CONTENT WARNING: THIS ARC INVOLVES CHILD ABUSE AND EXTENDED TORTURE SEQUENCES
The first four chapters in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, AKA When They Cry, are referred to as “question arcs.” I think it’s a great name because I have a whole bunch of questions as to what the fuck is going on. But now we’ve entered the so-called “answers arcs.” I went into the Eye Opening arc completely unprepared for what I was about to see and learn, thinking it was going to follow the pattern I had assumed was there based on the question arcs. Is every question answered? Absolutely not, but I learned enough new things that I realized I’ve been working on some faulty logic about what’s really going on here. This arc is six episodes, so this’ll run a little long!
We open with a scene of a cackling Shion dragging Mion into her family’s torture basement while a tied up Granny Oryo is in the corner. Then we cut to one year before the main story, when Shion sneaks out of the private school her family sent her to. She recalls that twins are not allowed in her family, and she’s only alive because Granny Oryo didn’t strangle her when she was born. Ah, family… She contacts Mion, and her sister agrees to let Shion pretend to be her in public to avoid getting instantly caught. One day while shopping, “Mion” angers some bikers and is rescued by Satoshi, Satoko’s brother. Shion is instantly smitten and asks her sister about Satoshi’s personal life, learning that he and his sister are abused by their aunt. Instead of being a normal person, Shion’s takeaway is that Satoshi’s life would improve if his sister were out of the picture. While going to school as “Mion,” Shion learns from Rena that Satoshi is most likely cursed by Oyashiro-sama and that one of the signs is hearing footsteps following you. Satoshi won’t eat lunch with “Mion,” and Satoko crying when she spills her food sets Shion off. She brutally attacks Satoko, yelling that Satoshi would be better off without her. Satoshi rescues his sister by shoving “Mion,” causing Shion to wish that Satoko and her aunt were this year’s curse victims. Well, she’s half right.
Satoshi apologizes to Mion, who fields the call to Shion. He hates the Sonozakis for treating his family like cursed garbage, but he doesn’t hate Mion/Shion. Despite her almost beating his sister with a chair, but whatever. Satoshi asks “Mion” to take Satoko to the Cotton Drifting Festival the following night, asking her to take care of Satoko. While Satoshi grabs his baseball bat the girls are at the Festival. Rika tries to cheer up Satoko by saying all her problems will go away tonight (she was revealed to know everything in the Time Wasting arc), but that doesn’t cheer up Satoko. Satoshi lures his aunt to the outskirts of town where he bashes her to death with his bat, confirming to us that her death wasn’t caused by some drug addict. The next day “Mion” meets up with Satoshi, who is absolutely drained. Oishi shows up and asks the boy where he was last night, and “Mion” lies and says the two were together. Too bad the real Mion was seen at the Festival, but Shion recovers by outing herself as Mion’s twin sister. As the two are questioned separately, minions of the Sonozaki family show up for Shion. She’s taken to the family tool shed/torture dungeon where she’s berated by Oryo. Turns out those who helped Shion–her bodyguard Kasai and her uncle–are presumably being tortured, so the girl backs down and is willing to accept responsibility for her actions. What does “responsibility” mean? Ripping off her own fingernails, one each to save Kasai, her uncle, and Satoshi. She gets through one and a half before the pain is too much, so the last is removed by some goons as she’s knocked out. All is supposedly forgiven, but she’s ordered to forget Satoshi. Later in public as herself, Shion runs into Oishi who knows about her punishment, says a suspect was found in the killing of Satoshi’s aunt, and informs her that Satoshi is missing.
Researching Oyashiro-sama’s cursed victims, Shion realizes every one of them were enemies of her family. Creepy Takano shows up and recounts her theory that the murders aren’t supernatural and are done by people, reiterating that the number of disappearances must match the number of deaths (also that the town is descended from demons). Later, Mion tries to apologize for the whole “fingernail torture thing,” but Shion snaps when she thinks her sister is lying about Satoshi’s disappearance, narrating that a demon in her blood took over. But when she sees that Mion is also missing three fingernails, she relents and the demon goes back to sleep. One year later, Shion is shopping when she angers some bikers and is rescued by Keiichi, who she initially mistakes for Satoshi due to a strong sense of deja vu. Turns out Mion likes Keiichi and recounts to her sister how sad she was that Keiichi didn’t give her a doll. Wait, that’s the beginning of the Cotton Drifting arc… Seeing Mion sad over a boy reminds Shion of Satoshi, causing her to cry, only to stop when she hears footsteps behind her. Uh oh! The night of the Festival, Shion meets Takano and Tomitake who say they’re planning on visiting the forbidden shrine. Shion thinks evidence of Satoshi’s disappearance might be in there, so she tricks Keiichi into going with her. While in the shrine, the sound of running that only she can hear freaks Shion out. We cut to later when Shion wakes up after a night of drinking and overhears Oryo and Mion talking about this year’s victims. Shion fails her stealth check and gets caught by Mion.
Mion tells her sister that Takano and Tomitake were cursed by Oyashiro-sama, with Takano found burned in a barrel while Tomitake tore out his own throat. Believing her family to be behind everything, Shion tazes Mion, then goes and tazes Granny Oryo as well. We get the opening scene of Shion dragging Mion into the family dungeon, where she tosses her sister into a cell. Mion says she has no idea who killed Takano and Tomitake, but Shion doesn’t believe her. Shion goes to get information from Oryo but finds that the taser apparently killed the old woman. She whips the body out of spite and leaves her sister imprisoned. Pretending to be Mion, Shion discovers that a secret meeting is going to be held by the village leaders. She then convinces Keiichi that he’s the next curse victim in order to see who goes after him. We get a scene straight from Cotton Drifting of “Mion” questioning Keiichi about entering the shrine, but this time with context. Later at the meeting, “Mion” reveals that Tomitake and Takano entered the shrine, as did Shion. No one reacts to that last part, making Shion think the mysterious agent acting on Oryo’s orders is in this room. She invites the village headman to her family’s place and asks him about Satoshi. Shion freaks out when he calls the boy a cursed brat and freaks out even more when she finds out that her third fingernail wasn’t for Satoshi, but was for herself. She tazes the headman and knocks him out.
Shion relays the deaths to Keiichi over the phone, then calls village officials as Mion saying that the headman is missing. He’s actually in her torture dungeon, where she questions him about who killed Satoshi. He’s surprised to hear that it was actually Satoshi who killed his aunt, then explains that since a random drug addict was declared the official suspect, the only person who had the pull to do that was Oryo herself. Why? Potentially to avoid an investigation that could reveal something else. So there is some sort of conspiracy! Shion looks down the seemingly bottomless well for Satoshi’s body and hallucinates seeing his shadow. Mion is shocked to hear that he’s most likely down there, saying she would’ve stopped it if she had known. Shion snaps again and calls her a liar, leaving her sister in her cell. Since no one has come for Keiichi, Shion calls the boy as Mion and says that Shion has gone missing. Going to school as “Mion,” Shion corners Rika since she’s the head of the Furude family. Rika believes that Oyashiro-sama isn’t a vengeful god and would forgive anyone who entered the shrine if they truly felt sorry, but the fact that she knows about Takano and Tomitake’s deaths causes “Mion” to snap and attack her. Now we know why Rena was dirty and sad before talking to Keiichi about “kittens” entering the shrine! That night, Rika shows up at the Sonozaki house looking for soy sauce. “Mion” is suspicious but still helps her, which was the right move when Rika gasses her and tries to inject her with something. Shion turns the tables and injects Rika, excited at the idea of torturing the little girl. Rika, now using her deeper “adult” voice, says she’d rather die than be tortured and kills herself by repeatedly slamming her head into a knife while Shion looks on and cackles. Oh shit, that scene at the beginning of Cotton Drifting actually did happen! Satoko calls the house looking for Rika, and Shion convinces the girl to come over.
Shion calls Keiichi and tells him that the village headman disappeared because she told him she had gone into the shrine, causing him to remember that he had told Rika. “Mion” joins the search for the two girls, eventually freaking out on Keiichi, ranting about how Satoko is cursed. However, with Oryo, the headman–he died between episodes–and Rika dead, all the leaders of the three families are gone, meaning no one should be able to enact curse killings anymore! The townsfolk are suspicious that Keiichi knew Rika was missing so quickly, deepening Shion’s trap for anyone going after the boy. Later in the torture dungeon, Shion is ready to torture a still alive Satoko while Mion watches on in horror. Satoko starts to cry as Shion stabs her over and over again, but stops, saying she’s done crying because she wants to show her brother–who she believes is alive and will return–how much she’s matured. Turns out Satoko also blames herself for Satoshi’s exhaustion, which is a whole fucked up thing. But that doesn’t stop Shion from killing the little girl as Mion loses her mind in her cell. Suddenly remembering that Satoshi’s last words to Shion were asking her to protect his sister, Shion goes completely insane (as versus the mostly insane she was before). She now truly believes she’s a demon, someone Satoshi would never want to be with. Later Keiichi and Rena confront “Mion” at her place with her crimes, followed by “Mion” taking Keiichi to the torture dungeon so he can see that “Shion” is alive. Yup, the real Mion is so broken she doesn’t correct Keiichi when he calls her Shion. “Mion” straps Keiichi to a torture device and explains this is all his fault for not giving Mion the doll, keeping to herself the logic that Mion sad over a boy reawakened Shion’s feelings for Satoshi, which kicked the whole thing off. She knocks him out instead of killing him, then releases Mion and swaps clothes. She tells Mion to go and apologize to Satoshi at the bottom of the well, but Mion argues that she believed Oryo when the old woman said that the Sonozaki family has nothing to do with any of the curse killings. Shion calls bullshit, tazes Mion so she falls to her death, and is rescued by the police thinking she’s the missing Shion, which she is, but she wasn’t really missing…? It’s a thing. Later on she sneaks out of her apartment dressed as Mion to stab Keiichi, but upon returning she accidentally falls to her death.
Well, that was a lot! Beyond the gruesome torture sequences and child abuses, these episodes have given us a lot of background on Shion and Mion’s family and explained what was really happening during Cotton Drifting. I noted in that post how weird it was that Mion at the end was talking as if she didn’t know who she really was anymore, and turns out that’s exactly what was happening to Shion. Keiichi realizing that Shion couldn’t have told the headman she went into the shrine is explained by Shion pretending to be Mion while claiming the real Shion was missing. Also, I made the mistake of taking Demon Mion at her word regarding the deeds of her family. So the Sonozakis aren’t orchestrating the murders and disappearances? Oyro could’ve absolutely lied to Mion about it, but the girl truly believed her Granny, meaning all these deaths are now once again unexplained.
So is this what the answer arcs are going to be? Revisiting a previous arc, but through the view of a different character? That could absolutely mean that we’d finally find out why Rena and Mion had evil cat eyes and tried to kill Keiichi in Spirited Away by the Demon, or who killed Rika at the end of Curse Killing! This arc also added a new, tiny detail to the mysterious deaths of Takano and Tomitake by saying the nurse’s body was found in a barrel. I swear that wasn’t mentioned before, but it sure seems like each arc gives us a new clue to what happened to those two the night of the Festival. Also this was interesting in that it was told from the perspective of someone outside Keiichi’s core friend group, meaning the next arc could focus on anyone. Oishi investigating during Spirited Away by the Demon before we found out what an asshole he was? Irie watching the Hojo family during Curse Killing? Who knows! I certainly don’t!
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