and much as how we would develop a desire to see the characters find happiness, Rika herself begins visibly demonstrating her yearning for the same.

Of course, no discussion of Rika would be complete without her signature phrases, mii (みぃ〜) and nipah (にぱ〜), which are an iconic part of her character. Her incredible wisdom, a consequence of her knowledge and experiences, leads her to act in ways to be consistent with that of someone who’s eleven, and in this way, she’s a reassuring character to have around – while knowing the story behind Hinamizawa Syndrome and determined to defeat her own curse, Rika gets along with the characters and adds joy to a story that has otherwise seen so much suffering. These are, however, merely my thoughts: Dewbond, if you wouldn’t mind sharing your thoughts on Rika?


Rika is judged on her NPE or “Nipah‘s per Episode”

But in all seriousness, the switch of Rika to the main character, or rather having been the main heroine all the time is a terrific change. We had moments where our blue haired lady seemed to know more about what was going on, but now we see it come into full force. And when you look back, you see the hints being dropped left and right. She was always an enigma among the cast, asking more questions than giving answers, and always seeming to get killed. You don’t really think much about her until the final few episodes, especially the knife scene with Shion. Rika is as you said, stuck in a time loop, and it begins to weigh heavily on her. Forced to relive the same days over and over, constantly stuck in a nowhere village with friends who might go insane at a moments notice, it’s not hard to see how much she starts to hate it. Hanyū, doesn’t do much to help either, offering empty encouragement and not much else. Rika is a character of incredible strength, and despite being put through horror after horror, still attempts to break her curse.

I was particularly struck by how well Rika’s seiyuu was able to switch from little kid, to deep adult voice as well. It’s always a terrific thing to see, and it shows both how long, and how tired she is. It’s a great performance, one of the best in what is overall a solid cast. Though that final scene of the series with Miyo always confuses me. Can she jump dimensions? Time travel? Why is she older? Did everything just get negated. It’s weird man…


The dramatic contrast between Yukari Tamura’s portrayal of the easygoing and happy Rika, and the jaded, mature Rika is pronounced. This speaks to Tamura’s skill as a voice actress, and over the course of Higurashi, it becomes impossible not to root for Rika, even as she attempts to understand her nemesis, Miyo. I believe that Rika’s final confrontation with Miyo here was meant to be symbolic – Miyo’s insecurities from her childhood form the bulk of her drive as an adult, and by the events of Higurashi, Miyo is so convinced of her own righteousness, that it would be nigh-impossible to talk her down from executing Manual 34’s contents. I would believe that one of two things is happening; either Rika uses her connection with Hanyū to return to Miyo’s childhood and reassure the young Miyo, preventing her from going down a destructive path, or otherwise, is appealing to the part of Miyo that is clinging to the past. The latter is a device that other anime have used to show what characters are behind their façades, often to great effect.

This does mean, then, that it’s time to take on the elephant in the room that is Miyo Takano. When we first meet her, she seems an air-headed character accompanying Tomitake Jirō, although even early in, Miyo exudes an aura of mystery to her. Even though she appears to possess some knowledge and exhibits a clear interest in Hinamizawa and its ancient customs in the original Higurashi, her status as the villain never becomes openly so until Kai, which proved to be a game-changer. Giving an antagonist human form in stories always diminishes the mystery, and all too often, it becomes a matter of having the individual defeated to give the protagonist their happy ending. This is the part where Higurashi truly excels: it is not often that I empathise with an antagonist, but in Miyo and the desire to prove herself in the face of adversity is a feeling I relate to. In short, I feel bad for her, and I understand that she had hoped to accomplish in Hinamizawa.

Having said this, I appreciate that this comes at odds with Rika, Keiichi and the remainder of their friends: this conflict that Higurashi creates thus serves as a very interesting representation of things in real life: the world is grey, and not so readily divided into the good guys and bad guys. Of course, these are merely my thoughts on Miyo, and Dewbond, I’d like to hear what you made of Miyo.


Miyo is a character that you forget about in the first half of the series. She isn’t really there, and when she is, it’s mostly comedic or mentioning that she was apparently killed. It is only when the second half comes that we get to realize who she is and what she represents for the story. And like you said, it’s damn effective.

Miyo’s story is tragic, marked with moments of horror and joy. She goes from being abused in an orphanage, to being welcomed into a loving family with her grandfather, only then to watch as the scientific community destroys everything her grandfather had worked for. It is there where she decides to claim vengeance, and it sets her on a path that will end up turning Hinamizawa into her own little ant farm. She cares little for the life in the city, and in the moments where we see that she actually succeeds, it only after gassing and killing the entire population.

Yet despite those actions, I can’t help but feel sympathetic to her. Miyo had a hard a life, and all she wanted was to show the world that her grandfather was right, and he was. The syndrome was a real thing and much of the first half of showing just what insane things it can end up doing. So in many ways, I don’t blame Miyo for her actions, even though they are wrong.

You are right Zen, that creating a villain you can understand and feel that sympathy for can make a story great, and it absolutely does so for Miyo. Even the story thinks that, as the final moments show Rika, or Bernkastel going back in time to prevent Miyo from losing her parents.


This human aspect of Higurashi really hits the viewers hard, and despite the horror of the first season, humanising everyone in Kai really helped to remind viewers that, yes, we as people are capable of committing acts of unspeakable depravity, but when we take a step back to understand our foe, more often than not, we see ourselves in our enemies: they’re people too, with their own beliefs, intents and desires. Yes, it is conceivably possible to send a black ops team over to Hinamizawa and sort out Miyo and the Yamainu by force (which, incidentally, is the summary of every Western first-person shooter ever), but the opportunity to understand a different perspective and history thus becomes lost. This is where I find that Japanese games excel in particular. Whereas the stories I’m accustomed to favour use of overwhelming force to dominate an enemy (I’ve never been given an option to take in someone quietly in my games), there is rarely the sort of understanding and compassion that Higurashi conveys to its viewers.

Consequently, even though Miyo is supposed to be the villain, we come to worry about her instead of hating her: it might even be appropriate to say that Higurashi‘s true antagonist isn’t necessarily a person or a disease, but rather, the darkness that lies within each and every one of us. Alone, isolated and desperate, people lash out at the world from a fear of the unknown. United and finding strength in one another, people begin finding sustainable, long-term solutions for their problems. It is with support that Rika is able to weather the storm and leads to the final push in Kai‘s story, which I found to be absolutely uplifting and encouraging. Before we get there, however, there’s still the small matter of Hanyū, a deity whose desire to save Rika is what created the time loops, and whose presence answers the mysterious phenomenon that people often hear. When introduced in Kai, I felt that her presence to be a soothing one that gave the Rika and the others strength. Of course, this is scratching the surface, Dewbond: how does Hanyū fit into the larger story within Higurashi?


Hanyū is in my mind, the weak link of the Higurashi. After watching the whole thing, I honestly don’t feel she added much to the overall plot. She’s pretty much Rika’s version of Navi, offering helpful words of encouragement that long ago lost their value. She seems to be a spirit who hates that she can’t really do anything to help Rika. Yet even when she does decide to take action, jumping into the final timeline with her, there is little that she seems to do.

I don’t know, maybe I missed something, but I can’t really remember Hanyū doing anything that really stood out to me. It may have been better if Higurashi had dropped more hints about her throughout the series, like if Rika was muttering to herself more, but that’s just me trying to Monday-morning quarterback the series. What did you think of her Zen?


For me, Hanyū’s arrival in Kai was, more than anything, a bit of moral support that hinted at where things were eventually headed – Rika’s situation had gotten to the cusp of breaking free of her curse, and while yes, Hanyū can’t really impact the physical world or its outcomes, she does act as another resource to Rika, whose resolve to overcome her fate strengthened with every passing moment as Kai continued. I believe that the visual novel has a deeper explanation of her precise relation to Rika, but as it was in the anime, I took Hanyū’s presence as a sign that things were changing for Rika.

It really is in the final chapter of Kai where everything comes together for us viewers – the mysterious Tokyo is interested in Hinamizawa Syndrome and intends to weaponise it as a WMD, and even Miyo becomes little more than a pawn in the grand scheme of things. All the while, Kai has Rika guiding her friends down different paths. Here, the two concurrent stories were sufficiently detailed such that, despite knowing the series is ultimately about Rika freeing herself from a curse, the machinations that Tokyo have planned out, as well as all of the inter-factional infighting, I found myself wishing to see a side story surrounding the political techno-thriller pieces to Higurashi.

The implications of Tokyo are that, at the end of the day, while Rika, Keiichi and the others have their own battles to fight, they are merely parts of a much larger and more sinister evil. This creates a sense of intrigue: while yes, Rika’s consciousness is able to save even Miyo from a terrible fate, and Keiichi and the others find happiness in Hinamizawa after prevailing, it remains the case that there is a shadowy organisation with nearly unlimited resources, able to bring trouble back to Hinamizawa whenever they choose. This is not to downplay Rika and the others’ victory over the Yamainu at the end of Kai, but it always felt like, in a given timeline, the continued existence of Tokyo means that Keiichi and his friends, the residents of Hinamizawa and even the people of the world, live under the threat of an organisation possessing a powerful biological weapon that could be turned towards extortion, political manipulation and other nefarious schemes. I could probably go on about this all day, but Dewbond, it’s time that I turn the floor over to you on the not-so-small matter of Tokyo!


This is going to be the part Zen where we differ, and our views of the show and how we watch it separate. I know you love to dig into the little things, while I prefer more broad strokes and character actions, how they feel and how they act. It’s for that reason that I honestly didn’t care much for the Tokyo stuff at all. It was good, and it is credit to Higurashi and it’s ability to paradigm shift so well, but I just didn’t really get pulled in by it.

It felt like fluff, good fluff that expanded the world, but at this point I was so invested in Miyo and Rika as characters that I didn’t really care for the shadowy cabal. It makes sense when the syndrome is expanded upon, and adds to the world, but it wasn’t keeping me at the edge of my seat like it did for you.


World building is always something that fascinates me, especially where it is done to create a compelling world for the characters’ experiences. I’ve long been a fan of the Cold War’s secrets, and truth be told, Hinamizawa Syndrome and Tokyo would not be out of place in a hidden conspiracy of sorts. Having said this, we would be going off-mission to delve too deeply there; I’ll save this for another time! We thus return back to the matter at hand, the central themes of Higurashi.

In the first season, the themes were not always clear, especially when every arc concluded in a bloody manner. However, as Higurashi entered the last moments of its first season, we viewers began to get an inkling of where things were going. By the time Kai fully introduced Rika and Miyo’s stories, the themes were all but out in the open – Rika’s monologues about overcoming fate, Miyo’s desire to clear her adopted grandfather’s name, and Keiichi and his friends’ determination to do right made it clear that Higurashi is about compassion: understanding a situation before acting, making choices while being mindful of those around oneself, and acting on empathy. The sum of these things is what is needed to break a curse resulting from impulsiveness and incomplete information.

For me, I got the impression that Higurashi intentionally paints the picture that having Miyo eat a bullet is one possible solution to Rika’s problems, but it is meeting violence with violence, a quick and dirty solution that does nothing to answer the underlying reason behind why Miyo had been so intent on enacting Article 34. Instead, it is allowing the authorities to sort things out, while keeping her friends alive, that gives Rika the outcome she desires in Kai. If there was one takeaway from Higurashi, it would be that taking shortcuts only begets more suffering in the long term. The first season had given viewers a taste of despair and hopelessness, but Kai comes around, suggesting that through the proper channels and means, people can find their happy endings no matter the odds. I believe that this is what made Higurashi as a whole so strong: it pulls no punches in depicting the worst of humanity, but then goes on to show what is possible when we put our best selves forwards, as well. What about you, Dewbond? The themes of Higurashi are varied, and many, so I’d love to hear what you make of the themes spanning both seasons.


I think when it comes to themes, I think Higurashi, both of its seasons is about violence, and how kneejerk reactions don’t solve anything. While they are influenced by the syndrome, Keiichi and everyone else in the village often act without thinking, jumping to conclusion and taking things to the next level without really thinking things through. We see this when Keiichi murders Sakoto’s uncle, or when Shion goes on her rampage, or when Rena believes that aliens have invaded the village. People don’t think, they just feel, they just act. And that often leads to violence.

That violence is central to what I think Higurashi is about. Even with the cutesy anime designs, we see that all of these characters, many of them young children are capable of extreme hatred and bloodshed. We see it time and again in the first season, and Miyo, despite being rescued from violence, views it as the only way to get her goals accomplished.

The answer is a, what Rika does. You have to keep trying, you have to work together, and no matter the odds, keep persevering. It may be slow, it may be grueling and frustrating, but you can in the end, change fate. Pressure and protest and real dedication can move the needle, and learning from your mistakes is key to that.


The consequences resulting from this lack of patience and perseverance can be dramatic; in Higurashi, Keiichi, Rena and Shion pay dearly for rushing into things in search of an easy answer, and each arc where this occurs, the bad ends, viewers are left with a sense of revulsion and shock. What happens next is never shown, adding to the horror of their situation as our minds go into overdrive. The strength of the writing in Higurashi is such that it fully captures actions and their consequences in a very convincing manner: tangible, positive change has, historically, always been effected by a determined and resolute group of people playing the long game, working within the rules of a system to build a new system. As you’ve said, Dewbond, rather than subverting a system, it is important to understand the existing system and then determine where to go about laying down the groundwork for a better future.

Higurashi Kai ended up on a very strong note because of its themes, and when I finished the series, I left it immensely satisfied. Horror and violence to pull viewers in, a mystery that kept us guessing, and a way forward that gave us every reason to root for Rika, Keiichi and their friends all came together for a titanic finish. Higurashi Kai could not have ended any other way, and upon finishing, it was a conclusive ending that seemingly left no stone unturned. Hence, imagine my surprise at Higurashi Gou‘s announcement! This series initially left as many mysteries as Higurashi‘s first season did, and with it airing now, I’d like to hear your thoughts on what Gou‘s directions are insofar, Dewbond.


Higurashi Gou has had a strange start, mostly because the author was frustratingly numb and deceiving on what the show was. A sequel? A remake, a mid-quel? A series of stories that happened when Rika was jumping timelines? At the start it seemed to have elements of it all, but there was also a noticable lack of the horror that Higurashi was known for, and moments where the series seemed to be spinning its wheels. It was rather strange to see the series not have a strong heading, especially when the first outing was so good at weaving it’s world, even when things felt episodic. In the initial run, I kept watching because the show was so fresh with me, and I wanted to see what it would do, but it was only when we reached the second half that it, very much like before, the real truths were revealed.

Before I talk about that, I should make sure that you are ok with discussing the series at that part. Are you current with what has been happening as of the latest episode?


I’m at the part where Satoko spends a nostalgic day with the old crew before being ported into middle of nowhere; I believe that’s the latest episode.


It is! And man, now that Higurashi has seemed to have revealed it’s hand, what an absolute genius way to take the series. I’ll be honest, very, very few anime sequels have ever worked, and Higurashi seemed like it was going to go down the same path. Instead we get a really cool direction that actually moves the characters forward instead of nostalgia minded coddling.

Gou, at least at this point, and we should mention that this story is not over yet, is about one thing: a fear of change. We see it with Sakoto, who now seems to have made a deal with a new devil (who I believe is a character from another one of the author’s visual novels) it return herself back to when she was a child. The reasons? Because people grow and move on, and Rika, after all she has suffered wants to move on in her life. She wants out of the hick village and into a world of prim and proper ladyship. And while Sakoto goes with her, not everyone can fit into that world, and her struggles to keep up, along with the changes that come from growing up and growing apart seems to have set her on a dangerous path.

I’ve absolutely loved this new direction Gou has taken, it feels authentic to the characters, especially Sakoto. We have to remember that she really has no one else but Rika, her brother is still in a coma, and the other members of the gang have grown up as well. To have Rika move on with her life and (deservedly in my view) seize a world that she clearly wants, is Sakoto’s worst fear, because it may very well be a world she can’t fit into anymore.

Again, we don’t know how it is going to end, but what do you think of things so far Zen?


The first bit of Gou was maddeningly inconsistent with its direction; old mistakes were both repeated and done better, and it felt like a condensed retelling of the originals. Beyond this, I had no idea what Gou had intended to do. I don’t mind admitting that I continued watching because Higurashi had a previous track record of surprising viewers. Surprising us, it did: when Rika began lamenting her cursed fate, and when Hanyū leaves Rika, things suddenly became more captivating. It reaches one of the most disturbing episodes, where a good half of the runtime was watching Satoko disembowel Rika while remarking that Rika’s sin was yearning for a life outside of Hinamizawa. I’d never once recalled Rika stating this in the originals, but as the episodes passed by, it began to make sense. Trapped in a loop for upwards of a century, it made sense that Rika wanted to grow up, see the world and realise her potential.

With the most recent episodes and Satoko’s struggles, the fact that she’s unable to keep up academically and fit in with the upper echelons of society despite her efforts, gave me an incredible sense of unease. Given her previous love of traps and tricks, it felt a matter of time before Satoko became overwhelmed, and recalling what Hinamizawa Syndrome does to people, there was always the old possibility of Satoko going on a rampage, too. Once Gou began depicting what a post-1983 world was like, the series’ themes suddenly come out into the open. Change is indeed terrifying to think about, and even for people who thrive on change, constantly readjusting to new environments, meeting new people and facing new challenges represents a considerable burden.

I think that the fear of change also can bring about a secondary theme: what it takes to choose one’s own path in life. Rika has chosen her path, and St. Lucia represents a decision of her own volition. Conversely, Satoko’s unhappiness comes from this being Rika’s path; as she so viscerally states, Satoko had given up everything to be with Rika, and because of the conflicts this creates, Satoko finds herself increasingly isolated. We have seen the consequences of isolation in Higurashi, so Gou‘s setting us up for something big, and I am quite glad to have stuck it out. In retrospect, the weaker beginning might’ve been deliberately chosen to welcome viewers back to the format and style that is Higurashi.


I won’t make any final conclusions on the theme just yet, the show could very well go in a whole new direction, as is the case for Higurashi, but so far, I like that we are in agreement. A weak first half, that only gets better when the real story kicks into gear.

As of right now, I think Gou will do fine, but it won’t touch the original in terms of legacy, quality and sheer enjoyment. Higurashi: When they Cry is the rare show that earns all the accolades and adoration people have heaped on it for years. Brutal, violent, and horrific, it doesn’t forget to have a good cast of characters, and makes you care the villain once the story gets fully revealed. It could have easily been just a simple horror of the week set-up, but the author clearly had the ambition, and more importantly, the skill to go further. There is a mystery in every corner, one fully explained, with clues and hints expertly dropped even in the most minor of moments. If anything I credit Higurashi for having, and landing one of the best paradigm shifts ever done in anime, completely transforming itself and still making you come back for more. I thought YU-NO did it great, but Higurashi absolutely did it best.

As we put a pin on this discussion for now. Zen, what are your final thoughts on the series?


For Higurashi‘s original two seasons, it was a veritable masterpiece of an ending that closed off everything neatly, providing viewers with full closure and a sense of satisfaction that Rika found the means of escaping her fate through persistence, faith and trust in her friends. As you’ve said, Dewbond, it is the perfect blend of horror, supernatural mystery and even political thriller, wrapped up into a vivid tale of friendship and resilience. I left Higurashi with a smile on my face, knowing that no matter the odds, the human spirit can prevail.

As for Higurashi Gou, we’re still a ways from the finish line. Like you, I’ll reserve my judgment for when the entire series concludes and we can see what its contributions are to Higurashi. There is one thing that I will touch briefly on that we’ve not discussed: Kenji Kawaii (Gundam 00, Ip Man) does a phenomenal job with the music. He’s had an excellent track record with scoring horror movies, writing the incidental music to things like Dark Water and The Ring. The heavy instrumentation he uses creates a sense of suffocation, and light piano notes play on tensions in a moment. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Kawaii also composes the most easygoing and laid-back slice-of-life songs in the soundtrack, too. The dramatic contrasts in the music add greatly to the atmosphere in Higurashi, and with Kawaii’s music in Gou, I am glad they’ve opted to bring him back, as I’ve found the music to be an integral part of Higurashi.

  • With this post in the books, it should be clear that I am watching Gou on a weekly basis, and while the series initially was a tricky one to write about, recent developments have made Gou a lot more compelling. My schedule is absolutely insane at the present, so I will remark that it is a minor miracle that this collaboration was as on time as it was, and similarly, the fact that #TheJCS is in a minimally presentable state is also something of a miracle considering what’s been happening these past few weeks. I’ll explain what’s been going on this month that’s made it so tricky in due course, but for now, readers are assured that I am still (mostly) on target for everything I need to deliver, both for real life and for the esteemed community.

Dewbond and I have now covered the whole of Higurashi‘s original run, and even ventured into the realm of Gou to see how this story has been doing so far. Higurashi is a vividly rich and detailed story, capable of surprising and intimidating at every turn. Having said this, the scale and scope of the story in Higurashi has been a bit tricky for me to work with, and with this here collaboration between Dewbond and myself coming to a close, this is only my second proper post on Higurashi (with the first being our earlier collaboration). I do briefly mention Higurashi in my post about Call of Duty: Black Ops; the story in Higurashi would not feel out of place in a shooter about deadly biological weapons, government conspiracies and shadowy political dealings. At least for the time being, I don’t have any more Higurashi posts (I may return to write about Gou depending on how my schedule plays out), and for folks looking to read insightful discussions of Higurashi, Dewbond has thankfully risen to the occasion and then some!

More of Dewbond’s Higurashi Posts

Higurashi: When They Cry, Collaborating with Dewbond to Probe the Secrets of Hinamizawa

“Do not fuck with me, Maebara: I know when you’re lying!” –Jason Hudson

As the sun began setting on a quiet June evening in 2014, the land was cast in a warm golden light, and shadows began lengthening in my neighbourhood. I had been home, recovering from a minor operation to my jaw, and had remained home to recuperate. At the time, the Giant Walkthrough Brain project was well under way, and I’d planned my summer accordingly to ensure that this day wouldn’t impact the progress. During my time off, I decided to check out Higurashi: When They Cry at the behest of a friend. Intrigue seized me within an episode, and I managed to go through the entire first arc in an afternoon. The mysteries that Hinamizawa held were compelling, and far more than the horrific scenes of death, murder and torture, Higurashi: When They Cry‘s intrigue lay in the precise nature behind what is colloquially known as Oyashiro-sama’s Curse. As timelines reset, and I learnt more about this remote, sleepy village in deep in Gifu’s forest valleys, the enigma only deepened. After twenty-six episodes, what was known is that Oyashiro-sama’s Curse was an area myth designed to conceal something much more sinister: an unusual virus of unknown origin, and closes with a confrontation at the school. A striking horror-mystery, Higurashi: When They Cry caused quite a bit of a stir when it aired owing to its graphic portrayal of violence and immersive story. The questions posed in Higurashi: When They Cry would later be addressed in Higurashi: When They Cry Kai, and the end result was an exceptional journey of comprehension, friendship and overcoming fate itself. Of course, before reaching such a conclusion, it makes sense to revisit Higurashi: When They Cry‘s beginnings, and this time, I welcome Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime to look over things in details that are relevant to the story.

  • Until today, I’ve only ever mentioned Higurashi in the passing, usually for my Call of Duty: Black Ops related talks. I’m not sure if my perspective is widely shared, but I found that as disparate as Higurashi and Black Ops are, notions of madness, loyalty, doing what’s right and sinister hidden agendas are themes both series touch on during their run. Discussing series outside of my comfort zone with other bloggers is always an exciting thing, and before we delve into the main body of this post, I would like to note that the door is always open for collaborations: they’re a fantastic way for me to explore series in ways I’d not thought about.


It’s been a while since our last collaboration, and an even longer time since I watched Higurashi: When They Cry in full; I finished both seasons while working on the Giant Walkthrough Brain, and had absolutely found myself hooked by this series for its combination of horror and thriller elements. On one hand, there’s a mystery to figure out, but on the other, as I became familiar with Higurashi: When They Cry, it was apparent that every step forward would only result in suffering and death. However, the accumulated details all contribute in a meaningful way to unraveling Hinamizawa’s secrets, and while I may have forgotten the specifics, it is most fortuitous that Dewbond is here to offer his insight and thoughts into a series that has become very well-known. Higurashi: When They Cry is a massive series, and the sheer scope of its writing can initially appear overwhelming. Dewbond: you’ve come from a relatively recent journey through Higurashi: When They Cry (Higurashi from here on out for brevity’s sake); where would be a good place to start this party?


Thanks for having me back here Zen. As you say, I’ve only recently watched Higurashi, having jumped into it in the tail end of 2020. That was because, what we thought of the time, it was going to be remade, and I wanted to see what everyone was saying about the series. Having grown up in the fan-sub era, Higurashi was a series that was on everyone’s lips. A must see classic that was to many, their first steps into the horror genre. I think they couldn’t have picked anything better. Having watched both seasons, I can say that Higurashi earns those accolades and more.

As Higurashi is a series broken up into question and answer arcs, I think it would be best to discuss the first season as a whole, instead of going through piece by piece. I found that after I finish the first half, and without the knowledge of what was to come that the series did a wonderful job at being an episodic splatterfest, and that the constant shifting of characters and roles kept things fresh.

Who was the hero, the villain, the by-standers, the victims, it all kept constantly changing throughout the first half, and it made the show feel like, as Forrest Gump says, a box of chocolates. You never knew what you were going to get. Did you have that same feeling Zen?


The big-picture approach makes sense, and works because, since it has been six years since I binged this series, I’ve forgotten the smaller details! First, there was getting past the initial hurdle that was the violence! It was never the blood, guts and gore that bothered me, but rather, the psychological aspects behind it. The healthy human mind doesn’t have an inclination to take another human being apart, piece-by-piece, or desecrate a corpse, after all. The brutal contrast between Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko’s happy, everyday life and the horrific acts they inflict upon one another while under the effects of Oyashiro-sama’s curse immediately made it clear that the story in Higurashi was going to be anything but conventional.

Higurashi‘s first season was indeed an unpredictable box of active grenades: as insanity claims a perpetrator and victim alike in each of the arcs, Higurashi constantly kept us viewers guessing what would happen next. There was no precedence, no prior series that did anything quite like it; if Higurashi intended to grip viewers with a story that kept us viewers guessing, it certainly succeeded. After each of the question arcs, I felt like I was no closer to understanding what Oyashiro-sama’s curse was. However, seeing Keiichi and the others, time and time again, enjoying life in Hinamizawa, made one thing abundantly clear: no matter what atrocities were committed, I never once faulted them, counting the extraordinary circumstances in Hinamizawa as being the cause of their suffering, and so, over time, the shock of the violence became replaced by a sense of pity, as well as intrigue. Having Keiichi and his friends thus became a grounding rod of sorts for me: there was reason to follow the developments and see what awaited the characters.


They are very much a sort of grounding rod like you said, and the first half round of the series lives and dies on those characters. Despite the blood and gore, and the constant shifting if who is good or bad, the central cast is incredibly important.

What really stands out, is that despite being friends, and that friend being what carries the day in the final timeline, they are also people who aren’t ‘that’ close to each other. The paranoia, the fear, and most all the dark secrets. Despite the humor and good nature, all of them have a dark side, and when that is brought out by the Syndrome, we can see how quickly that friendship can fall apart.

That was always something that really pulled me in, something that a few animes do. When the ‘animeness’ of the characters is stripped away, when the illusion drops and instead they closely resemble real humans, with anger, rage, and violence. The best example in the first half is seeing Rena in the first question arc. The cutesy-kawaii girl, so common in that era, lose her absolute fucking mind is still really damn unsettling.

Rena herself is probably the mascot character of the show, and while the crown of most fucked up goes to Shion/Mion, she’s a close runner up. What do you think of our knife-wielding girl who just wants to take things home?


It suddenly strikes me that Higurashi represents, from a pessimist’s perspective, a very visceral representation of humanity as a whole – we’re only as nice as the system allows us to be, and in this case Oyashiro-sama’s curse feels like a simple catalyst that brings out the madness and irrationality amongst Rena, Keiichi and the others. In this case, the horror really lies in what acts ordinary people are perhaps capable of perpetrating when pushed over the edge. It’s a darkness that lies in all of us, and admittedly, I fear that quite a bit. It’s a thought that I have to willfully push out of my mind. Higurashi seems to be reminding viewers that madness is like gravity, requiring only a little push. Thus, when it comes to Rena, the contrast between her usual self and her paranoid, violent self is dramatic. Under ordinary conditions, Rena is the sort of person who brings the heart and warmth to a group – she’s a lot like CLANNAD’s Nagisa Furukawa in this way, gently reassuring the others and of course, possesses her infamous kawaii~ mode.

Especially through Rena, I think that the difference here is really to emphasise what fear, isolation and being left alone with one’s thoughts can do to people. Of course, even without the influence of Oyashiro-sama’s curse, Rena can be an intimidating individual, and for the viewer, this means that we’re never too certain what her next move will be. This uncertainty creates that suspense that makes Higurashi continually unexpected, and it does lead to the ever-present feeling that in Hinamizawa, Keiichi does not have anyone to reliably count on. Of course, despite her negative traits, when Rena is sane and rational, I always found her reactions to kyute things hilarious: she might be a brutal murderer when pressed, but where circumstances allow it, Rena is friendly, soft-spoken and kind. This puts her in sharp contrast with Mion Sonozaki, who is boisterous and always keeping an eye out for those around her. While Rena might be the scariest character for her unrestrained moments of insanity, however, I personally count Mion and Shion to be terrifying in their own right when pushed. Dewbond, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the heir of the Sonozaki family.


You are right to say that Rena is soft spoken and kind, but there is also a brutal edge to her, and put aside the insanity of the syndrome, there is, like I said, a deep dark side to her. The ability to commit murder, to turn from kawaii cute, to deeply unsettling is not something you just get from a sickness, it’s always there. That to me was one of the great thing that Higurashi did, and why I think it has become so beloved among the fan-sub generation. It pulls off the mask of cute anime girls and reveals that they are just as capable of doing things that can turn your stomach.

That is no better seen with the story of Shion and Mion. To compare to a western show. If Rena is the ending of Game of Thrones season 1, then Shion and Mion’s question and answer arc is the Red Wedding. Everyone who watches this show, or grew up in that era knows the moments, the gifs, the maddening laughter of the Sonozaki runner-up. Shion, being the most distant of the gang doesn’t seem to do much at the start, but when you get to her answer arc, you see that the author of Higurashi is a master at mystery and the revelations are some of anime’s best.

What really floored me, even months later, was the sheer cruelty of it all. While Rena’s madness can be tossed up to classic horror tropes, Shion’s is intense hatred, black as coal, and made only worse by the syndrome and the seemingly cold reaction from her sister. I’ll always find Mion’s ability to switch from happy-go-lucky group leader, to serious and no-nonsense family head to be damn effective. Not even her beloved sister is spared, even if there is great regret for it later.

As for Shion? Her one-sided love for Satoshi, who may not even had noticed her feelings drives her to do more and more irrational things, culminating in the brutal murder of Satoko who is, as we should remember, an ten or eleven year old girl. Having just come off Redo of Healer, not even that show can hold a candle to some of the moments Shion dishes out.

I want to know your thoughts on the sisters too Zen, but were you aware that Shion and Mion are not actually who they say they are, that they are actually their opposites? Shion was born Mion and Mion was born Shion? A single day where they switched identities for fun led them to be branded for life. I don’t think it was ever covered in the anime.


I am indeed aware of the switch. I think late in the first season (or somewhere in the second?), it was mentioned that the real Mion is Shion, and vice versa. That revelation had my head spinning, and it took me a little while to really get in my mind what happened. The switch, of course, makes Shion’s madness all the more apparent. Even under normal circumstances, Shion is manipulative and calculating; although her manner (especially towards Keiichi) might seem flirtatious and innocent, her choice of words and body language is indicative of someone who knows they’re in control. I do wonder if this is a consequence of the switch she and Mion had made years previously: since she and Mion constantly switch places, it is possible that Shion suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. If this were to be the case, in conjunction with her own insecurities, jealousy of Mion and inclination towards violence, Shion has the makings of a ticking time bomb. I think that her tortue of Satoko was probably one of the most brutal scenes in Higurashi, a shining example of where the series took things.

On Mion’s end, I’ve always been a bit more fond of her, even with the fact that she is the Sonozaki heir: unlike Shion, who conceals her cruelty and hate behind a friendly façade, Mion puts on a brave front, acting as the responsible leader amongst her group of friends, and her actual personality is someone who is shy and hesitant. Similarly, Mion’s serious manner when carrying out her duties as the Sonozaki heir suggests that she’s someone who never does anything halfway. Even after she orders Shion to tear out her own fingernails towards one of the end of an arc, I always got the impression that Mion is simply someone who would go to any lengths to defend what is dear to her, and as she never succumbs quite like the other characters do, it creates the sense that Mion is a reliable constant for keeping everyone else in check, too.


Mion is absolutely a leader, and we see it throughout each different arc. She’s a natural at it, often bringing the townspeople together and keeping her friends on the right path, but yes, she does that have that super serious mode like when she confronts her sister. However, it also comes with empathy, and we see that Mion tears out her own fingernails in order to try and share some of the suffering. She didn’t do what she did because she thought her sister was wrong, only because it was her responsbility as a clan head.

I always found that Mion herself was a character underused by the story, because most of what we see of her in the Sonozaki focused arcs is indeed Shion. I do agree that Shion herself is a character who seems to suffer from an identity crisis, and how fast she clings to Satoshi says to me that she seeks a place to belong, or someone who will love her unconditionally, or at least gives her security. We see how, when influneced by the syndrome, how little she thinks of Keiichi. To Shion, he is an imposter, taking over the role that Satoshi was suppose to have, and she can’t stand it.

One thing I want to note before we discuss Satoko, is that the Syndrome, despite being the cause, may only be a trigger for deeper, repressed memories and actions. While it does drive them all mad, I do think it also provides Rena, Keiichi and Shion an outlet for their madness. Taking the ‘safety off’ in some regards. They would always end up like this if they were pushed far enough. What do you think Zen?


Hinamizawa Syndrome, informally known as Oyashiro-sama’s Curse, is probably my single favourite aspect of Higurashi. Until it was revealed that the frightening events awaiting Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko had a scientific basis, the series remained a supernatural horror. The murders and disappearances that Oyashiro-sama’s Curse seems outside the characters’ control, and viewers were gripped in a state of constant uncertainty. It shows us how easily people can lose their shit, and the unspeakable acts of evil they can commit when no longer bound by reason. The true terror, of course, is the suggestion that anyone could be a monster. Admittedly, this is a thought I am, again, uneasy with: in Eli Wiesel’s Night, Wiesel relates his shock that civilised beings were reduced to grovelling on all fours like a beast during times of difficulty. The characters’ powerlessness had done an excellent job of conveying the horror aspects of Higurashi, but seeing each of Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko suffer was heart-wrenching.

However, with knowledge that Oyashiro-sama’s Curse was an unknown agent that inflicted mental breakdown in its victims, a topic of research, suddenly turned things around for the characters. Initially, this seems counterintuitive: I personally would have guessed that Hinamizawa Syndrome is caused by an unknown neurotopic, thermodependent, barodependent pathogen. Viruses are intimidating entities in their own right, insidiously hitching their way into a cell and hijacking its processes to ensure its own survival, often without concern for the host’s well-being. A virus that affects the nervous system would be especially frightening, and while I would love to say that Hinamizawa Syndrome is fictional, its effects on the victim are not dissimilar to the rabies virus, which attacks nerve cells and makes its way into the central nervous system. The symtoms manifest as aggression, mania and even paralysis. Similarly, there are viruses that are most active under a certain temperature range, and other viruses only become active under certain atmospheric pressures. Suddenly, the pathogen causing Hinamizawa Syndrome doesn’t seem so far-fetched: paranoia and formication do seem within the realm of what an entity can cause.

While viruses are not exactly a topic to be taken lightly, especially in light of recent events, the revelation that Hinamizawa Syndrome might have a viral origin, one that has been researched for a long time, also has an unusual, but effective impact on Higurashi: it gives viewers hope that the characters can overcome their inner darkness, however slim the odds are. Much as how placing faith in a rapidly-developed, novel vaccine in the face of a devastating virus is a gamble, the knowledge that Hinamizawa Syndrome has a biological origin initially seems of little comfort. However, seeing things from a scientific perspective means appreciating that a solution might just exist, no matter how small the probability is. For the first time, viewers get the sense that there is hope for Rika and the others. The fact that Hinamizawa Syndrome has a biological component affects each of the characters differently, but this would’ve been especially hard on Satoko, whose older brother, Satoshi, contracted Hinamizawa Syndrome and was taken away for study. This was devastating for her, and taken together with her family life, cannot have been easy for her.


Satoko was the character I wanted to talk about last, because she has the moment that is frankly the most disturbing, not only in the series, but also among anime in general. Anime characters going crazy is no real surprise, and even the insanity of Higurashi ends up becoming a bit blunted (but never not effective) by the end. What doesn’t though, is Satoko’s panic attack at the school. The terror, the vomiting, the constant apologizing, the denials of her trauma. All of it is deeply disturbing because it is real. Such things have no doubt happen to real people, and seeing such a proud and haughty young girl be so effected by her abusive uncle is very unsettling. It’s the one moment where Higurashi ‘gets real’ and in many ways it is the series most horrific moment.

I discussed this before when I gave my thoughts on Emergence, one of the most infamous hentai manga. The horror and shock value doesn’t come from the sex, or in this case the gore. Yes that works in the short term, but it is not what I remember Higurashi for (ok, well I’ll probably never forget many scenes, but run with me here).

I remember those brief moments where the line between fiction and reality are blurred, and an anime is able to almost perfectly capture a moment like it was real life. Sakoto’s abuse and the reaction she has is one of the moments and it hits hard. It’s made even worse by the constant stonewalling of Child Protection, and the truth that Satoko ‘cried wolf’ once before. Zen, did you feel the same way?


As you state, Dewbond, the horror in Satoko’s story does indeed come from the abuse she suffers at the hands of her uncle, and the fact that despite Keiichi et al.’s efforts to help her, they are initially unsuccessful. Moreover, viewers are forced into the others’ perspective – since we have no idea what precisely is happening to Satoko, our minds empathise with Keiichi. Higurashi succeeds here in making the viewers feel as helpless as Keiichi does; in reality, child abuse is an appalling act of depravity, and Satoko’s previous actions only further obfuscate things. Yes, Satoko is an integral part of the cast, and a valuable friend in difficult times, but given her usual antics, it is difficult to ascertain what’s going on with any confidence. Satoko further mentions that toughing it out seems to be the only way of bringing Satoshi back, and for me, this was probably the worst of it: a promise that was unlikely to ever be fulfilled. Her suffering is a recurring point throughout Higurashi, and from a narrative perspective, acts as a vital juncture for determining what fates await everyone.

In the first season of Higurashi, an impulse and brash Keiichi is only able to see what’s in front of him and ultimately kills Teppei, before suffering the consequences for his action. This was to demonstrate what awaits those who act rashly – yes, Teppei’s treatment of Satoko is reprehensible, but by taking the law into his own hands and taking a life, he sets himself down a path of no return. The second season has Keiichi stopping to consider what possible alternatives there might be to save Sakoto; by calling on help and pushing the Sonozakis to step in, Keiichi and the others save Satoko, allowing the authorities to do their job. If the first season had been about the cost of acting out of incomplete information, then the second season suggests the power of cooperation and putting faith in others.

I think that beyond being a visceral portrayal of child abuse, Satoko’s story is perhaps the best indicator of what Higurashi is about: alone, Keiichi, Rena, Mion, Shion, Rika and Satoko are powerless against forces like Hinamizawa Syndrome, Tokyo and fate itself. Blood is spilt, characters descend to madness and suffering results. However, in being open and honest, both with one another, and those around them, they can find allies in the most unexpected of places and build the future that they seek. The question arcs isolate the characters and demonstrate their outcomes if they attempt to solo their challenge, and the answer arcs show an outcome where the characters, aware of what pitfalls lie ahead if they act rashly, make choices that are more sustainable for the long term. In doing so, this creates a superbly powerful story around Higurashi‘s original two seasons, and it is reasonable to say that this is where Higurashi truly excels: while the series might be a horror, it also suggests that the darkness within us, while ever present, is quelled and displaced by light when there are people in our corner.


I think you say it, as always, better than I could. There is a great degree of loneliness among the characters of Higurashi, and that syndrome high focuses on the bad and negative aspects of those feelings.

As we wrap up our look at the first season, I will that on its own, the first half of Higurashi is a masterwork in classic horror. The episodic nature, the way that questions are asked and answered, and how the mystery becomes bigger and bigger is still, even over a decade later, the default example in my mind, of how it do it. I like what you say about how Keiichi first tries to take matters into his own hands, and then realizing that he has to work within the system and use pressure, not a baseball bat. It’s a heartwarming end to the first half, but of course as with everything Higurashi, there is darkness in every corner.

What is even better though, is how Higurashi is able to do what so few series are capable up. Have a perfect paradigm shift in genre and tone. But we’ll talk about that, and the true hero, and villain of the series, next time.


Unsettling and gripping, Higurashi‘s first season is the shining example of what horror is – exiting this first season, it feels like the deck is completely stacked against our protagonists. I’ve always held horror to be a genre defined by the protagonists’ inability to respond to a threat. While broadly referring to a genre designed to evoke thoughts of fear or revulsion in viewers, an effective horror makes known to viewers just how powerless a given group of characters are against their foe. Seeing arc upon arc conclude in a bloody fashion, Higurashi has driven this point home and then some.

However, as you’ve stated, Dewbond, we undergo a change in Higurashi by the second season: having established what is, and how incomplete information results in grisly ends for Keiichi and the others, Higurashi Kai turns things around in a manner that, until then, was something I’d certainly never seen before.

  • For folks wondering, I am indeed watching Higurashi: Gou this season. I was initially curious to see what the project would be about, and insofar, it’s been a curious journey so far. It goes without saying that Gou requries Higurashi to fully appreciate, since there are references back to the original. I’ll probably do a talk on the entire Higurashi series, from the original season back in 2006 all the way to the events of Gou in the future, but for now, there’s the second half of this collaboration with Dewbond, and the remainder of Gou, to go through.

What awaits us in this collaboration’s second half is nothing short of exciting. Higurashi Kai had been an exceptionally fun ride, and while it’s been some six-and-a-half years since I watched it in full, I still recall the series’ details in great detail. Observant readers will have noticed that in this first half, we’ve left out a few central players. This is deliberate: Higurashi is a vast series, and to do it justice, our collaboration has been spit into two halves. In the second part, we will return to looks over the answer arcs. As the mystery begins giving way to facts, the horror in Higurashi slowly gives way to a world that I am familiar with, and especially fond of discussing. As such, Dewbond and I will both take a short breather here, gather our thoughts and then proceed to the second half – stay tuned! In the meantime, for folks who are interested, Dewbond also has a separate, and insight, set of thoughts on Higurashi‘s first season. I’ve never actually written about Higurashi until now: this is a series with both depth and breadth, and I never did feel I could adequately distill out its core messages in a single post, or set of posts, since there’s a very intricate, well-written story at Higurashi‘s core. Every detail needs to be considered in order to draw a satisfactory conclusion from things for a series like Higurashi, and, as collaborations demonstrate, having an extra set of eyes on things has been superbly helpful towards unraveling the enigmas behind what is one of the most well-done horror-mysteries around.