Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU
by Lynzee Loveridge,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Higurashi: When They Cry – GOU ?
I'll admit, I wasn't looking forward to revisiting the Satoko arc of Higurashi. Her storyline in the previous anime series was one of my least favorite, likely because of how accurate it is in dealing with the bureaucracy surrounding child abuse cases. The gang convincing spineless adults to give a shit about an abused child isn't exactly compelling television, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't on the nose.
The first episode of the Tataridamashi (Curse-Deceiving) Arc only gives hints of the extent of Satoko's home life. We know from previous arcs that she and Rika live together most of the time and both of their respective parents are out of the picture. Specifically, Mion said in the last arc's conclusion that Satoko's parents were victims of murders carried out under the instruction by the Three Families of Hinamizawa. In this episode we learn why: Satoko's parents were proponents of the dam project by the government. They, and other supporters, were offered money to sell their land and move out. Presumably, the Sonozaki, Furude, and Kimiyoshi families saw to it that they were killed during the festival before the rest of the village was convinced to follow suit.
This arc also introduces Satoko's older brother Satoshi for the first time. A former baseball star for the Hinamizawa Fighters, Satoshi disappeared approximately a year before the Keiichi arrived and about two years after his parents were murdered. He and Satoko were quite close and she still holds out hope that he'll return to her someday, but until then she's either rooming with Rika or forced to reside with her drunken, abusive uncle Teppei whenever he drops into town.
Satoko is expertly written as a survivor of abuse. She displays competence and skills beyond her years, likely as a forced coping mechanism in hopes of avoiding more abuse from her uncle. She has "street smarts" despite being a child that barely knows the difference between broccoli and cauliflower. (Also it's ok Satoko, they're technically the same plant!)
We also learn that Shion has a connection to Satoko and Satoshi as the "phantom manager" of the baseball team and meet Irie for the first time. Irie is the clinic doctor where Miyo works but the episode skips over that information to instead unseal cursed facts that I conveniently forgot: Irie is a weird pedo that wants Satoko to be his child-maid-wife. I seriously forgot a lot of the sketchy stuff from this series involving Rika and Satoko including the pervy doc shit that was used as a side gag.
Fortunately, by the time Irie is introduced Keiichi has spent most of the episode bonding with Satoko at the behest of Rika. Rika knows the actions Keiichi must undertake to successfully "win" the timeloop and she has tried to guide him at the beginning of each arc (trust Rena, give Mion the doll) only for him to screw something up later. I don't remember what ultimately makes for his downfall in the original arc, only that the conclusion was ridiculous and frustrating. However, if there is one thing I can say about GOU, it's that I do miss some of the original's totally bonkers horror. The first arc's conclusion with Rena's lunchbox of dismemberment and beating someone over the head with a table clock mirrored the original's over-the-top horror, but the last arc severely toned it down. Maybe it makes for a new mystery to crack but it does lose some of the grisly oomph that put Hinamizawa on the map.
Episode content aside, this arc introduces Satoko's "nii-nii" both as a character and as a phrase that, admittedly, drove me up the wall when I first watched the show. The translator of the show is taking some heavy flak for her translation choices and while I have no disagreement with the philosophy of translating the nickname versus retaining it in Japanese, I'm not a fan of the choice of "Big Brudder" as an equivalent nor "Big Sishter" for "nee-nee" for a few reasons. I understand the motivation behind the choices but disagree with the execution.
Familial nicknames are personal, especially in English where we don't really have common ones. Sometimes it's just a shortening of a given name or some kind of nickname related to a shared memory that stuck. I'll get anecdotal for a moment because I think it's relevant. I am the older sister in my family and I have a little brother who did the L-W letter sound transfer. I didn't really like being called "Wynzee" when I was seven years old (my brother is about three years younger) and suggested "Sissy" to him. Flashforward and I'm 33 and my immediate family (brother, parents) and extended family (aunts, uncles) almost exclusively call me Sis. Call me biased, but I think "Sissy" is absolutely acceptable equivalent for the situation involving a young girl raised in a rural area; I haven't heard it used as an insult for effeminate boys/men in recent memory.
Another point I think is worth considering is that these translation choices could work better spoken in the dub, even if I dislike how they look written out. Frankly, "Big Sishter" visually looks too close to "Big Shitter" to take seriously. There's also the implication that when Satoko uses "nii-nii" that she's slipping into a child-like mispronunciation of words...in the same way someone's stutter would resurface when stressed. My point of contention is leaning on syllabic mispronunciations to denote childish speak and the inclusion of the word "big", which I don't think is used commonly in English for sibling nicknames. I also think that purists probably would have hated almost any creative choice but I'll throw mine out there. I would have picked a variant of Satoshi's actual name, something like "Toshi," "Toto," or "Sassa" or something cutesy around the word "brother." "Bubba" is pretty common but I think there's too much character stereotype attachment to "bubba" for it work; but something like "Bubbie" I think has the exact same feeling.
I'm of the same mind that translation options exist, but the ones chosen don't read naturally enough to me to be considered a success.
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