As if the last episode wasn’t traumatic enough, Higurashi‘s first episode of 2021 is a real punch in the gut. Previously, we only had a brief yet harrowing description of the massacre at the Watangashi Festival but this episode showcases, in vivid detail, Oishi’s rampage. During the rampage, Rika is brutally beaten to death and wakens in the ‘in-between place’. There, Hanyu reveals she has used the last of her power to give Rika back some of her abilities and tells her the location of a certain sword that can kill ‘loopers’, before disappearing. Rika awakens in the new loop and goes to find the sword during a hide-and-seek game with the gang. Now with a way out from her cruel fate, Rika decides to try five more times to save the inhabitants of Hinamizawa village.
I’ve touched on it briefly in previous episodic reviews but Rika is truly a tragic character in Higurashi. Not only must she fight against fate, she has to see her friends murdered (sometimes the culprit is a friend!) and be brutally killed herself. Going through that a few times would be enough to drive anyone insane but hearing Hanyu say Rika had spent 100 years struggling against the fate of Hinamizawa is just mind boggling. I suppose a watch of the previous season would give a bit more clarity on who Hanyu is and how she relates to Rika and her powers, but from the discussion it appears that Rika has only just had her powers restored. I had assumed that upon reviving from each loop she could remember everything that had happened, but in fact, it is only from the previous loop onwards that she can remember who specifically killed her.
Not knowing who killed her, in a way, is like missing half the picture. While she’s continuously worked to prevent the tragedy by bringing the town together, she hasn’t know who her actions ‘missed’ or if they made someone more susceptible to the curse. By now knowing the specific details of her death she might be able to work out what the exact ‘curse trigger’ is. She’s also only been working with half the information leading to potential mis-steps like pushing Keiichi to completely trust in Rena during the first arc…and we all know how that turned out. Hopefully with this new information she can find the correct path forward!
This week’s episode also brought in one key point of interest – the sword. Hanyu tells Rika that this sword has her name engraved on it and can be used to kill ‘loopers’. Of course, in this scene Hanyu is hinting to Rika that she can escape from looping by killing herself with the sword. But if there’s a sword that can kill loopers that means there are, or have been other loopers. At first I had though that Rika’s looping abilities were connected to Hanyu, but with Hanyu gone and Rika still looping this doesn’t seem to be the case. So I wonder what causes someone to become a ‘looper’. It may be possible other characters are ‘loopers’, you may remember from last week’s review I mentioned that Rena seems to have retained some memories and Keiichi does have dreams about previous loops. Or Rika could be the only current ‘looper’ and it could be that there were loopers in the past in Hinamizawa and they have some ancestral connection to Rika. Whatever it is, the most pressing point is that the sword is missing. Seeing as how protective Hinamizawa is over their sacred items it’s hard to believe it would simply be misplaced. Instead, it could be someone in the village is aware there’s a looper (perhaps specifically Rika) and has taken the sword to stop them.
Now that Rika has regained some of her abilities, I’m quick to hope that the story of Higurashi will take a more positive turn. But Higurashi proved in its last arc that you can be so close to victory and still fate will sweep the rug out from under you. There’s still many challenges for Rika to overcome to defeat ‘fate’, but I think the most important lesson has been reaffirmed – to survive she must rely on her friends. For now, we can only wait and see how Rika goes with this loop.