Higurashi Gou’s newest arc takes us back in time to answer the question – what made Satoko snap? We see the village settle and life go on after Rika saves Hinamizawa and stops the loops for the first time Mion and Shion begin high school and Keiichi and Rika become the leaders of the after school club. But after being trapped for so long, Rika dreams of bigger things. She confides in Satoko her dream of going to St Lucia Academy, and over the next 2.5 years the girls study non-stop to prepare for the entrance exams. They manage to achieve their goal, but while Rika settles into her new life with ease, Satoko struggles. With the cry of cicadas, Satoko’s wrath threatens to boil over.
As I’ve watched through Higurashi Gou what has always stuck out was the seemingly unbreakable bond between Satoko and Rika. They seem glued at the hip and trust and support one another without question. But in the last two episodes, we see cracks form in their relationship as Rika and Satoko begin their high school life in very different ways. For Rika, she’s endured a hundred years of suffering and is excited to have finally escaped. She’s literally ‘living her best life’, making new friends and almost being lauded by classmates. And for Satoko the whole situation couldn’t be worse.
While Satoko did agree to go with Rika to the Academy, I wonder if she ever realised how much of a commitment it would be. Early on in episode 19 she thinks that Rika will get sick of studying at some point and then when they first arrive at the academy she says to herself Rika will eventually get over all the ‘fancy’ stuff. In her heart, Satoko may have envisioned (or at least hoped) that her and Rika would return to or stay in Hinamizawa. But regardless of what she thought would happen, she still went above and beyond to support her friend’s dream. The montage of them studying, with the duet of each character’s voice actress emphasised their bond and friendship. And it made the severing of this bond all the more tragic.
I feel like, as an adult, it’s easy to look at Satoko’s behaviour at St Lucia and say ‘she wasn’t putting in the effort’ or ‘she was the one rejecting Rika’. But it’s key to understand her mindset. After years of being ostracised in Hinamizawa she’s finally let back into the fold (we see the village family heads welcome her back in at the end of episode 18). She enjoys a few years of being accepted by her village, while also working herself to the bone to get into this academy. And when she arrives she’s once again ostracised by a community, essentially told her efforts aren’t good enough, and she best get used to a life of working non-stop. She would essentially feel trapped in an endless ‘loop’ – waking up each day to study and be shunned by classmates. And some combination of pride and fear of rejection stops her from properly communicating with her best friend. It’s a tragic situation if ever there was one.
While Higurashi Gou has completely toned down the violence and bloodshed in these last two episodes, it doesn’t mean they didn’t hit as hard. Seeing the breakdown between Satoko and Rika has been quite depressing to watch, even more so when you have a general idea of where it will lead. In next week’s episode, I’m sure we’ll see Satoko hit her breaking point. While I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, I am interested to find out the secret behind Satoko’s looping powers. Make sure to check back next week for the episode 20 review.