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 – 10 – Leaving No Marks

Keiichi wakes up from a dream of beating Satoko’s Uncle Teppei to death with a metal bat, only to find Satoko is late for school. Keiichi doesn’ have any success asking Rika about her, and instead is approached by Ooishi for the first time in this arc. He asks about Satoko, grabbing Keiichi so hard on the shoulder it hurts despite not leaving a mark.

Dr. Irie rescues Keiichi from Ooishi’s piercing gaze, saying the locals call him “Oyashiro’s familiar” due to his obsession with solving all the crimes attributed to the curse. Irie also tells Keiichi about Satoko’s harsh home life ever since she and her brother Satoshi moved in with their aunt and uncle. Now, of course, it’s just Satoko and her uncle.

Satoko finally arrives, but looks depressed and sleep-deprived, and can barely keep up her peppy formal-speech act. After seeing this clearly-changed Satoko come and go without playing games with them, Keiichi, Mion and Rena finally get Rika to talk about what she knows.

Last night, Satoko didn’t come back from a grocery run until very late, only to tell Rika she had come to collect her things; she was moving back in with her uncle. This time the abuse is likely worse for Satoko, since Satoshi is no longer around to shield her. Mion mentions having called social services last year, but they offered only lip service.

The next day, Satoko is absent from school, and her friends rack their brains for how they can help her from what is clearly a worsening situation. They decide to go to an adult, Chie-sensei, and leave the matter in her hands, but when she visits Satoko’s house the Uncle stonewalls her, not even letting her see Satoko.

The excuse that she was in bed with a fever is repeated by a much more chipper and back-to-normal Satoko the next day, but while horseplaying during lunch Keiichi moves to pat her gently on the head, her hand reflexively slaps his away, and she vomits and has a complete mental breakdown, yelling how sorry she is and how much she “hates it.”

Not knowing exactly what kind of abuse Uncle Teppei is inflicting upon poor Satoko makes it particularly awful, since it forces us to contemplate the extent of it, but even worse is the fact that because Satoko lied about abuse to get her real father removed from the home, social services seems to be skeptical of any subsequent reports.

Satoko’s friends feel crippled by their inability to act, but know that if someone doesn’t do something, Satoko could end up dead. Will the violent events of his dream come to pass, or will he and his friends find another way?

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 09 – Never Make Her Cry

We reset back to before everything turns to shit, but as we’ve learned from the previous arcs, there’s plenty of shit lurking just beneath the shiny happy surface of Keiichi & Co.’s daily life in Hinamizawa. Having had Rika and Mion/Shion-centric arcs, now it’s time for the focus on Satoko.

When Mion brings in fancy leftovers, Mion and Keiichi agree to a cooking duel, but Keiichi is abysmally bad at cooking. Seriously, he’s so clueless he almost burns his house down. Luckily Satoko and Rika are there to not only put out the fire, but salvage his dinner, and Kei-chan is thankful for both.

As Rika puts it to Kei before biking home for the night, Satoko is in need of someone Rika can’t replace: her big brother Satoshi, who ran away from home under myterious circumstances. Despite, or perhaps because of their sibling-like combative manner with each other, Kei makes for the perfect surrogate nii-nii.

Simple things like shopping for ingredients, cooking them, and sharing meals together clearly brightens Satoko’s day immeasurably. Similarly, when Satoko needs someone to cheer her on in a crucial at-bat, Kei arrives just in time, and as a result, she hits the winning home run and wins her team free BBQ.

At this BBQ, during which everyone has fun, Kei meets someone new: Irie, who loves Satoko’s smile, and while he can’t adopt her for “various legal reasons”, has no qualms about citing his plans to eventually ask for Satoko’s hand in marriage when she comes of age. Shion is similarly enamored of Satoko, considering herself a big-sis figure.

Irie’s words to Kei—never make Satoko cry—sound like his prime directive for this arc, which he’ll have to follow to avoid disaster. But that will surely come anyway, since Kei overhears two boys talking about how Satoko’s brother Satoshi was a victim of Oyashiro’s curse.

The destructively-curious Kei is eager to pick at this particular scab, and while Rena will have none of it, Mion tells him more: Satoko’s parents were the leaders of the pro-dam movement, as the gov’t offered big payouts to anyone who agreed to move out of the village. They died falling off an observation deck, which is super-suspicious, while Satoshi is believed to have run away to avoid the curse, but could also have been “demoned away”.

In any case, part of “not letting Satoko cry” means keeping all this under wraps, especially around her. And as we learn, and as I’ve suspected since that unsettling end credits image of her looking frightened as a man in a Hawaiian shirt looms over her, Satoko already has enough to cry about.

As we see the loud, drunk, boorish “Uncle Teppei” lead her into an isolated house, It’s almost a certainty some kind of physical and/or sexual abuse is taking place. For all the people who love Satoko and are watching over her, there’s clearly a huge gap in their blanket of protection. However explicit the arc gets about this, I hope Kei & Co. can manage a way to free Satoko from this particular hell…assuming they ever learn about it.

Love Lab – 06

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While at the mall with Maki and Sayo, a boy who knew Riko approaches her. When Sayo wonders if Riko broke his heart, he blushes and runs off. She goes nuts trying to remember who he is. When a classmate tells her someone asked about her at cram school, Riko goes there and not only meets a second childhood friend, Jan, but the first guy as well, who doesn’t react well when she tells him she doesn’t remember him.

Back home she remembers him as Satoshi, whom she rejected in the third grade. The next day she goes back with Maki, who fails at trying to converse with Jan while Riko tries to smooth things over with Satoshi. Back at school, the council receives more requests for love advice, suggesting rumors they’re involved are spreading. When Riko and Maki’s guard is down, they let slip their involvement to Momo, a reporter for the school paper.

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This is an episode about complication. First, Riko, desperate to earn the lofty title of love master bestowed upon her by Maki and Suzu, is haunted by a guy whose heart she actually broke in the past, but can’t for the life of her remember. It isn’t until she’s up close and reads the same reaction she saw once years before that she starts to recall. And as it turns out, she couldn’t remember him for the same reason her mom gave, which pissed Riko off at the time: he’d gotten much manlier…as in he doesn’t look like a girl anymore (until he smiles, that is.)

It’s not just Riko’s love life getting more complicated. In the process of confronting Satoshi, Riko had to cut Maki loose with a guy, and while Maki has no earthly idea how to talk to a guy, Jan doesn’t make it easy with his aloof defensiveness (he thought Maki was making fun of him). But while she fails, she gained firsthand knowledge that some guys can be jerks. Romance aside, the complication that threatens Riko and Maki the most is the possibility their secret love advice ring will be brought out of the shadows, potentially ruining their reputations and the trust of the faculty, and thus ending their high school lives. Or…they could use the newspaper to anonymously publish their love advice…

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

AnoHana 10

This series’ ability to really tug at the heartstrings without coming off as schmaltzy, while simultaneously infusing so much life and emotion into every single one of its characters, never ceases to amaze me. This show has almost rendered RABUJOI’s 4-ranking irrelevant – just about every episode has been excellent and a cut above most of the rest of this spring season, now winding to a close. This was one of the best yet, when all the build-up around Menma’s “firework send-off” comes to a super-dramatic head. Not one minute is wasted.
Poppo, planner-in-chief, plans a farewell party. Yukiatsu isn’t planning on going at first, preferring to wait for the rocket launch itself. But after meeting Anaru, he comes up with a plan, one that is both devious and necessary for catharsis. He convinces Anaru to re-enact that day years ago, when she asked Jintan if he loved Menma. This time, he tells the truth: he does. I thought for a moment Menma was going to disappear right there – but she just cries, and later tells him she loves him too, and probably would have ended up marrying him if she was still alive. This kills Jintan, because this is also what he wanted.

He’s so desperate to keep her around, he even asks if its okay if she just stays. But she wants to go to heaven; his mom taught her about reincarnation, which is her only hope of her being able to talk to everyone else. Jintan wants her to himself; but considers that maybe he alone isn’t enough for Menma. It isn’t fair to her. Saying he loves her out loud sends Anaru into a crying fit, at which point Tsuruko tells her she too has her unrequited love, (Yukiatsu), but her situation is worse: If Menma goes, Jintan may warm to Anaru, but Tsuruko never thinks Yukiatsu will come around to her.

This brings us to the climactic firework launch, which is gorgeously presented; I particularly loved the quick “camerawork” which lent to the tension and gravity of what was about to happen: Menma is really going to go, and Jintan doesn’t open his mouth to stop it until it’s too late. It’s up in the air, and with it, quite a bit of weight. Only one problem: It Didn’t Work. Menma is still there, and all the issues that come with her still being there remain as well. That’s fine with Jintan, but the obvious question is, what now? Only one episode left; will Menma ever go, and how will that happen? Rating: 4