“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