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.

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

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

Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 10

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This week puts two of our three ladies through the wringer, starting with Jeanne. While bound and burning at the stake as her defenders are slaughtered by the king’s soldiers, she has a vision of an angel who basically tells her they couldn’t care less about humans. Then she’s visited by the creepy red-eyed guy once more, and force-fed that suspicious potion he offered before.

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This turns Jeanne into a 1980s rock star demon…a pretty damn badass-looking one, too. She summons her guitar Maltet, makes a stone dragon rise out of the ground, and takes off. That’s not good. Bacchus witnesses this and is mildly concerned, as does Rita, who managed to get out of that situation in the lab and flags the god down for some questions.

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Meanwhile in Prudisia, Amira, Favaro and Kaisar are having a relatively uneventful journey when the damn ground shatters into bits and starts to rise into the air. Another huge demon beast/castle thing emerges, and dramatically transforms the environment…or lifts the illusory vail to reveal the real environment.

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The creepy red-eyed dude who transformed Jeanne (and probably poisoned the kings mind so he’d get her where he wanted her) shows up here too. His name is Martinet, and he’s very evil. I don’t like him. Amira remembers him as her ‘teacher’, who told her she’d be able to find her mother in Helheim. And Helheim, not Prusidia, is where they actually are.

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Rita hitches a ride with Bacchus and Hamsa’s carriage, which accientally runs over the fallen angel Azazel, who has apparently fallen again…out of favor with Lucifer, that is. The demonic doghouse, if you will.

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Back in Helheim, Martinet reveals his master, Beelzebub, who for whatever reason wants to release Bahamut. We’ve been told Bahamut is nothing but pure destruction for gods and demons alike, but I guess Beels has a plan. Unfortunately, he and his sneering assistant are nowhere near as interesting as Azazel and Cerberus.

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Getting back to that wringer our ladies go through: just when you thought Jeanne was having a bad day, Amira is shown her mother, an angel encased in ice, and once it shatters she’s kind of locked in a shocked expression. Amira was always told her mother could ‘take the key out of her’…but always thought that would be a good thing. It isn’t.

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As it turns out, Amira is merely a vessel for the key, created when Beelzebub did something awful to her mother. Amira has been manipulated by false memories contained in her pendant compelling her to come to Helheim at the proper time. Overcome with emotions, Amira goes over hugs her mom, which is a bad idea, because that causes her mom to crumble into a cloud of dust.

Worse, those nice clothes Fava bought her are all burnt up, so now she’s motherless, rudderless, and nude. Her resulting scream of anguish is the trigger that transforms her into the key Beelzebub wants.

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Bacchus and Rita are close enough to see the light of the spectacle. Knowing Bahamut is closer than ever to being revived, they know have to do something. That includes asking Azazel to help them out, which he agrees to do, if for no other reason than he doesn’t want to die either.

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Kaisar? He remains encased in a crystal coffin. Favaro manages to escape when he begs the bad guys to let him come over to their side (That’s So Favaro) but it’s just a trick, which Martinet sees through instantly, and then turns Fava into a demon, just as he did Jeanne.

That means perhaps the only ones who can save the world from Bahamut may be a group consisting of a zombie necromancer, a fallen angel, a drunken god, and a duck. The world is so screwed. Or is it?

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 09

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Proving that slipping back into knighthood is like riding a bike, Kaisar gets the command of a search party to find Fava and Amira, and finds them almost immediately in the middle of a very cool forest that wouldn’t be out of place in Nausicaa or Mononoke Hime. Their own arrival there is punctuated by Amira reiterating that she can’t fly with just one wing, which is a pretty good running joke.

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Lavalley sent Kaisar because he wants to stay in the city, because some sketchy shit is going down, not least of which Jeanne has been framed for attempting to assassinated the king, who as we know isn’t the most confident fellow right now. Such is the extent of his paranoia, none of Jeanne’s very reasonable arguments sway him in the least.

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While imprisoned, a creepy red-eyed fellow pays Jeanne a visit and offers her something very suspicious to drink in order to “learn the truth about her gods”.  The guardian angel Michael is nowhere to be found, but Jeanne is staying true to her faith for now. She’s followed her faith and her fate this far; now’s not the time to be faltering or tasting weird drinks.

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Not long after Kaisar and Favaro pseudo-duel, the two of them plus Demon-Amira are suddenly transported to another dimension within the woods, where Kaisar and Amira worry at a large fang-like protrusion stuck in the very odd-looking ground. When they fail, they wordlessly look to Favaro to give it a go, and he yanks it out as easily as a dandelion, to his and everyone’s shock. And that’s not the only shock…

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That odd-looking green ‘ground’ is really the flesh of a massive and ancient dragon, who is glad to be rid of the barb, put there by Bahamut 2,000 years ago. I realize having a big ancient animal throw exposition at the heroes is a common trope in this genre, but this dragon is pretty frikkin’ awesome-looking and sounding, so I don’t mind. I also like how Amira initially calls him “geezer”, but Favaro tells her to call him “mister” instead.

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Of course, once the dragon says his piece — about how Bahamut’s reawakening and thus everyone’s destruction is inevitable, and only by staying here can Amira maybe stave it all off, meaning she’ll never see her mother — Fava himself uses “geezer” in rejecting the dragon’s talk of fate.

The dragon, perhaps impressed by the puny human’s audacity, wishes them well on their quest to change their fate. In any case, he can’t stop them. But he does pull Fava aside for a quick word before the trio departs.

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Back in Antae, the King has decreed that Jeanne is to be burned at the stake as a witch, which is bogus as hell. Lavalley’s entreats for clemency fall on deaf and possibly drunk royal ears. The fact that Rita is still free in the city gives us some hope Jeanne can escape this particular predicament, but Rita snoops around and is caught in the larder of the same sketchy red-eyed guy who probably put the king up to all this in the first place.

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Using the Bahamut barb, the trio warps to Prudisia earlier than I expected, though I welcome the quick transition. Something tells me a place called “The Valley of Demons” isn’t going to be a cakewalk, but Amira wants her mommy, so they’ll continue on.

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Oh yeah, about that word Puff wanted with Favaro…he tells him if he really wants to change fate — i.e. stop Bahamut from destroying the world, the only thing he can do, according to the dragon, is to kill Amira, thus destroying the key and preventing it and the seal from manifesting.

That’s a tough pill to swallow, and yet again puts Favaro on the darker side of gray, as well as giving him a much larger role to play in the affairs of the world, just as Jeanne suggested could very well come to pass.

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Kyoukai no Kanata – 12 (Fin)

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Reunited within Kyoukai no Kanata, Akihito and Mirai work together to fight their way to its core. Izumi duels Fujima, who reveals to Hiromi that both of them conceal youmu within their bodies. When surrounded by dead humans, Akihito tells Mirai to close her eyes and listen only to him, breaking the illusion and revealing a massive congregation of monsters, whom Ayaka and Ai help them defeat. Once Akihito beats back the Kyoukai no Kanata and forces it back within him, Mirai vanishes along with it, after confessing her love. Some time later, all is back to normal, and the ring she left behind vanishes. Akihito runs to the school rooftop, and reunites with Mirai.

All of the light and dark colors that make up the world combine like paint into gray. Evil will neither ever totally disappear from the world nor totally absorb the world. It’s a world that matches its inhabitants, and few inhabitants match it better than Kanbara Akihito and Kuriyama Mirai. Both had loathed the darkness that lurked within them their entire lives, regarding it as a curse they must bear, but wished it would go away. Despite their hatred for their darkness, it was their darkness that brought them together. When Mirai took Akihito’s youmu away, it took her away too, and he learned he couldn’t live in a future without either. Fortunately for him, things worked out so he wouldn’t have to, because honestly, this would’ve been a pretty cruel episode if she’d stayed gone simply because of…magic n’ stuff.

And so the first Fall 2013 series we saw is the first to end. We had our doubts early on: it initially looked and felt like a rehash of past KyoAni series that while good didn’t require revisiting. But a quarter of the way through, we were proven wrong consistently and thoroughly. Conscious that fantastic production values (which it had) alone do not a great show make, KnK gave us a lovely, slowly-building, often gripping, not unpleasant romance between two characters with compelling chemistry, infused with comedy that was smart but not smarmy. We could have done without the one-dimensionally evil Fujima, and were never that interested in Nase Izumi’s dark past, but they did represent paths Mirai and Akihito could have gone down, were it not for their love for each other.

For all the darkness they both harbored, Mirai and Akihito ended up shining the brightest. Long live Glasses Girl, and her beloved Immortal Half-Youmu!

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Rating: 9 (Superior)
Final Cumulative Rating: 8.333
MyAnimeList Score
(as of 12/18/13): 7.91

Stray Observations:

  • The episode used every second of its running time, eschewing the usual OP and ED, a move we feel is essential to a good finale.
  • As shown above, there was a little E.T. in the moment when the lovebirds are floating in the sky between planes of existence.
  • We were also a little disappointed in how inert Mitsuki was down the stretch. Or perhaps she was a love triangle red herring all along, as she saw Akihito as more of another troublesome brother.
  • Ayaka is a really cool-looking youmu, so it’s kinda disappointing that Ai’s just a kitten. Not that she isn’t cute.
  • That rooftop scene gave us the happy ending we wanted, and the presentation of the glasses had all the formality and suspense of a proposal. Nicely done.
  • Chu2Koi 2 will have some shoes to fill when it premieres next month.

Kyoukai no Kanata – 11

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Akihito wakes up after three months in a coma. Hiromi and Mitsuki tell him he’s no longer immortal, while Mirai has vanished and is likely dead. Izumi further explains why she had to recruit Mirai, and that she saved Akihito and the world of her own free will. Dejected, Akihito wanders around town, recalling his dream, and runs into a distraught Sakura. He returns home to find Mirai sent him a farewell text message.

Meanwhile, the weakened Kyoukai no Kanata fused with Mirai’s blood and created an isolated dimension above the town. Fujima amplifies its powers with his car, and it starts pulling youmu up toward it. Akihito’s mother Yayoi arrives to tell him Mirai is alive within the dimension, fighting to protect a puppet version of Akihito. Akihito uses his extracted youmu stone to rise up into the dimension, destroys the puppet, and finds Mirai.

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Our theory of a complex, multi-layered Kyoukai no Kanata is debunked, but who cares: this tour-de-force delved into the depths of despair while keeping kernal of hope dangling overhead. It proved that Akihito’s will to protect and save Mirai is just as strong as hers. She’s alive and close by; Akihito just has to break through all the fog and gain the means to rescue her. Fujima’s ridiculous “experiment” was the spark that led to Akihito gaining those means, so we can forgive him for his helpful but long-winded exposition.

Akihito has always complained about the apparent ineptness of his mother, but she comes through for him when it matters (and her reveal in the club room is one of the ages). Once he has what he needs the episode wastes no time flying him up to that dimension, breaking through, and plucking Mirai from the sky. In their constant back-and-forth struggle to prove how far they’d go for each other, Akihito gets a solid point in his favor this week. But they’re not out of the woods yet.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Akihito wisely addresses the fact he hasn’t eaten in three months. You can’t rescue a bespectacled beauty on an empty stomach!
  • Nice running jump kick by Sakura. “Sad Back” indeed!
  • Mirai’s text message was a tearjerker through and through, really showing how far she’s come; no longer seeing her ability as a curse, because she can use it to save people she loves. “Not unpleasant.”
  • Seriously, WTF did Fujima amplify Kyoukai no Kanata with his car? What is he, MacGyver?