So Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni has been one of my favourite pieces of media ever since I started getting into anime in general back in 2011ish. For all their flaws I still consider the 2006/7 adaptations among my favourites and I’ve rewatched them half a dozen times over the last decade. So when it was announced that they were getting a remake this year I was pretty interested obviously. If nothing else I was hoping for a more accessible entry point to the series for newcomers; a slightly more polished take without the reputation for being a bit janky the original adaptations had.
Episode 1 rolled around and it was more or less exactly that; aside from a weirdly unsubtle stinger with Rika at the end and a handful of scenes given more/less time it was a fairly straight remake of the first episode of the 2006 anime. This left me with sort of mixed feelings; It’s nice to have it back and filling that space I was expecting it to but at the same time, why does this need to exist? Jank aside the old anime were perfectly servicable and so watching this would just be seeing the same stuff all over again with a new lick of paint. Then episode 2 came out and threw all that out the window.
Immediately opening on a post Matsuribayashi Rika and Hanyuu in the space between worlds this episode established that the marketing as a remake was a misdirect and this is in fact a sequel meant to be viewed with knowledge of how the original plot went. Which kinda sucks for newcomers but personally it gave me something completely new. Higurashi has always been a solved mystery. Getting into it half a decade after the visual novel and its adaptations had wrapped up meant that while on some level I got to experience the mystery for myself on the first viewing it was still a story with a definitive ending and a solution. This is the first time I’ve gotten to experience Higurashi as an open mystery and I kind of love it. I’m a sucker for speculating about ongoing storylines at the best of times and now I get to do it for one of my favourite works. With that in mind I’m going to start keeping track of the things I think are important in each arc and building up some theories. Most likely so that I can come back in a few months and laugh at how totally wrong I was. So lets get into it shall we?
So I’m going to refrain from speculating on the series meta stuff with regard to Umineko. I’ve seen a few takes that a certain shot in the OP is the witch Featherine (It could plausibly just be an abstract representation of Oyashiro-sama or even Hai-Ryūn instead) but honestly I don’t know enough about Umineko to make informed predictions on that. Instead I’m going to start from the basis that once again there is, games between witches aside, a non supernatural explanation for events. Based on what we’ve seen so far the majority of the factors at play in the original story still hold true to some extent. So lets establish a handful of Things That Are Definitely True in this first new world.
- Hinamizawa Syndrome still exists and the cast are still low level carriers.
- The Dam Project existed and was put on hold indefinitely
- The murders and disappearances attributed to Oyashiro-sama’s curse occured (But the circumstances may not be the same)
- Rena moved away from Hinamizawa and returned after experiencing visions of Oyashiro-sama
Next some things that are likely true but not confirmed.
- Tokyo and the Yamainu are active in Hinamizawa: The fact that the murders occured and the presence of Takano and Tomitake almost certainly confirms this. The large number of men who look a heck of a lot like the Yamainu at the Irie Clinic in episode 4 also support this but it is theoretically possible that this is something else so I’m putting this in the “extremely likely” pile.
Lets also check in on the 3 rules Rika established in Minagoroshi-hen.
- Rule X – Someone in Hinamizawa reaches the higher levels of Hinamizawa Syndrome and is driven to kill: still true. While Rika attempts to interfere with this by helping Keiichi overcome his paranoia, Rena attempts to muder Keiichi due to her fears about the curse failing to occur.
- Rule Y – Tomitake and Takano are found dead on the night of Watanagashi: This one is completely out the window, one of the most noticable differences this time around is that neither of their bodies are found, instead they both go missing under mysterious circumstances.
- Rule Z – The Sonozaki family are assumed to be responsible for carrying out the curse murders: Unconfirmed at this point, the topic hasn’t come up in enough detail to determine either way.
And now for a few more speculative bits.
- The Great Hinamizawa Disaster did not occur despite Rika’s death. Rika was last seen alive on the day that Rena attacked Keiichi, with her body being found the next day. At the end of the arc Keiichi has been unconscious for two days so the timeframe still allows for the possibility that the disaster might occur that night but given Rika also was not killed in the usual manner this might be another world where Rika’s death was discovered after the 48 hour limit and therefore the disaster did not occur.
- The deaths in previous years might have played out differently. The way Oishi describes the murders suggests that there may have been some different circumstances.
So with all these factors in mind I have a couple of theories. Both of which revolve around Tokyo and Takano’s involvement unsurprisingly.
- Tomitake actually did his job and uncovered Takano’s schemes. Either with assistance from elsewhere in the organisation or due to the Yamainu not defecting to Takano he was able to take her in and resolve the situation peacefully. Her schemes being uncovered led to the Irie Clinic being shuttered earlier than planned, hence the Yamainu presence when Keiichi visits. As a result of this the disaster failed to occur. Meanwhile Satoko reached level five due to Rena’s death and Keiichi’s apparent death, causing her to either kill Rika then herself or kill herself with Rika opting to do the same rather than accept a world where so many of her friends were dead. The nurse appearing at the end before Keiichi’s presumed death was a product of his delusions similar to his vision of Mion at the end of Watanagashi-hen, and he died either of a heart attack or as a result of Hinamizawa Syndrome
- “Nomura”, Takano’s backer within Tokyo after Koizumi’s death and the one pulling her strings to bring about the disaster as a political move did not get involved in this world and the Irie Clinic was shuttered peacefully. Takano and Tomitake’s disappearance was a prank orchestrated by Takano because she wanted to create a mystery surrounding her leaving town. Rika and Satoko’s deaths occured similarly to the last theory.
- As above but Takano or one of her allies killed Rika and Satoko without any plans to enact the disaster.
I’ll probably look back at this at the end and laugh at how completely off base I am here but at the moment that’s the best I can come up with to connect what dots we have so far. Maybe the next arc will render all of this obsolete but speculating is fun so I’ll probably keep doing this after each arc ends. Needless to say I’m enjoying approaching one of my favourites from a new angle regardless.