Some might say that this seemingly endless stream of articles about Higurashi might suggest I have a problem. They may have a point. But they’re also the ones reading them. Yes, once again, today on The Anime Harvest, another god damn Higurashi piece, although this one is a little different.
Last time, we finished volume 21, the final of the Massacre arc, and at the very end, in the author’s notes, Ryukishi07 just had to tease me. He says that, as surveyors of the perspectives of several characters, we, the readers, are privy of things even as small as single lines of dialogue, which can provide the solutions to everything! And I’m, you know, insane, so… we’re doin’ it!
Now, I’ve done enough statistical research projects to know that before you start trying to find answers, you really, REALLY ought to formulate your questions carefully. So, what are our questions now? Throughout the crazy twists and info dump in the Massacre arc, I lost sight of questions, and now the very universe of Higurashi has fundamentally differed from what I thought probably. We were just figuring out Rika at the end of Atonement, and Hanyu is a magical being. Hinamizawa Syndrome, Rika as the Queen Carrier, Takano being evil; they’re all such surprises (well, I’m pretty sure everyone thought Takano was evil, but the rest of it is surprising!)
Minor Question: Who Hid Keichi’s Note? (And a whole lot of Dam stuff)
First off, we have some minor questions, for example; what happened to Keichi’s note behind his clock? I have, for a while, been of two minds on this, and I’ve already shared my thoughts. It was either whoever is behind the series of murders (who we now know is Takano), or it is Ooishi. Sometime in Massacre, near the beginning of volume 20, Ooishi mentions that a friend of his was murdered four years ago, and he still investigates it privately, even under threat of having his pension taken away. Four years ago, 1979, is already a suspicious time; it is the first year of the curse- the year the dam project manager was killed. We also know, from both the testimony of several characters and Ooishi’s own active actions to get involved in the fifth year’s murders in each cycle, that Ooishi has a keen interest in investigating the deaths linked to Oyashiro-sama’s curse. And the image shown alongside Ooishi divulging this glimpse into his personal life is of a decapitated head, and the first year’s victim was dismembered.
I also opened up chapter one of the visual novel and checked the TIPS section to confirm some things. First of all, it is stated that the Okinomiya police department were the ones who responded to the murder; that’s Ooishi’s department. Second, it says there were six participants in the murder, and from memory I can recall that each participant took one body part after the dismemberment. That’s six pieces, which can most easily be divided into each arm, each leg, the head, and the torso. So the image of the decapitated head fits.
So, when the police searched Keichi’s home and found the note, there are several explanations for why they might remove the part about the dam murder. Perhaps Ooishi was the one who found it, after all he was heavily involved in the case, and he didn’t want an official reopening of the case to get in the way of his own search. Or, maybe another officer found it and didn’t want to throw more fuel onto Ooishi’s fire. That’s my own personal theory which I realize probably isn’t the most popular approach to this question, but I am fond of it. Even if I’m wrong about the note, I’m very confident that the friend Ooishi talks about was the dam construction supervisor.
The more popular answer to this is probably Takano. After all, she wants to preserve belief in the curse, and having police investigate a murder that in all likelihood was purely man-made would damage that. But it’s not like people currently think the first year’s murder is mysterious. While it’s being part of the five year trend makes it interesting, the current police statement on the matter, that it developed from a fight between the workers and the manager, doesn’t exactly scream Oyashiro-sama. In fact, Takano would probably want that case reopened, as Keichi’s note just make it retroactively mysterious. She evidently doesn’t have a problem with little minor discrepancies, such as her stand-in corpse being dead too long. The only reason I can think of for her choosing to tear out that part of the note is if she could be linked to the dam manager’s murder, which I doubt.
While we’re never actually given a name, the police and everyone who read the newspaper following the murder at the dam knows who the six people involved where. Five were arrested and obviously Takano wasn’t among them. The sixth, the ringleader, is referred to as “he”. While I recognize that Takano isn’t entirely feminine, that would be a little inappropriate. Also, it would be hard to be on the run while still working as a nurse.
Perhaps Takano wasn’t one of the killers, but merely orchestrate the event, with the sixth, uncaptured killer being her man. But, “her man” implies a Wild Dog. We know she had them under her control at this point because she had them kidnap the prime minister’s son, and that kidnapping happened at the same time Akasaka showed up, roughly a year before the murder at the dam. The Wild Dogs are experts at the whole killing people thing, and would have handled the first year’s murder much more professionally. So I’m convinced that Takano wasn’t involved in the dam murder, and thus had no reason to hide part of Keichi’s note.
**Okay, just have to throw in a little note here. After this, I got off on a tangent. A big quarry into a tiny detail so ridiculous I doubt it means anything. But, for the first time here I do delve into the real world inspiration for Hinamizawa, Shirakawago, a little bit, and it might be interesting for hardcore Higurashi fans. If you’re interested in that, I’ve moved it all to the end of this article, so you can look at it there.**
Minor Question: How did Keichi Survive the Curse Killing arc?
The second minor questions is how did Keichi survive the Curse Killing arc? To start, I want to sweep away a concern I’ve had. In both the anime and the manga, the bridge Keichi is pushed from is depicted as way to high up for anyone to survive that fall. Well, it looks like it was exaggerated, because no bridge in Shirakawa is that high. I wasn’t able to for sure which bridge that took place on in the pictures I found, but I can say, as long as that scene took place on a bridge in Hinamizawa, Keichi probably would have survived.
The real problem, from my perspective, is after that. The Curse killing arc is the first time we see the Great Hinamizawa Disaster, and though at the time is seemed like it could be an isolated incident, we now know exactly what brought about that aftermath. While Keichi survived the massacre because Takano’s soldiers never found him, we know that two days after Rika’s death, everyone in Hinamizawa should die. While I’ve been willing to make special exceptions for Shion before, due to her possibly not contracting Hinamizawa Syndrome in some arcs, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Kiechi had a bit of a case of it. But after the Curse Killing arc, he lives on for years.
Well, for once Higurashi has been kind and given us everything we need to figure out the answer. While it is true that Keichi survives long past Rika’s death, it’s pretty clear at that point that his Hinamizawa Syndrome regressed. Before Satoko pushed him off the bridge, Keichi was well into stage four or even stage five. But when he wakes up and while he is in the hospital, he’s pretty much back to normal. Well, not really “normal,” but all of his psychosis at that point is pretty ordinary considering what he went through. He still thinks Teppei was alive again after he killed him. He didn’t realize that Mion had the Sonozaki men move the body. He believes there were actually two of him walking around on the night of the cotton drifting. So a little insanity is to be expected. But he didn’t have the signature symptoms of Hinamizawa Syndrome anymore. He wasn’t paranoid, he was not shown to be hallucinating, and he didn’t even hear that one extra footstep. At least for while.
Sometime after the Great Hinamizawa Disaster, Keichi gives an interview. The interview makes him relive those last days in Hinamizawa, and as it goes on he becomes more and more erratic. At the very end he says that he hears “it” again, the one extra footstep. And two days later, he dies. Keichi didn’t just supress his Hinamizawa Syndrome down to its lower levels all that time; for twenty years it was completely dormant.
Unfortunately, while this may have been useful information to Irie, and something for him to study, it really doesn’t do much for us. Even if we could determine the cause of Keichi’s dormant Syndrome, our ultimate question here is how could Rika survive. And it isn’t Hinamizawa Syndrome that’s killing her.
Moderate Question: What Happened to Satoshi?
Before we get onto to that big question, I want to try to figure out Satoshi a bit. Who knows, maybe his fate will provide some clues. Right away we can forget reviewing most of the volumes for hints on this, as pretty much every character is equally clueless. What we know is that Satoshi and Satoko’s aunt was murdered on the night of the cotton drifting, most likely by Satoshi himself. Two days later, Satoshi’s savings are emptied from his bank account, the bear he promised to by Satoko is sold, and he disappears. One unconfirmed report suggests he was last seen boarding a train to Tokyo.
So let’s start with the new developments, Takano and her potential involvement. Right off the bat I’m skeptically, because I’ve already concluded that Takano wasn’t involved in the first year’s murder. But we also know she caused the fifth year’s, so at some point over that four year span she did get involved. So the real question is, was the fifth year her debut? And I think it was.
Takano’s dream wasn’t just to kill some people. She wanted to create a “curse,” and to that end, I don’t see her taking minor steps. If she wanted to act on the fourth year, she would have acted, and the Great Hinamizawa Disaster would pull a Five Nights at Freddy’s and come out early.
Let’s look at another aspect of Satoshi’s disappearance. Soon before it happened, he was shown to be the first very unusual case of Hinamizawa Syndrome. Sure, before him Rena got it, but hers was caused by moving too far away from Rika. Satoshi got Hinamizawa Syndrome while still living in Hinamizawa.
While Satoshi’s kill did have its own exterior motivations not necessarily linked to any paranoia, we do know from his perspective in the first half of the Eye Opening arc that he heard that one extra footstep that seems to be following us everywhere. So we know he had at least mid-stage Hinamizawa Syndrome, but the two questions that are how did he get it? And why does it matter?
The first one of those, I don’t think we’re equipped to answer. As far as we’ve seen with the fifth year, it just seems to be the case that someone gets Hinamizawa Syndrome; no rhyme or reason to it. If it was part of Takano’s plan and somehow causes by her, we probably wouldn’t see its target change all the time; she’d likely have a particular person in mind. But, if it really were completely random it wouldn’t only affect Keichi, or Rena, or Shion every time. The only characters that bridge the gap between a set plan and total variation are Rika, Hanyu and Frederica, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about at least one of those three Groundhogs later.
Instead, while we’re focused on Satoshi, I’m interested in why it even matters that he’s cursed. All of his actions, while perhaps not the spawn of a healthy psychology, can be “justified” or explained without appealing to the Syndrome. He yelled and Shion because of her Sonozaki association; he was under a lot of stress, and it’s no secret that the Sonozaki’s are dicks to the Hojos. He moped a bit; he’s a teenaged boy- hell, he’s a Japanese teenager with blond hair! He killed his aunt… yeah, that one’s kinda the biggun, but he had a sympathetic justification, he was protecting himself and Satoko. Was it still wrong? Yes. But it didn’t require any paranoia or hallucinations; that is, it was not caused by Hinamizawa Syndrome.
I’m not saying Satoshi didn’t have Hinamizawa Syndrome. He heard the extra footstep, so case f***ing closed. But it does make me wonder, why show that he has the syndrome when it never plays into the plot? Because it does play into the plot. While Hinamizawa Syndrome isn’t the cause of Satoshi’s murdering his aunt, it is the prime reason he got “demoned away” by “Tokyo.” Alright, big claim there, and I try not to make those in these notes. But on this question, I am sure of it.
Satoshi was last seen boarding a train to Tokyo, correct? And the organization is called “Tokyo.” I don’t know what more you need, that is above and beyond even Rene Descartes requirements for certainty.
Okay, fine, maybe a little more. One of the few things we do know about “Tokyo” is that they are actually located in Tokyo, so that lines up with Satoshi’s train. Of course, they’re also very interested in Hinamizawa Syndrome. Is they somehow found out about Satoshi’s case, say through Takano, then they would definitely want to study him. Given that Satoshi’s spontaneous case is highly unusual, and that they have no cure for the disease and know he would just die and be a lost opportunity if they didn’t act, “Tokyo” stepped in and somehow got to him.
They may have used force and just kidnapped him, then had their own man plant the last sighting at the train station, but there isn’t really a reason for that. Also, there’s the issue of his bank account emptying, which, admittedly, if “Tokyo” is indeed made up of politicians and other powerful people, might not be too hard to pull off pulling some strings, again there’s the problem of necessity. I doubt a secret organization would want to mess around like that, having their big names throwing weight around that can be tracked back to a bank branch in Hinamizawa. Instead, I think Satoshi voluntarily emptied his account, and voluntarily went with “Tokyo.”
It really wouldn’t be a hard thing to do. He was in the mid-to-late stages of Hinamizawa Syndrome, and the number one suspect in the investigation of a murder he knew he did. Then some “Tokyo” contact offers him a chance to escape it, he just has to board a train to Tokyo, and they’ll make sure the police never find him, that would probably be a pretty tempting offer. Maybe they caught him just as he was on his way home with the plush for Satoko, and they said they’d make sure she gets it for him, and of course just tossed it in the trash; that explains the withdrawal, and the purchase.
But that’s all the “how” stuff; it could have happened any number of ways. What matters is, Satoshi was an, at the time, unique case of the exact thing “Tokyo” was studying, and was doom to expire in another day or two. They jumped on this chance, and made him into a research project. While they did have the Irie Clinic close by, they probably didn’t want to take that sort of risk, and probably didn’t trust Irie himself to keep oversee and keep that kind of secret; he’s not a criminal, and Takano and Tomitake’s presence is proof that “Tokyo” don’t entirely trust him. So they brought Satoshi to Tokyo to examine him there. Whether he’s still alive or not, I have no clue.
Major Question: How can Rika Survive?
Ryukishi didn’t actually offer a specific question for us to answer at the end of the Massacre arc, he just said that, having seen every character’s perspective, we may be able to answer the mystery of Higurashi. This is the question I think that was about: How can Rika survive past June of 1983. It’s the question Rika has been trying to solve for over a hundred years, and it’s presumably what the rest of the series is going to be about. So, using the things we’ve learned from the perspectives of so many different characters, how could Rika survive?
Well, the most obvious way is to get Shion to Watanagashi Takano, but I don’t think that’s the supposedly clever trick this has all been leading up to. Besides, between the whole, “killing is wrong” revelations, and the Wild Dogs and Tokyo, I don’t see that being this visual novel’s True End.
So, let’s start by compiling all the perspectives we’ve seen so far, and knowledge unique to them. First off, Keichi. While not technically known by him, it was in one of his arcs that we received the mystery of the torn note. He also spotted Takano one the night she killed Tomitake, though there’s really not anything mysterious about that now. He and Satoko found Rika’s dead body in that same arc, but once again, we kinda know what happened there now. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I realize Keichi doesn’t really have any unique information anymore. Despite being the main character for most of the series, he’s pretty useless right now.
Shion is also a bit of a dead end. She has some brief interaction with Takano, but nothing is said there that we don’t already know, or that doesn’t fit with what we already know. There is one thing, one very small thing. When in the Saiguden with Keichi and Takano in the Eye Opening arc (and this gets some attention in Cotton Drifting as well), Shion hears a sound. And it’s pretty much immediately after this that her Hinamizawa Syndrome sinks in. It’s not the usual one extra footstep, so it’s not already the effects of the syndrome. Shion describes it being as if someone is stomping around the Saiguden. This one, I think is important, and we’ll talk about it later.
Then there’s Rena, who we only get in the Atonement arc, and not even full time. Really, the only thing of note from her, I think, was Takano’s notebooks, which I once thought to be somehow cursed. But now that we know Takano has no supernatural presence, even that has become banal.
From Rika’s perspective we get a lot of information, but most of it is from the massacre arc and is now common knowledge among the characters. Among all the big revelations, some details can be missed or forgot, but right now the details are what I’m looking for, and I may have found one. In the Time Killing arc, when Rika is telling Akasaka about her own parent’s upcoming deaths, the art depicts them both dead inside of a room. This may just be artistic license, but if it’s not that’s a bit of an inconsistency. While the cause of the murders for most of the years is still a mystery to me, the official story on Rika’s mother’s death is suicide, throwing herself into the swamp. Suicide at the swamp would be pretty damn hard to pull off is she already died at home. So if this is more than just an artistic depiction, we have some pretty strong evidence that the deaths are more than coincidence; someone killed Rika’s parents and forged her mother’s suicide.
From the same arc, this time from Akasaka’s perspective, he says he could have saved her if he knew what was going to happen. In truth, I think he could be convinced if Rika told him the truth; when he learned that all of Rika’s predictions came true, he was pretty impressed, but he didn’t learn it until it was too late to do anything. If he shows up again, he could be a decent ally, ans we have actually seen him win in a fight against Wild Dogs when he saved the Prime Minister’s son. Him and Ooishi.
Another detail from Atasaka’s story, one of Ooishi’s subordinates was killed in whatever world Time Killing is set in. It’s a very small line, but when reviewing the carnage shortly before the Great Hinamizawa Disaster, Ooishi brings up Tomitake’s and Takano’s deaths, then Irie’s the day after, and finishes with, “And one of my men…” I’m not going to get hung up on which arc Time Killing really relates to, but as a small detail, at the end of Curse Killing, in that police report that never seems to stop coming up, Ooishi and another officer are listed as missing. These can’t quite be the same universe because Keichi’s surviving never comes up in Time Killing, but it is an interesting trend. In Massacre as well, Ooishi and a partner are killed. So it seems like, in most arcs, either Ooishi’s partner or Ooishi and his partner stumble upon something they’re not supposed to (Takano’s men), and is eliminated. In the Massacre arc, this happens after Ooishi investigates the time of death on Takano’s corpse, and we know he also does that in Eye Opening, and probably in most arcs because he’s pretty dedicated and good at his job. Of course in Time Killing, he apparently doesn’t know about Takano’s corpse even years later, and he survives. Maybe in that case he sent his partner to confirm the time, and he was killed before he got the chance to report back. Ultimately, one of the reasons Rika wasn’t saved in the Massacre arc was because Ooishi didn’t make it back. Like I said earlier, he and Akasaka can take on Wild Dogs, and if he were around the night everyone was killed, Takano wouldn’t have been the only one with a gun.
There are a couple things I left out when covering Rika’s perspective, because I thought they would be the best to end on. I am still suspicious of Hanyu. It’s just two things that bother me, but they’re pretty noteworthy things. Firstly, when Rika finds out about Satoko’s uncle returning in volume one of Massacre, the first thing she does is call for Hanyu. When Hanyu isn’t there, Rika says, “She’s always right there hounding me. Why are these the only times she disappears?” It is genuinely odd, after all, by Hanyu’s own admission, she can’t affect anything, and she’s powerless in our world. So why would she ever go off somewhere? Well, actually there are tons of reasons; to follow Tomitake and Takano on the night of the cotton drifting so she can learn what’s going on and tell Rika perhaps; of course, that can’t happen because, as we’ve established, Rika is a pretty crap detective, and even with the benefit of a century and a supernatural invisible spy, she couldn’t figure this out. Ooishi she is not.
And it is in this arc that we learn something else about Hanyu… well, we learn everything about Hanyu so far in this arc, but shut up. She’s not completely ineffectual. When Rika lets Tomitake and Takano into the Saiguden, Hanyu gets angry, and starts stomping around, and Takano hears it. Takano’s stomping was what Shion heard when she entered the Saiguden.
I don’t know where Hanyu disappeared to, but there’s more to her than we’ve seen. Perhaps she has something to do with the odd cases of Hinamizawa Syndrome that happen within Hinamizawa. Maybe more than just the stomping around, she is the one extra footstep.
But more on point, how can Rika survive? Well, it’s going to require the help of both Akasaka and Ooishi. Ooishi can’t be sent to confirm Takano’s time of death, or else he’ll be killed. Akasaka has to be told about the series of murders, then he will fully believe Rika. And it’s going to take all of the influence Hanyu can muster at some point. If Hanyu is the cause of the curse, perhaps she’ll drive Takano mad with her one extra footstep.
Super Major Question: What’s up with Mion’s Tits?
Seriously, they don’t just change sizes between different artists, sometimes they grown and shrink between panels! And don’t tell me she and Shion are switching places, because in Cotton Drifting we got to see both of them in their matching underwear, and they’re the same size! Clearly, whatever magic is behind those things is the true source of Oyashiro-sama’s curse.
I’d say we far from figured out the mystery here, but I’ve gotten a chance to straighten out my best theories, and reached a handful of reasonable conclusions. I realize this is a mess, and doubt anyone will read it to the end, but writing this was a blast. I practically re-read everything except Beyond Midnight while putting this all together, and even looked at the visual novel, and Shirakawago. I would have thought Higurashi wasn’t the type of thing with a lot of re-read value, but now that we know Rika’s secret, there’s so much there on a second go. Even at the end of Abducted by Demons, when Satoko is crying about Keichi and the girls’ deaths, Rika says, “We’ll see them again soon.”
Anyway, next time we start looking at the Festival Accompanying arc, and hopefully we’ll start to learn if some of the ideas here are on the right track. Until then,
Don’t Lose Your Way
Here is it, that long pointless tangent:
One last thing while we’re on the topic of the dam sight. Isn’t it a little odd that the Japanese government would try to build the dam in the first place? Weren’t they the ones who set up the Irie clinic in the first place, to study Hinamizawa Syndrome? And building the dame would destroy the clinic too, wouldn’t it? Well, actually, no, it wouldn’t.
Opening up the VNs TIPS again, there is one which has information from the Onigafuchi Defense Alliance about what would be lost if the dam project goes through. It lists one elementary school, one post office, 291 houses, etc. One thing it doesn’t list is a clinic, which is a little odd.
At first thought, I wish I had another source to confirm this with, after all, it could just be an oversight from a guy making his first visual novel, or one of the many things the Onagafuchi Defense Alliance figured wasn’t worth list, like Angel Mort. Unfortunately, neither the manga nor the anime have anything like this, and that made me think I had no other primary sources to use. Then I realized, those aren’t even primary sources; not when it comes to the geography of Hinamizawa.
Creepy isn’t it? Here’s a link to where these are from: http://outdoor.geocities.jp/hinamy2006/
It’s extremely hard to tell, but seems like the Irie clinic should be somewhere in the red square there, which could go either way in terms of putting it under. So I spent several hours exploring villages along Japan’s Highway 156 in Google Maps street view until…
I found it. I found it and it’s beautiful.
While I wasn’t able to get an exact elevation, after exploring the village for a while, I can say that the Irie, or Shirakawa, clinic isn’t at a particularly significant elevation. I also found Rika’s house, which is much higher, so if it would fall victim to the dam, so would the Irie clinic.
So, with that teeny, tiny, makes-me-want-to-strangle-a-puppy preliminary out of the way, why would the Japanese government attempt to build this dam with the Irie clinic at risk? Well, Rika tells us that the Irie clinic wasn’t set up by the government directly, but by “Tokyo.” She suspects that “Tokyo” is made up of some influential political figures, but maybe they just didn’t quite have enough sway to prevent the dam project on their own. That seems reasonable enough, but it doesn’t entirely excuse the problem.
The Japanese government should know about Hinamizawa Syndrome. It was discovered at a time where it should have been noticed on the federal level, World War II, among soldiers from Hinamizawa. I don’t care what kind of connections the Sonozaki’s have, you can’t cover that up. And if the government knew, pushing people out of the village, away from the suppressant, would obviously be a bad idea. Wherever the villagers go, they’ll eventually go mad, kill some folks, then kill themselves. Unless they all decided to stay together in some other village, which seems unlikely. So was this some kind of ironic extinction plan? Wipe out Hinamizawa Syndrome by making sure everyone in Hinamizawa dies from it? It’s a good theory, with pretty solid foundations I think, and it could easily fit into Takano’s own extinction plan, but there’s still one problem.
Rika never specifically tells us that the Japanese Government knows about Hinamizawa Syndrome. She only refers to the people who know as “they”, and while I think it would be impossible to hide this from the government, we are dealing with fiction. A fair amount of suspension of disbelief would mean that, if Ryukishi07 has Rika state in the next part, “The Japanese government does not know about Hinamizawa Syndrome,” we would have to accept it. So as much as I would like to give some kind of definitive answer here, and clean up this mess that I just unboxed, I can’t.