Jujutsu Kaisen – 24 (Fin) – Only So Many Open Seats

When Eso—who like his more monstery-looking brother Kechizu isn’t a cursed spirit but a physical being—unleashes his special attack Wing King, Yuuji grabs Nobara in a princess carry and uses his superhuman speed to flee Eso’s range of attack.

They’re then headed off by Kechizu, who douses them both with his blood. Eso then activates a cursed technique called Decay that ensures both Yuuji and Nobara’s skin will be rotted away until by morning nothing will be left but bones.

We learn that Eso, Kechizu, and their brother Choso comprise The Cursed Wombs: Death Paintings One through Three—the result of either failed or successful (depending on your point of view) experiments in cross-breeding humans and cursed spirits. The three see each other as one and are devoted to one another, as they are all they had when they were sealed away prior to Mahiru stealing and releasing them into the world.

Unfortunately, Eso and Kechizu fucked with the wrong jujutsu sorcerers. Nobara is one of the worst opponents they could have, as she can use her Straw Doll Technique Resonance on the blood splattered on her to turn their curse back on them. Yuuji is an even worse match, as thanks to being possessed by Sukuna he’s immune to all poisons and poison-like techniques.

Nobara makes clear that Yuuji still makes pain, but pain alone isn’t enough to stop the likes of Yuuji. Together the two bust out their own techniques and deliver crippling blows to Eso and Kechizu. Just as last week was Megumi’s time to shine, Jujutsu Kaisen saves its finale for some of Yuuji and Nobara’s most badass moments.

Eso can’t use Wing King unless he releases Decay, but when he fears his brother is near death he does just that, playing right into the sorcerers’ hands. Both he and Kechizu are killed—not exorcised—they are physical beings their bodies remain. Choso senses their loss while playing The Game of Life with Getou and Mahiru.

Yuuji and Nobara win the battle without suffering serious harm. Yuuji asks if Nobara is okay psychologically after killing a physical being. Nobara’s answer is superbly true to her character: when you’re a sorcerer, “these things happen.”

There are only so many people you can save, and as she puts it, only so many open seats in her life for people who will sway her heart. Yuuji just so happens to be the rare person in her life to bring their own seat and sit down. It’s her way of saying Yuuji is one of the few people she cares about, and it’s beautiful.

The two are initially distraught upon finding Megumi passed out under the bridge, and when he wakes up, they’re over the moon with relief. Megumi gives Yuuji the Sukuna finger he secured, but both of them are surprised when a mouth emerges from Yuuji’s hand and eats it. Thankfully, Yuuji’s body is able to withstand yet another finger. Then Nitta arrives and chastises them for not keeping in contact.

Yuuji, Nobara, and Megumi managed to defeat three Special-Grade curses, a feat for which Gojou claims credit for his diligent instruction as he chats with Utahime on her day off. Megumi and Nobara agree to keep the fact Yuuji “resonated” with Eso and Kechizu a secret to protect their bud. Toudou Aoi and Mei Mei officially recommend the three sorcerers—along with Maki and Panda—for promotion to First Grade status.

Maki and Panda spar together as Toge (who I assume is already a First Grade) keeps score; both of them determined not to get left in the dust by the three first year up-and-comers. Nobara then goes on a celebratory shopping spree with Yuuji and Megumi, using Yuuji as her pack mule.

Getou, Mahiru, Choso, and a host of other high-level baddies remain at large to be eliminated, while perhaps the greatest threat remains within Yuuji in Ryoumen Sukuna. A “To Be Continued” at the very end of the episode serves as a promise that at some point Jujutsu Kaisen will return to settle these matters with its trademark blend of bombastic action, heartwarming camaraderie, and rib-tickling comedy. I already can’t wait.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 23 – Swinging for the Fences

The good news: this week gets right down to the business of kicking some cursed spirit ass. The bad news: Nobara gets swallowed up again! It’s like every other battle with Megumi and Yuuji this happens. At least it reveals there’s a third baddie the three sorcerers have to contend with…and this one fancies himself a Chippendale’s dancer.

Megumi sends Yuuji in after Nobara and finishes off the “whack-a-mole” bridge curse by himself…or so he thinks. Its final form is a “bodybuilder” demon that looks identical to the one he and Yuuji faced way back when; the one that required Yuuji to bring Sukuna out to defeat.

Megumi looks back to a recent training session with Gojou, who tells him bunts are all well and good in baseball, but in jujutsu sorcery you’d better swing for the fences. Megumi does using Domain Expansion, imagining a future self you surpass his present limits. While it’s incomplete, he’s able to defeat the spirit with some help from his shikigami.

With the curse defeated, Megumi’s surroundings revert to the river under the bridge. About to pass out from overexertion, he remembers the “live and let live” code he used to live by at middle school. He hated bad people for obvious reasons, but was also disgusted by good people for always forgiving bad people.

His sister Tsumiki was one of those “good people” who disgusted him, but he’s revised his opinion of her since she was cursed, and now simply wants her to wake up. We also learn in an older flashback that Megumi’s father intended him to be a trump card against the Zenin clan, but Gojou stopped his sale to the clan and arranged for him to be trained and work as a sorcerer in exchange for financial support for him and his sister.

While the added dimension to Megumi’s backstory is welcome, it does have the side-effect of stopping the action dead in its tracks. As a result, there’s barely any time left for Nobara and Yuuji’s battle against the cursed spirit “brothers”—one of whom is very self-conscious about his back.

That fight will bleed into next week. The flashbacks and character work on display here suggest Jujutsu Kaisen is content to close out its second cour with this case. With Megumi in no condition to help them, hopefully Nobara and Yuuji can get the job done. Maybe Nitta Akari will show up to lend a hand…

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 24 (Fin) – Down With the Ship

Satoko did not predict her uncle would be reformed to the degree he was as an effect of her loops, but she’ll still use him “to his utmost potential” in her overarching goal to keep Rika right where she is: in the “birdcage”. One of the key figures in assuring that outcome is Takano Miyo.

Miyo is taken out into the rainy woods by members of the Mountain Dogs. where she is told the operation has failed and all physical evidence related to it will be destroyed, including her beloved scrapbook. She’s also given a gun with one bullet to blow her own brains out, or it will be done for her.

Miyo wakes up in her office, clearly having experienced an alternate fragment and, like Teppei, considered it more than a dream, but a warning of what will come if she continues on her set path. The orders to get rid of her in that fragment come down from Nomura, a woman in Tokyo Miyo trusted. She gets a call from Nomura shortly after waking up.

As such, the possible events she just “dreamt” are foremost on her mind when Nomura informs her of what must happen if she fails her operation, which involves infecting Tomitake with Hinamizawa Syndrome. Miyo’s dear departed grandfather’s research will be dismissed as “fanciful nonsense” and he’ll be a laughingstock.

Miyo recalls when she was much younger and served as her gramps’ assistant, only for a bunch of old guys to come in, listen to his research, and dismiss it as…fanciful nonsense. Never the less, Miyo would grow up, go into medicine, and carry on her grandfather’s life’s work. In a meta moment, one of the old dudes says he’ll recommend a publisher for her gramps, as his research could make for some entertaining fiction.

Before Satoko comes in for a routine checkup and tests, Miyo has the sudden urge to take her scrapbook out of the safe, no doubt fueled by her “dream” about it and her ending up in the mud. In it she discovers a letter to her from her gramps, imploring her to stop pursuing the research and go life a “wonderful life”.

During their tests, Miyo tells Satoko how she’s considering quitting the Irie Clinic, considering that if she stays she’ll eventually be discarded like “ingredients in soup stock”. During Rika’s dance, Satoko follows Tomitake and Miyo to Oyashiro’s storeroom, though only Miyo goes inside.

Back in the ethereal plane, Eua notes that Satoko is working towards a world where the rules of Rika’s tragedy no longer exist. Satoko intends to take on the mantle of Oyashiro-sama and punish Rika for longing to leave Hinamizawa with the curse of another virtually endless cycle of tragedy, in which Rika will “learn” that her proper place is Hinamizawa, by Satoko’s side.

When Tomitake arrives for his “prophylactic”, Miyo takes out a vial of H173, but decides not to go forward with injecting him, thus scrapping the operation on her own terms. Without Tomitake succumbing to the syndrome, the rest of the “final operation” cannot happen. Satoko uses Miyo’s reluctance in this fragment, borne from previous fragments, to steal a vial of H173 for herself.

Eua asks Satoko if she’ll really feel no guilt or remorse for resorting to such methods to achieve victory, and Satoko, made both wise and weary by her decades of looping, says none at all. After all, the world she’s working toward, in which she and Rika are together, will be devoid of tragedy, and that will be the only world that really matters.

With that final declaration, delivered with red eyes and all the fervor of a girl obsessed, the story of GOU is concluded, and the story of SOTSU is announced as a continuation of Satoko’s quest. Rika has been ready to move on with her life for some time now, but Satoko isn’t ready to let her.

She can’t accept a future in which the two of them simply drift apart, as friends sometimes naturally do. For all the pain and suffering her plan has caused and will surely continue to cause, I can’t help but pity Satoko as much as I do Rika and the other victims, and I’ll be back to see how it all turns out.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 22 – Crossing the River

Yuuji, Nobara, and Megumi are driven by Asst. Supervisor Nitta Akari (a new face) to Saitama to investigate a string of curse-related deaths involving a malfunctioning automatic door. They arrive at the home of an acquaintance of one the three victims to find they’ve become the fourth victim. With that lead lost, they head to the school all the victims attended.

Nobara is super-excited about beating up a couple punks, who suddenly shrink not in her or Yuuji’s presence, but Megumi’s—turns out he attended the middle school and already beat up all the punks and gang members. A school staff member Takeda arrives and tells the sorcerers that all four victims once bungee-jumped from the Yasohashi Bridge, something of a school custom. Yuuji and Nobara also learn about Megumi has a big sister, Tsukimi.

As Mahito feeds some poor bastard one of the special-grade cursed thingies stolen from Jujutsu High, Yuuji, Nobara and Megumi go to the bridge, but after a nightlong stakeout turns up nothing curse-related, they hit up the konbini for some breakfast, and bump into one of the school delinquents, who has his big sister with him, whom Megumi recognizes is Fujinuma.

It turns out she too went to Yasohashi Bridge one night, and has started to notice the doors of their family’s shop malfunctioning whenever she’s near them. Megumi notes that at least two weeks pass between the four victims first noticing something and their deaths, which means they still have a chance to save Fujinuma, who also tells them that Tsukimi was with them then.

Megumi recedes from the other two to ask Ijichi to have his sister guarded, but the supervisor laments that there’s no one available stronger than second-grade. The only way to deal with the curse affecting the victims both dead and alive is to exorcise it right away, before it activates a cursed technique from within the still living-Fujinuma and Tsukimi.

Naturally, he returns to the bridge alone in order to do this, literally shoving Yuuji and Nobara back into the car with Akari. But they show up beside him anyway, scolding him once again for holding too much back about himself. Megumi doesn’t protest their help, but informs them that the curse won’t appear unless they themselves become potential  victims by “crossing over” the river below the bridge, which symbolizes crossing over into the afterlife.

Once they do so, they’re suddenly confronted with a whack-a-mole-like curse emerging from the stone, along with several other orifices from which other curses could emerge. Then the curse unrelated to the bridge, which Mahito had fed to that poor dude, arrives on the scene. Yuuji volunteers to take it on while Megumi and Nobara handle the bridge curse.

It’s hard to believe this week marks the first time ever our three sorcerers worked on a curse case together. While the case that dominates the runtime seems more like the of-the-week type, I didn’t mind because the three young sorcerers are never not fun to watch bounce off each other, while Nitta “Ding-Dong!” Akari made for an entertaining new chaperone.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 23 – Out of Character

Satoko’s century of loops have made any game—particularly involving memory—a cakewalk, wielding an ability to predict that the others call “prophesy”. She’s taking the same approach with her battle of wills with Rika, making use of the infinite time available to her in order to ensure there’s no doubt about the winning result.

Unfortunately, a strange phenomenon has started to crop up: people close to her are retaining memories from other loops, such as Keiichi recalling murdering everyone in a different loop. According to Eua—the purple-haired deity so-named by Satoko’s stuttering—this is the natural effect of looping as much as Satoko has, and it’s only going to get more pronounced.

For Satoko’s Uncle Teppei, the influence of Satoko’s looping manifests in horrible dreams he has about his shitty life ending in various, even shittier ways. He has so many of these dreams it starts to affect his attitude and behavior in his waking life. When he sees a father with his happy daughter at the Pachinko parlor, he decides to use some of his winnings to by some sweets for his niece.

When Teppei happens to cross paths with Satoko, she is understandably weary, considering her uncle used to beat and berate her without mercy. Witnessing him pick up the bag of groceries she dropped, and slip some choco-donuts into it before handing it to her, leaves Satoko so utterly bemused it keeps her up at night.

Another incident occurs when Satoko’s path is barred by a band of delinquents. When she asks them to move they get nasty and threaten her, but Teppei comes out of nowhere, clocks their leader, and then gets himself curb-stomped, as he’s outnumbered and a good deal older than them.

The police intervene, and under questioning Teppei simply says he was teaching a young punk a lesson. Detective Ooishi takes over the interview and reports that multiple witnesses, including his niece, say he rushed to defend his niece. Ooishi knows Teppei well, and how extremely out of character it is, but that’s what the people saw.

Teppei is free to go, and shocked to find Satoko waiting outside the station. They walk together for some time, the sad history between them creating no small amount of tension and awkwardness. He tells her about the dreams he’s having, and how it’s made him want to start making amends for what he’s done. That includes trying to get back on speaking terms with his niece.

He admits there’s a selfish element to it, namely someone to take care of his body after he dies. And when he reaches his hand out and Satoko tries to shake it, her PTSD kicks in and she’s suddenly horribly anxious and fearful. This new Teppei realizes he shouldn’t have attempted to touch her after everything he’s done, and walks off.

Satoko looks at her still shaking hand and the sight of Teppei walking away, and her expression is complex. Part of her could be disappointed in the way she reacted. The looper in her has no doubt realized that she is the one affecting this change in her uncle. With only one episode left of this two-cour run, I wonder if, and how, it will affect her plan to beat Rika.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 21 – Naisupitchi!

Guy with the sword with a hand for the grip—who I’ll just call “Guy”—is retreating from the academy through an underground tunnel when a severely injured Hanami smashes through the walls. Guy is ready to put Hanami out of his misery when Mahito appears, telling him that as a human he shouldn’t act alone.

Back on the beach, Hanami and Mahito rejoin Jougo and Getou (and … er … Zoidberg? is still swimming in the ocean). Getou explains to Jougo how Mahito was able to get past the academy barrier maintained by a sorcerer named Tengen: by placing a charm made of Mahito’s Cursed Energy on the finger of Sukuna they collected.

Suffice it to say, thanks to the successful raid on Jujutsu High, their plan is right on track, with Getou setting October 31 and Shibuya as the day and the place they want to unleash the “bomb” that is Sukuna. Meanwhile, the higher-ups of Tokyo and Kyoto meet and agree to keep the theft of the special-grade objects a secret among them, still unsure what the enemy is about to achieve.

We then shift to the infirmary where Yuuji and Nobara are visiting Megumi and eating pizza. This is a momentous occasion, because it’s the first time since Yuuji came “back from the dead” that the three friends have been able to simply kick back! So of course “Big Bro Aoi” has to muscle his way in, leading to him chasing Yuuji around the academy campus.

That brings us to the question: What of the Exchange Event? Rather than be cancelled, everyone agrees it should continue, though with the group event of the first day over, most expect the second day to take its typical form: individual battles. However, when the form of competition is drawn from a box, it’s baseball, so we get a baseball game!

I love baseball, particularly the unique style Japan brings to the game, so I was fine with this! Maki, as you’d expect, can both pitch and hit at an elite level, while Nobara can man the hot corner and beat out a grounder. Kamo Noritoshi (who really should be wearing a helmet) uses the opportunity to speak to Yuuji, who until a few hours ago he was trying to murder.

When Nori hears that the reason Yuuji became a sorcerer, he’s surprised to find it largely matches what his own ostracized mother said to him before they parted ways: save a lot of people so they’ll help you in turn, or even just be with you at your end. After a Nobara hit (off a Mechamaru pitching machine) and a perfect sacrifice bunt from Megumi, Maki socks one out of the park, only for the flying Momo to catch it—which is allowed because they’re short on players.

Maki gets her revenge when Aoi steps to the plate, beaning him as he’s telling Yuuji how he hopes he’ll pitch to him someday, which…there’s just no way to say that without it sounding like something else entirely. (Everyone casually saying “Nice Pitch!” when Maki plunks Aoi is *chefs kiss*.) When Yuuji comes to the plate, the two principals discuss the Yuuji conundrum. The strict interpretation of their laws says he shouldn’t exist, and Gojou’s selfishness kept him alive at the cost of many lives.

At the same time, there’s no denying that Yuuji’s being alive has saved lives that would have otherwise been lost. They tentatively agree to simply continue watching him as they weigh the pros and cons. After all, if they kill him for good they can’t undo it…again…I presume! It’s fitting that Yuuji is the one to hit the homer that puts Tokyo up 2-0, which ends up being the final score thanks to Maki’s lights-out pitching.

The show proved that it can animate baseball (or at least baseball-ish) action just as impressively as it does its battle scenes, while the on-screen graphics were full of great jokes, like the fact that Mei totally stole the ripe mango Kasumi was saving from the fridge…and that despite being able to actually say the word “rice”, Inumaki prefers bread for breakfast.

If there’s one mild complaint I have about Jujutsu Kaisen, it’s that the main trio have been apart more than they haven’t. The preview indicates Yuuji, Nobara and Megumi will be working next case together, which is just what I was hoping for as this second cour starts to wind down.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 22 – Tainted Love

Older Hanyuu lets Satoko basically fumble her way through the first few loops, no doubt trying to determine how far the “child of man” can get in trying to overturn Rika’s will to leave Hinamizawa absent any information. The answer: Not that far! 

First Satoko interrupts Rika’s dream spiel by leaving the bookstore, explaining how things will turn out, and then making Rika choose, right there and then: St. Lucia, or her. When Rika (notably in the voice of her older self) states that she can’t choose, Satoko jumps in front of a passing truck, painting her best friend’s face with her blood.

Having tried the aggressive route to refusing Rika’s dream, Satoko tries a more preemptive method, getting Rika up at the crack of dawn, showing her the beauty of Hinamizawa in hopes of swaying her. It doesn’t work, so Satoko slits her own throat.

In the classroom, she throws Rika’s exam prep book to the floor, then tears it in two, but Rika won’t stop studying, so Rika takes one of her pencils and stabs herself in the neck. Before long she and Rika are simply yelling at each other while wrestling, and both end up drowning in a canal.

All these loops do is frustrate Satoko. While the deity has been quite entertained, she decides to give Satoko the first key clue: Rika has also been living in loops. Not only that, but far, far moe than Satoko; one hundred years’ worth. Now Satoko understands how uphill her battle truly is, because Rika’s will has been reinforced by a century of failure and despair.

After being given a glimpse of one of Rika’s loops (the one in which Keiichi gets H syndrome and beats everyone to death with a bat), she determines that she needs to fully educate herself in order to have any chance of defeating Rika. That means watching all one hundred years of Rika’s loops…and I thought she detested studying!

Those horrific memories eventually go by and Satoko has seen it all. As with any huge and abrupt passage of time longer than the average human life, it’s hard to fully grasp what Satoko endured, but the her that exists in the “in-between” plane seems more mature, focused, resolved, and most importantly, informed.

When she hears that just before the victory over the Mountain Dogs Rika was at the end of her rope and ready to give up, Satoko realizes it is simply a matter of getting Rika to once again lose the will to go on, only this time make it stick. Like the games in their club, there can only be one winner.

It’s here where I take a step back and somewhat shudder at the notion of Satoko treating Rika like the enemy. Rika’s will is who Rika is, and by trying to destroy it, she’s trying to selfishly craft a new, more malleable Rika to her own specs. Rika, in turn, is trying to mold Satoko to fit her future dreams, and has a head start. It just doesn’t seem either of them love each other as much as they love their own wills. At this point, maybe they just…shouldn’t be friends anymore?!

What is missing is Rika’s awareness that Satoko is looping. So she asks the deity to make it so Rika’s memory persist through the loops, so Satoko is always dealing with the “same” Rika. The only thing Rika won’t remember is the cause of her death prior to Satoko’s, which she also intends to use in the battle of wills she intends to win, no matter the cost.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 20 – Purple Boogie Woogie

In a brief but gorgeously lit and colored flashback, Toudou Aoi, only in third grade, is beating the shit out of a high schooler who mocked him. He catches the eye of a blonde sorcerer with a skeletal shikigami, and she asks him what type of woman he likes. Fast forward to the battle with Hanami, Toudou laments that while it’s time to unleash his technique, there’s no time to explain it.

That said, it doesn’t take long for him to demonstrate that technique, known as Boogie Woogie, in which he swaps positions with someone with the clap of his hands. He swaps with Hanami just as he’s about to land in a mass of spiked roots, so Hanami takes the damage. Yuuji was about to punch Hanami, but is about to punch Aoi instead.

Aoi uses Boogie Woogie with great effectiveness, swapping with Yuuji every few seconds to keep Hanami off balance, unsure which of them—with their, let’s say widely varying builds—to prepare for. We briefly check in with Nanami, who holds the record of most Black Flashes in one battle with four, including two consecutive.

As expected, thanks to Aoi’s tutelage, Yuuji’s able to easily break both of Nanami’s personal records, popping off three straight Black Flashe then a couple more for good measure. Hanami then unleashes an attack consisting of a enormous mass of cursed buds, too many of which could put either sorcerer out of commission (as they did Megumi).

Aoi, who claims to have an IQ over 500,000 (which, okay) retreats into his mind palace for a fraction of a second, which takes the form of the same high school drama where he and Yuuji became best brahs, and where Takada-chan is a classmate who turned him down flat. While Aoi initially prepares to defend the onslaught of buds with cursed energy, Takada helps him realize that’s exactly what Hanami is hoping for, so he reverses the energy and the buds bounce harmlessly off of him.

We also learn that Aoi has been strategically moving the battle back to the riverbed where Megumi went down, as before being carried away he told Aoi the three-part cursed staff is still lying the water. Since Aoi’s Boogie Woogie works on anything with cursed energy, he swaps Yuuji for the staff, infuses it with his own cursed energy, and smacks the shit out of Hanami, who suddenly has to resort to their version of Brazo Izquierdo del Diablo.

Just as Hanami’s arm collects all of the life energy of the surrounding forest in preparation for a Doman Expansion, the veil suddenly falls, and Gojou Satoru is floating up in the sky, mask off, ready to rumble.We cut to the other two battles going on just before the veil goes down, as Gakuganji shows Juuzou (the guy obsessed with turning Satoru into a coat rack) how his body serves as an amp for his guitar shredding.

We also catch Utahime about to square off with some cocky human who brandishes a sword with a hand for a grip, as made for him by Juuzou (which is how we learn the prolific cursed craftsman’s name). Utahime proves too quick for him, while Nobara and Mai soon arrive to back her up.

I’d have loved to watch them fight the hand-sword dude three-on-one, but then the veil goes down, and he skedaddles like his life depends on it…because it probably does. Juuzou doesn’t fare as well, as Satoru determines that he should be his first target to obliterate. While he “holds back” he still makes mincemeat out of Juuzou’s arms and legs, keeping him alive for interrogation.

Satoru then sets his sights on the retreating Hanami, determining he’ll have to launch a long-range attack mixing orbs of red and blue cursed energy(?) into one big mean purple blast that almost swallows up Yuuji and Aoi, but doesn’t. It looks like the sorcerers have won the day, but they don’t even know why these bad guys showed up in the first place.

Turns out the anti-Satoru veil and everything else about the attack amounted to one great big diversion, enabling Mahito to steal one of Ryoumen Sukuna’s fingers that was being held on Jujutsu Tech grounds. But assuming the Exchange Event is now over and won’t be started back up, hopefully the Kyoto kids will put their Yuuji knives away, as they all just went though some shit at the hands of their mutual enemies.

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 21 – A Terribly Long Dream

Since Gou is my first foray into the Higurashi saga, I’m as confused as Satoko for much of the cold open, which consists of a Hanyuu-like woman saying various things and Satoko responding with lots of “Huh?”s and “What?”s. Bottom line: Satoko is being given the power to live through loops—whether she understands what that means or not—and told that if she lives through enough of them, her wish may one day come true.

Satoko wakes up back in June of 1983, and decides to shrug off the last five years as one long, awful dream. When she sees Lil’ Rika, she can’t help but run into her arms and start tearing up, she’s so happy they’re back where they belong. It’s only when events in the forest with Takano and Tomitake unfold precisely how they did before that Satoko starts to realize it wasn’t a dream, and she’s in a loop.

As such, one day a year and change later, Rika approaches her for a favor and they go to the bookstore to buy a study guide. This time, Satoko voices her hesitancy to join Rika at St. Lucia, but Rika makes it clear if Satoko doesn’t want to share in her new life-to-be, she’ll simply study on her own. Satoko caves and buys a guide, pleasing Rika.

Since she can’t convince Rika not to try to enroll at St. Lucia, she shifts her strategy to making it impossible for Rika to study enough to actually get in. She does this through various not-so-subtle means, such as physically placing herself between Rika and Chie-sensei, and even getting Rena and Keiichi to guilt-trip Rika into playing games with them.

It’s clear from the get-go this strategy would fail, for the same reason Wile E. Coyote’s schemes never pan out: because like the Road Runner, like Rika’s will, is the ocean: Fight against the waves and you’ll only get beaten up, or worse. Despite both Rika and Satoko being exhausted from club, Rika still gets up in the middle of the night to study. Satoko asks Rika if they can talk.

It’s here when I hoped Satoko would tell Rika precisely what’s happened to her, and how because of that she knows for a certainty how awful attending St. Lucia’s would be for her. Instead, she allows Rika to frame her concerns as rhetorical rather than empirical. Considering Rika is doing this because she’s lived through so many loops in Hinamizawa, you’d think she’d have been receptive if Satoko told her she’s now going through the same damn thing!

Instead, Rika hears what Satoko is saying, acknowledges them as legitimate concerns, but then promises to help Satoko should she struggle at St. Lucia’s. Whether due to Satoko’s love for and trust in her best friend, and/or belief that saying what she’s said to Rika will change the course of events for the better, Satoko takes her at her word.

Never let it be said Higurashi doesn’t possess brutally black comedic timing when it wants to, because just moments after Rika’s promise to Satoko, we fast forward five years and the two of them are right back where they were in the first loop: on opposite sides of the school wall, and on completely opposite social levels.

While the first time around, Satoko could forgive Rika for their drifting apart, but this time is different: Satoko was as explicit as she dared to be in telling Rika her concerns about St. Lucia beforehand. More importantly, Rika made an explicit promise, which Satoko believes she has broken. In Satoko’s view, her suffering in this loop isn’t the unfortunate consequence of miscommunication, it’s betrayal, pure and simple.

This time when Satoko confronts Rika, she calls her out for the “dirty liar” she is, only for Rika to counter her by saying when her grades start to slip, she did indeed keep her promise by offering a helping hand. It was Satoko who slapped that hand away. When Satoko says she didn’t want to be looked down upon, Rika says Satoko’s the one who put herself below her.

Satoko had hoped for a better answer from Rika than placing all the blame at her feet, but she doesn’t get it, so she has no further use of this loop. Embracing Rika tightly, Satoko makes a promise of her own: she won’t let Rika deceive her “next time”. With a dramatic flourish, she says “Good tidings to you, my treacherous Rika”, then snaps her finger. This brings the giant chandelier plummeting down on them, killing them both in a spray of blood, gore, and glass.

Goddamn, Satoko got the hang of this loop thing pretty quickly, didn’t she?! At least, I hope she did, and realized a promise from Rika isn’t enough, nor are further half-measures to keep her from entering St. Lucia. Instead, Satoko needs to take a hard look at either not joining Rika and parting ways, or telling her what’s really going on, and hoping she’ll believe her.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 19 – Let’s Get Cooking

Kamo, Megumi, and Toge are just treading water against a charging Hanami thanks to Toge’s cursed speech, but when his voice gives out, it’s up to Maki to save their lives by entering the battle with a cursed sansetsukon. She and Megumi go toe-to-toe with Hanami for a time, but they’re eventually overpowered—such is the might of a Special-Grade. Fortunately, that’s when the cavalry shows up: Best Pals Yuuji and Aoi.

At first, Aoi has Yuuji face Hanami alone, and won’t help until Yuuji executes a “Black Flash”. Yuuji is initially trying to let his anger fuel his strength, but Aoi warns him that won’t work, and slaps any and all unhelpful thoughts out of his head. Yuuji’s able to pull off the Black Flash, tearing Hanami’s arms off.

Aoi proudly declares that after simply throwing ingredients he’s never tasted into a pot and boiling them away, Yuuji is now tasting cursed energy and making haute cuisine with it. Whether or not it’s meant as a nod to Food Wars, it’s a pretty apt analogy. With Aoi joining Yuuji in the fight, Hanami decides to remove the bandage on their left arm.

The fight that ensues is a dizzily marvelous display of smooth yet breakneck combat animation, with Aoi and Yuuji bobbing and weaving through Hanami’s tangle of roots and branches and synchronizing their strikes.

Hanami recalls a time on the beach when Mahito accused them of holding back their full strength and not “enjoying” the fights the way curses should. Mahito likens tricking, deceiving, and murdering to be analogous to humans’ eating, sleeping, and screwing, defining instincts that are blended with—but never wholly suppressed by—reason.

It’s clear Aoi and Yuuji are having a blast working together, and Hanami also realizes they’re enjoying this battle to the fullest precisely because there’s no holding back. Of course, we know Aoi is holding back a cursed technique, but with Hanami still coming on strong, that’ll change starting next week.

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 20 – Hard Time

Rika continues to bask in the spotlight of adoration at St. Lucia, to the point Satoko feels compelled to confront her in the main hall. Rika’s cronies come to her defense first, but Rika herself doesn’t suffer Satoko’s rudeness, and promises to “make time for her” later. When those cronies badmouth Satoko behind her back, Rika at least defends her friend, saying she’s in a foul mood because her grades have dropped and she’s doubting herself.

Rika believes Satoko will eventually pull out of her nosedive on her own, but that doesn’t happen. Satoko thinks implementing her metal pan prank on a grander scale will help Rika remember the past and their bond, but it all goes pear-shaped one of the pans bloodies a crony. Rika doesn’t rat Satoko out, but one of the cronies does, and Satoko is put in a orange jumpsuit and placed in solitary confinement. Yikes!

While there, all Satoko does is curse the fact she didn’t say “no” when Rika asked her to join her in attending St. Luica. She simply doesn’t fit there, and that’s reinforced when, upon being released, Satoko begins her second year in the “special class”, from which she knows there is no escape.

There’s finally a bright spot in Satoko’s dreary life when she gets a letter from Mion about having a Hinamizawa Country School Game Club Founders’ Reunion. Mion comes to pick Satoko and Rika up in a van, but if she senses the rift between them, she doesn’t mention it, nor do they.

Instead of using the trip to address or resolve that rift, Satoko uses it to forget about St. Lucia altogether. Perhaps she believes there’s no use in speaking to Rika at this point. When Rika finally lets out her trademark “Nipaaa!”, Satoko is both heartened and disheartened, as after everything that’s happened, it almost sounds mocking or patronizing.

Keiichi, Rena, and Mion seem to be exactly the same people, having simply moved their club from Hinamizawa to college they attend together. It’s clear that Satoko would have probably been much happier if she’d gone to high school with them, as she can’t be any less suited for St. Lucia.

After having fun with a card game that includes traps and pranks and penalties, the group heads to the cosplay cafe for a bite, but Satoko tells them to go ahead of her; she wants to have a walk alone in Hinamizawa. It may look pretty much the same, but so much has changed. The more she walks around, the more apparent it is that this is not quite her home anymore either.

Then Satoko comes upon the storeroom, and recalls sneaking in once and wondering if Oyashiro is still angry at her. A strange resonance starts to emanate from within, and when she touches the statue, it crumbles to reveal a broken horn, the source of the resonance.

When Satoko touches that, she’s transported to the same bizarre interdimensional plane where Rika ended up so often. She’s met by someone who looks to be a fully grown-up version of Hanyuu, who addresses Satoko as “child of man.” After punching the walls of her literal prison at St. Lucia wishing she could turn back time and do everything over, now she’ll have that chance!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 18 – Exchange Crashers

This episode’s got a lot to cover, so we jump right into the middle of the duel between the stuffy Kamo Noritoshi, which is basically a battle of creative blood manipulation vs. shikigami. The battle is not only notable for how awesome it looks, but the fact it takes place indoors, and is the first time in a while we’ve seen Megumi and his menagerie of spirit friends in action.

We also check in on poor delightful Kasumi, who is still in a state of shock over being suddenly bereft of her cherished sword. She gets a call from Mechamaru, but it’s Toge on the other line, officially retiring her when he says the word “sleep”. Like Megumi, there’s a lot of pent-up anticipation to watch Toge operate. Like Momo, he plays a key support role.

The faculty notes Kasumi’s retirement, and Utahime heads off to retrieve her (there are cursed spirits still lurking around). We learn that chief among those is a semi-tamed semi-first grade, which Principal Gakuganji tells Kamo will be unleashed upon Itadori Yuuji as soon as his battle with Toudou is over.

That “ringer” demon turns out to be a complete red herring, as no sooner does Toge spot it lurking in the forest is it decapitated…not by any sorcerer, but by Hanami. That’s right, Big Bad Mahito and his fellow special-grade curses have arrived to start some shit, and they’re accompanied by a bald human.

Before their presences is known to Megumi and Kamo, the former ups his game by calling forth a new shikigami he just tamed, a goddamn glowed-up pink elephant that spews forth a torrent of water which blasts Kamou out of the building, where he’s exposed to the aerial Nue’s electricity.

Kamou restrains Nue in blood bindings, but what had the makings of an all time epic JJK battle is rudely cut short by the explosive emergence of a colossal mass of tree matter. Suddenly all of the cursed talismans burn away at once in the faculty viewing room, alerting the adults that something is off.

That something is off becomes far more obvious when the bald curse user with Mahito erects a veil over the group battle area. Gojou, Gakuganji and Utahime race to the veil’s edge before it is complete, but it doesn’t matter: it’s a veil that will allow anyone but Gojou to enter.

This can be seen as either (or both) a means of keeping Gojou from interfering in Hanami dealing with the sorcerers within the veil, and isolating Gojou on the outside so Mahito can take a stab at the guy Jougo couldn’t beat.

When they’re confronted by the bald guy, now weilding a big axe, Gakuganji sends Utahime off to protect the kids, while he stands his ground and removes the contents of the big black case he’s carrying around. Turns out it’s a Gibson Flying V guitar, which not only means we’re in for some epic shredding at some point, but it’s a battle of axe-vs.-axe. So absurdly awesome.

Yuuji, Toudou, The Zenin twins, Nobara, and Momo are all still on their own, wondering what the heck’s going on, while Megumi, Toge and Kamo find themselves being stared down by a particularly intimidating tree spirit in Hanami, who pledges to heal the earth by purging it of humanity. Their individual attacks have no effect, so they’ll either have to get creative with a collab or wait for help from stronger sorcerers.

After all that built up to the interschool competition, the event has been rendered totally irrelevant, while those who were planning to kill Yuuji must shift their targets to the far more pressing cursed threats. Heck, as the stable-for-now vessel of Sukuna, he looks to be instrumental in pushing back Mahito & Co. Good thing they weren’t able to kill him yet!

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 19 – A Dream that Cleaves

At the bookstore, Rika declares her dream of experiencing a new way of life she’s never known, specifically high society at the fancy St. Lucia’s Academy. She wants to live that dream with Satoko, who thinks it’s way too soon to be worried about entrance exams. But Rika is committed, and when Satoko sees how serious she is, she agrees to start studying with her at once.

Rika and Satoko inform Keiichi and Rena of their plans to attend St. Lucia’s for high school, and the two senpais help them with their studying. But even that’s not enough for Rika, who stays up late into the night working on problems. Because Rika is everything to her and she wants Rika’s dream to come true, Satoko can’t help but get swept up in Rika’s wake.

Two an a half years of vigorous studying ensues, after which both Rika and Satoko are accepted to the academy. There’s a little bit of suspense in whether their numbers appear on the board of accepted applicants, and in that brief limbo, Satoko seems to consider the unthinkable: that she and Rika would end up going their separate ways.

Instead, Satoko follows Rika to St. Lucia’s…and fucking hates it. She hates the stuffy atmosphere, the formality and strictness inherent not only the way classes are held but in how students interact. It’s just not Satoko’s scene, while Rika takes to the school and its intricate social structure like a fish to water. Before long Rika is surrounded by new admiring friends, and Satoko is left out.

When Satoko laughs her signature laugh when insisting she’s too busy to hang out with Rika and her fancy new friends, those friends call the laugh “unbecoming” and wonder how someone like Satoko was even accepted. Satoko’s grades drop, and she’s given a choice: attend an interminable study hall, or resign from the academy.

The study hall is full of girls from well-off families who are trapped: they cannot leave the school, but they can’t keep their grades up without constant study, allowing them no free time. A second-year tells Satoko “it’s not too late” for her to escape the study hall purgatory, but it’s clear Satoko has already been working as hard as she can.

As Rika glides along in her perfect fancy life, pointedly not tiring of it as Satoko predicted, Satoko begins to resent Rika dragging her along. Her precious dream has become a nightmare for Satoko. Rika wanted to experience this new life together, but they’ve never been further apart. Something’s gotta give!

Rating: 4/5 Stars