Her spirit transcends time and space, but yet is unable to control the very fate that binds her to the force of inevitability. She laments the tragedy of those who have suffered time and time again, and yearns with a hardened despair for those days of happiness that continue to elude them. No, the promise land is nothing but a distant dream, and yet, Rika will continue fighting for those she loves. After all, Rena was able to defeat the curse. Keiichi was able to remember something from an alternate Hinamizawa.
But hope must not be placed on the mystical and the impossible. She can only do what she is capable of doing. Rika lives through her own powerlessness, and can only supervise the predestined progression of events leading to the barrier that is June 1983.
But enough depressing talk – when speaking of progression, we remember that the starting point is always filled with the happiness that Rika seeks. So let’s enjoy it while it lasts – keeping in mind that the slightest mention of Oyashiro-sama can disturb the delicate tranquility.
After their morning routine of breakfast and injection, Rika and Satoko scamper off to school where they bump into Ciel-sensei. Off to school so early? You’re such diligent kids! Indeed, diligent at messing with Keiichi and setting traps (not that kind of trap). Needless to say, Keiichi walks right into a metal pan of water flat on his head, and immediately accuses Satoko. After exercising some priestly restraint and demonstrating his full arsenal of defensive and evasive maneuvers, he finally reaches Satoko – only to get attacked from behind by Shion.
Yes, Shion! She’s in the class together with Mion and everybody else, which immediately raises questions about her status with the Sonozaki house. Apparently she transferred into the class to look after Satoko… at least according to Mion.
After a verbal abusing by Shion and a subsequent Ciel-sensei getting caught in the crossfire, Keiichi is attacked from all sides, leaving him a worthless pile of shattered ego. Never fear – Rena offers the poor guy some of her dainty love-filled bento, which immediately perks him back up.
Rika tries to baby-feed Satoko some pumpkins with her loli chopsticks, inciting the proverbial “omochi kaeri~” from Rena soon after. Rika tries to maintain a cheerful face, but it’s obvious that something weighs heavily on her mind.
After school, club activities resume – today, they’re playing “zombie tag,” a painlessly simple yet amazingly appropriate game to play considering so much of the first season was about finding who the “zombie” was and assigning blame accordingly. Satoko gets the luck of the draw and is the first to be zombie – everybody she tags subsequently becomes a zombie – those still untagged when the bell rings is proclaimed the winner.
A quick mental distraction courtesy of Keiichi, and the game is afoot! Satoko enlists the help of several other students and eventually tracks down Keiichi – luckily he’s a guy and lolis aren’t typically known for their athletic abilities, so he’s able to get away, with enough time to recruit some help of his own. He sets a trap that should eventually lure Satoko and Mion to the school gate, and takes shelter himself in the equipment storage shed.
Considering the fundamentals of tag and the freeform nature of their club activities, the shed is an awful place to hide as there is very little room to move around and only one exit. Imminent failure to result.
As Keiichi is sitting in the shed thinking about how tight he is for devising that little plan, some of the other students start gathering around just outside the shed and start calling for Keiichi. His mother is ill! His house is on fire! A plane flew into his house! I heard he likes to peek at girls in the bath! The abuse continues and once again he is left a wreck – but at least his position is still concealed. Or is it?
Rena runs up to the shed as she bumps into Rika. Are you tagged? You’re not a zombie, right? Right? So much for that, as Rika exposes her undead self and reaches out for Rena. Caught in a frenetic daze, Rena looks around for places to escape to – and sees Keiichi’s dumb ass in the shed. Keiichi!! SAVE MEEEE!!!
Her cries of help are more effective than any alarm or homing beacon as the rest of the girls converge on his location faster than Peter Griffin can recite the 50 states backwards (bonus points for understanding that one). Keiichi tries to restrain the door but is unable to keep it closed, as the terrifying hands of four girls reach through door grasping at him. Hey, didn’t he slam the door on Rena’s hand last time? That would probably work in this case, but he’s probably going to be the one to say “gomenasai” ten thousand times after they catch him.
Capture complete. Now, it’s time to hunt down the brains… or intestines (Japanese zombies?) of the last remaining human… Rena seems to have gotten away during all the commotion, but she is soon spotted and cornered.
One of the most important things regarding animal handling is to never corner them, as instincts tend to take over, exposing their vicious, undomesticated side. This is no different with Rena, as she comes full form with her moe attack, which (for the millionth time) renders Keiichi helpless – it’s hard to move your legs when all the blood has been channeled to your magic stick. The bell rings – Rena is the winner! And apparently, so are Mion and Shion, who were never tagged but pretended to be. There go the Sonozakis, dodging yet another sticky situation.
The punishment for the losers? Cosplay – Satoko and Rika don’t look much different except for a slight clothing embellishment, but Keiichi has gone full blown swan lake, complete with tutu and swan head poking out prominently from his midriff. Walking home, they run into Irie-sensei, who does his ridiculous maid fetish routine.
Then, like clockwork, Tomitake and Takano show up. Immediately the mood shifts and the air becomes heavy and awkward. Tomitake brings up how he likes to take pictures, followed immediately by a Takano mention of the murders in Hinamizawa.
You know, if there’s one way to ruin a good day, it’s to remind people that they’re living next door to a convicted felon. Or that their parents fell off a cliff last year. She’s supposed to be a nurse? Bedside manner isn’t supposed to be exclusively bedside!
Afterwards, Mion, Shion, and Rena explain to Keiichi the previous events surrounding the Watanagashi festival – one person dies and another goes missing, such that it’s sometimes been referred to by observers as a Hinamizawa murder mystery. They claim to have kept this from Keiichi because they didn’t want him to think ill of their village – believable, but seemingly all too convenient.
Keiichi’s response? “Welp, it’s just a bunch of accidents! Nothing to get all riled up about…” Delightful, delicious, and indeed all too convenient.
At home, Rika seems to space out as Satoko tries to comfort her by telling her to let her friends know and not keep it to herself. If this sounds familiar – it’s because it was indeed that same line we heard oh so long ago from a different arc. Rika flips her trauma switch and demands Satoko tell her where she heard that from – it’s obvious Satoko doesn’t know anything, leaving Rika with nothing but to brood on her memories.
In typical Higu fashion, this first “real” episode is all fun and games. Satoko nails Keichi with generic prank, Keichi gets mad, Satoko pulls “I’m a lil girl so you can’t hit me” card, Keichi gets pissed at his helplessness.
Well, we all know what’s coming, but not necessarily how it’s going to happen. I guess at this point it’s not so much of an “omg! killer lolis!” reaction as it is a “rofl, I never thought of that possibility” type deal, which is the best anybody could hope for at this point. Perhaps it’s my lack of experience with playing these galges (sorry, “visual novels”), but I was never one for replaying a game more than twice to get every single possible ending (Chrono Trigger being the one exception, played that game through like 10 times). I’d rather go play another game, honestly.
But no, I’m not going to critique it from that standpoint. For all that it’s worth, Higurashi has stayed the course and kept consistent with its approach, and by doing so has won over many devout fans. It’s a winning formula, so as long as people are interested, there’s little impetus for change.
On a side note, I’ve just never been able to take a Tamura Yukari role seriously after her character of Ranpha in Galaxy Angel. That nasaly voice is just too unique and still sounds the same even with all the variations in pitch… Ayako and Horie don’t change up their standard voices much between different shows, but their voices are much less unique so it’s never much of a concern. Oh well, I’ll look past this in favor of what is otherwise a pretty good show in Higurashi.
A key aspect of this formula is their ability to capture a specific atmosphere, one of the most underrated traits to a good story. As Fuyuki-kun puts it, telling a scary story isn’t so much about the story itself as it is about drawing your audience in. In that respect, Higurashi is masterful at being able to capturing a happy and carefree atmosphere as it did with this episode, and then rips it all to shreds with those psycho eyes and its proverbial USODA! This first episode does a good job with capturing Rika’s increasing despair and fatigue – it’s almost a guilt trip just to sit here and watch her suffer time and time through it all. Ni paa~