CONTENT WARNING: THIS ARC INVOLVES CHILD ABUSE
We’re back after a short break with more episodes of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, AKA When They Cry. Last time was the Cotton Drifting arc, focusing on Mion and her surprise twin sister, Shion. Turns out Mion is the heir to the local yakuza and is in one way or another responsible for every death and disappearance associated with Oyashiro-sama’s curse. Oh, and she has a demon inside of her, which might be different from the reason the she and Rena were acting creepy during Spirited Away by the Demon. These next five episodes–the Curse Killing arc–focus on Satoko, a character whose tragic backstory hasn’t been fully fleshed out yet. By the end of this you might wish that was still the case…
The arc opens with a landlord finding a disemboweled corpse with a red star tattoo and nails driven into its fingers, possibly Keiichi’s fate at the end of the last episode? The tattoo leaves me unconvinced. The actual story begins with Keiichi’s parents leaving town for several days, which wouldn’t be a problem if Keiichi could cook. Or take care of himself at all. Rika and Satoko stop by to help out, with Satoko doing most of the cooking. She’s glad to help Keiichi because he reminds her of Satoshi, her brother who “transferred”/ran away/got spirited away by Oyashiro-sama’s curse. Later, Keiichi gets invited to a baseball game where he meets Dr. Irie, the team’s coach… and also the mysterious “Director” from the first arc! He re-explains Satoko’s tragic past, with her parents falling to their deaths, her aunt being beaten to death, and her brother disappearing. Irie is very protective of Satoko while also joking about wanting to date her. Gross. Keiichi asks Rena and Mion about Satoshi, and a dead-eyed Rena explains he was visited by Oyashiro-sama (much the way we learned she was before she moved back to Hinamizawa). Mion slaps some sense into her and asks Keiichi not to bring up the curse around Rena.
Sometime later, everyone is worried that Satoko has been home sick for several days. Detective Oishi shows up at the school looking for her and gets quite aggressive with Keiichi when the boy doesn’t help him. Dr. Irie shows up and later explains to Keiichi that Satoko’s abusive uncle Teppei is back, after he fled the town when his wife was beaten to death last year. When Keiichi checks up on Satoko she’s got dead eyes and bruises, but doesn’t want to cause a fuss with anything like, say, calling protective services–she believes that if she suffers through all these punishments, maybe Satoshi will come back, which is… pretty depressing. Later on Keiichi runs into Tomitake and Takano, with the latter acting creepier and creepier each arc. Keiichi learns between scenes what Tanako really thinks the curse is about, so he goes to Mion’s and asks her, as the heir of the local yakuza, to pick Satoko’s uncle for this year’s curse victim. Mion says she doesn’t do that, so that’s either a lie or the demon inside of her does things without her knowing. Hrm. Anyway, the teacher calls protective services but nothing comes of it. We find out that the man who fell to his death three years ago was Satoko’s step-dad, and she hated him enough that she called protective services despite nothing going on (that we know of), so now she’s the girl who cried wolf. Keiichi tries to reassure the little girl, but she gets triggered when he pats her on the head, freaking out and vomiting. It’s a rough scene.
Keiichi finally decides he’s going to murder Satoko’s uncle. He asks his mom about what mystery novels think is the perfect crime, and she responds that a so-called “perfect crime” would be one where no one suspects it was actually murder. Keiichi asks Mion to take Satoko to the Cotton Drifting Festival–creating a window of opportunity–but Mion is suspicious, since this is what Satoshi asked last year. Wait, did Satoshi kill his aunt? Possibly! While Keiichi digs a hole for the impending corpse, we get a flashback revealing he was a gifted student, something that’s kind of hilarious since from here on out he puts on his dunce cap and makes the worst decisions. On the night of the Festival, he calls the uncle from school, claiming to be a police officer who has Satoko in custody and need her guardian to come immediately. Teppei almost doesn’t go for it (Keiichi has proven himself to be a terrible liar), but finally relents. Keiichi waits in the pouring rain with Satoshi’s bat in ambush for Teppei to drive by on his scooter. Huh, it never rained on the night of the Festival before… Anyway, the murder is done, the bat and scooter are dumped in the swamp, but Keiichi lost track of where the hole he dug was. He rushes to dig a new hole then exhaustedly heads back to town, where he’s met by Takano on the road. She offers him a ride, and then asks if he dug the hole deep enough to hide the body. Uh oh!
Takano says she’s just kidding, but Keiichi is still on edge. He notices Tomotake’s bike in her trunk, but she insists that’s actually her’s. So, uh… that’s sinister as fuck. Keiichi thinks the whole thing is weird and wishes she would die from the curse. The next day at school, everyone is insisting that Keiichi was there at the festival but he’s an idiot and won’t accept the easiest alibi ever. He asks Satoko about how it feels to be free of her uncle, but she starts crying saying he was still alive last night. So, wait… did Keiichi imagine the whole thing? Satoshi’s bat is missing, so someone got killed. He rushes to Dr. Irie and spills his guts, because again, he’s a genius and an idiot at the same time. The doctor thanks him for what he did for Satoko, but behind Keiichi’s back says the boy is delusional. Keiichi wishes he too would die right as he finds out that Takano was found burned to a crisp. Did his wishing kill her? He sure thinks so! As Keiichi digs up the body to make sure it was uncle Teppei, Oishi shows up and orders the boy to keep digging. With some unfriendly help from Oishi’s assistants, the hole is dug as deep as it can go, but there’s no body. This would be a bigger deal if we didn’t remember he lost the original hole, but Keiichi is now convinced Satoko’s uncle is still alive. Oh, and Keiichi wishes death on Oishi for good measure.
Grabbing an axe, Keiichi heads to Satoko’s but believes he’s being followed. Her place is a mess with evidence suggesting someone ate dinner there last night. Keiichi finds Satoko naked in the bath counting past 5000, implying she’s been there for quite a while. He wraps her in a towel and rushes her to the hospital, but they stop when he sees a bunch of cop cars. Turns out Dr. Irie died last night from a sleeping pill overdose and Oishi is currently missing, leading Keiichi to the only logical conclusion: he’s killing people with the curse. The two avoid the hospital and head to Rika’s for some clothes, and along the way Keiichi the genius confesses to killing Satoko’s uncle. She tells him to go home, but a murder of crows catches his eye. That’s when he finds the corpse of Rika, killed by unknown means. Fuckin’ yikes! He swings the axe to scare the crows, losing his grip and getting her blood all over it. So of course Satoko finds him freaking out with a bloody axe over the body of her best friend. She runs and he chases after her until he corners her on a bridge. He throws the axe away in a sign of good faith and while he’s disarmed, Satoko explains why she’s cursed: as an even smaller child, she hid in the forbidden warehouse shrine during a game of hide and seek, and while trying to get out she broke the Oyashiro-sama satue’s arm (a thing I didn’t notice last arc when Keiichi, Shion, and Takano were in there). Satoko believes Keiichi is possessed and pushes him off the bridge, but before he hits the water he wishes death on the whole town. Some time after, a neighboring city gets news that poisonous volcanic gas had filled Hinamizawa, killing everyone… except Keiichi, who somehow survived.
So… uh… This was a much darker arc than I was expecting, and I went in knowing this was an anime about children murdering each other. It was easy to piece together parts of Satoko’s tragic backstory, but turns out it was worse than I had anticipated. Hell, at one point I thought the show was implying that Satoshi had sexually abused her, so I broke my rule of not looking things up to investigate that, because if that’s true… But according to the wiki, it’s not true, so Satoko was just regular triggered when Keiichi patted her head. Is she going to get a happy ending? Is anyone in this getting one?
But we got some new puzzle pieces this time. Unfortunately not a lot of them connect to anything we know. Takano is coming across more and more sinister, and now there’s the suggestion that she may have been involved in Tomitake’s disappearance before she ended extra crispy. While the idea of being possessed is brought up a bit, there’s nothing really added to answer how Takano was up and doing things while she was supposed to be dead, but it sure sounded like Teppi was abusing Satoko while he was supposed to be buried. I hope those are connected somehow, because otherwise that’s a weird detail to repeat. Then we have completely new stuff. It’s not a big thing, but in this version of events it rained on the night of the Cotton Drifting Festival, something that hadn’t happened before. And now Rika gets disemboweled at some point?! The pattern of the show suggests she’ll be the focus next time, but that arc is only going to be 2 episodes…
We’re coming close to finishing off the question arcs, which means the answer arcs are tantalizingly close. See you next week when, hopefully, things aren’t as crushingly depressing.
Previous: Cotton Drifting
Next: Time Wasting
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