Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 9: Banding Together

Preach it, brother!

A lot of fans have said that this is the best arc of all in the entire Higurashi cycle, and the way it’s going so far, I’m starting to believe them. Compared to the previous arcs, it’s definitely the most different, the only one that isn’t suffused with despair (and thus the one with the highest degree of tension–for once there is genuine question about the outcome of the story). I’m really pleased with the way the writers are now starting to give us payoff for all the arcs we’ve watched previously.

Of course, given the title of the arc is “Massacre”…maybe it really will be for naught after all.

Satoko was, for me, the most sympathetic victim in the series. The arc that focused the most on her in the first season, the “Detective” arc, was at once the most emotionally harrowing and most complex storyline to date, and one that really established the genuine greatness of this show. While this season has been far less gory than the last, watching the emotional violence and its toll in this episode and this arc is as affecting and tragic as any story in the series. The consistent portrayal of bureaucratic intransigence is at once believable and maddening, especially considering that there really are children in the real world who go through similar situations every day. We hear a lot about overzealous Child Protection Agencies who take away children at the drop of a hat, but we never hear about the ones who fall through the cracks–which lends an air of unbelievability to see an actual army of otakus and waitresses come along to the Child Welfare office to plead her case. The solidarity expressed is touching and even ideal:

I was always taught the church should be like this.

The irony is, of course, that such solidarity was last seen in the Dam War, in which certain members of the village were ostracized and perhaps even cursed unto death. Human togetherness is both a fine and terrible thing. In that vein there are hints of higher powers that will meddle in the future, though. How terrible and tragic it would be if in the end, it is those powers who win and prevent the saving of one innocent girl. The ancient cycle of scapegoat and murder would continue.

For some reason, I’m reminded of the scene just before the famous “Grand Inquisitor” chapter in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, in which Ivan asks his brother whether he would be able to accept a world which was perfectly happy, so long as a single innocent child was tortured for the sake of everyone else. (The scenario is dramatized in Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” as well.) This arc is a world in which something similar is happening, in which everyone else but Satoko is doing much better than usual. And, like Ivan’s brother, it’s a situation that no one of good will would knowingly accept. How cruel it would be if the efforts to reverse this condition–because as Rika says, this seems different from before–are still destined to end in failure. Even moreso if Satoko turns out to be the stumbling block on which all trip and shatter, in which an attempt to do good results only in more evil and suffering. Can Rika–the nearest thing this village has to (a) god–stop it, as she determines to do at the episode’s end?

It is not.

What a great show this is. I can’t wait for the end of this arc. (Are they planning 24-26 episodes, btw, or will there only be 12-13? Because if they are planning to bring this all to a close in a few episodes, then the next few weeks are going to be crucial.)

Author: gendomike

Michael lives in the Los Angeles area, and has been into anime since he saw Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1999. Some of his favorite shows include Full Metal Alchemist, Honey and Clover, and Welcome to the NHK!. Since 2003 he has gone to at least one anime convention every year. A public radio junkie, which naturally led to podcasting, he now holds a seminary degree and is looking to become Dr. Rev. Otaku Bible Man any day now. Michael can be reached at mike.huang@animediet.net. You can also find his Twitter account at @gendomike.

2 thoughts on “Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 9: Banding Together

  1. The creators of this show did too good of a job last season. Now I can’t bond with the characters anymore. In the Detective arc last season I fell in love with a crazy, manipulative, psychotic mass-murderer.

    The show is getting predictable. I know something horrible is going to happen at the end of each arc. I can’t enjoy the happy moments anymore. When I watch the first half of each arc, I’m waiting for everything to fall apart.

  2. Well, for me, it’s always been the “how” of how things get ruined that as interesting to me. And I think the show is explicitly dealing with the realization that horrible things are destined to happen (at least on Rika’s part). It’s not just a simple repetition over and over again, which would indeed get boring.

    I think this is a good example of how to take advantage of the game medium (multiple endings, etc) and get something surprisingly meaningful out of it in anime form.

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