This is technically the Answers arc to Abducted by Demons, so let’s review the outstanding questions. Who killed Tomotake, and how? My current best theory is that it was Rika with the mysterious. However, the still doesn’t necessarily explain the signs of a struggle.
Is the Director dead? Yeah, probably. So hints lead me otherwise, but it just seems too far out there; it would require a level of Sonozaki conspiracy I’m just not ready to subscribe to.
Who killed Keichi? Well, Keichi did. But why? It must have been the drug, but who administered it? I think that’s solely Rika roll, but she had virtually no presence in the dark parts of the arc. We see Mion and Rena do it, but isn’t Keichi paranoid and delusional? And thanks to the Eye Opening arc, Mion herself says the Sonosaki’s are not connected to the curse. Even if she’s wrong and was lied to, she wouldn’t suddenly be personally involved in Keichi’s death.
And, finally, the clock. The note and the syringe taped to the back of it. Someone tore part of the note out, the part that read, “Please investigate the case of the dismemberment victim again.” Why just take out that part. And leave the part incriminating Mion and Rena, and the part about the curse?
I doubt most of these will be answered here; I don’t remember Atonement dealing with Abducted by Demons very directly, but it’s still good to have them in mind, and hopefully pick up on any subtle clues.
But at least we know one thing for sure, and we can feel secure in our absolute knowledge of it. This one fact is a stronger basis for absolutely certainty then even Descartes “I am, I exist, is true whenever I conceive it.” And that knowledge is, the knowledge that Shion is totally evil. Let’s get the manga.
a) While I don’t remember Atonement being all the related to Abducted by Demons, our mangaka, Karin Suzuragi, certainly wants to connect the two. The second piece of fully coloured art, on the second page, is Mion and Rena, laying down and holding a syringe and a cleaver, respectively.
2) The Higurashi’s Cries:
a) We start off with a few words from Rika about, “the first time,” “the second time,” and so on that’s she’s “heard the higurashi cry. At first I thought she was talking about each year the curse has hit since it started, but the story always takes place in the fifth year, and she talks about “once it reaches seven.” I think she’s actually talking about just the fifth year, the loop. While we’ve only seen three times (four, counting Atonement), it’s happened many more than that. And Rika has experienced them all, and remembers them. For all we know, she may as well be Yuki in the endless Eight. Except a lot less boring.
It’s a fitting opening, because the loop of the fifth year is exactly what the Atonement arc is about.
Also, just as a little critical thing, that Frederica Bernkastel thing is really dangerous to a mystery story like this. I googled her, thinking it was a real person poet or writer and curious how her work might have influenced Higurashi. Don’t do it. You will find nothing but spoilers.
b) Right away, we get another nod to the cycle. “Early summer 1983” “Hinamizawa” “Once again.” I feel like Ryukishi was just thinking to himself, “Geez, how many times have I written this!”
c) So they finally give me a character I would just love to see killed, Rina, and she’s made it through every cotton drifting festival, every cycle yet!
d) The Higurashi cry, and god damn does it feel good! Though, one question. How did her finger nails get torn off. My first thought is that it’s a symbolic nod to Shion and her punishment. But I can’t really make any link there, and besides, Shion lost three nails, not all five. Maybe it’s not about the victim, but the perpetrator. At the time of Shion losing her nails, we were lead to believe the Sonozaki family was carrying out the curse. Now here’s Rena carrying it out.
e) Oh, and I’m stupid for almost forgetting this. Rena having her hand slammed in the door in Abducted by Demons. Of course roles have changed; it’s a related arc, but now Rena is the target of the curse.
3) Hinamizawa Life:
a) I guess this really is something we’re just gonna have to deal with EVERY arc, the early chapters before the horrors begin. The character introductions, the club games, and the punishments. I guess it’s so someone can jump in at any arc, but if that’s the case, why have them numbered over arcs. Like this may be Atonement acr #1, but it’s Higurashi series #15. It sorta works, but has some issues I think. Oh well, it’s at least always an amusing re-entry into Higurashi.
b) The pistol Keichi threw at Mion didn’t have nearly enough water to soak her like that. The only explanation to this is that there is a portal inside the pistol that leads to a bountiful source of water on the other side, and Keichi probably passed through a similar portal in the Curse Killing arc. That, or is fanservice logic, where you abandon logic for the sake of fanservice.
c) Keichi, stop wishing for “things to be like this forever” >.< It’s come true too many times already!
d) And Shion, I guess she’s just another character now, who gets her introduction, same as the rest. She never came up in Abducted by Demons, and then there was the Cotton Drifting, Time Killing, and Eye Opening arcs; we just haven’t had much time to see her as just another character. But now, her first appearance coming off the Eye Opening arc, I feel like I should… well, feel something. But somehow I think my bitter hatred and distrust of this Sataness has subsided… for the time being.
e) Also, is there something romantic going on between Shion and Kasai? I mean, ignore the age difference, I sure hope so XD
a) Rena is such a happy girl. Such a sweet girl. Until she catches a glimpse of her dad’s girlfriend, then she looks sorta psychotic murderer-y. Geez, I wonder who the psychotic murderer will be in this arc!
b) Speaking of Rena’s dad’s girlfriend, I don’t remember encountering her before. Her name’s Rina Mamiya, and the whole Rena being yandere for her dad thing feels much worse when you realize her dad is into chicks that have a similar name to Rena and look a bit like her.
c) So we get some details on just how Oyashiro-Sama cursed Rena before. We already know that she heard the extra footstep. And she felt his presence by her bed at night. Now we learn that she had hallucinations about maggots.
But beyond just the previous curse, we’re also diving back into curse territory. This arc really isn’t even gonna try to be subtle about who the curse’s victim is.
d) So it’s not clear that Rena’s early bad behaviour and even the attacking other kids it past of the curse. She never mentions anything curse related at that point. It’s only afterwards that she talks about Oyashiro-Sama coming to her. The aggression could easily be a response to her parents’ divorce, as she explains it. And the hallucinations could be a part of her psychiatric issues. No other person who’s suffered the curse talks about maggots being under their skin. Really, the only thing that links her experiences to the other curse victims is the one extra footstep, and that doesn’t eve come up in this version. I still think she did experience it, based on the other arcs, so I guess she was cursed… but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.
e) As for why Rena’s cursed, it’s not particularly not a particularly hard question to answer, but still worth putting down. The first time (if there was a curse the first time) was because she left Hinamizawa. Why her and not, I don’t know, someone who has more influence on that decision than the family’s little girl? I dunno. Arguably it also hit her dad seeing as he’s the one whose marriage fell apart through no wrong doing of his own, and he’s the one that had to deal with a god damn possessed little girl, but I think the argument is stronger on the side of the said possessed girl. We never get to learn much about Rena’s dad anyway, so I doubt Ryukishi expects us to take him seriously in the whole of the story anyway. Higurashi has anime parents, mean parents that don’t matter at all.
As for the return of the curse, well it’s only in this one arc, and it happens for the same reason anyone gets cursed in any of the arcs. You’re just the unlucky sap who Oyashiro-Sama chose this year.
f) There’s an interesting Sartre-like element to Rena’s “Rena/Reina” thing. By saying “I’m not Reina, I’m Rena. Rena is a happy girl.” she is setting a definition for herself, then trying to meet it. That definition is “a happy girl.” This is to avoid her freedom of being something other than the happy Rena. I wouldn’t quite call this bad faith, as she’s not doing it to avoid freedom entirely. There are tons of free choices she can make within the parameters of being Rena. In fact, what she fears isn’t a making a choice at all, it’s being a certain way.
g) “… family problems aren’t something you can solve by talking to other people.” First of all, agree to disagree. Second, which is it, are you cursed, or are you just a little pissy about daddy having a new girlfriend?!
h) Also, tip to daddy’s new girlfriend, if your BF’s daughter absolutely refused to be called by one name and offers up a perfectly reasonable substitute instead, calling her by the name she doesn’t like will not get you on her good side! Seriously, I think Keichi’s got some competition for dumbest character right here.
Oh, and she’s got her dad saying it too!
a) Finally, a different topic! Keichi tells Rena not to create barriers between herself and her friends, and then adds, “like what I used to do.” It’s quickly swept under the run when Rena asks about it, and we’re given no visual cues in that particular panel what he means. So I think there are two possible interpretations. The first, and much less useful, is that he’s talking about his relationships prior to moving to Hinamizawa. But that would offer absolutely nothing to the story, and is never followed up on to add to the character, so I can’t imagine why Ryukishi would include it. So I’m going with the second interpretation, which is…
Keichi is talking about her relationships with his Hinamizawa friends. And here it could refer to one of two things. Either Keichi had a rough start with is new friends off ”screen” in this arc, or he’s somehow remember all the fun we had way back in the Abducted by Demons arc. Good times. Goooood times.
Well, that’s all I have this time, but there’s a very nice endnote from Ryukishi07 in this one. I write these with the hope that readers are following along in the manga, so ideally it should be there for you to read yourself. I have nothing to add to it, but I encourage fans of the series, and especially fans of Rena to read it over.
Don’t Lose Your Way