It’s time once again to talk about Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Kai, AKA When They Cry: Kai, the second season/series. We’ve learned a bit about the time loops the main characters seem to be stuck in, but so many questions still remain. We know that one girl in the friend group–Rika Furude–is keenly aware she’s trapped in these loops, remembering each and every one. What does it all mean? Why is the village of Hinamizawa trapped in this unending loop of misery and death? This arc, Disaster Awakening, does not answer those questions at all, but it does provide us some new answers! And also more questions. So many more questions…
Instead of opening with a moment of violence, this arc opens with little girl Rika talking to herself, feeling exhausted having to die over and over again, but quite surprised that her friend Keiichi remembered in Atonement what he did back in Spirited Away by the Demon. In fact, this story seems to happen in the loop immediately after Atonement, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, we see Rika’s best friend and housemate, Satoko, injecting herself with something while Rika watches. Could be insulin, but Rika says that it involves “researching that nutrient,” which sounds suspicious as fuck. It doesn’t get brought up again during the rest of this story. At school the gang meets up with Mion’s twin sister, Shion, who transferred to their school so she could watch over Satoko as part of Satoshi’s wishes before he disappeared. Sure, okay, that doesn’t worry me at all after Shion’s psychotic behavior in Eye Opening. They all play tag, which takes up a chunk of the episode. Dr. Irie shows up later and is still creepy over Satoko, and that’s when Keiichi first meets Tomitake and Takano, the two who always die during this year’s Cotton Drifting Festival. We have a summary of “Hinamizawa’s Series of Mysterious Deaths,” starting with a murder at the dam construction site, then Satoko’s parents, then Rika’s parents, then Satoko’s aunt and brother, Satoshi. We all caught up? Cool. Satoko notices that Rika has been acting strange lately. Satoko says that Rika should rely on friends, mirroring Keiichi’s speech to Rena in Atonement when they find her disposing of body parts at the dump. Rika freaks out a bit, asking where Satoko heard that, but the other girl says it just came to her. Are more people remembering things from previous loops?
With the Cotton Drifting Festival quickly approaching, Rika’s mood isn’t getting better. Doesn’t help that the villagers actively ignore Satoko, since her parents were proponents of the dam that would’ve flooded the village and were labeled traitors by all the other villagers. Some baseball shenanigans happen that involve a player being a dessert pervert–no, I will not explain that–and Rika momentarily thinks that the present is worth living in, but her mood sours at night again. Is she talking to herself, or is some unseen girl talking to her? Is it the girl with horns we see in the opening and closing credits? Regardless, Satoko once again hears Rika talking about impending death and brings the whole thing up to the others at school later. Rika does her cutesy act so the concern is brushed off, but Satoko’s not letting this one go. While Rika believes that she should face her fate on her own and that anyone she confides in will suffer, she’s really bad at keeping up appearances this time around.
It’s finally time for the festival, and Rika is… still horribly depressed. While her friends play games, she’s getting dressed for her role as shrine maiden for the umpteenth time. Everything is always the same and nothing ever–wait a second. One of the ladies helping Rika get dressed cuts a hanging thread from her ritual hoe’s tassel. Things can change? Had Rika convinced herself there was no hope? She performs her ceremonial duties, and then rushes to stop Tomitake and Takano from entering the forbidden shrine to Oyashiro-sama, ensuring their deaths. But she finds Tomitake too late and giving in to despair, she tells him he will die. He brushes it off, but Satoko overheard it all. The next day at school, Oishi shows up to ask Rika what she talked to Tomitake about since, you know, he tore his throat out last night, but she lies. Satoko also hears that, wondering why Rika would lie to the cops. Then Satoko starts seeing a man stalking her. Or possibly stalking Rika? Uh oh. Feelings of being followed are a sign that the person will go insane in this series, but normally we don’t actually see someone lurking in the shadows. Satoko becomes paranoid, setting up ropes to alert her if anyone comes near her place. She tries to see Dr. Irie about all this, but arrives just after he died from a sleeping pill overdose. A cop takes a crying Satoko’s story seriously enough that he says he’ll look into someone following the girls. But a uniformed man in a white van–the same van that’s shown up several times and has never been a good thing–shoots the cop while breaking into a… radio tower? A locked up building. That night around midnight, Satoko realizes that no cops ever checked in on her right as one of her traps is triggered by someone lurking in the night.
We get confirmation that Satoko is not just hearing and seeing things when Rika tells her to hide because the men that have been following the girls are actually after her. The men in uniform chase after Rika, capture her, and vivisect her on the shrine steps. I can’t remember if the repeated timeline says she died there or if they dropped her body on the steps, but she’s dead either way. Satoko finds the body and screams, alerting the men to her presence. They chase her to the bridge from Curse Killing, and while she does hide from them, she slips and falls into the river below. However, that means she survives the Great Hinamizawa Disaster, but wandering into the quarantined village and seeing Keiichi, Mion, and Shion all dead makes the girl’s mind snap. She’s rushed to a hospital where she’s completely unresponsive, with that anime dead eye look completely broken characters get. You know what I mean. Oishi is pissed that the only survivor is basically in a coma, since he has a bunch of mysteries. He doesn’t believe the Disaster was volcanic gas, he found Rena’s bloody hat a good distance away from the village, about 20 other villagers are missing, and he wants to know who murdered Rika. Satoko twitches slightly at the mention of Rika’s death, but Oishi leaves with no answers as a nurse looks on in an unnerving way. Back at the station, another cop is going to look for his missing partner–presumably the guy shot to death–when Oishi realizes that Satoko probably saw Rika’s murder. They race back to the hospital right as Satoko wakes up, realizing that Rena’s hat was actually a message. She presses the call button, but the same nurse turns it off. Oishi arrives at the hospital too late, as Satoko is dead from “heart failure.” He calls bullshit, but everyone in the friend group is now dead and this story is over.
So is Rika okay? The answer is clearly no. But the more these episodes went on, the more it seemed like Rika was having a conversation with some unseen girl instead of just talking to herself. I just feel like it’s got to be the little girl with horns, mostly because Rika and the other girl do the next episode previews together, implying they’re bonded in some way. People keep saying that they believe Rika is the reincarnation of Oyashiro-sama, so could the horned girl be the god? That would explain why in Eye Opening, Rika seemed completely convinced that Oyashiro-sama is not a vengeful god. I mean, if they’re living in your head and chatting with you, then you probably know them well enough to say whether they’re good or bad. But what would all that mean? How does this tie into the endless loops she’s trapped in? I think I have more questions than I did before, and that’s including that we found out who killed Rika (but not why).
While this arc didn’t have many answers, it sure did have a bunch of filler! I kept thinking the extended game of zombie tag–if you get tagged, you join “it” and hunt the other players–was going to lead to something. The water gun fight in Atonement showed that Satoko was a strategist and that Keiichi and Rena were fairly evenly matched, things that came up at the finale. But this game didn’t do that. The baseball game didn’t go anywhere, either (except some very weird places). And I lost track of the number of times Satoko woke up hearing Rika talking, only to be told that everything’s fine. I hope the weird pacing of this story isn’t indicative of the season as a whole, but I suppose I’ll find out more next time, which is an 8 episode arc that I’m breaking up into two posts.
Also, I don’t have a good place to put this, but I think this arc had a Donnie Darko reference? While playing tag, Mion tries to lure Keiichi out by telling a bunch of kids that his dad is here, or his house is on fire, or–and I quote the English subtitles–“A jumbo jet just fell onto Maebara-san’s house!” Granted in Donnie Darko it was a jet turbine, but that movie and When They Cry both are weird stories involving some form of time travel and repeating events. If it was an intentional reference, it was made for me and I like it.
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