Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU
by Lynzee Loveridge,
How would you rate episode 18 of
Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU ?
Before we can understand what got Satoko to the point where she'd return to an ever-looping murder spree to be with her BFF, we have to see what happened before she made the decision. That means that episode 18 decides to pick up back in the OG "perfect end" timeline instead of following up with Satoko pulling a gun.
Most of the content of this episode serves as a pseudo epilogue to the events of Kai. Jiro reassures Miyo that her life is worth living and her soul is redeemable. There is a bit of suspicious dialogue between the two that got my Higu senses tingling. Jiro doesn't frame Miyo's potential new life as a matter of redemption and forging forward; instead he seems to suggest that she could just "start over" and have "another life." It may be a total red herring, but I'm wondering if it's related to how the Miyo we saw earlier in this new timeline also seemed to know everything and have zero interest in carrying out her previous plot.
The rest of the episode is focused squarely on change – both on a personal level for Rika and Satoko and at a larger level for Hinamizawa as a whole. Rika and Satoko inherited Mion and Shion's middle school uniforms, and Mion herself has moved on to a high school in the larger neighboring town. Keiichi has inherited her role as class president and game club champion but the activities notably lack the shenanigans that used to amuse Satoko. The younger classmates have joined in, both ensuring that the club continues into future but also that it's no longer the cast's personal circle. Rika herself is starting to grow out of it and without Rika there, Satoko's interest has waned, too.
A later scene at the clinic reveals that, with Hanyu satisfied, the effects of Hinamizawa Syndrome are also disappearing and Satoko appears to be cured. She'll no longer need her regimen of shots from Irie to keep her paranoia low. Yet another tie to Hinamizawa is severed. If she's free from the syndrome, she can safely leave the village without experiencing a reaction. Her world is broadening.
At the Wataganashi Festival, Rika performs the ritual dance and is joined by the other two family heads: Oryo and the mayor. They make a speech to root out discrimination against families that were on opposite sides of the dam war (namely Satoko) and bury the notion that Oyashiro-sama's curse is real. By quelling the underlying paranoia, discrimination, and fear in the village, they hope to bring about a new age to Hinamizawa. Finally, Rika asks Satoko to join her at a bookstore in the nearby town to pick up a study guide for St. Lucia. This is the high school Rika has always hoped to go to and she wants her best friend to go with her.
So there's an undercurrent to all of this positive change that Rika has ushered into Hinamizawa and Satoko's life. It has upended the girl's identity. It's easy to say, 'wait, but all of this is for the better!' and that's true. Satoko is free to live her life without boundaries anymore, but that also takes a sense of security away from her. Satoko already figured out how to navigate her life and had a safe, daily routine that included a game club at school with her friends, living one on one with her bestie, and getting her shots at the clinic. Now all of that is upended and her best friend wants her to study to get into a school in a different town and there's an elephant in the room.
Satoko and Rika's intelligence levels are not the same. Rika isn't really a child by any means and it's possible that she's always a little more gifted in that regard than Satoko. Satoko's childhood life has been continuously upended by trauma, her memory isn't great, and she can be boastful about abilities that she's actually rather lacking in. There's a distinct possibility that testing into this school would be difficult for her, and that she knows this and was comfortable continuing her education in a less competitive environment. Any of the scenes that have shown Rika at St. Lucia do not feature Satoko and her anger at being "forgotten" by Rika likely hinges on the fact that this is where their lives separate.
I can't help but feel sympathy for Satoko even though it is wrong of her to try to hold Rika back from experiencing her own life.
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