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.

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.

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 17 – The Dice Roll for Thee

After a cold open in which Takano shoots Rika and her friends, we cut to a different version of the scenario in which Takano tells her she was going to kill everyone, but didn’t, and was leaving town with Jirou. What follows is a lot of stuff that comes out of the blue, but may have been happening off-camera for many loops.

The Tokyo Bloodhounds and Mountain Dogs are rival elite tactical groups, with Jirou being a member of the former. With Dr. Irie’s cooperation, the underground research lab is shut down, even though he has yet to find a cure for Satoko’s brother Satoshi’s “Hinamizawa Syndrome.

Honestly, I was pretty confused by most of this, and assume that’s because stuff similar to this went down in the original Higurashi. But whatever all these events mean, the bottom line is there have still been no demon-ing away or gruesome murders on this loop, days after the festival. So why is Rika so uneasy?

It’s simple: the events of the present loop are so far out of the usual norm, her only conclusion is that “someone else” is rolling the dice of fate. She considers killing herself with the blade shard, but decides to stay put for now. Satoko can tell she’s down about something, but urges her not to look gift horses in the mouth and simply enjoy these moments of happiness while they last.

Rika ends up taking everyone’s money in a game of poker at school, and her “punishment” for them all is to arrange a party for Satoko’s birthday, which falls on June 24 (usually once the shit has hit the fan). Satoko seems a little uneasy about being the center of attention, but still accepts gifts from Keiichi, Rena and Mion.

When it comes time for Rika to present her gift to her, Satoko instinctively ducks and covers, apparently knowing it was a gag gift containing a boxing glove on a spring. Rika lifts the box to reveal it’s just a teddy bear (not unlike, if not the same bear Satoshi sought to give his sis), and asks how Satoko knew. Satoko’s eyes turn red and she pulls a gun on Rika with an evil smirk. I guess we know who’s “rolling the dice”, but why, and to what end?

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 16 – Escaping the Doom

In the fifth and final loop before Rika calls it quits, Satoko wakes her up in bed as usual, but she has a heavy fever and hurts “all over”. Turns out she’s already dead right out of the gate—she just doesn’t know it yet. In this loop, Satoko is the neck-scratcher, and has already killed everyone else. The Oyashiro-sama in her head has told her the priestess-hood must pass from Rika to her.

What awful sin has caused Satoko to be compelled to disembowel a conscious Rika and hack away at her guts with a ceremonial staff? The simple reason that Rika wished and dreamed of leaving Hinamizawa, abandoning Oyashiro-sama and everyone she knows for a sophisticated life elsewhere. There is no greater sin for a priestess than to forsake their deity thus.

But before she dies, Rika expresses her sorrow and guilt and essentially begs for forgiveness, which Satoko is sure Oyashiro-sama will bestow upon her if she’s serious in her contriteness. The younger and older Rikas converse in an idealized Hinamizawa and wonder why their dreams ever strayed from the village. Then, as Satoko embraces her, hopeful that things will be better next time, Rika closes her pinky and snaps.

Satoko wakes Rika up as usual, only this time outside. Rika’s guts are where they belong, inside her body, and the whole gang is in their bathing suits for a day of summer fun in the river. It’s Higurashi’s version of a beach episode, portraying the Sonozaki twins in bikinis and the other girls in school swimsuits.

As the sun goes down, Rika talks to Satoko about a realization she hand about two very long, very different dreams she was having. One dream was painful while she was liviing in it, but looking back knows it was full of “shining wonders”. In her other dream, she never noticed those wonders, and was punished for clinging to an “ungrateful” dream (the one where she leaves town for a fancy school).

Rika concludes by saying she loves Hinamizawa, and everyone in it, and Satoko, almost serving as a proxy to Oyashiro-sama, embraces her once more, glad to have heard Rika speak such words. With Rika no longer dreaming of being anywhere else, her curse is seemingly lifted. No one gets the neck itch, nobody kills or dies, and everyone watches her perform the Watanagashi dance.

Then Rika spots Tomitake wandering into the woods and she stops him to say something about her and Takano, only for Takano to emerge from the trees. She wants to talk to Rika too. I wonder what about, and if and how this latest loop, so ideal and peaceful so far, will suddenly go sideways.

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 15 – Scratch Off

After coming so close to a good ending only for a crazed Ooishi to kill everyone, Rika is buoyed by her friends to try five more loops before using the fragment of the weapon she can use to kill herself for good. I figured the loops would gradually unfold in the next few episodes. Instead, we get all but one in one go!

This new loop starts out promisingly, with Ooishi and Keiichi getting along famously over their shared love of mahjongg (stop trying to teach us mahjongg, anime!) Ooishi’s mahjong buddy also makes an appearance: Akasaka, who is introduced with a soft filter and angelic light.

Back in 1978, one of Rika’s predictions saved his wife Yukie’s life, and he’s come to return the favor. Rika asks him to stay for the entirety of the Watanagashi Festival, and he agrees. Rika is genuinely happy and hopeful about this development!

Then there’s a smash cut to her covered in stab wounds and bleeding out on a tatami mat. Akasaka is the crazy killer scratching his throat out. Even as she burns Rika laughs out loud at how whimsical fate is, puts up her hand, lowers one finger, and snaps.

The episode doesn’t bother with the lighthearted fluff; we just fast-forward directly to the killing, as Mion and Shion’s mother is this loop’s crazed slasher, and she uses her katana to behead her own daughter, vowing to erase their family’s blood for good. Rika lowers two fingers and snaps just as her shoulders are relieved of her head.

In the next loop, Kimiyoshi is the killer, and drags Rika by a rope, rows her into the middle of a swamp, and tosses her overboard with a rock to drown her as a sacrifice…but not before Rika has to endure way too much unhinged monologue and bad breath for her taste. As she sinks into the swamp, she lowers three fingers and snaps.

Just when we’re wondering what ridiulous hell-scenario Rika will end up in next, there are columns of riot police outside the cosplay cafe, where a very itchy Keiichi is bludgening everyone to death, including Rena, who can’t get him to wake up from the bad dream. Rika gets Keiichi to end her life quickly by telling him the secret to getting rid of the “maggots in his neck” is to bash her skull in and eat her brains. She lowers four fingers and snaps.

These loops have become the most unbearably hellish torture for Rika, who is trapped in the goriest version of Groundhog Day ever. It is by far the bloodiest and hardest-to-watch episode of Gou to date. Those scratching sounds…Jesus. If Rika keeps to her plan, she’ll only have one more life to endure before ending it by her own hand. But will that really work?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 14 – Parting Gift

In the previous episode Rena informs Keiichi that they’re the only two survivors among their circle of friends, but this week we have the dubious honor of watching Ooishi’s rampage unfold in real time, and I’m not sure I needed that.

Watching the crazed detective choke Rika while scratching out his throat (due to the itch of Oyashiro’s curse, no doubt) and shooting anyone who comes near (including the Sonozaki twins and Satoko) before beating Rika’s head in with a bat is not my idea of a fun time.

When Rika wakes up, it’s in the strange space filled with pieces of a temple and glowing shards, and she’s welcomed by Hanyuu once more. Rika’s apparently been at this for over a century, trapped in Hinamizawa, but every loop ends the same: with her and plenty of others dying.

Only now, apparently, Hanyuu (or rather the “echo” of her) has used “the last of her power” to ensure Rika retains the memories of her past loops so she can learn from them. This sounds like absolute torture of Steins;Gate proportions to me. What kind of friend is this Hanyuu?!

Hanyuu also informs Rika of the Onigari-no-ryuou, a sacred sword that can kill a looper. She calls it a parting gift, because after telling her where to find it (the shed) she bids Rika adieu, and Rika wakes up in a fresh new loop.

Now that she knows of a weapon that can kill her for good, Rika, who looks for all the world to have had her fill of all this, can’t quite hide her depressive state from the others. She picks hide-and-seek for their club game, with the caveat that she’s the only one hiding. Sundown arrives and they can’t find her…but they don’t give up.

Rika has given up, however, and after briefly cry-laughing from the cruelty of the sword not being where it should be (inside the statue of Oyashiro), she digs a little deeper and finds a small shard of it, which she deems adequate to “do the job.”

Just as she’s about to open her Carotid with the shard, her friends call out for her from outside, having finally located her at the shed. She decides not to kill herself after all. Now that she knows she can, she can go on a little longer—five more loops, to be exact.

While this is an intriguing new twist on the formula we’ve seen so far, as a practical matter I’m starting to have trouble overlooking the clunky, inconsistent character design of Higurashi, especially as I begin new and far better-looking Winter shows. This week’s score reflects my growing disappointment in the visuals.