, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m not sure when this will go up, but I’m starting this just two nights after finishing volume fifteen, which is pretty rapid considering my schedule lately. I’m excited, and volume fifteen left off on a good note, a very Higurashi note. Let’s hope volume sixteen can follow up on that.

1) Fringes:

a) p. 1) Firstly, I’m so happy I finally got a good name for this section. Basically the fringes refers to the parts before and after the actual story. The art pages and author’s notes, mostly. This time I’d like to look at both art pages, starting with the first one. Every character is shown holding a weapon. In Ryukishi’s note at the end of volume 15, he talked a bit about Rena’s weapon and what it represents; it is linked to her madness. But let’s look at all the other weapons people are carrying here.

Keichi has his baseball bat. If this was my first exposure to the Atonement arc, I’d probably think it has similar importance to Rena’s cleaver, because of how he used it in Abducted by Demons, and even Curse Killing. But, later in this arc, we actually see that bat getting very different use. Hopefully we’ll come back to this.

Mion has her pistol, which is an odd choice. Though it is a “weapon” in some sense of the word, and she always has it, it’s also a toy. I guess it’s just because it’s the only thing you can really link to her character; a Taser would be Shion.

Satoko is really the least interesting. The only time she’s hurt anybody was when she pushed Keichi off the bridge, and those were… unusual and perhaps delusional circumstances. She has a string tied to some kind of small weight, and I can’t tell it’s a weapon or a toy. Though she and Mion have never killed (at least, I’m fairly confident they haven’t), so it would match if they both had toys.

Finally, Rena, holding the big knife she got very familiar with back in the Eye Opening arc. All I can say is, what about the syringe?

Of all of these, the only one I’m going to be paying special attention for while we read (other than Rena’s cleaver, of course) is Keichi’s bat. The others don’t set off any alarms for me.

b) p. 2) The second art page depicts Rena participating in the cotton drifting, and Keichi watching from nearby. Oh boy, this is interesting. If we remember, the cotton drifting uses the word “wata”, which also means, “intestines” (I’m going by TNs; I don’t know this stuff), and the cotton-drifting was once the intestines-drifting, where a person would be tortured, ripped open, and sent downriver sacrificially. Rena may be participating in the clean, cottony version of that, but those cotton balls represent something much less “kyute”.

Also, the inclusion of Keichi in this, and the way he’s included mean a lot. He’s an observer. An observer of Rena preforming something very Hinamizawa. She’s worried that she’s considered an outsider because she left for a while, but she doesn’t even look over at the real outsider. Is this to mean that the curse doesn’t actually discriminate between real “outsiders” and true Hinamizawaians? I don’t quite think so.

While the art here does seem to imply that, what we’ve actually seen of the curse begs to differ. Who have we seen come under the curse? Shion. Keichi twice. And now Rena. While they are all obviously different types of “outsiders”, those who really are Hinamizawaians through and through (Mion, Satoko, really just anyone in the town, and no I’m not even going to entertain the possibility of Rika being cursed) have never been cursed. Now, the most immediate counterpoint to that is Satoshi, but he’s a pervious, so it’s hard to compare. For now I’m going to suspend judgement on whether the curse targets exclusively or primarily “outsiders”.

c) p. 9) Arg, as soon as I iron out this category, I right away try to slip something in that doesn’t quite fit. Page 9, that image. For anyone who’s followed TAH for a while, you may have seen that picture alright on here once. God, I’ve been waiting so long to actually see it in context. Circle: complete.

d) p. 84-ish) I would just like to take a minute in the middle of this blood stained chaos, this horrifying mystery, this story of sweat girl driven to murder two people, to reflect on the fact that the central theme of all of this is the power of friendship. Twilight Sparkle, you’ve got a really disturbing letter for Princess Celetia this time.

e) I just have to comment on Takano’s design in this part. Every arc this series has gone through, all it’s different artists; they’ve all been able to work in pretty much the same style, with the same character designs, very consistently. Now, suddenly, Takano looks very different than I’m used to.

2) Protecting her Happiness:

a) p. 1) Rena says she kill Rina and is going to kill Teppei in order to protect her happiness in Hinamizawa. Now, that’s enough to unpack right there, but more than that, I want to use this to reflect on out previous killers’ motivations. Starting with Abducted by Demons, Keicki was prepared to kill to protect himself; he probably would have called it all self defense. Shion killed to protect the Satoshi in her heart. And Keichi killed the second time to protect his friends. It’s odd that this is the first instance of the motivation being to protect ones happiness.

As a philosophy student, and fan of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, I do tend to lean to the idea that happiness is the greatest good. Keichi sacrificed his sanity (and with it, his happiness) in Abducted by Demons. Shion gave up all chances of being happy again when she held on to her lost love. And Keich again sacrificed his chance at his own happy life in Hinamizawa when he decided he was killing to kill to protect his friend. But I don’t think this necessarily conflicts with the idea of happiness as the greatest good, the thing for which all men strive, because none of them realized the consequences of what they were doing.

Rena seems to have some idea of the consequences; probably not a perfect idea, but she recognizes that she’s going to an extreme to protect happiness. In some ways, I think this makes her the most rational killer we’ve seen so far.

b) p. 10) Contributing to my theory that Rena is the most rational is how she planned her second kill. While AbD Keich and Shion were totally out of control and spontaneous in their killings, and Curse Killing Keichi was planned the same way a six-year-old plans their hunt for werewolves, Rena actually figured this one out. I mean, she’s a somewhat small teenage girl up against a pretty well-muscled criminal, so she has to be smart. But she really went the extra mile, making sure it would be dark enough, and choosing a level clearing to do it. She gets an A+ in killing.

c) p. 13) Don’t call her Reina! Yes, you are a bad father!

d) p. 16-18) Now I have to do the rare thing where I criticise Higurashi. Again, I refer to the authors note at the end of the last volume, which really gave me more respect for Rena as a character. In it, Ryukishi explains that she’s not a ditz, and it’s a conscious act she puts on to hide the darker things going on in her mind. Now we see her, the day after she’s killed two people, sleeping in class and trying to play it off as her being ditzy. Here’s the problem: it’s not a convincing act this time.

This is supposed to be something she’s used to; it’s a core part of her character. I get that she’s probably under a weenie bit of stress after the whole two murders thing, but this is where that part of her character should sine. She should have a brief “kyute mode” moment, and then afterwards the cracks her her act can appear. The way it’s done, it just feels like part of Rena’s character that I’ve only just come to respect are being immediately brushed aside.

3) Abducted by Demons:

a) p. 25) And this is where I wish I remembered more about the Abducted by Demons arc. But we don’t have an eternal dragon to help us, so we’ll just try to make do. One of the things that made Keichi more suspicious of Rena was that she knew exactly what type of Ramen he was eating. Though apparently Rena knows these things because she happens to spend a lot of time with Keichi’s mom at the grocery store. This could also explain how she knew his parents were out that in in AbD.

b) This doesn’t really have a direct link to Atonement, but we’ve already started on explaining Keichi’s away paranoia, so let’s finish it up, shall we? Another thing that made Keichi suspicious was that Mion knew he had been talking to Oishi. But Keichi and Oishi had talked at Angel Mort, the restaurant where Shion works. It’s very easy to understand how Mion would get this information.

c) Just gotta throw this in here; death by dismemberment at the junkyard. Are we gonna get some clues about the dam director out of this?

d) p. 69) Another parallel between Keichi and Rena’s roles. In 1982, when Satoshi killed the people obstructing his happiness, Rena was the powerless newcomer to Hinamizawa that couldn’t help him. Now Keichi is that to Rena.

e) p. 85) “I would have killed Satoshi’s aunt!” Wow, we’re getting parallels to a whole bunch of arcs now. That’s probably true, given what Keichi did in Curse Killing.

f) p. 110-111) So I’m not crazy thinking of the Curse Killing arc. It’s bleeding into Keichi’s memory now. Maybe we’ll finally get some clues to make sense of that chaos? Probably not.

g) p. 196-197) The suspicious white van again… dammit, I’m getting tempted to believe in the conspiracy again!

4) Rika:

a) p. 28) Interesting. So when Keichi suggests spending club time at the scrapyard, where Rena murdered two people, we get a small panel of Rika looking a little dark. She knows, or at least has some suspicions about, what they’re going to find there. It could be that she wanders around a lot and has happened to stumble upon the site, but that doesn’t seem likely. We’ve told that that place is Rena’s personal haven. I think we can assume it was able to remain private for at least one night. So again, we drift into the supernatural. Rika obviously plays some big part in all of this. But how exactly does she already know about the murders? Does she know everything that happens in Hinamizawa, or just the mortiferous things?

b) p. 30) Just a brief follow up on that, as Rika comments, “It’s the same as always…” There’s nothing really new here; she knows more than she should, she’s experiencing the loop. Though there are two things I want to point out. Her tone, first. It’s bored. This horrific cycle that I’m still way into on the 7th arc has lost all excitement for her. How many times has is repeated?

Second, just how similar is this. The timing of Rika’s comment is just as Keichi et all are heading out into the trash heap to inevitably find Rena with two corpses. How many times has that happened? Because it’s a first for me (well, not including the anime). Do certain scenarios, or close permutations of them play out more often than others? Are the three we’ve seen, AbD, Cotton Drifting/Eye Opening, and now Atonement just some of the more common ones?

c) p. 40) Of course, no reaction for Rika when they find Rena cutting dead people up. She’s just in the background, hands at her side like she’s watching a really dull part in a play she’s seen before.

p. 43) Oh, it looks like she’s found a bug somewhere on the ground that’s more interesting to her than Rena’s explanation for the chopping people up thing.

d) p. 159) Tomitake clawed out his own throat again this year. A special Rika lethal injection, of course.

d) p. 66) Back to Rika again; god, she’s getting more than Rena out of this volume. When Rena criticises Rika’s inaction when Satako and Satoshi were suffering under their aunt, Rika admits she didn’t know how to help, and is guilty for that. But she doesn’t seem to have her usual, “normal little girl” veil up as she says this. This seems like something she’s genuine about, like it’s been something on her mind throughout these cycles. So the cycles must not include more than the one year’s events, or Rika would have somehow altered the year Satoshi was cursed. Also, this means whatever Rika is, her power is limited. That second part shouldn’t be a surprise, since she pretty clearly lost to Shion in the Eye Opening arc, but it’s still something to note down.

e) p. 96) Rika is surprisingly the first to join Keichi is throwing her support behind Rena, and she does so with a bit of an interesting story. She talks about her own struggles, and how powerless she feels. Now, for the other characters, this probably looks like she’s thinking about her parents’ deaths. But that’s not the Rika we’ve been dealing with. She’s talking about feeling powerless against the loop. And seeing Rena take hope of her fate has reinvigorated her spirit! Maybe, I guess.

5) Rena:

a) p. 59) I’ve for a long time classified Keichi as the stupid one, and Shion as the evil one. Now, with that laugh Rena’s indulging in, I can safely call her the psycho one. Also, she apparently agrees with me about Keichi.

b) p. 62) So while this part is about Satoshi, it doesn’t actually tell us anything we didn’t already know about him. Instead, it tells us about Rena; that she believed Satoshi murdered his aunt.

c) p. 72) “I’m just like Satoshi.” Rena seems to say that with an understanding of the fate it implies. She says Satoshi shouldn’t have killed his aunt, and this she shouldn’t have done what she did. Now she too will disappear, it seems. That would be the cycle, from Satoshi to Rena. But this time, the cycle breaks a little.

d) p. 134-135) I’ve just gotta return the when Rika was cursed the first time for a minute. At the time, she said nothing about hearing the extra footstep. But after Satoshi tells her about him hearing it, she recalls she did as well. I still think she was cursed the first time, and probably did hear it. But there is a possibility that this is her mind altering the events after the fact, via power of suggestion. Maybe it’s because she prefers to think she was cursed; it makes her feel safer than admitting that there is simply something wrong with her.

6) Keichi:

a) p. 83-92) I give Keichi a lot of crap. But right here, I kinda gotta love him. It’s just a tad cheesy, but this is one of least obnoxious friendship speeches I’ve ever seen in a manga. Even Rika, who’s been stone faced until now, is giving it some credit.

7) The Cotton Drifting:

a) p. 116) And just as things are looking up, and everyone is returning to their happy lives, he’s Higurashi to remind us that this is freakin’ Higurashi! We haven’t even gotten to the night when shit really starts to go down. The beloved Cotton Drifting festival.

b) p. 126-130) Of course, while Takano’s here, we have to deal with her wrong and stupid ideas >:P She suggests that the curse is carried out by people, specifically the people who passionately believe in Oyashiro-sama, religious fanatics you want to make it look like there’s a real curse in order to make others believe in Oyashiro-sama. We can propose three possible groups for this; The Sonozakis, The elderly who worship Rika and try to interpret her will (Shion is responsible for giving us this idea), or some third group loyal to neither family.

Given what we learned in the Eye Opening arc, I’m just going to take the Sonozaki theory off the table right now.

As for people interpreting Rika’s will, I see a number of problems in that. First and foremost, it seems unlikely that this should lead to the deaths of Rika parents. We don’t know much about them, other than the fact that they weren’t wholly on side against the dam, so it’s possible there’s some secret in there that would make their deaths understandable, but I’m not dubious. On top of that, the death of Satoshi’s aunt doesn’t fit, because Rika expressed guilt about not doing anything about that situation. But maybe she unknowingly motivated her followers to do it. But the disappearance of Satoshi himself is the biggest issue. There is no way Rika would do anything to suggest she wanted her friend to be demoned away.

And to the possibility that it’s carried about by an organization unaffiliated with Rika or the Sonozaki’s, again this can’t be the case because of the supernatural elements. The first three years we can’t say much about; the dam director, the Hojos, the Furudes; they could all be staged murders. But in the fourth year, Satoshi’s year, we know he was cursed. The extra footstep followed him. And every incarnation we’ve seen of the fifth years events also contradict this; the deaths there are caused by our main cast. The only ones really up for debate are Takano’s and Tomitake’s deaths, but I already attribute Tomitake’s in AbD to Rika.

I will give Takano’s theory some credit though. She’s right that the curse is carried out by people, I think. But it is a real curse, Oyashiro-sama’s curse, the spurs them to it.

c) p. 144 & 148) I can’t remember for sure, but I’m pretty sure that every year Takano has lent someone, the person who is cursed that year, her notebook on the curse, saying she’s never let anyone see it before. It’s an odd thing to be presented as something important, when every time the person how gets it determines that it really doesn’t have much they don’t already know. But every year they read it, and go on to kill. Except this year, Rena doesn’t read it.

d) p. 163) Rena throws in an interesting idea. The clawing at the neck is caused by maggots, the same kind she’s hallucinated about. It’s a possibility, but it’s got virtually no evidence behind it. Rika and Keichi have both preformed the clawing of their necks for us to see, and neither of them hinted at maggots. But, if that is what brought it on, that puts my ideas in a world of trouble. Rena saw maggots without ever (we can reasonably presume) getting the injection. So the throat clawing is not necessarily caused by the injection; it can just happen to someone who is cursed. Rena only survived it herself because she was restrained.

It’s a new possibility I’ve got to keep in mind, but it raises a lot of questions. What is the injection if it’s not the cause of the throat clawing, and what role does Rika play then, other than observer?

I do have one solid argument against what Rena’s saying. Shion. She was cursed, but we know she avoided getting injected, and she never clawed at her throat.

e) p. 169) Never mind that “Rena doesn’t read it” thing. She’s reading it.

f) p. 181) Dammit, Rena! Why couldn’t you just hold the book up for the translator for a few more seconds?! Although given the build up to this point, whatever Takano’s theory here is, is sounds much more interesting than her other theory.

Though the way it’s presented, the two don’t seem to be separate. One is a part of the other. Maybe she thinks Fanatic followers are perpetuating the curse, but the real secret is the reason why. Maybe they’re doing it to stop people from leaving or coming into the village, so to stop the actual curse from coming about.

g) p. 208) Never mind, just gonna write that parasite idea right off. Though I was thinking something close. I was thinking some kind of natural gas just outside the town caused it. It would explain why those leaving and coming in were cursed, but not those who never crossed the boundary. It could also be utilized into some kind of injection, wink wink, and could explain some of the Curse Killing madness.

There are a few problems with the parasite idea. First of all, as far as I can find online, parasites aren’t hereditary. Secondly, that doesn’t explain why it only activates when someone leaves the town, as Rena did. Finally, it doesn’t explain how the curse effects new comers, such as Tomitake and Keichi, who wouldn’t have had the parasite. I’m not going to bring up previous years, as all of those would have been done by people under this theory.

So that’s volume 2. Okay, I’m intrigued. This is the first time in a while that I feel so uncertain about my understanding of Higurashi, what’s important, and what’s a red herring. Good. That’s how I like Higurashi. Until next time,

Don’t Lose Your Way