CONTENT WARNING: THIS ARC INVOLVES EXTENDED TORTURE SEQUENCES
When we last left Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, AKA When They Cry, three of the five main characters were dead. Keiichi murdered Rena and Mion in self-defense, but the drug they injected him with made him rip out his own throat, eventually dying from blood loss. So… what now? Do we continue the story with the survivors, Rika and Satoko? Does detective Oishi take a main role in investigating the strange and possibly supernatural happenings at Hinamizawa? Nope! We’re going to pretend the first arc never happened! Let’s get weird and homicidal (again) as we look at the second story arc, Cotton Drifting.
We open with Rika killing herself by repeatedly slamming her head into a knife while Mion looks on and cackles. Unlike the previous arc, that does not happen here, so that’s… a thing. In the story proper, Keiichi and his female friends enter a contest to win big money, but Mion has to pause everything so she can go to work. Keiichi however does win a doll that he gives to Rena, arguing Mion is basically a tomboy and wouldn’t want such a thing. She laughs and agrees, but we can tell she’s lying. Anyway, Keiichi goes to get lunch at a restaurant and his maid-themed waitress is… Mion?! Wait, no, that’s Mion’s twin sister, Shion. Sure, why not. After having a rather awkward introduction, Shion later delivers food to Keiichi’s house. The next day Keiichi thanks her for the food, but she has no idea what he’s talking about. So wait, Mion pretended to be Shion to deliver the food? Either way, Keiichi and Shion run into Mion, proving this isn’t disassociative identity disorder or something.
The Cotton Drifting Festival finally arrives, reminding us that the first four episodes didn’t happen–at least not for the purposes of these episodes. Mion’s jealous of Keiichi and her sister getting close, showing that the twins are not on friendly terms. Tomitake and Takano show up and catch Keiichi up on Oyashiro-sama’s curse. Are we going to have to cover that again every few episodes…? Hrm. Takano doesn’t believe in curses and thinks the villagers are responsible. During Rika’s performance as head of the temple, Shion takes Keiichi away from the crowd. They run into Takano and Tomitake at a sacred warehouse that is forbidden to outsiders. Breaking in, Keiichi, Shion, and Takano look around and find a giant statue to Oyashiro-sama, as well as a plethora of torture devices. Takano explains the bloody history of the village, all while acting… strange. Not slit-eye strange, but she seems to be enjoying this too much. The next day, detective Oishi questions Keiichi about the night before. After mentioning that Mion is the heir to the local yakuza, he tells Keiichi that during the night of the festival, Tomitake tore out his own throat. Oh, and Takano also burned to death, meaning there were two deaths this year. But doesn’t that suggest there will be two disappearances? Sucks to be Shion and Keiichi!
Some time later the town is upset because the village headman is missing. Rika, dirty and sad for some reason, asks Keiichi what he was doing the night of the festival, but he lies and says nothing. Rika says that if, perhaps, a cat got into the sacred warehouse, she would protect said cat from any dogs going after it. Keiichi basically admits everything to her talking about this hypothetical cat. At home, he receives a call from Shion saying that she told the village headman what happened that night, and that’s why he disappeared. But wait, Keiichi did the same with… Oh no! Rika! Keiichi, Rena, and Mion rush to Rika’s house–where Satoko is also living after her parents died from Oyashiro-sama’s curse–but the girls are missing. While Rena goes to get help, Mion starts freaking out–again, no slit eyes–saying that Satoko is cursed, what with her parents and brother being previous victims, and that Rika fell victim because she was friends with Satoko. The girls are nowhere to be found, but Rena proves she’s this village’s Sherlock Holmes by piecing together a timeline: The girls were making dinner, but Rika ran out of soy sauce. She went to someone’s house to get more but never returned. Satoko called the house to see where Rika went to, and the person on the other line convinced Satoko to also come over. So someone is directly responsible for the girls’ disappearance! Oishi shows up and explains what he knows about the village headman’s timeline, which freaks out Keiichi because there was absolutely no time for Shion to talk to him… at least not before he disappeared. Shion, Mion, or someone sounding like the twins calls Keiichi and cackles evily when he tries to confront her with this evidence.
Oishi meets with Keiichi and Rena, explaining that the cops can’t get a warrant to go into Mion’s house to investigate. Rena calls his bluff, accusing him of subtly pressuring Keiichi to go in first, giving the cops an excuse if things go wrong. Regardless, Rena and Keiichi do just that, accusing Mion of the disappearances of Rika and Satoko. Mion–who sometimes speaks as if she’s neither Mion or Shion–admits that as the heir of the local crime family she either was directly or indirectly responsible for every death and disappearance associated with Oyashiro-sama’s curse. She also explains that all the villagers have demon blood in their veins. Keiichi agrees to take a walk with Mion before she turns herself in. She shows him her torture dungeon, where a broken Shion is imprisoned. As for the two young girls, Mion threw their bodies down a well. Well, maybe not Mion, but the demon that has taken over her body, blaming its ability to take over on Keiichi breaking Mion’s heart when he didn’t give the doll to her. A bit much, but here we are. Demon Mion prepares to torture Keiichi but he keeps his cool and asks the demon to let Shion go and give Mion her body back. The demon explains that those are never going to happen, but leaves Keiichi un-tortured. Later as he’s packing up to move away from this hellhole, Mion shows up at his house. But the demon is in control, and she stabs Keiichi. That doesn’t kill him and while in the hospital, Oishi explains that Shion either jumped to her death after being released or was pushed. Then he gets to the real weird stuff! Forensics say that Takano was dead before she led Keiichi and Shion into the warehouse. And Mion was dead at the time Keiichi was stabbed–her body found in the same well with Rika and Satoko’s bodies. As Oishi leaves, Mion pops up at Keiichi’s bedside, ready to actually kill Keiichi this time.
So, uh… that’s a fucking lot to take in. Mion is the head of the local organized crime, is culpable for every death associated with Oyashiro-sama’s curse, and has a demon lurking inside of her. The pattern of these first eight episodes suggest that the next story will start over, occurring slightly before the Cotton Drifting Festival and most likely focusing on either Rika or Satoko, since the first 4 were about Rena and these 4 were about Mion. It’s an interesting way to tell a story, but I’m still not sure what kind of story the series is trying to tell. It can’t be four seasons and a sequel series of just the same two week period over and over and over again… right?
I’ve been avoiding spoilers for the rest of the series, but I have learned a few things while reading up for these posts. The arcs so far are “question arcs,” and later stories will be “answer arcs.” What does that mean? I have no clue; I didn’t want to accidentally find out something before it’s actually revealed. But oh boy, do I have questions! How much of this arc’s revelations should we keep in mind? Is this some completely different reality compared to the first arc, or did Rena in this story also have a mental break at her former school? Are Mion’s crimes only in this arc, or can we assume in every arc hereafter that she’s got a lot of blood on her hands? She took responsibility for the deaths of Rika and Satoko’s parents, so what happens if/when those little girls find out they’re orphans because of one of their friends? Hopefully we’ll have at least one answer next time, but I’m preparing myself to just have more questions.
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