It seems Higurashi has taken to opening each episode with a murder and this week we see Takano executing the gang. As we try to decide if that’s a future or past event, we’re taken back to the night of the Watanagashi festival. Takano tearily apologies to Rika for planning to murder her and her friends (which may or may not still happen). But all is not quiet in Hinamizawa, the town bustles as undercover military operations and stings happen and whatever was going on with the curse/ syndrome seems to settle. It’s hella confusing but at least Rika is safe. Yet, she can’t shake this feeling that something is wrong. As she tries to work out the troubling truth of this world, she’s shocked to find the answer amongst her closest friends.
Let’s start off by talking about the episode’s shocking reveal – that Satoko is also a looper. I did discuss the possibility of other loopers in my episode 14 review, so perhaps it’s not super shocking. But what did shock me is how long Satoko has been a looper. The reason Rika recognises her as a looper is because Satoko is shown to know about the trick behind the gift box. The gift box ‘punches’ her way back in episode one meaning she’s been a looper since then. Now this answers a lot of questions, and there’s a lot to unpack.
We were all shocked last week when Rika’s fifth loop ended before it even began but if Satoko ‘awoke’ in the loop earlier than Rika she could make all the preparations. That is, Satoko was never really under the influence of the curse/ syndrome (as we know it) in last week’s episode. She just disembowled Rika to punish her for leaving Hinamizawa. In fact, based on her desire to keep Rika close, it’s very possible in all the other loops she’s purposefully sabotaged them. After all, Rika has been confused as to why she’s ‘done everything right’ yet still gets ‘bad endings’. It almost makes me wonder if after Rika left Hinamizawa, Satoko found a way to drag her back into with the loops. While she may not be under the influence of the syndrome, there’s definitely something happening with her. In last week’s episode she mentioned she had become ‘Oyashiro-sama’s’ new priestess. Perhaps after Rika left, she took on this role and in turn gained these abilities. With the next arc titled the ‘Satokowashi-hen Sono Ichi’, I can imagine we’ll learn what really happened to Satoko and there’s sure to be a showdown between these two old friends.
I’m sure I’m not the only Higurashi first-timer who was crazy confused by the first half of the episode. The question really being – how much of what we’ve seen has been caused by man and how much by the supernatural? Just like last week’s episode, ‘Oyashiro-sama’s curse’ is once again referred to as Hinamizawa Syndrome, but more pertinent, there seems to be an injectable form of it – H173 and an underground research institute where it’s being studied. Takano is shown to know the location of H173, and we see three syringes in a suitcase. Now I wonder if she was purposely injecting villagers in previous loops to cause chaos or if there’s some other way villager’s ‘catch’ the syndrome.
Also, just generally, why the heck are there military personnel in such a small town? So many questions, many of the answers I’m sure can be found in previous anime season/ the visual novels or the manga. I will see how next week’s episode goes as the beginning of this week’s episode certainly wasn’t newbie friendly. If it continues on a similar strand I may just watch the previous seasons so I have a better idea of what’s going on.
I tend to spend a lot of these reviews discussing my thoughts and theories on the episode, but as very very final note – the animation looked really wonky this episode. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it didn’t seem as clean or defined as previous episodes. Hopefully this was a once-off and Higurashi maintains the decent standard it’s set for most of the series. In terms of story it’s now more exciting than ever! Check back next week as we watch the beginnings of the Rika/ Satoko showdown.