Welcome, friends! I love Higurashi When They Cry, but it took me several weeks to have the guts to watch the last episode of Higurashi Sotsu. I was afraid it would be disappointing. But now that I’ve finally watched it, I’m happy to say it was pretty good. It wasn’t a perfectly executed ending, but it was satisfying enough for me. So the next thing to do is, naturally, write my thoughts and review for this series. I organized my notes into sections for easier reading. After that, there will be a mini-review section. Alright, let’s rant!
Warning: This article contains spoilers for various series in the Higurashi/ 07th Expansion universe.
Also Note: To see my thoughts on the negative reception of Higurashi Sotsu, go to the italicized paragraph in the mini-review section
Redemption of Antagonists
In Higurashi Sotsu, several antagonist characters are redeemed, an element we rarely see in 7th Expansion works. Rina Mamiya, Teppei Hojo, and Miyo Takano are the examples. Let’s start with Rina. In most worlds, she is the corrupt woman who scams Rena’s father for money and triggers Rena into mental instability. However, in Higurashi Sotsu, Satoko’s actions over many worlds have changed the usual patterns. As a result, we see a world where Rina backs off from the family and realizes it’s cruel to scam them. She even reaches out to Rena as an emotional support, since both of them were raised by single parents. Unfortunately, tragedy still occurred and Rina was murdered due to Satoko’s manipulation. Nevertheless, it was refreshing to see that Rina is not by default an evil woman.
Satoko’s uncle Teppei was, in the first two Higurashi series, a true monster. He used mental, verbal, and physical abuse on Satoshi and Satoko. But once the world is put on a different path from the one Rika lived so many times, Teppei undergoes a change. He rejects his gangster life, tries to recover from addiction, and becomes loving and supportive to Satoko. It’s clear that he feels great remorse for being violent and intimidating in the past. I’m actually very surprised with how well the anime pulled this off. I thought I would always hate Teppei. But I was won over by seeing his best self as a fatherly figure, free from the old risky lifestyle and addictions. The redemption of Teppei was important for the resolution of Satoko’s story in the end, so I’m very glad it happened.
Those who are familiar enough with Higurashi will know that Miyo Takano was the secret villain of the main series. But just like Teppei and Rina, Takano was also shown to be capable of goodness. She backs out of Nomura’s conspiracy, becomes less obsessive about her grandfather’s research, and leaves Rika alone. Most of the redemption of this character actually happened in Higurashi Gou, so I’m not going to spend much time on it. I simply wanted to mention it since Higurashi Sotsu reviewed it for us. Personally, I think was necessary for this series to have mercy and improvement shown for the villains; this way, viewers could also keep seeing the good in Satoko.
Mion and Shion Notes
The characters Mion and Shion were big parts of what originally got me hooked on Higurashi so long ago. Shion is my probably my favorite character, or else she’s tied with my other favorite, Rika. Unfortunately, though, Higurashi Sotsu doesn’t focus much on Shion, so I don’t have anything to say about her. (Well, other than I like seeing her in any capacity, and it was sweet that she was there for Satoko.) But let’s move on to Mion. In Higurashi Gou, we witnessed an arc where it appeared that Mion was the insane murderer instead of Shion. Higurashi Sotsu confirms this, and provides a few scenes and explanations not seen in Gou.
This arc was interesting largely because of the fact that in previous worlds, Mion never became violent. She is usually regarded by fans as one of the most morally upstanding and mentally stable characters in the series. After all, everyone else in the friend group except for her had worlds where they became killers. That being said, Mion has still always had a little bit of darkness about her person due to being the heir to the mafia-esque Sonozaki family. She learned from her mother and grandmother to be intimidating and merciless at times. Higurashi Sotsu shows us how that darkness overtakes Mion after she was infected with Hinamizawa Syndrome. (This never happened in other worlds due to her closeness with Rika and the fact that she never leaves Hinamizawa like Rena and Shion did. Only a direct injection of the disease from Satoko can break her mental strength.)
In true Higurashi style, this arc was brutal. It was a bit difficult to watch Shion and Rika get murdered. I was interested to know, though, that Mion didn’t kill Shion deliberately. Even in the grip of madness, she only wanted to frighten and hurt Shion a little to make her talk. Something else interesting was how Mion and Shion’s usual places were switched. Shion was always the one in past worlds who tried to solve the mystery and went mad in the name of fighting her corrupt family. This time, it’s Mion who takes on that role. Also, just like Shion was a yandere with her feelings about Satoshi, Mion became a yandere with her love for Keiichi. This is the only world we know of where Mion clearly declares that she loves him. And she is more than willing to kill in the name of that “love.” Sometimes I forget Mion and Shion’s minds work so similarly.
Witch Lore and Satoko’s Possession
The concept of “witches” is important across the universes created by 07th Expansion; though it’s most prominent in Umineko no Naku Koro ni, it also has significance for Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. A part of Rika’s soul became Bernkastel the Witch during her first hundred years of repeating worlds in Hinamizawa. Umineko suggests that Bernkastel got to know other witches (such as Lambda-Delta) while Rika was attending St. Lucia Academy. Why does this matter though? Well, the idea of witches becomes doubly important in Higurashi Gou and Sotsu. One way to think of these new series is the story of Satoko’s time as a witch. In addition, these series feature the character “Eua” whose real identity is Featherine Augustus Aurora the witch, an important presence in a few arcs of Umineko.
In one sense, Higurashi Sotsu strengthened and expanded on the lore of witches and other supernatural entities. (One interesting idea was what would happen if a witch like Featherine went up against a low-level god like Hanyuu.) But on the other hand, our knowledge hasn’t changed that much because 07th Expansion works are so vague. Taking clear conclusions about the lore is impossible without some filling in and connecting the dots with unverified information. Anyway, if you haven’t read Umineko and want to learn more about witches, I suggest studying this article from the 07th Expansion Wiki. I’m not going to cover much of that information here, but I do want to mention something I found interesting about Satoko’s witch specifically and how it compares to Rika’s witch.
`Bernkastel is a soulless, empty, and cruel witch. She seems to exist independent of Rika and her status in the acting world. One might argue that the more adult, depressed voice Rika sometimes uses is the surfacing of her witch self. She sort of alters between the hopeful, young-hearted Rika and the cold, pessimistic old Rika. If that other half of Rika is indeed her witch self, then an important point can be made: Rika lives with relative harmony between her human and witch selves. This is quite different from Satoko’s witch.
As we saw in Higurashi Sotsu, an “evil” version of Satoko emerged slowly in contrast with the old, somewhat kinder Satoko. This other self (witch Satoko) is the one artistically depicted with red eyes. By the end of episode 9, Satoko was having trouble staying as either one of her selves, rapidly switching between the two in an emotional outburst. This is when Eua says she has become a witch. Then in episode 10, Satoko’s red-eyed witch self completely takes over. It is similar to a possession. The witch Satoko won overwhelmingly in the struggle for control of the body. The softer Satoko who did not want to keep murdering people was metaphorically killed. I think it makes sense for Satoko to have this kind of struggle because she has always been more mentally fragile and moody than Rika. Consequently, Rika is able to do what Satoko cannot and calmly live as both witch and human girl.
Satoko’s transformation into a witch (or her possession, if you want to call it that) was intense and well-executed from a storytelling standpoint. It was also a bit difficult to watch as the Satoko we have known for so many years “died” and was replaced with something so evil. But it seems that was not final after all, because as the last episode showed us, Witch Satoko returned the body to human girl Satoko. So it seems that even someone fully possessed by their witch self can return to being human if the witch tires of things and leaves. Satoko’s witch may or may not continue to exist in the meta-realm or the sea of fragments, but she is no longer in Satoko’s life in the active reality world.
Resolution and The Promise of Rika and Satoko
Episode 14 of Higurashi Sotsu was one of the most intense anime episodes I have ever seen. It showed Satoko and Rika fighting and killing each other through many worlds. Despite the drama and hatred involved, I enjoyed watching it because it was so epic. It was also sort of cathartic seeing them finally able to beat the crap out of each other. The fighting with the Oni-ga-Ryuu sword was artistically and emotionally beautiful. But with all this intensity, how could there be a good resolution? I was so worried about this that I procrastinated with watching the last episode for several weeks. Much to my surprise, the ending episode was actually pretty good. Let’s recap what happened and then discuss a few related points.
Rika eventually overpowered Satoko despite her massive disadvantage early on in the battle. I think this is important and consistent with the story and character themes that always make Rika the unlikely winner in the end. Additionally, I interpret this fighting as having lasted many years. My evidence is that after all the fighting, Rika and Satoko talk to each other and make references to the fact that they went through this conflict endless times. It was probably as long of a struggle as Rika’s original hundred years or more. Rika had the chance to finally end the strife by killing Satoko with the Oni-ga-Ryuu, the sacred sword capable of erasing witches and perhaps even gods. However, after some pause, Rika threw the sword away and went back to punching Satoko.
The two witch-girls proceeded to beat each other up again and keep arguing, but the dynamic had changed. Rika had made the decision to never erase Satoko permanently. By her own admission, she could never live in a world in which there was no Satoko. She would literally rather destroy the world than let that happen. Satoko must have reached the same conclusion from her end. So the two witches kept fighting until they got exhausted, and then they lay side-by-side, wondering what to do. Since this happened to be a world where they were visiting Hinamizawa as teenagers, Rika and Satoko were interrupted by the arrival of Keiichi, Mion, and Rena. It was those friends who helped Rika and Satoko decide what to do next.
Friends don’t need to be together at all times. They don’t need to walk the same path in life. It may have taken them decades of fighting and killing each other, but these two witch-girls finally agreed to this idea. Rika would never be able to force Satoko to attend St. Lucia with her. Satoko would never be able to force Rika to stay in Hinamizawa with her. So they would grow apart and take different directions. In a way, both stubborn girls lost. Nobody got their way. But compared to torturing each other for another few hundred years, or erasing each other completely, living separate lives sounded pretty good.
It’s important to note that Rika and Satoko are no longer warm and loving toward each other. They will stay connected forever since they are rare existences as immortal witches. But other than that, they have washed their hands clean of each other. Rika even said she would try not to let Satoko find her again. There was only one exception that the girls agreed to. They made some kind of promise, and its exact meaning was not clearly explained. I’ll share how I interpreted it. What I’m referring to is when Rika and Satoko touched hands and said the following:
“We’ll meet again, sooner than we think. When they cry, whomever they are.”
This is obviously in part a nod to the title of the series, “When the Cicadas Cry.” But Rika and Satoko weren’t talking about the wildlife. I think they meant that if this world ever goes wrong again for Hinamizawa or the people that live there, they will work together to fix it by once again finding a peaceful world. The promise could have meant something very different, but this is my best guess based on the abilities and personalities of the girls. Now I just have a few notes to mention, mostly about Hanyuu, and then we will cover the mini-review.
The other piece of the puzzle that allowed for a peaceful resolution was Hanyuu. I don’t think her power or what she did should be taken lightly. Miracles in the Higurashi universe are rare, but when they come around, they are sure to side with the one who wants peace and harmony. That’s why Hanyuu once again worked a miracle. The sword that Rika threw away rematerialized in her hands, and she was able to strike Eua, taking away a large portion of her power.
Earlier, Eua agreed to leave this space and give up watching Satoko if Hanyuu could show her miracle. Eua is a terrible person, but at least she kept her promise, disappearing from the world. As far as we know, she never made contact with Satoko again. This, in turn, was part of what prompted Satoko’s witch to return the girl’s body and leave. There was no fun to be had as a witch if Eua wasn’t there to encourage more “entertainment.” Things were too wholesome for a witch.
The loving presences of Teppei and Shion were the straws that broke the camel’s back as far as the witch was concerned. Satoko was returned to her old self. I’m sure it will also help a lot that Satoshi finally woke up at the end. He’s cured of Hinamizawa syndrome, and can retake his place as Satoko’s loving older brother and Shion’s love interest. We don’t know if Satoko is still an immortal who can loop worlds, but hopefully it won’t come down to that for a long time. She has a happy life ahead of her in Hinamizawa, and isn’t dying any time soon. Rika has also finally started the enjoyable life she earned at the academy. It’s truly a happy ending.
Higurashi Sotsu Mini-Review
Visuals: 7/10 Excellent
The art style was the same as in the previous series, Higurashi Gou. It took a little getting used to, but it’s very cute, colorful, and engaging. Personally, I thought that Higurashi Sotsu improved slightly on the visuals at key moments, compared to Higurashi Gou. Things just seemed more dramatic somehow. The face expressions were good as usual, and there is some very pretty scenery of Hinamiawa now and then. The depictions of violence are of course over-the-top, but gripping and unnerving nonetheless, as they should be. I think the animation and art was pretty good in the grand scheme of things.
Story: 8/10 Excellent
I see two potential issues with the story category. First, it might have focused a little too much on repeating things from Higurashi Gou. The first three arcs were explanation arcs, but I personally had no problem with some repeated scenes. There were enough new missing pieces added to make it interesting. The second issue is that some people may not be able to take the fighting very seriously between Rika and Satoko. At its heart, the conflict is childish. I think, however, this is usually the case with Higurashi when it all boils down. Takano’s reason was also immature; imagine killing children or even wiping out a village just to have your research taken seriously. But this series has always been about the feelings and psyches of the characters. I do not mind it at all, since I am very invested in the characters of Rika and Satoko. Their struggle was pretty much as epic as it gets for immortal world-loopers. Besides these two potential complaints, the plot and story themes were excellent in Higurashi Sostu. I love this storytelling style.
Audio: 9/10 Magnificent
As usual with the audio categories for series where I know and love the seiyuu cast, I gave this a high rating. The voice-acting is excellent. The music is terrific, and includes new versions of the classic Higurashi OST pieces. “Analogy,” the opening song by Ayane, is simply epic. It’s in all my anime playlists now and I listen to it frequently. The ending song “Missing Promise” by Konomi Suzuki was also memorable, but can’t compare to the awesomeness of the opening. The music and sounds in Higurshi Sotsu deserve high praise.
Characters: 8/10 Excellent
I think the writing and development for the characters was top-notch. As I mentioned in the rambles above, learning more about Mion and her responses was great. It made it worth it to not have much of Shion. The redemption of the antagonists was fascinating and ultimately pulled off well. Satoko’s journey led her full circle and it was surprisingly satisfying to see her stop obsessing over Rika and start her own new life. Rika is my favorite character (besides Shion), so naturally it was awesome for me to see more of her story. Watching her struggle was an emotional ride I’m glad I went on. 07th Expansion continues to deliver with character development.
Enjoyment: 9/10 Magnificent
As a long-time Higurashi fan, I found so much to enjoy in Higurashi Sotsu. From the new songs that slap, to the visual feast of violent deaths, and all the way to the themes of hope and friendship, this series was truly a treat for me. I’ve heard that this anime didn’t do so well in terms of overall reception, and the score it has on MAL is just sad (Currently 6.86). This struck me as quite a shock, since for me the series was so great. A lot of harsh reviews are going around from long-time Higurashi fans who despised Sotsu.
Well, I have something to say about that.
If something isn’t your cup of tea, that’s alright– and if you have good reasons to back your feelings, that’s even better. But what I’m seeing is a strong bias, where old fans dislike Gou and Sotsu because… they are new, and different. Sorry but, get over it. It’s very unbecoming to act like some grandma Karen, throwing your hands up and complaining about kids these days and their new-fangled anime sequels. Maybe unclench your ass-cheeks and you will feel better? That’s all.
Overall Score: 8.2/10.0 Excellent
Higurashi Sotsu gets a big thumbs up from me. The low 8s range is about the same score I would give to Higurashi Gou, as well. That’s not quite as good as the two original seasons (Higurashi and Kai), which I would place in the upper 8s range or perhaps 9. Still, these new additions to Higurashi are wonderful, and I recommend them to any 07th Expansion fan who is reasonable good-natured. Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, and take care until next time!