Higurashi: When They Cry (2020) Episode 21


Student Council President
We see how Satoko gains her looping powers and we also learn that she is, or rather will become, someone we all know from Umineko:34, ΛΔ, LambdaDelta. Evil Hanyuu (Featherine (partially in Hanyuu's clothes)) is also confirmed, not really surprising.

It might just be me, but the pacing is atrocious. Finally something significant happened this episode, but the vast majority was still spent on playing out the inevitable again. While I'm still not sold on Satoko's motive being enough to justify all that she will do, I sort of didn't consider the possibility that this would build up after she got her looping powers. I assumed either the feelings up until the last episode would be considered enough or next to gaining the looping ability her negative feelings would also be amplified somehow. This was the first time I had the feeling there was something I could get behind from Satoko's point of view.

However, it still doesn't feel complete. Even if Satoko would continue building up (partially unjust) hatred towards Rika, how and why would she perform the loops that we saw? Is her goal to fully drag Rika into despair, or does she in some twisted way still hope for a happy outcome?
I also think there are a few big problems with the presentation these past few episodes:
  • They don't want to paint Rika as the bad guy, which only makes Satoko's motive feel off. In this episode it resulted in Satoko disregarding Rika's attempt at reaching out, because it was supposedly only out of pity.
  • They focus on the school being harsh/cruel equally as much as Rika having "changed", this sort of muddies the water and it just makes me feel Satoko's hatred is partially misdirected.
    • It has also led to this weird prison cell sequence in the previous episode. The scene where Satoko regrets not saying "No" when Rika asked her to join her to St. Lucia is also strange if you now consider that when presented with another chance at it Satoko still says "Yes". (I know, there's a bit more to it, but still)
  • Nothing that happens really matters. They've made the mistake of giving us the ending situation and now staring from the start. We all know where this should be heading, so that leaves two options: present it in a concise manner or subvert expectations. But for some reason neither is done. We get to see how things pan out for Satoko as you'd expect from episode 18 onwards at a painfully slow pace.
    • The reunion part of episode 20 was a nice change of pace in that sense.
  • There is no depth to it any more. Seeing someone else loop and struggle sounds nice on paper, but it doesn't work in this case. With Rika's attempts you don't know if this time she might escape or at the very least learn something new. And with each loop, light might be shed on prior events. With Satoko it only seems to fulfil a narrative purpose, and even if they would start showing the "behind the scenes" of the first few loops, it doesn't really matter, because we already have a pretty good understanding of how things were done.
    • Perhaps the show manages to surprise by breaking this format. For example, Satoko might somehow reconcile with Rika, which doesn't provide enough entertainment for Featherine, which then intervenes to "spice things up". (Although I'd have other problems with such a sequence of events)
  • More than once the writing seems to try and achieve a certain effect and then reason backwards on how to achieve it. Not sure how to describe it. It's not really plot convenience as the events do make sense to some extent. It's more that the events that progress the plot don't always have clear build-up before they take place.
Anyway, I'm not too fond of the past few episodes and honestly don't really like the blatant ties to Umineko and Ciconia. I think a story surrounding the events after Higurashi could've worked just fine, but in this form it just feels very weak. Anyway, let's try and start speculating again, so here goes a small theory:
I have said before that a logical conclusion would be to shift focus of using the fragment on Satoko to using that to kill the entity that granted Satoko her powers. With the knowledge from this episode that seems unlikely, not to mention that it won't resolve Satoko's hatred towards Rika at this point.

So I started thinking of how the story could wrap up. What if the sword doesn't kill a looper but "kills" a looper. We know the sword has been used on Hanyuu in the past and she basically only lost her physical form. Let's say the sword was used on Satoko (and perhaps Rika) as well, could it be that these would then spawn the entities Lambdadelta and Bernkastel?

Taking it a step further, perhaps it doesn't even "kill" at all, but simply severs the connection. The sword itself would still deal physical damage, which would normally cause the one being hit to die, but it might not be a requirement. That way, this can be performed and Rika and Satoko become normal girls again, perhaps even loosing their memories of the loops. All that would still be needed is for Rika and Satoko to reconcile for a proper happy end.

On a more positive note, I quite like the new ED 😅
Personally I love the ties to Umineko but each to their own. I been predicting it from the start really though.

If Satoko is Lambdadelta all along it would explain her obsession with Bernkenstal and why she wanted Beatrice to keep her locked in the new loop. In Lambda's own words she loves Bern way too much.
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Personally I love the ties to Umineko but each to their own. I been predicting it from the start really though.
While it was to be expected, I would've preferred it in one of the following ways:
  • Small ties and some elements confirmed: like Hanyuu being Featherine
  • Full on bait-and-switch where the first bunch of episodes appeared to be Higurashi with some changes and then switching to some tea party with witches and we learn that it's just the Higurashi "game board" with some fundamental changes. And then becoming progressively insane and meta like Umineko, while still retaining an actually story.
But it seems to want to serve as an origin story of sorts to some (or just one) character. And that I don't like, because it fails to deliver IMHO:
Featherine clearly identified Satoko as Lambdadelta and I doubt there would be any way for her to make a mistake. Either she was already Lambdadelta and somehow (temporarily) lost memories/powers, but that doesn't really seem logical given that Featherine grants her those powers. So assuming she will become Lambdadelta it poses the following "problems":
  • It was stated that Lambdadelta hadn't read Higurashi yet and didn't want to get the ending spoiled. However, with what is shown now and with the knowledge of what Satoko is going to do in several loops, this shows a very deep understanding of Higurashi. Technically she might not know it entirely, but that's semantics.
  • While not confirmed, it's implied that Lambdadelta granted Takano's wish. Obviously this creates a chicken-egg problem, where without Lambdadelta the original Higurashi would not have taken place. But if the events after Higurashi form her origin that would not be possible. Now obviously these witches seem to transcend time, so I wouldn't see this as a big problem, but remains weird nevertheless
  • (Subjective) It's nice to have an air of mystery surrounding these witches. Having their origin revealed can be done, but should IMO be significant. I don't see how this show could still give a proper origin to the "Witch of Certainty", unless of course that title is granted at a later point in some unrelated event and we only get to see the origin of just Lambdadelta.
  • Satoko seems to go down this path without external factors. Sure, Featherine grants her the power to loop, but thus far it's just her own doing. It might be partially down to the permanent brain damage she has, but it does change the original ending of Higurashi IMO, as it implies Rika wasn't able to save Satoko. Now I'm not saying there can be no conflict at all after the original events of Higurashi, but the chain of events is quite clearly still related to the original events.
Though, we'll see how it pans out, but I'm not very hopeful.