So far with When They Cry, an anime about kids trapped in a never-ending loop of death, the longest story arc has been Eye Opening with 6 episodes. I managed to cram all my thoughts into one big-ass post, but there was a real concern at the time about the overall length. Well, now we’re in the second season, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Kai, AKA When They Cry: Kai, where the arcs’ lengths varies all over the place. Reunion was just a single episode, while the arc I’m starting today–Mass Slaughter–is eight. That’s absolutely too long for one post, so welcome to part 1! Expect the next several posts for the show to be broken up in similar ways for shorter reads and less stress on my end.
Oh, and I know that Wikipedia calls this arc “Massacre,” but my blu-ray collection calls it “Mass Slaughter,” and therefore so will I.
The arc opens with Rika, the little girl who’s aware that she’s stuck reliving the same death over and over again, floating in a void and thinking of all the times she’s lived and died in Hinamizawa. While reminiscing, she gives a fairly decent summary of the entire series:
Each and every one of these people, kind and loving in nature… Yet… When the gears of fate spin out of control, they start to become controlled by preconceptions far removed from reality, and they turn destructive and violent. However, the specific person who takes these actions differs each time.-Rika Furude
Dour stuff, but that’s to be expected when she remembers Keiichi going insane in Spirited Away by the Demon (even though we didn’t find out he was hallucinating until Atonement), Shion killing just about everyone in Cotton Drifting (even though we were led to believe it was Mion until Eye Opening), and Rena believing an alien conspiracy in Atonement. We find out that this is NOT a Moira MacTaggert situation (as I theorized in Time Wasting), as she’s instead sent from the void back in time to inhabit her own body. The time between the jump and her impending death has been getting shorter and shorter, so this time there are only two weeks left before the Cotton Drifting Festival. But she’s not alone, because we finally see the little girl with horns from the opening! Her name is Hanyu, and she’s some kind of spirit that shares thoughts with Rika. Apparently the two have been doing this constant looping for over 100 years, so that’s… something. Now out of the void, Rika accompanying Satoko as she gets a shot at Dr. Irie’s clinic–we saw her injecting something last time in Disaster Awakening. Satoko is sick with something, and it’s currently incurable. Also she doesn’t seem to know she’s sick? Yikes. Then it’s time for the club meeting at the local toy store. Rika remembers this story, as should faithful watchers/readers, since these are the same events from the opening to Cotton Drifting. She lets slip to Keiichi that she knows not only what game will be played, but who will sit where and who will win. It’s fate, and you can’t avoid it. Unless you ACTUALLY TRY TO AVOID IT, as Keiichi does by demanding a new game get played. But the result is still the same: he wins a doll and gives it to… oh. He gave it to Mion this time, not Rena. Now Mion’s heart won’t be broken, causing Shion to go batshit and murder everyone. Rika and Hanyu now realize that things can change, and they want to prevent as much pain and death as they can!
While cleaning items set to be auctioned at the Festival, Mion shows up with ohagi, a rice and bean paste snack. Keiichi is hesitant to eat them, vaguely remembering something bad about the ones Rena made. But Rena says she’s never made ohagi. Rika immediately perks up, since this is Keiichi remembering Spirited Away by the Demon. He thinks it’s a bad dream and something he doesn’t want to talk about, but Rika pushes him on. Sure enough, he remembers the needle inside the food. Later on Rena reveals that she’s been having dreams of murdering her dad’s new girlfriend, clearly remembering her events in Atonement. She was on the verge of actually doing it before she confided in Mion, who helped her out. And while people are remembering, Shion has had dreams of murdering Satoko, but also sought advice from her twin sister. Disasters are being avoided left and right through the power of friendship, so this could be a happy ending! Probably not, but still! Rika then thinks of what leads to her death. Local nurse Takano wants to protect Rika and Satoko for research purposes, so her death is a key domino leading to Rika’s. Realizing that Takano and visiting photographer Tomitake probably checked out the forbidden shrine before the night of the Festival, Rika finds them casing the joint. But fate can apparently be changed in little ways, so she lets the two in right then and there, but only if they promise to her her story. Later, the two tell Irie that Rika predicted her own death, and the trio wonder if they–and I quote the subtitles–“believe a child enough to set the Yamainu loose.” That’s a new name, I’m pretty sure. Some time later, the gang spends time with detective Oishi where he isn’t being a dick, so that’s also new. Then Akasaka shows up! He was the main character in Time Wasting, and in this universe he took Rika’s advice, went back to his pregnant wife, and prevented her death. Thinking she has enough power to change fate, Rika tests this by angering some bikers. The uniformed men we’ve seen multiple times scare them off, and then escort Rika home. But Hanyu doesn’t believe this will change anything, as it all seems to depend on whether Takano and Tomitake will enter the shrine the night of the Festival, thereby ensuring their doom.
But a new problem comes up: Satoko’s uncle Teppei is back in the picture, and he’s an abusive asshole. Oh good, we’re revisiting Curse Killing, one of the most depressing arcs in an anime about children dying. Rika asks Takano to mobilize the Yamainu against him, but Teppei is suspected by the police in the death of Rika–Rena’s dad’s old girlfriend–so they can’t take action with the police so close. Rika freaks out, screaming so loud she spooked both my cats. Hanyu says this world is clearly a lost cause, and Rika gives in to nihilism. At school, Satoko is missing and everyone is upset that she’s most likely being abused, remembering what happened to her last year before Teppi’s wife was killed and he went into hiding. Shion becomes furious since she’s been following Satoshi’s wish to keep an eye on Satoko, eventually deciding killing Teppei is the only solution. Keiichi stops her, correctly pointing out that she really wants things to go back to normal, and murder isn’t the answer. Shion threatens to kill Keiichi first and Mion is convinced she’ll actually do it, but Rena remembers Keiichi helping her in Atonement, so she stops Mion. Shion hits Keiichi with a chair, but he’s sturdy and stands his ground. Her bloodlust now diminished through the power of friendship, she’s willing to listen to the principal and teacher saying they’ll go to protective services. But nothing happens. Keiichi asks his parents what to do–his mother jokingly tells him not to plan a perfect crime, the thing he thought he was doing in Curse Killing when he killed Teppei–and they tell him to work within the system. The gang goes to the protective services headquarters; Rika tags along but doesn’t believe anything will change. The official says they’re working on Satoko’s case, but her accidentally thinking Teppei was Satoko’s father dashes all their hopes. Keiichi admits defeat, which is when Rika snaps back to her senses. He told her that fate can be subverted, so she won’t let him give up. Now back to his senses, he says he has a plan.
Turns out Keiichi’s plan is to rally the other students behind a second visit to the guidance office. But bureaucracy isn’t known for being empathetic or speedy, so even a group of people isn’t enough to convince them. But why stop at a classroom? The general village may hate the Satoko’s family for supporting the dam and won’t want to help, but there are others who would! So Keiichi gets the Dessert Pervert from Disaster Awakening and Shion gets the lady servers at Angel Mort, the local cosplay diner. Even Irie, Takano, and Tomitake join in, reasoning that they won’t stand out among so many people. But Oishi visits Keiichi and gives him a friendly warning: beware who you might piss off while doing all this. No, not Teppei–the Sonozakis, Mion and Shion’s family. The guidance counselors visited the Sonozakis to make sure that this push wasn’t supported by them, because getting on the bad side of the local crime bosses is a bad idea. So now the family that hates the Hojos the most knows all about this. Keiichi still refuses to give up. But enough noise has been made that Teppei allows Satoko to go back to school, where she clearly lies that she had a fever for three days. Keiichi, Rena, Shion, and Mion all try reaching out to the abused girl, with Rena remembering Atonement enough that she knows if she had trusted her friends early on, tragedy could’ve been avoided. But Satoko’s a shell of her former self right now, freaking out when she hears the principal’s footsteps, thinking that Teppei was coming for her. She’s rushed to Irie’s clinic, where we find out a bit about her illness: it’s the madness that seems to overtake people, turning anxiety into full blown psychosis. An episode later in this arc is titled “Hinamizawa Syndrome,” and that’s apparently the name for what seems to lead to most of these bad endings. It’s also revealed that Teppei will burn all of Satoshi’s belongings if Satoko leaves, and that’s all she has left of her missing brother. So the plan continues, with even more people going to the guidance office. Keiichi, Irie, and Rika are chosen as representatives, and while talking yet again goes nowhere, Rika is struck by the revelation that she hasn’t actually been doing anything. She’s been a passive observer for most of this, and no miracle will happen if she’s holding back. Realizing that Satoko’s release is dependent on the girl admitting she’s facing abuse, Rika says she’ll change her mind.
To be continued! This is an 8 episode arc, and that’s just too much for one post. The next arc is 11 episodes, so that’ll probably be broken up into three posts. I’m writing this as someone who has only watched these episodes so far, instead of finishing the arc and then writing about the first half with knowledge of how it ends. Does that make sense? Hope so.
Lots of stuff happened! We finally met the little horned girl, Hanyu. No idea who or what she is, but she’s been with Rika for the entirety of these time loops, apparently. Their dynamic is interesting, because while Rika seems jaded at times and Hanyu seems cutsey wootsey UwU and all that, it’s Hanyu who doesn’t believe anything will change their fate. Any time something looks even a little dark, she’s there to try and convince Rika to not try too hard, since everything ends in failure. But things are changing. Everyone seems to be remembering their past loops. Keiichi, Rena, and Shion all remembered their murder sprees, and are actively trying to avoid those bad ends. There’s a sense of greater comradery this time, with someone stepping in when another friend looks like they might snap. Unfortunately, this remembrance doesn’t seem to have happened to Satoko yet, as she’s stuck in the same abusive loop with her uncle and seeing no way out.
We’ve also learned about the organization apparently trying to keep Rika alive. Irie, Takano, and Tomitake are all members of something called the Yamainu, and they appear to be the uniformed men we’ve seen multiple times throughout the series. But… they’ve been bad guys. They tried to run over Keiichi and were stalking Rena, and… oh. Hm. In both those instances, Keiichi and Rena were suffering from Hinamizawa Syndrome, which could have put Rika’s life in danger. A grim way to protect her, but a hammer would see every problem as a nail and all that. But last time it sure looked like they were the ones who killed Rika. They at least chased her, abducted her, and deposited her dead body at her family’s shrine. I don’t have direct confirmation that they killed her, but it was heavily implied (not that we should take implications as fact). So are they anti-heroes protecting Rika? Is there a rogue faction within them who kills her? And what’s with Takano all of a sudden seeming like a good guy? She’s been creepy as fuck during the first season, but here she’s a fairly reliable ally. Maybe I was too hasty calling her the series’ villain, but we just don’t know enough about her and her mysterious immolation. I’m still leaning towards her faking her death, but I have no real proof to back that up beyond forensics saying the body found was dead when Takano was alive at the Festival.
And Shion is a main character again, which just strikes me as a little weird. It feels to me like Minimoose from Invader Zim–oh, yeah, she was always in their class and hanging out with the gang constantly! At least enough times that Rika doesn’t mention this being a new occurrence. It’s a minor thing, but it’s been bugging me.
Previous: Disaster Awakening
Next: Mass Slaughter, Part 2
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