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

Cardcaptor Sakura – 21 – On Your Marks

I tellya, if Sakura doesn’t start taking her rival seriously, this could soon turn into The Meiling and Syaoran Show! In all seriousness, since arriving Meiling has done all she can to take over Sakura’s spotlight. Despite the fact Sakura isn’t actually trying to compete with her for anything (or anyone), Meiling is committed to beating Sakura at every turn–even a 2.5k when all the races she’s ever run were sprints.

It’s all too apropos that “reserving your energy” is a foreign concept to Meiling; it takes both Syaoran and Wei to convince her that she needed go all-out at the beginning of the race, and she should focus more on her breathing. Going for a run after a big meal is also a bad move, but Meiling is determined to cross that finish line 1-2 with Syaoran, so she’ll weather any stomach cramps or other hardships.

When the day of the race arrives, Tomoyo injures her foot, but that just means she gets to record Sakura running. She even employs Kero-chan as an aerial spotter. Meiling shows off how much she’s learned by keeping pace with both Syaoran and Sakura—who are both motivated by the fact Yukito is watching them run with Touya.

But as the race progresses, the theme song transitions to more ominous music, indicating something’s not quite right. Sakura, Syaoran and Meiling cross Tomoyo twice…in the same direction. As Sakura notes that the tree-lined road seems longer than usual, Meiling trips and hurts her ankle. No matter how far they run they can’t seem to get to the finish line. That means a Clow Card is in play, and sure enough Kero-chan identifies Loop as the culprit.

Once Sakura literally stumbles on the seam between “real” space and the loop’s spacial distortion, she and Syaoran each produce swords with which to cut said loop, which takes the form of a red ribbon. Sakura seals the card, and despite Meiling’s insistence Syaoran cut it first, it passes into Sakura’s possession. Syaoran finally relents and carries Meiling on his back across the finish line, thus achieving the spirit if not the letter of her dream.