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It has been a while since I last worked on a “This Week on…”, and for the most part that’s just been because I haven’t found any currently airing anime that I like. But nothing says that “This Week on”s have to be about current anime, or even anime at all. If I wanted to, I would be fully within my rights to say, today on The Anime Harvest, this week on Higurashi: When They Cry the manga, volumes one through eight.

So this is a bit of an odd one for several reason, the least of which being that this is a manga that, at least with regard to the volumes I talking about today, has been out for five years. It means a lot of it is probably already familiar to you, and also familiar to me. Before picking up the Higurashi manga, I watched the anime, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. So I was already spoiled on a good chunk of the series, and all of the volumes I’m talking about today.

However, the main reason this will be an unusual “This Week on” is also the reason I’m not too concerned about being spoiled. Higurashi was originally a mystery sound novel, and a damn good one. Even after watching the anime, the manga was still just as much of a rollercoaster for me because I still have hardly any idea of what the hell is going on most of the time.

I think anyone familiar with the series could attest that, other than the “Cotton Drifting” and “Eye Opening” arcs, the series hasn’t really dropped any clear answers on me so far. While the “Atonement” arc at the end of the first anime season is supposed to be an answers arc, I don’t think I got the answer. So I’m still stuck trying to wrap my brain around it. I thought, since I’m now done the manga question arcs (I know “Beyond Midnight” is next, but as far as I can tell it’s not a question or an answer arc), now would be a good time to retraces each one and try to put them together.

Of course, there will be spoilers ahead, so may the innocent be weary. Also, while this while this “week” is dealing with several volumes at once, in future I intend to continue to release these, one volume at a time, as I read them. With that lengthy intro out of the way, let’s start.

“Abducted by Demons” arc. I still don’t get how this was supposedly answered with “Atonement”, and my understanding of it still has nothing to do with “Atonement”. It seems pretty clear to me that Keiichi simply got paranoid and delusional. To back this up, there’s one scene where the power goes out while he’s on the phone with officer Ooishi, but the phone call continues, uninturupted. All the missing evidence of Rena and Mion trying to killing didn’t vanish; it never existed in the first place.

There are a couple problems with this theory. First of all, there are discrepancies between the manga and the anime. In the manga, it’s not really clear that the power goes out, there’s just a significant lighting strike and the rest I infer from the anime. But in the anime, the power goes out much earlier. In the time between when the power goes out in the anime and when it might be going out in the manga, Ooishi tells Keichi about Rena’s past. If Keichi was hallucinating, he could not get new, true information from that call, but he does.

Then there’s the letter Keichi writes in case he is killed. Part of it is torn out by the time the police find it. That part reads: “Please investigate the case of the dismemberment victim again. He is alive. Tomitake-san’s death was caused by a mysterious drug. This syringe is evidence.” But the mention of Oyashiro-sama’s curse and the incrimination of Rena and Mion are left in. The syringe is also missing, but that could be explained by their never being a syringe in the first place if we accept that Keichi is hallucinating.

So, who removed the missing part? We he says the other victim is still alive, I don’t see any reason to believe it. He says it because Mion refers to someone as “director”, which is a title the other victim had in a different context, but to think it’s the same person is a big leap with no supporting evidence. But it could still make sense if the village as a whole is in on the murders, and Keichi wasn’t crazy. Then of course they would want to get rid of the prompt for police to reopen investigation. Also, it would make sense to leave the part about Oyashiro-sama’s curse in, because that’s essentially their cover story. But why would they leave in the part incriminating Mion? Shouldn’t that lead back to the Sonozaki’s, and thus trouble for the village?

Shion might have gotten involved at some point (and yes, I will blame her for everything, because Shion is the devil), and left the part about Mion in out of some personal vendetta, but that’s just speculation.

Finally, there’s the supernatural explanation. This one can work from either side. Either Oyashiro-sama possessed Keichi, thus explaining his insanity, the fact that he clawed his throat out, and the call with Ooishi. Or Oyashiro somehow works through the villagers. All the difficult to explain things that come out if we don’t assume Keichi is delusional become easy to explain if we accept there is really something supernatural or demonic about the village of Hinamizawa. Keichi could actually have been possessed to claw his own throat out at the end. The missing needle could have been removed by villagers. Even the call with Ooishi… there’s a lot of odd stuff that goes on with Ooishi, so I’m skeptical if a lot of it is real.

In the end, the “Keichi is paranoid” explanation is the best I’ve got. Some of its flaws can be buffed out if we also assume that Hinamizawa is an unusual place with unusual people, but it’s not perfect. And the biggest question is still left hanging, but we’ll deal with that in the “Killing Time” arc.

 

Next, the “Cotton Drifting”, and this one I don’t really have much to say about. The answer arc here, I think, is as straight forward as they come, and even without it I had already figured out the main points. The zombie Shion by Keichi’s hospital bed at the end was nothing, just a way to throw some nightmare fuel at the viewer at the end. Keichi may have imagined it, or it may just be something for the reader. You can even see, from Keichi’s perspective, he should have had a clear view over the side of the bed, but he never reacted to seeing anything.

But there are still two things that transcend this one arc. First, the syringe. Why Rika had it at the end is explained in the answers arc, but that’s not what matters. It is evidence that maybe there was a syringe in “Abducted by Demons”. And given Tomitake’s death, the effects of the drug match up with Keichi’s death.

Second, Takano-san. She is one character that I still have no explanation for every time something weird happens. Whoever the hell she is, understand her is one of the two biggest things I still don’t get about Higurashi.

 

“Curse Killing”. This is the other thing I don’t get. The whole arc. And all three broad explanations are viable; insanity, conspiracy, and supernatural tomfoolery. This is another case of Takano-san screwing with things, but at least it’s a small part this time.

Let’s review the big curiosities. How was Keichi supposedly at the cotton drifting festival while he was killing Teppei Hojo? How is Teppei Hojo still alive? How did Keichi survive? Is the curse real? And just generally, what the hell is going on?

Let’s start with the namesake, Keichi being able to curse people. It… maybe? It is true that almost everyone he tries to curse dies, and when he specifies a way they die, it happens. But looking at the victims, it’s not so clear. First, there’s Takano, who he curses to be killed by fire. Takano is always an odd case so I’m not sure if there’s any point trying to make sense of it, but let’s try. While it is true that Takano’s corpse is found burnt, the victims list at the end starts that she was hung first. So that doesn’t line up with Keichi’s curse. Also, she was found burnt in the “Cotton Drifting” as well, which is just another oddity.

Second, Keichi curses Ooishi. It’s foreshadowed in the body of the book, but the main thing to look at here is the victims list. Ooishi is listed with the explanation “Went missing during an investigation.” There’s a possibility this could just be coincidence. After all, he was investigating something strange in Hinamizawa; it’s amazing he didn’t “go missing” ten minutes after setting foot in the village. Also, as said before, he’s a weird one. There’s a bit more on this, but that’ll be for the “Time Killing” arc.

Then there is Kyosuke, who supposedly committed suicide after Keichi cursed him. Again, reasonable coincidence could explain this. One of his co-workers, Takano, had just been found dead. We don’t know much about Kyosuke, but amidst the other things going on at the time, that could have been a trigger for him.

And then all of Hinamizawa. The “it could have been a coincidence” explanation is begin to feel weak. But there are again some discrepancies. In the victim list, neither Shion, nor Tatsuyoshi die in the disaster. They are both listed as suicides in hospital several weeks later. But the mere mention of Shion here just muddles things further.

I think Shion had a larger role in this arc then is immediately obvious. When Keichi calls Mion to ask her to bring Satako to the cotton drifting festival, her reaction is very telling. She thinks she is talking to Satoshi, and remembers him asking her to do the same thing a year ago. That’s more like Shion than Mion. Satoshi would have asked Shion to bring Satako, not Mion.

But none of that explains the real mysteries. How was Keichi at the festival? And what happened to Teppei Hojo?

One possibility is that, after killing Teppei, Keichi crossed worlds into one where he had gone to the festival instead. But this is easily discounted by the fact that the dirt were he dug the grave was loose. Also, Teppei is still dead. Satako claims he came home the night Keichi killed him, but we don’t have anything else to go on but her word. And by that point in the arc, I wasn’t willing to trust anyone, let alone Satako who was traumatised already. Even when Keichi breaks into the Hojo residence to kill him again, he can’t find him. Evenin the victim list, he’s listed as missing.

As for the body not being in the grave, I have three theories, all of which are insane, but this is Higurashi; insanity is 90% of the plot. First, the town knew what was going on. This would be too hard, since Keichi basically told Mion his plan. Residents of Hinamizawa cover for one another, and they knew Keichi was an idiot and wouldn’t hide the body well, so they moved it. This also explains why everyone said he was at the festival, to give him an alibi. But what doesn’t make sense is that they wouldn’t tell him that’s what they’re doing. Also, if we’re going with town conspiracy explanations, that contradicts the “Abducted by Demons” arc, where the town wanted to kill Keichi, and certainly wouldn’t cover for him. Maybe he just got in well enough with the village this time that they accepted him, but I’m not convinced.

Another possibility is Shion. Like I said, she answered the call earlier, she knew what Keichi was going to do, and she had Tatsuyoshi help her clean up after him. While this might not explain their surviving the disaster, is does set them apart as two outliers. In fact, given Tatsuyoshi’s position with the Sonozaki’s, he and/or Shion could have carried out the “curses”. They followed Keichi and saw threats to his safety, so they eliminated them. Shion, like Satako, saw the similarities between Keichi and Satoshi, and fell in love with him. But stretching that to explain the deaths over everyone else, and Keichi not dying; there’s just not enough evidence.

What about Satoshi? He gets talked about a lot, and is probably dead, but he might not be. At the end of the “Cotton Drifting” Ooishi finds the well with years’ worth of victims, but we never get a full list. It’s a shame, that list could clear up a lot. Is Satoshi down there? The Director? Well, as long as it’s possible that Satoshi is alive, I put forward this theory, that Satoshi returned to Hinamizawa.

What drives Keichi crazy is the fact that there is supposedly two of him in the village. But Satoshi looked very similar to Keichi. So hair dye and you would have trouble telling the difference. Maybe he went to the festival in Keichi’s place, or maybe Keichi went to the festival and it was actually Satoshi who killed Teppei. And while Keichi is falling from the bridge, just before the disaster, he says, “No …I… was never crazy… I had probably already disappeared. Yes. On the night of the cotton drifting.” I don’t think Keichi rent crazy. I doesn’t line up with the evidence. “He” did disappear, but which “he”? Satoshi, or Keichi? Only one is alive at the end.

Finally, the “Time Killing” arc. At least we can end this chaos with something more stable. I think. The “Time Killing” takes place in the same timeline as the “Curse Killing”, or maybe the same timeline as all the arcs.

“Time Killing” starts a year before the first year of Oyashiro’s curse, and gives a lot of the background. But there are only two things of note here, about Ooishi and Rika.

As I said, this is supposed to be in the same timeline as “Curse Killing”, or if not it’s extremely similar. But Ooishi plays a major role here. He went missing at the end of “Curse Killing”, and was supposedly cursed by Keichi. His own disapearence is never addressed in the arc, but he does say he had a partner go missing in the Hinamizawa disaster. In the victims list at the end of “Curse Killing”, Ooishi’s partner is indeed listed as missing. So, either the curse in “Curse Killing” wasn’t real and Ooishi was unaccounted for for a short time but ultimately fine, or Ooishi is in the Takano realm of enigma.

Then there’s Rika, who can accurately predict all the deaths that occur in the following years, including some of the deaths during the cotton drifting of 1983. The three deaths she predicts for that last year are Tomitake’s, Takano’s, and her own. All other years’ death apply to every arc, and Tomitake and Takano’s always kick off the 1983 cycle. So, what about her prediction of her own death?

It comes true in the “Curse Killing”, though still without much explanation. And she is found dead at the end of the “Cotton Drifting”. You would think that, like Tomitake’s and Takano’s, it should apply universally, to all arcs. But Rika is alive at the end of “Abducted by Demons”.

I don’t really have any answer or attempt at an explanation for this yet. But, we’re coming up on the Atonement arc soon, and maybe the manga version will shed some light on it that I didn’t notice in the anime. Until then, we’re all done here.

 

Thanks to anyone still reading. I know this was too long and too nebulous, but I really wanted to get started on it. Covering so many chapters as once, and doing more on memory than initial thoughts as I was reading is kinda against the concept of “This Week on”, but I think this was the best way to get it done. I didn’t want to go back and do volumes by volumes starting from the beginning, because I would already know what was ahead too much. But I also needed to cover these volumes first to set the foundations.

I wanted these ones out of the way so I could start clean with the next one, which will be the “Beyond Midnight” arc. See you guys then.

Don’t Lose Your Way

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