We left off Higurashi Gou with Rika discovering a sword remnant she can use to kill herself and resolving to save Hinamizawa within five loops. In quick succession we watch Rika begin and end these new loops, with her deaths only growing more brutal and tragic each time. In the final loop, she awakens in her home with Satoko leaning over her. But it’s not an ordinary morning greeting. Without even getting a chance to try and fix this new world, Satoko has already been taken over by the ‘curse’ and Rika can only wait to die. But it’s this loop that provides the biggest hint to Rika’s fate. Satoko tells Rika that her looping is a curse / punishment from Oyashiro-sama for leaving Hinamizawa. Rika looks back at her time in Hinamizwa questioning when the place she loved turned to a place she despised. Despite promising to only try five times, Rika awakens in a sixth loop with her heart full of love for Hinamizawa and a promise to stay there. All seems well until the night of the Watanagashi festival…
When I was really getting into watching anime as a teenager I remember seeing YouTube compilation videos and having people telling me about how ‘insane’ the original Higurashi series was. To the point that had built up this almost impossible image of a brutal and bloody anime in my mind. But as I’ve been making my way through Gou I’ve recognised that this series isn’t too far off from my initial impression, and these last two episodes have certainly proved that Higurashi doesn’t hold back. In episode fifteen we see Rika killed time and time again by people within the village. It’s a confronting reminder that for Rika these ‘resets’ are a drawn-out torturous cycle. She remembers the pain and the fear each time she wakes up in another loop. And yet she has the strength not to hate the people who are under the influence of the curse but rather focuses on breaking the curse itself. This incredible strength faces breaking point when she wakes up in episode sixteen to see the ‘path’ over before it even begun.
Episode sixteen was truly nauseating. And I say that as someone who actively seeks out gory horror movies to watch. You may remember in an earlier arc, Takano telling Keiichi the ‘truth’ behind the ceremonial tools – that they were specifically used to remove people’s entrails. Well, thanks to Satoko, we get a demonstration of exactly how the tools are used. The whole scene is dyed in red, making for an almost surreal viewing, as Rika’s world has literally been stained red by blood. The blood of the people of Hinamizawa and her own blood which acts as a sacrifice time and time again trying to save the village.
The biggest revelation to come out of episode sixteen was the reason that Rika had been sucked back into the loops. Shortly after breaking free from the original loops, Rika worked to escape Hinamizawa as soon as possible, starting a new life far away. But, according to the ‘cursed’ Satoko, this was what incurred the wrath of the curse and Rika was dragged back not only to Hinamizawa but to 1983. I was surprised by how readily Rika accepted this as fact and acknowledged she had done wrong by wanting to start a new life away from the trauma and tragedy of Hinamizawa. I find it hard to believe that the ‘right’ path going forward is for Rika to resolve to stay in Hinamizawa for the rest of her life. Whatever is controlling this ‘curse’ has whittled down Rika’s fortitude and perhaps manipulated her into believe that Hinamizawa is exactly where she wants to be. I suppose having the words come from Satoko has made Rika think that she’s had a choice in this decision. But despite acknowledging that she loves Hinamizawa it’s hard to accept that this love and choice is given ‘freely’, more a choice out of fear of the curse.
As we progressed through these two episodes, there were a few points of interest that almost slipped me by, but have pretty big implications. For example the ‘cursed’ Satoko calls Rika the reincarnation of Oyashiro-sama and Rika describes the curse as a ‘syndrome’, rather than something actually supernatural. I’m sure these points were discussed in the original series and I’ve been thinking of going back to the original series to see if it helps make sense of the current show. But as I said early on, I really am enjoying my experience with watching Gou as a ‘newbie’, so while I may not pick up on everything, I’m quite content seeing how Gou goes.
With eight episodes of Higurashi Gou remaining it’s impossible to predict where the series will go to from here. One moment everything seems so hopeful and the next our favourite ‘nipaa’ girl is getting her intestines pulled out. It’s truly a wild ride and one that I continue to enjoy, even if some scenes make me loose my appetite. Let’s just hope that Rika’s suffering will be put on hold, at least for next week’s episode.