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Alright, last time the revelation that Takano is, to put it lightly, mean as stink fundamentally changed the series thus far. We have a culprit. But rather than answer a lot of questions, it blew most of them wide open. We still don’t know her exact influence, whether or not she’s to blame for each arc’s case of Hinamizawa Syndrome, what connection she might have to the previous years’ murders, who else in behind her, what “Tokyo” refers to, what The Great Hinamizawa Disaster is, or why she’s doing this in any deeper sense then to perpetuate the curse that she loves so much. This time, I’m hoping to answer a few of those questions.

 

1) Fringes:

a) pg 1; On the very first page, we get some art of Takano sitting with two notebooks. We were told in Atonement that these types of notebooks contain her weird occult theories about Hinamizawa. They also seem to have some kind of power to produce or increase a person’s paranoia. I think we can safely say at this point that Takano doesn’t believe a single one of the theories in these books, but what exactly are they, and why does she make them?

2) Takano:

a) pg 5-6; Takano’s monologue starting off this volume is, “On the night of the fifth Cotton Drifting, Oyashiro-sama’s curse became real, and I’m the one who made it happen.” This seems to separate the fifth year as something special in Takano’s eyes. The curse didn’t “become real” on the first through fourth years; it became real on the fifth year.

Maybe it is that case that it “becomes real” every year, but it seems more like this is something new to Takano; like in killing Tomitake something has change. Like she’s just now made her first move, in which case she wouldn’t have been involved in the previous years’ deaths.

b) pg 10; Takano goes off to “die”, and we see her driving up through the forest here, presumably the same general area Keichi buried Teppei in Curse Killing. But what’s interesting is that, in the corner of one small panel we see, she has the bike, the one that looks suspiciously like Tomitake’s, in the back seat. I’m still curious as to why she’d have it. If it’s about staging aspects of Tomitake’s death, you’d think she’d let the wild Dogs handle it. But maybe she’s driving in the area of Onigafuchi swam or something, so it’s just more convenient for her to dispose of it herself while up there. I won’t dwell on this because we’ll probably get an explanation within the same chapter.

Just a little amendment; I just realized that it’s the same car Takano put Tomitake’s body in the trunk of. So uh… guess she just likes handling the dirty work herself.

c) pg 22; We finally get some pretty intimate details of Takano’s plan. “Tokyo” refers to some organization that Irie and his clinic are only a part of. By killing the “liaison”, the undercover Tomitake from Tokyo, Takano will make “Tokyo” suspicious. Furthermore, her own death will lead “Tokyo” to believe Irie has gone rouge, and they’ll take him out. This explains Irie’s supposed suicide in the police notes at the end of Curse Killing. Why Takano want Irie dead, I still don’t know. And how much “Tokyo” knows about his and Takano’s studies on Hinamizawa syndrome is another unknown. If they know nothing about it, then this could be Takano’s attempt to eliminate everyone who could potentially prove that the events that take place in Hinamizawa in June of 1983 are anything other than Oyashiro-sama’s curse. If her goal is simply to perpetuate this curse forever, she wouldn’t want anybody like Irie around to tell people about the drug and mysterious illness that is actually behind it all.

d) pg 23; Okay, so the corpse to stand in for Takano being dead twenty-four hours wasn’t planned, but kind of serendipitous. Unfortunately nothing so far has hinged on that misunderstanding, so it doesn’t mean much to me. I guess Takano initially intended not to be seen as a walking corpse during the festival, but it doesn’t change much for me.

e) pg 123; So Takano’s lackey tells Rika Irie was the culprit. Not surprising that they’d “conclude” this, given that was exactly what Takano intended. But why tell Rika? It will make Irie’s, I’m sure soon to happen, “suicide” seem more suspicious, and if anything it will breed distrust in Rika because she’s already said that she can’t believe it would be him. Maybe they’re trying to keep her from talking to him anytime soon, but it just seems like they’re throwing wrenches into their own plan.

f) pg 170; “We follow the plan. We make sure R’s corpse is ready by tomorrow morning.” Okay, lots of thoughts to unload. First off, “We follow the plan,” implying that this isn’t a move unique to this world because R, Rika, was getting too close. Having Rika’s corpse ready by the morning of the 23rd is part of the normal course of events.

First question from that; why? My best guess so far, for the same reason Takano didn’t care that her own “corpse” was a little too ripe. It’s all mysterious and stuff. Cuet little Rika Furude, current head of one of the three families, a spiritual leader of Hinamizawa and the alleged reincarnation of Oyashiro-sama is found bludgeoned to death right around the time of the Great Hinamizawa Disaster. Fits right in with Takano’s plan, and it is consistent with the dead Rika Keichi and Satoko found outside the shrine in Curse Killing.

It does make me wonder about the world of Cotton Drifting and Eye Opening, where Rika died by other means, but I don’t think we can say whether or not that changed anything in the grand scheme of Takano’s.

I am mentally toying with the idea that, if say Rika isn’t found easily, they might use a stand-in corpse like they do for Takano, but we’ve seen no hint that they’ve damaged the body beyond recognition before, so it’s unlikely. Just the way the Wild Dog said “corpse” seemed a little family to Takano’s.

g) pg 179; We found out what “Tokyo” is!! It’s “A secret organization that calls itself ‘Tokyo.’” Phew, that’s a load off my mystery solving mind.

h) pg 183; Huh, the Wild Dogs were the ones behind the kidnapping. Makes sense.

3) Changing Destiny:

a) pg 12; Oh yeah, Rika made sure police were on the lookout for Tomitake on the road between Okinomya and Hinamizawa. So Takano running into them here should be unique to this world. And, incidentally, it causes Tomitake’s place of death to change a little. Though this does bring about a small problem in the series’ internal metaphysics.

As we learn from Rika, the worlds aren’t all the exact same. Little, random things can change is their based off of a whim. The things that don’t generally change are only so because they’re based on a will (ie; the Club activity in the game shop because Mion planned it for a while, and the particular games that they play because the shop owner wants to sell those ones). This fate can still be changed with just a little effort; it’s only a very strong will that can create destinies written so deep in stone as to form the three rules.

So in every other world, Takano dumped Tomitake’s body at the same spot. But now, she seems to have no problem relocating a bit. There’s not much of a will for it to be that particular spot, so why was it never changed before?

b) pg 25; Rika’s attempts to change the future have only made Takano privy to her taboo knowledge. This brings something up for me; how much does Rika get to remember about her death? She seems to remember enough to say she gets beaten to death in some arcs. This time, she may have just given Takano reason to target her, but why would she go after her in previous arcs?

Let’s leave Cotton Drifting and Eye Opening out of this for now, since there’s nothing very mysterious about her death there anymore. In Curse Killing we know someone or something attack her; she died at the shrine before the disaster. But does she even know about The Great Hinamizawa Disaster? Is she ever killed by it? Is that the strong will that fates her death; one not directed at her specifically, but the village as a whole? And she simply doesn’t remember it well enough to understand? Again, in Curse Killing something definitely went after her, so I may be wrong, but it’s been bugging me for a while.

c) pg 40; Despite the fact that we seem to have escaped Rule X and Rule Z, Rule Y still rears its head, as Tomitake does indeed die by clawing out his own throat, and Takano does seem to disappear. Rika realizes this in horror, and of course her own death is the third part of Rule Y.

Two comments here, one on Rika and one on the Rules as they apply in this world. Rika really never figured out Takano’s role in all this. When Rika knew things we didn’t about Takano at the beginning of this arc, and still trusted her with her life, that’s when I started trusting Takano despite all my suspicions of her. But now we get a glaring look at even Rika’s ignorance of what goes on in Hinamizawa. After so many worlds, Rika never realized Takano was suspicious. At the start of this arc, I came to see Rika as knowing everything we already knew, and much more. But that was just wrong. She only has known what has been in her own perspective. And we’ve been in Keichi’s perspective for most of this journey. Through him, we came to know things that she never imagined. In the Cotton Drifting we learned about the mysterious time incongruence about Takano’s death. And in Curse Killing we were practically told, “Hey, this chick is psycho!” And yet I threw that out just because Rika never saw it. Also, Rika is a horrible detective is she’s done this for over a hundred years and never once thought to tale Tomitake and Takano on the night she knows they’re going to die!

About the Rules, just a little reminder to not get hopes up. Sure, we haven’t seen Rule X or Rule Z yet, and they even seem to have been averted. But in both Abducted by Demons and Cotton Drifting/Eye Opening, those two Rules didn’t really come to express themselves until after the festival. There’s time yet.

d) pg 55; And Rika just realized that she totally put a bullseye on her back, and surrounded herself with archers, in the same move. She herself asked Takano to have the Wild Dogs protect her.

e) pg 61; Rika, I appreciate your courage and stuff, but you probably shouldn’t start dressing up as a deer right in front of the lead hunter. Even in the absolute best case scenario you’re going to end up locked in Rena’s basement.

f) pg 62; Oh, good. And now you’re throwing Ooishi under the bus. Rika, you really have no tact at all.

g) pg 67; Wow, Rika’s position here is… kind of horrific. She knows about the curse. So if she feels suspicious of a person, she has to check herself. She finally has some idea of the answers she’s been looking for so desperately this whole time, and it puts her in a possession that is psychologically wrenching, as she fears that she’s come victim to Hinamizawa Syndrome. She can’t bring herself to conclude that Takano did it because she can’t trust her own mind. But she can’t ignore it because this is the matter she’s lived a hundred dreadful lives for.

What have we learned about how to approach this in other arcs? Trust your friends. But we haven’t even seen Keichi, Satoko, Mion, Shion or Rena in this volume yet.

On a side note, has Rika ever been the victim of Rule X before? It a world that doesn’t appear in any of the arcs?

h) pg 71; It’s Tuesday, June 21st. Today Irie dies. Tomorrow, The Great Hinamizawa Disaster.

i) Rika keeps worrying about the world after her death, what her friends will go through. So she really doesn’t know about The Great Hinamizawa Disaster then. She doesn’t realize just how little hope there is of avoiding that destiny since, as long as she’s in Hinamizawa, she will die.

We’ve only known of three characters to survive the disaster. Keichi, in Curse Killing, and he went pretty nuts after that. Kasai and Shion, also in Cuse Killing, and they both died afterwards. Perhaps Shion’s suicide was over failing to protect Satoko after Keich called her. But Shion also survived some other time to make it to the Beyond Midnight arc. Given that she doesn’t live in Hinamizawa, I expect Shion actually survives most arcs.

4) Ooishi:

a) pg 48-50; Let it never be said that Ooishi isn’t damn good at his job!

b) pg 51-54; Really good at his job!

5) Hanyu:

a) pg 83; Hanyu says she doesn’t want to be left alone. Very Yandere-y.

 

6) Hinamizawa Syndrome:

a) pg 173; We started this arc with Frederica teaching us about the Three Rules and reset, something we had sorta gotten used to on our own but still benefited from some clarification. Now We have Rika teaching us about Hinamizawa Syndrome, something else we’ve pretty much gotten used to at this point, but could still learn a thing of two more about.

  1. b) pg 176; Uh, Rika-sensei, I have a question. If everyone from Hinamizawa has Hinamizawa Syndrome, and one of the conditions which causes the symptoms to become apparent is just not being in the city for a while, why didn’t Shion go nuts while at boarding school? Hell, why did they ever send her to boarding school if they knew about this? And how is she around in Beyond Midnight if she obviously had to abandon Hinamizawa for decades? Also, if Satoshi really is alive, he must be being controlled somehow; maybe “Tokyo” is using him as a test subject.

Though at least this does explain a few things. Shion and Kasai’s in-hospital deaths in Curse Killing (Shion’s being labeled suicide) could have been caused by this. Also, I’ve had another little theory for a while now. We know there’s a drug that causes stage V Hinamizawa Syndrome. And Rika showed us one that subsides the disease in Atonement. Perhaps these are actually the same drug; the effect just depends on whether or not you already have Hinamizawa Syndrome.

Hear me out, I’ve got some reasons to think this. When Rika goes after Shion in Eye Opening, she tries to give her a drug, and when Shion turns the tables and uses it on Rika, we see that the drug caused stage V, claw your own throat out, Hinamizawa Syndrome. Now it’s possible Rika planned to use this on Shion in order to kill her, but as we’ve seen from Tomitake’s deaths, it doesn’t kill very fast. Tomitake did go through the paranoia stage for a brief time before clawing himself. If Rika was trying to kill Shion, it would still leave Shion with plenty of time to kill Rika too, which sorta defeats the purpose. On top of that, if Rika has access to the drug that suppresses the syndrome, as we see in Atonement, why didn’t she try using that one on Shion? My answers, she did. It’s the same drug. Furthermore, the Great Hinamizawa Disaster is also this drug.

The story we’ve got for the Great Hinamizawa Disaster is that a large amount of gas comes down from Onigafuchi swamp and kills everyone. We also know Takano somehow causes it. Perhaps Hinamizawa Syndrome and this drug are both products of this gas. While we’re only told that everyone dies, it is plausible that the deaths are caused by clawing out their own throats, or even killing each other in frantic paranoia. But let’s get the actual evidence.

At the end of Curse Killing, we’re told that, according to some rumours, if the GHD was truly caused by a gas coming down from the mountains, Keichi would have been right in its path and should have died too. But Keichi was already in the late stages of the syndrome, and not only did that gas not kill him, for a long time it actually cured him. If the gas was essentially a massive amount of the drug, then it lines up perfectly with my theory; it infected and killed everyone who wasn’t suffering from Hinamizawa Syndrome, yet cursed the one person around who was.

c) pg 181; Oh, so Irie manufactured the drug that suppressed lever V symptoms. Find, screw my ideas then, but I hope you realize the plot holes that makes! If the drug only stops the level five symptoms, why did Rika even bother trying to get Rena to take it? It wouldn’t have stopped her paranoia. It just would have kept her from killing herself, but the way things were going that really didn’t matter much.

I guess the Shion one makes sense in that framework though, since Rika couldn’t cure her paranoia, she didn’t bother bringing the cure just the disease. The just wanted to get Shion to kill herself, but she still would have lasted long enough to kill Rika anyway, based on Tomitake’s response. You could argue that when Rika took it she died much more quickly than Tomitake, and will less of a fight, but I see two obvious reasons for that. First, she’s a lot smaller than Tomitake; the effects took more quickly. Sure Shion, along with pretty much everyone except maybe Ooishi is also smaller than Tomitake, even but estimating a mean somewhere between Tomitake’s time and Rika’s time would give Shion plenty of time in all out paranoia. Remember, Tomitake is in the trunk of Takano’s car for a while being transported, with the drug spreading through his body the whole way, yet still when he wakes up he has time to fight the invisible ninjas.

Second, Rika knew what was about to happen to her. As soon as that syringe when in her, she realized it was over for her in this world. So she may have decided to just get it over with herself before the drug compelled her.

d) pg 185; Okay, so it has nothing to do with leaving Hinamizawa, but the symptoms actually manifest if you get too far away from Rika. Putting aside the questions of how that worked before Rika was born (turns out it has always been a Furude thing), that gives me some ideas.

First of all, I guess now it’s obvious that the GHD is not caused by a gas leak; Takano kills Rika, everyone goes Hinamizawa Syndrome nuts. Pretty efficient way to genocide a whole village actually.

This still doesn’t easily explain why Shion is able to live outside Hinamizawa both before (at boarding school) and after (Beyond Midnight), but maybe that can be answered with some effort. The most obvious approach is that she simply never had Hinamizawa Syndrome, so she was fine being away from Rika. Of course, for this we need some understanding of how people contract Hinamizawa Syndrome in the first place. If it’s genetic or in the air throughout Hinamizawa, this makes no sense, as Shion must have it then. And we also have to think that, even if Shion wasn’t born with it, she would still have to contract it at some point for the Cotton Drifting and Eye Opening arcs. So there is something in Hinamizawa that spreads Hinamizawa Syndrome, is doesn’t spread it to the whole village at once, but it does reach almost all villagers. It would also make sense if it were mobile, so even if some villager doesn’t go to it, it will come near them. The source of Hinamizawa Syndrome is its “Queen Carrier” Rika.

Now, we don’t know exactly when Shion was sent to boarding school, but we know she lived in Hinamizawa at least until Mion got her demon tattoo. That’s quite a while, and just estimating characters’ ages, I’d guess that Rika was probably born by then, plus we’ve got whatever the source was before Rika to think about. But I’m not really worried about this because I think it’s safe to say the Sonozaki twins were pretty isolated growing up. Hinamizawa’s a small town, where everyone knows everyone else. But Shion didn’t know Satoshi until after she escaped the boarding school and came back. For her not to know another kid around her age in a town that small leads me to believe that Shion must not have gotten to go out much. So it is perfectly reasonable that she never met Rika before being sent away, and thus never contracted the curse back then.

Moving on to Beyond Midnight, we have some good news and bad news for speculation. The bad news is, for Shion to not meet Rika at all between the time she escaped and the GHD is kinda unlikely. Especially because we have to assume Shion had at least a little connection to Hinamizawa in that arc, and must have gone back at some point before the disaster. The good news is, we only need those right conditions to happen once out of the hundred worlds. Even unlikely events will occur given enough trials.

That explains why Shion manages to escape the disease in some instances but not in others. And it is a possible explanation for Shion and Kasai’s deaths in Curse Killing; if they were only weakly exposed to the disease, Rika’s death might take longer to affect them. But it doesn’t explain Keichi in Curse Killing. He lived in hospital for years and years after Rika died.

Also Tomitake; he comes by four times a year, he’s familiar with the club, so if being near Rika causes Hinamizawa Syndrome, he should have gone nuts every time he left. Akasaka too, given how much time he spent with Rika. Shoot, I’ve already killed my own theory, but hey, that’s the fun of this stuff! At least I have established that Hinamizawa Syndrome isn’t something villagers are born with, or caused by something omnipresent in the village, as Shion demonstrates.

My theory that killing Rika brings about stage V symptoms in everyone is out the window thanks to Keichi being a stubborn jerk and not dying in Curse Killing. When Rika dies in Cotton Drifting and Eye Opening as well, we don’t see any immediate change in everyone, so her death isn’t the cause of the GHD. Presumably, if she dies symptoms will progress gradually in villagers, not immediately.

Still, this would explain why Rika never tried leaving the village, and thus inadvertently escaping the GHD though. If she knows that people need her nearby to stay sane, she obviously can’t leave.

So Higurashi got me rambling again. Going off for paragraphs about theories, then disproving them myself or turning the page to find out I should have just read a few more lines. Good. I’m sorry if some of this is a mess to read, but I’m enjoying Higurashi a lot right now. I can’t believe that twenty-one volumes in, it’s still making me feel like a tennis ball. That nearly at the end of the eighth arc, even after the revelation about Takano, I still can’t quite reach definite conclusions to questions as old and simple as “who tore out part of Keichi’s note?” and “is Satoshi alive?” (on a side note, Takano/the Wild Dogs might have had the note torn if they were indeed behind the dam murder, but I’m not letting go of my Ooishi theory yet; there I go again!) Even at the very end of this part, when the Wild Dog shot Ooishi –actually, even before he shot him, when Ooishi just noticed the van, I started speculating about what was about to happen– my mind immediately went to the police notes at the end of Curse Killing where Ooishi is missing and presumed dead, and then to him being alive in the Time Killing arc.

I’ve certainly got some complaints about this series; the Saving Satoko mini-arc went on way too long without much payoff, the power of friendship crap has gotten so old at this point that it’s painful to read, and the Sonozaki twins don’t spend nearly enough time in Angel Mort uniforms just because. But it is all worth it for chapters like this one.

Next time, we close out the Massacre arc, and something tells me that it’s not going to end the way Rika is hoping. Just a funny feeling I have. That, and I’m looking at the four volumes of Festival Accompanying arc on my shelf right now, and the final Dice Killing volume. I’m looking forward to it.

Don’t Lose Your Way

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