So here we are again, another arc finished and a pile of new factors to consider. This one felt like getting a lot of new pieces that don’t necessarily fit together in a neat way.
Firstly lets check in on the facts we established last time; so far all of them seem to hold true so we can move on from that fairly quickly. I’m also willing to accept that the suspiciously Yamainu looking folks hanging around at the Irie clinic last arc were in fact the Yamainu after how they appeared this time, so we’ll be assuming as much going forward.
In terms of the arc itself the first half of this one arguably hewed closer to Watanagashi-hen than Onidamashi did to its original with most of the visible changes in the latter episodes. The biggest difference is obviously that this time around Mion is apparently the killer, rather than the usual scenario where Shion impersonates her to perpetrate the murders. With that said a few of the factors that tie into that don’t quite add up and I get the feeling this is something of a misdirect. It was almost certainly Mion talking to Keiichi at the end of the arc but I’m not 100% convinced she was responsible for all the murders currently pinned on her. But we’ll get back to that later. For now lets look at some of the other new events presented.
This arc seemed to be running on an accelerated timeline as compared to Watanagashi-hen, with Kimiyoshi’s disappearance happening on the night of the festival rather than shortly afterwards. This isn’t necessarily a huge deal but it does change the windows where certain characters could have acted and at least points in the direction of Mion being involved in some way. We also got a bit of an expansion on Tomitake and Takano’s disappearance last arc, with them having been witnessed fleeing from the festival grounds in apparent terror on the night of Watanagashi. This sort of works against my theory that Takano might have intentionally vanished for theatrical reasons last time but beyond that I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.
As for why I’m not convinced Mion was responsible for everything it’s mostly just a gut feeling telling me that everything was too conveniently lined up to point to her while also having most of that evidence be circumstantial. While her outburst did prevent Keiichi from presumably finding Rika’s corpse at the school that doesn’t definitively prove that she was trying to distract him. Similarly if she was being truthful about seeing Rika talking to a man “in a construction uniform” it’s likely that this was a member of the Yamainu, and he might have then killed her for whatever reason. Her involvement in the deaths of Oryo, Shion and Kimiyoshi is a lot harder to pin down but I’m willing to at least cast doubt on her killing Rika.
Satoko’s behaviour this arc is also somewhat suspicious. She was very noticably absent towards the end of the festival night, her pointing the finger at Keiichi as the last person she saw with Rika before her disappeance is also framed weirdly as if it were malicious in intent (although this could plausibly be Keiichi’s delusion due to his feelings of persecution after entering the shrine). There’s also the question of what she was doing at the Sonozaki house at the end of the arc, and how that resulted in her and Mion’s deaths.
Overall I definitely have a lot more questions about this arc itself but I’m not sure how exactly a lot of what happened feeds into the wider mystery. Going back to last time’s theories I feel like we can partially rule out Takano being behind things (but not completely, even the fleeing in terror thing could be theatrics). I’m still sticking to my theory that this is down to shenanigans back at Tokyo though. Maybe some third party is paying off Okonogi to cut Takano off as a loose end, which might account for them attempting to escape. The continued lack of the Great Hinamizawa Disaster definitely stands out but that event also generally doesn’t occur in Watanagashi-hen adjacent arcs due to Rika’s body being found after the time limit has already passed, which could account for its continued absence here. The next arc should potentially cast some light on that though, given its original itteration was the first appearance of said disaster.
Overall I definitely think I’m missing too many pieces to build up a theory that holds together without a lot of assumptions at the moment, hopefully the next couple of arcs can clear that up.