In this episode of Higurashi, the coy and gentle strategy is over for Rika and she’s ready to unload on Keiichi for his poor decisions in life. With Rika losing her wits over Keiichi fumbling the ball in the Mion route, it not only calls to question how events would have played out if Keiichi saw Rika’s dance, but what ended up getting triggered as a result of Keiichi’s direct involvement with Tomitake and Takano during the festival.
In this route, Takano uses the shed as an opportunity to teach Keiichi about the history of Hinamizawa and the mythos behind Oyashiro’s curse. Oyashiro himself is a fascinating character because the legend gives us a different take on the divine intervention seen in religious stories. The general assumption of a holy entity smiting demons is cast out the window because his solution was to transform the demons that roamed old Hinamizawa into humans, ridding them of their monstrous form.
But even though they still retained their hunger for human flesh, Oyashiro encouraged their behavior by selecting worthy sacrifices for them. From there, they indulged in a practice that led to the villagers to drift their entrails into a river in celebration, a practice that would eventually be sanitized into the Cotton Drifting Festival. I really appreciated the breakdown of Oyashiro’s backstory because it adds nuance to the town’s villagers being willing to give credence to Oyashiro as the reason why Hinamizawa’s craziness is linked back to the town’s background.
But what makes this episode stand out is how the path in Mion’s arc fully diverges from its original route at this point. Because Keiichi went off to join Shion, Tomitake, and Takano in the shed, a chain reaction of cosmic craziness. The statue inside is different, Keiichi gets a full breakdown on Oyashiro’s curse, and Takano, Tomitake, and the mayor are missing and presumed dead.
On top of all of this, Rika knows full well that the stability of the universe in this loop depended on Keiichi continuing to listen to her and not going off doing his own thing. She might’ve had a small victory in getting him to give Mion the doll, but in the process, it created another domino effect where it caused him to grow closer to Shion, making it so that he would be more invested in hanging out with her than the other girls.
Because he gets so easily roped into chaos assuming everything is alright as he asks only the most dangerous questions, this arc makes it clear that Keiichi is dense and has little to no awareness of his surroundings. He also drew all suspicion to him like blood in shark-infested water as soon as anyone drops “Tomitake and Takano” in a conversation and acts like it’s Shion’s fault for ruining his big magical harem festival when he was just as curious about the hut.
The most cathartic experience of the episode comes from Rika, however, when she finally gets straight to the point now that the arc’s normal trajectory has been completely ruined. As soon as he tries to explain his circumstance using four cats as an analogy, Rika mood shifts directly into emptiness, despair, and outrage as she gives Keiichi the lecture of a lifetime. She lets him have it as her eyes turn blood red and explain in a nihilistic rage that, because he didn’t see her dance at the festival, he triggered a series of events that will result in more meaningless bloodshed.
Having died and seen everyone die loop after loop, it’s easy to see why she’d be so willing to mock Keiichi and chastise him for messing up this epically. Even though Gou hasn’t been as foreboding or scary as the original Higurashi, it catches you off-guard when they amp up the tension and add even higher stakes to the original story by giving us a clearer gist of what’s at stake.