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Apologies for the slower updates lately, but in my defense, Xenoblade Chronicles. Also, partway through working on this, chapter one of Higurashi finally became available on Steam. I think that explains it, now, volume eleven of Higurashi When They Cry, the beginning of the Eye Opening arc. Let’s read.

1) Shion

a) Starting off, we have the devil herself escaping some academy. We’ve seen enough of Sataness so far to have a decent idea of her character, but we haven’t really gone over it yet. So let’s get to that. What do we know about this monster? Well, apparently she’s running away from the school, she goes to work as a waitress in a cosplay café, she supposedly manages the Hinamizawa kids’ baseball team… We’ll unpack this as we go along.

b) Free spirit: For now, the school. As she’s running away she says, “More than anything, I was afraid of suffocating in this cage.” This is complemented by images of barbed wire. So she doesn’t like to be caged, controlled, she’s rowdy or disobedient. Good to know. She also lives in her own world, see 2a.

c) “Heave-ho!” “You sound like Mion.” “Well, of course … How is onee doing?” It’s an odd bond between the two sisters, particularly from Shion’s side. She doesn’t care for family, and really, who could blame her after what’s to come in this book. Heck, in the very next panel, she describes her grandmother as a “Demon old lady”. But what’s her connection to Mion that apparently means so much to her? Sisterhood, family. It’s not like they’re twins and, by sheer coincidence, happen to also be suited perfectly as friends. They get along alright as friends, but that’s not enough to justify the strength of their bond. While family in general isn’t very important to Shion, it seems sisterhood is.

d) “I don’t care who inherits the Sonozaki family anymore!” B-b-b-baaaaaka!

e) “Are you saying you shouldn’t try to be an individual when surrounded by totalitarianism?” I have no idea what heading to put this under, it fits in so many places. The Sonozaki family, the curse, the village… but let’s focus on the two sisters here. Shion is clearly pretty anti-fascist, but she and Mion are at odds here, so that means Mion is… well, she is the next head of the Sonozaki family, and while she says she’s not interested in inheriting the family, her attitude and actions are pretty in-line with the power structure.

I’m kinda thinking of Mion as Satsuki and Shion as Ryuko right now, that’s interesting… but Mion is perfect and Shion is evil! I can’t accept otherwise! Err, umm, please excuse my bias.

Though to counter this, Shion immediately makes the analysis I just made about Mion suiting the role of next family head. Shion is clearly guarded here, while Mion is casual to a fault as she gets worked up backpedaling her position.

f) So Shion feels trapped because she can’t walk around publicly except when Mion is in hiding, or else she’ll be caught. She’s trapped inside for day at a time. Now, while that may sound great to me, I can see why she’d be upset. That’s an angle that I don’t remember the anime covering, or if it did, it didn’t give it much attention.

g) Shion before she goes yandere on everyone, when she’s just in love and happy… I hate to admit it, but she’s honestly kind of cuet… for a demon.

h) Interting. So part of why Shion returned was because she was afraid Oyashiro-sama would be angry at her if she stayed away in that school. So Shion believes in, and has an intimate fear of, the curse. Until now I had assumed she was a more secular Sonozaki.

2) Hinamizawa Syndromea

a) When Shion escapes the school at the beginning, it’s played up as the big prison break thing for her. But there are two things that contradict that. The first is a little bit that brings us back to earth, one small frame of Shion landing on her butt after jumping the wall, and saying “Oww…” For a brief moment there, before Tatsuyoshi speeds in, the tension is gone and we can see the whole thing more clearly. Then we notice the second thing, there’s no one else. No one is chasing her, nobody seems to care that she’s gone. Even while getting away in the car, Shion turns back to gloat, “Good-bye, my dear St. Lucia Academy!” to no one. To her, this is a great triumph, like overcoming the world, to the world it’s a mosquito bite that you don’t even notice. This plays back into Shion’s character, she is very much focused on herself, and lives in her own world.

We could argue that this indicts her perception of reality is already off, and she’s already a victim of Hinamizawa syndrome, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of chance to call Shion crazy later.

b) So the academy is apparently religious, seemingly Christian based on Shion’s description. She says, “If I stayed [there], I’d either end up brainwashed or insane!” Right, as opposed to the local religion of Hinamizawa, which never drives anyone to insanity. I’m not sure if this is meant to be a cautionary message against, at least, the beliefs surrounding Oyashiro-Sama, but a connection can definitely be seen.

c) The pull for Shion to return to Okinomiya is interesting. It’s not the same as Rena’s return to Hinamizawa, obviously she’s not being taunted by demons, but it reminds us that someone cannot simply leave Onigafuchi. It isn’t a pit, as the dub often translates it to. It’s an abyss, which makes me thing Nietzsche’s “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” While Shion’s not as familiar with the Sonozaki family as her sister, she’s certainly fought with them before. And the Sonozaki’s are most certainly, and by their own confession, demons, monsters.

d) Shion remembers the dismembered body of the damn construction director from the war, but doesn’t seem to have any personal connection to the event. The Abducted by Demons arc left too many questions about this thing at the end, even if Keichi was crazy by that point.

e) Rena’s conversation with Satoshi about Oyashiro-Sama’s curse reminds me of something I never really carefully considered before. Rena escaped the curse. Well, not exactly, it succeeded in bringing her back to Hinamizawa, and continues to haunt her, but it didn’t kill her. Maybe it’s also possible for the rest of the village to escape the cycle then.

f) Rena tells Shion (disguised as Mion) that Satoshi supposedly opened up to her and admitted that Satoko was a burden on him. But we never actually see Satoshi say this, and after how much Rena freaked him out last time, I can’t see him opening up to her specifically. Also, as Shion says, Satoshi would never say that. So I expect there’s some Hinamizawa syndrome going on with Rena here.

g) Also, that’s now two times Rena’s implied that Satoshi is experiencing the same thing she went through. The way she describes it, it doesn’t sound like the Curse Killing arc Keichi experienced though. Also, we still haven’t seen any of this from Satoshi himself, so we’re relying on Rena’s word. Here psychotic, cursed word.

h) Correction: now it does sound like what Keichi went through. One extra footstep.

3) Tatsuyoshi

a) He’s the one who picked Shion up when she escaped. Just establishing the connection here; when Shion’s around, he’s always nearby, and I expect we’ll see some more of him this time.

b) Shion says to Tatsuyoshi, “Maybe you should give your little fingers lots of little kisses while you have the chance.” Foreshadowing.

4) Sonozaki Clan

a) There are a lot of rules and regulations to this family, so let’s try to keep track of them. First, “If twin successors are born, strangle one before giving it its first cleaning.” Pretty obvious power structure rule for this, though it is a little harsh. I expect the reason they kill them immediately is because of risk of attachment to the other twin. I mean, everyone else is already psycho, and the kid would still be easy to even as an adult given the amount of muscle the Sonozaki’s employ. They just don’t want Mion and Shion to care about one another because… well, we’ll see why soon enough.

b) “That’s the next head of the Sonozaki family for you.” “I don’t wanna be! Trade with me, Shion!” Stop! Don’t give her any ideas! Bad, Mion! Bad!

c) Oh good, Shion reminds us that the Sonozaki family made its fortune selling what was probably human meat. Even in a little joke, that managed to change the tone a bit, and move a bit more into the creepy. Perhaps that’s where we’re headed soon.

d) Rena says Oyashiro will punish Shion is she tries to leave, but Shion never did that. Quite the opposite, she’s done all she can to stay. So she shouldn’t be incurring Oyashiro-sama’s wrath at any time, in fact, the only wrath people she’s upsetting is the Sonosaki family. That this gets her in trouble implies that the Sonozaki’s play a larger role in the supposed curse. But I guess that’s not news.

5) Satoshi/Keichi

a) And so, after pissing off some bikers, Shion, as well as we, finally meet the man everyone’s talking about, Satoshi Hojo. Now, in the presence of this golden-hair modern legend, I have but one thing to ask. Why does everyone get so worked up over this kid? This is probably my biggest problem with Keichi, he’s bland, and from what I know so far, Satoshi is basically a blond Keichi. Well, if there is anything special about him, we should find out soon.

Also, Shion’s reaction to him patting her on the head, it’s so cuet and so tsundere that it almost makes me forget that she’s evil concentrated into a solid physical body.Shion pat

b) We get a brief refresher on the Satoshi/Satoko family situation, which makes me hope that there will be some hint to the Curse Killing arc in here, but I doubt it. Still, something else to look for over the volumes of this arc.

c) The footsteps following Satoshi in the rain could be Oyashiro-sama… but it could also just be rain drops; we don’t have any audio clues to help out with that. Regardless, the face is clearly just his uncle.

d) Satoshi’s grocery shopping skills… I suddenly feel closer to him. Does that mean I can have my waifu, Mion, now?

e) This is it, the call Shion got from Satoshi before the Cotton Drifting festival that we hear about in the Curse Killing arc. But in that instance, wasn’t Keichi calling Mion, and Mion said it was just like Satoshi? But her reaction there was more like Shion, and I think in those notes I said it was Shion posing as Mion. I guess this confirms it, but doesn’t explain why.

But the main question here is, does Satoshi kill his aunt this night, or just run away? He says he was planning on running away, but then the curse scared him out of it. He sounds like he’s being entirely upfront with Shion here (ironic, since he things it’s Mion), so I gues he was just planning to kill his aunt during the festival. His disappearance was not because he ran way.

f) He says he will not be erased, but at the same time seems to know he’s going to be unable to take care of Satoko for at least some time. Perhaps Satoshi somehow thought he could keep his spirit in Hinamizawa and that somehow lead to the two Keichi’s in Curse Killing? One being possessed by Satoshi. Or, maybe he really did never die, but when into hiding after killing his aunt to avoid getting caught. People would call them victims of the curse and forget about it. But that doesn’t provide much of an answer for the Curse Killing arc issues; sure it explains two Keichi’s, but if one was Satoshi, you’d think he’d be the one who protected Satoko. But we get a good idea of the one that protected Satoko, and none of it was that straight forward.

6) Other

a) What’s with the not being able to tell the difference between broccoli and cauliflower thing? Is it a Japanese thing, or a running gag that I just don’t get?

b) A stuffed animal that costs 100,000 yen?! That’s roughly $1,000, and keep in mind, this takes place in the 80s. I don’t have the exact inflation adjustment available, but it’s safe to say that that’s absolutely ridiculous.

c) Oh good, and now Rika’s getting involved in all this right at the end, and becoming another suspect in the death of Satoshi and Satoko’s aunt. And just to make things that much simpler, she may or may not possess demonic powers through Oyashiro-sama, and, as the cop-out goes, act in mysterious ways. Oh, and the Sonozakis! You know what, screw it! We’re done here!

d) Oh, and the stuffed animal is a giant teddy bear, and we end with possibly yaoi, confirmed pedo, furry bishi. Yeah. We’re SO done here.

e) Oh, and one last thing. Apparently there are five “mistakes” –things which are changed from the original story. So, I might have to update this when the Steam version of the Eye Opening arc eventually becomes available and I read it.

Don’t Lose Your Way