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We’re over the hump on Eye Opening, and at the time of writing this foreword, I’ve actually finished reading and started making notes for volume 14, the finale of this arc. I just want to say, the Cotton Drifting and Eye Opening arcs have always been the the ones I think of the most when I think, “Higurashi”, and going through them again in this manga has been quite the journey. I loved these chapters; they changed my perspective on Hinamizawa, and these last two are the biggest. But I’ll leave those final thoughts for the actual finale. For now, the penultimate chapter of these two arcs. Let us listen to those Higurashi cry.

1) The first thing I want to mention is small, but I find these are at their best when looking at the small things. The very first page of the book is a full colour art page, depicting Keichi, with Rena clinging to him, and ‘Mion’ off to the side behind them.

At first it seems a little off, like it’s in the wrong volume; these aren’t the characters we’re dealing with right now. Except they are. This one shot illustrates just how different they Cotton Drifting arc and the Eye Opening Arc are despite being the same story, simply by being here. It is juxtaposed to the story we’ve been reading so far, yet it would be right at home in the Cotton Drifting.

I think at their hearts, the Cotton Drifting and the Eye Opening arcs really are different stories, which are only linked by a chain of shared events. The Cotton Drifting is my favourite mystery in Higurashi, it has a clear solution or answer that you can reach without seeing any of the other arcs. The Eye Opening arc is… something different. Romantic Tragedy? Psychological Horror? A bit of both. Definitely Horror of Personality throughout (in ways much deeper than the other arcs). None of major moods or feelings that the Eye Opening arc defines itself by are present in the Cotton Drifting. And until this picture reminded me, I had forgotten what the Cotton Drifting was like.

This also has the clearest connection between Question and Answer arc so far, so for Ryukishi07 to make them so different is interesting. He is able to tell the same sequence of events in totally different ways.

2) Satoshi’s Disappearance:

a) Even if we accept Mion’s claim from last time that Satoshi’s disappearance was Sonozaki caused (seriously, you could just put “Sonozaki” on people’s death certificates around here and no one would question in, no one would dare question it), there are still some questions. The first one starts of volume thirteen; Satoshi withdrew all his savings before disappearing.

No doubt this could also be Sonozaki work, I wouldn’t doubt that the long arms of that family can reach into a kid’s bank account, especially once they’ve already gotten rid of the kid. But why would they? I doubt the powerful family would need the part-time savings of a teenager. Make it look more like he ran away? Maybe, but it’s not like the previous years’ disappearances were covered up or looked normal in any way. It seems like a pointless bit of effort. Alternatively, Satoshi might have actually withdrew his savings before the Sonozaki’s got him. But then why didn’t Satako get her stuffed bear?

Actually, the stuffed bear could be a big deal here. It was sold, and Satoshi requested they hold it for him, so it was most likely bought by him. But not given to Satako. So the Sonozaki’s may have gotten to him between when he bought the bear, and when he would have given it to Satako.

Of course, if Oyashiro-sama’s curse got to him, like, in the one extra footstep kind of way, then we have a different explanation. It would make sense, given his level of paranoia. When the police suspected him, he looked more like, “Oh great, now this!” rather than, “Shit, it’s all over!” He looked like there was something worse following him around already. But as to how it motivated his actions, the withdrawal, the bear, the disappearance; I don’t know.

b) Or what Ooishi said. The bear was bought by someone else, and the Sonozaki’s coerced him to leave to keep Shion from being romantically involved with a murderer. But he could have also been cursed… right? Dammit Ooishi, stop outdoing me! It’s like he’s a detective or something.

But Shion’s already partially debunked this. Someone else was found guilty of the murder, so why didn’t Satoshi come back after that. Well, maybe it’s because him simply not being charged for murder wasn’t good enough for the Sonozaki’s. He did it, and they know. They don’t care that the police lost interest in him, they still don’t want Shion dating a murderer.

And of course, if he is still alive, that could play into my ongoing attempts to make sense of the two Keichis in the Curse Killing arc.

c) As for the supposed confession for the psychopath, all bullshit. Sonozaki’s staged it. Why? Several possible reasons. One, to save face on their daughter temporarily being with Satoshi. They were out together a lot, and people saw them, so the Sonozaki’s wanted any rumors to stop, especially since Mion was also friends with him. Two, it was some amount of kindness or forgiveness for Shion’s going through with removing her nails. Three, Mion wanted them to day it; she wanted Satoshi to stop being seen as the murderer publicly, and maybe even believed it couldn’t have been him. I have no doubt that the Sonozaki’s could present a convincing scapegoat.

3) Tomitake & Takano:

a) So Shion tests Kasai to see if sneaking into the Saiguden would be a reasonable cause for their being the fifth year’s victims. But now, we can conclude it’s not. After all, Keichi was there too, and he survives the Cotton Drifting. Regardless of whether or not they sneak in in the other arcs, Tomitake and Takano’s deaths occurred for some other reason. Of course, Takano being how she is, especially after the freakin’ Curse Killing arc (it haunts me almost as much as Shion), exactly what that reason is may never make sense.

b) This is just a random thing I just thought of, but, regarding Tomitake, why haven’t we ever entertained the possibility he was cursed as well? This is more related to Abducted by Demons, and I’m probably thinking about it because I recently finished chapter 1 of the VN, but it could apply to all of his deaths. I’ve always been confident that in Abducted by Demons, Keichi was “cursed” with a paranoia, and somehow the curse also made him tear out his own throat at the end. Could Tomitake’s death be the same? It would explain the lack of evidence of drugs, the lack of evidence of bodily harm caused by others, and the erratic behaviour as if there were an altercation. No drug. Thought, the possible existence of that drug may be coming back later in this volume, so who knows.

c) Rika further confirms that their deaths are not linked to the Saiguden; she says they don’t let people go in because it’s scary, not because it’s some sacred crime.

4) Killers:

a) So Shion’s theory about a “person x” is interesting, even if only in that it is the only instance (at least, so far) of the series giving us a clear theory on the details of how the Sonozaki’s may carry out the curse. Though I myself find it Wild-Duck-Pokemon; one person behind it all, when we have so few specific Sonozaki faces to theorize about? It’s obviously not the current head, Mion, or Shion. And I doubt it would be Kasai, given that he’s kept secrets from the family to protect Shion until now. None of the others get much mention at all. And given the Sonozaki clan’s size, and mass influence, I would think they have several people to get these things done. Especially looking at the case of Tomitake’s deaths; he’s a big guy. Even the police in Abducted by Demons said it appeared he was in an altercation with several people, though… (see 3.b)

b) “There’s nothing as scary as a homicidal doctor.” Yeah, Valantine is my favourite Skullgirl too. Also, yes there is; you! Ya psycho yandere!

c) Interesting, so Shion dropped the tip about Keichi in order to lure out the killers. She could lead us to some good answers. Of course, this doesn’t work; Rika grants Keichi a pardon later, and likely any threat to his life was removed at that point. Still, good effort.

5) Other:

a) Keichi’s face when Shion walks away from him at the fountain, it’s like he’s dead. Like his fate’s already been sealed. But we know it hasn’t; he survives. So why foreshadow something we already know is not the case?

b) “You old Tanuki!” If I’d have to guess, I’d say that’s a reference to slyness. Like how a Tanuki can shapeshift, Ooishi is tricky and acts friendly while really interrogating you. Something like that. The English equivalent would probably be, “You old fox!”

c) The image of Shion with her arms wrapped over the city is surprising… weak. It reminds you that, right now, the heads of two of the families have just died at her hand, a next-in-line is in her captivity, and she’s now disguised to represent the Sonosaki family. It reminds you that, as much as it feels like she’s alone here, and outnumbered, she is probably the most influential person in Hinamizawa politics at the moment. But that’s only when you think it though. At a glance, it doesn’t convey much, and it elicits no emotional response.

6) Rike Furude:

a) We’re just closing up shop, but it would be a shame to let these last moments slip by unnoticed. First, the way Rika follows Shion. It’s only in four panels that we see her feet, but her footsteps match up perfectly with Shion’s. And when Shion stops, Rika bumps into her after taking one extra step… one extra footstep.

Here I am feeling all smart about noticing that, then I turn the page and Shion’s inner monologue just goes and explicitly points it out. This is why people don’t like to be told everything. It ruins the reward of noticing it yourself.

b) The syringe. And now Tomitake and even Keichi in Abducted by Demons being cursed might be off the table. There is a mysterious drug, and we’ll see its effects in action next time. For now it’s just interesting to note that Rika is the one who seems to have access to it.

There is still the possibly that this isn’t real, and Shion’s just imagining things. But I tend to believe that Shion’s curse and the Eye Opening aren’t like that. The events are presented as they really are.

Don’t Lose Your Way