When we last left Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, AKA When They Cry, it was one of the more depressing things I’ve ever seen. Well, at least in anime form (but to be fair I haven’t seen Grave of the Fireflies). Satoko’s personal life is just a never-ending parade of misery, which makes her so far not dying at the end of these arcs (unless everyone in the town dies) sort of a mixed blessing. But the pattern of the show means this arc is about Rika, the other young girl who doesn’t deserve this shit. What kind of story can be wrapped up in two episodes? Why, it’s time for a flashback!
Set 5 years before the rest of the series, the Time Wasting arc opens with a young boy being kidnapped. We find out he’s the son of a Ministry of Construction official, and the kidnapping is assumed to be related to the building of the Hinamizawa Dam Project. Police investigator Mamoru Akasaka is tasked with going to Hinamizawa and checking whether the locals are involved. He leaves behind his very pregnant wife in Tokyo, which is important for later. In the small town he meets up with Oishi, who explains that the town is basically run by Oryo Sonozaki, Mion’s grandmother. Akasaka pretends to be a sightseer and along the way meets a very young and adorable Rika. She says that the dam isn’t going to happen, and then things get… weird. Now with a much deeper voice, Rika tells him to go back to Tokyo before he regrets it. She laughs evilly and then faints, because sure, why not. Later Akasaka learns that the three main families of Hinamizawa–the Sonozakis (Mion), Furudes (Rika), and Kimiyoshis (the village headman)–held a meeting where Oryo sure seemed to indicate that they were involved in the kidnapping. They also know that someone is investigating, but haven’t figured out that it’s Akasaka. Evidence of the abducted child is found near an abandoned town, so Oishi puts on his bulletproof vest and leads Akasaka there.
Turns out the boy is there, but feeling unwell enough that Dr. Irie has to visit. Oishi and Akasaka encounter the doctor as he’s leaving, and Irie tells them about what he saw. The kidnappers try to escape, but the boy is rescued. And all it took was Akasaka getting shot! In the shoulder, so he’s mostly okay, but still. Ignoring Dr. Irie’s advice to stay in bed, Akasaka tries to call his wife but finds every phone he comes across has its cord cut. Rika encounters him at the same phone booth from Spirited Away by the Demon, and in her normal voice suggests that he head back to the hospital because making that call right now would only make him sad. Uh… okay. The next day Rika shows him the Cotton Drifting Festival, which at this point was just a bunch of people getting drunk and partying. Her voice deepens again and she explains that horrible things will happen every year on this date, and that she knows she will die in a few years. Before we see the rest of that scene, we jump to a point after the Hinamizawa Disaster where an older Akasaka meets up with a retired Oishi. Turns out on the festival night, Akasaka’s pregnant wife fell and died (the baby was okay), which means Rika knew about it before he did. He explains what else happened that night to Oishi: Rika predicted not only when people would die, but knew exactly who would die for the next 5 years. Her own death date was a bit more nebulous, suggesting she’s not always going to be found gutted on the temple steps. But in this story that’s exactly how she died, and 12 hours later the volcanic gas killed everyone in town. Oishi says the town saw her as the reincarnation of Oyashiro-sama, and Akasaka suggests she was trying to change her fate by confiding in him. All she wanted to do was be happy with her friends and not die, and yet this time it just didn’t happen.
So this wasn’t as depressing as Curse Killing, but little Rika is not having a good time. A time loop of some sort seems to be the thing, but what kind? What are the rules of it? It is anything like Moira MacTaggert’s mutant power? For those who haven’t been reading X-Men comics in the last few years, the big revamp was centered around the idea that Moira MacTaggert–a friend to Professor Xavier’s who had a minor cameo in X-Men: The Last Stand and a slightly bigger role in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse–was actually a mutant with the power of reincarnation. See, when she died, her consciousness and memories were transported back to her time in the womb, meaning she was born with all the knowledge of her previous lives. The loop Rika is in could also be something more like Groundhog Day, but Rika knows of events 5 years out so it would have to be one big loop. So if there is some sort of reincarnation loop, how old exactly is Rika’s consciousness? And if she has all this knowledge, why isn’t she more actively using it to try to save people? It’s a lot to ask a little girl, but if she’s been alive for several lifetimes she might be the oldest person in the world (in a way). This is all a lot of supposition on my part, but that’s where I feel things are going. Maybe we’ll get some actual answers next time, as this was the last of the question arcs. Onto the answer arcs, and hopefully some actual answers!
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