Higurashi: When They Cry (2020) Episode 7

Rena Ryuugu

Another great episode :D

Seems to be following the Watanagashi chapter, but there are still some scenes, like Kimiyoshi disappearing on Watanagashi night. Can't wait to see what happens in next week's episode.
This was the first episode in this arc that had the biggest divergences except for the doll scene in episode 5. I think we can conclude that what we know is actively working against us now and this is a whole new mystery.
I enjoyed this episode. In many ways a lot seems to be the same, but the things that differ suggest a lot more is different than we are led to believe.

One thing I don't really like are Rika's glowing eyes. Perhaps there's something more to it, but if it's just for the effect, I'd be disappointed. Just an intense stare and shift in tone is more than enough for her. Also, still wondering what she is doing all the time. I'd assume she'd be trying a lot harder to avoid a dead end. She seemed to consider the fact that they have entered the tool shed to already spell the end for this fragment. But at the same time we see little indication that she actually attempted anything to avoid this from happening.

Now an easy explanation could be that the fragments are so diverse that it's just unfeasible for Rika to cover all possible failure states. After all, we only know of a handful of them and of the ones we know we've only really seen one instance which makes it easy to see where she should've intervened, while she has to consider a lot more. But if this is the reason, that would be quite unsatisfactory in my opinion.

Another explanation could be that Rika doesn't have full control over herself and simply can't act at times? Hanyuu's powers are probably very weak (she wasn't even able to tell Rika how she died). From the original we know that this diminishing of power also results in Rika being sent less far in the past. The ED shows us a lot of ripped pages of the calendar, but all of them are in the range June 17th - 22nd. (And at the beginning of the ED we see the inability to rip the page for the 22nd)

If she only gained control on the 17th, that would be after the doll scene. We know that in both Watanagashi and Meakashi the doll is given to Rena, whereas in Minagoroshi the doll is given to Mion without intervention from Rika. And even in Minagoroshi, Rika was about to intervene which makes it plausible that fragments exist where she actually did. So what we might've been looking at was part of a prior fragment where Rika intervened to get the doll to Mion, and only in the last episode or two with the "new" Rika. In that sense, the doll scene might be a red herring.

This still leaves a lot of questions and I would still accuse her of inaction. You'd think it would be quite easy to ensure Keiichi watches the dance. On the other hand, she might've determined that the doll did go to Mion, which under normal circumstances would prevent that tragedy. Let's not forget the naming of these arcs :) They are definitely deceiving us, but most likely are deceiving Rika as well. Perhaps these fragments are cherry-picked or even composed from multiple fragments.

There is of course the possibility that she regained control at an even later point, perhaps even after the festival. In that case, there was nothing she could've done to prevent it. But honestly, starting from the 20th would leave no time at all for Rika to do anything and you'd expect the time she has to only shrink. Unless we aren't viewing them in the order Rika traverses them, I don't think this would be the case.

Now this would all make sense if the (new) antagonist is aware of these fragments. Being able to pick elements of fragments that would lead Rika (and us) to think that it's a certain arc, but in fact being different.
On a meta level, Frederica Bernkastel would intimately know about the various "arcs". In the manga she is even the one who likens them to a series of books and provides the names. From that perspective it would make sense that if she would setup these worlds as a game, the she would mimic the arcs we're used to. And she'd be able to deceive Rika with each and every one of them. The only thing lacking would be a clear motive.
Regardless of the meta level explanation, there's most likely some in-universe component to the antagonist as well. Assuming the story remains in the mystery genre, that component should be someone or something we're already familiar with.

The only thing we know for sure is different in these fragments compared to prior ones is that Rule Y is consistently broken. Rewritten is possibly a better wording. It seems that Tomitake and Takano always leave and disappear. The relation to Rule X seems to remain unchanged. Mysteriously missing (or seen "escaping" the village) are still sufficient to fuel paranoia.

As much as I like the above theory-crafting, most of it seems to fall apart when trying to generalize it to the first arc.
  • It's implied that "new" Rika is watching over the waste yard (end ep1/start ep2). But this takes place on the 15th, two days before the 17-22nd timespan.
  • The entire main cast are still alive at the start of the 23rd (in other words the page on the calendar would've been ripped). In fact we even see a shot of the calendar at the start of episode 4.
  • The bodies of Rika and Satoko are found on the 24th, but might've been killed on the 23rd.
  • Rika talking with Keiichi in an attempt to remove his suspicion of Rena was also on the 23rd. So that also rules out the idea that Rika might only have control between the 17th and 22nd regardless if she survives or not.
So perhaps the time span and specific date will become relevant at a later point OR it applies to someone else than we are expecting. It's probably no coincidence that on the 23rd the Irie Clinic was "remodeling". So many questions and so little to go on. Does Rika still retain her memories between fragments, or is Hanyuu's power too weak for that? Why did she assume that both Tomitake and Takano would be dead (on the 20th)? I might have to rewatch the episodes, revisit the manga and sound novel...

Let's wrap things up with an outlandish theory. What if the relation between Rule X and Rule Y are swapped? The one succumbing to paranoia actually being the one that results in Tomitake's and Takano's disappearance. What if in the first arc Rena kills them both on the night of the festival and this time around Shion got rid of them. Do note that we've only heard from Shion that they stole a truck and escaped the village. It could very well be that they are actually captured and/or killed and Shion is lying.

Apologies for the wall of text😅
@IdiomaticLynx Ahhhh you are very wrong about Frederica Bernkenstal's character.

Only click if you never have any intention on delving into Umineko
Bernkenstal is 1000 year old Rika

Now Lambdadelta on the other hand, I don't trust her (but I don't suspect her either).
@Vincentdante Luckily I've read all of Umineko (although I've yet to read the manga in full). But from what I understood:
There is a difference between Rika, Frederica Bernkastel and the witch Bernkastel. Now it's entirely possible that the last two are one and the same. But even if they are, I think it's fair to say that you can still treat Frederica Bernkastel (having only lived a 100 years) and the witch Bernkastel to be two different entities. Any authoritative sources further clarifying their relation would be nice.

Throughout the events of Higurashi, Rika and Frederica Bernkastel are more or less the same. In Saikoroshi we get a clear point where Rika lets go of the Frederica Bernkastel part and clearly states that she might continue to exist on a higher plane. It's worth noting that at that time, Rika (and thus Frederica) refers to herself as a witch.

Now what we can gather from Umineko regarding Bernkastel's origin is that she wasn't a witch, but instead a game piece. Not even self-aware according to Lambdadelta. The game board was constructed by her master, furthermore due to a logic error, the game was broken with no goal at all. Ultimately Bernkastel managed to escape through a miracle and gained the status as the Witch of Miracles.

Now, it's fun to theorize that this is all (directly) linked to Higurashi. Especially if you also consider Featherine, the "evidence" just seem to pile up. Bernkastel being the miko of Featherine translates nicely to Rika being the miko of Hanyuu, for example. The manga of Umineko provides even further clues, implying that Hanyuu was most likely Bernkastel's master. The time spent by Bernkastel in this logic error is supposed to be centuries.

But there are also significant problems with this comparison. First of, it's unclear if this game was crafted by anyone to begin with. From our perspective it came to be when the strong will of Takano clashed with Hanyuu saving Rika by going back in time (or rather, to another fragment). If this quantifies as setting up the game, than Hanyuu would indeed be the game master. Lambdadelta's wording implied some ill will and indicated that the game master lost sight of the goal partway through, but from the get go Hanyuu seems to want to find a world where Rika and her friends can live peacefully.

Second of all, where would the logic error be? The inability to escape was mostly down to missing crucial information. Rika/Frederica Bernkastel was able to determine rules XYZ but unable to workaround them. In the end they did call upon some miracles in their final battle, but really this wasn't like the infinite monkey theorem at all. Last few arcs we see Rika gain significant insight in how to avoid tragedy and combining all effort and hope in a final battle. This is also apparent in the second episode of Gou, as Rika states quite confidently that she'll be able to win back her future once more (assuming the same situation/rules apply).

Thirdly the time is completely off. Rika took a hundred years to escape, whereas Bernkastel was trapped for centuries.

So I find it very hard to imagine that the Rika we know becomes the witch Bernkastel. Frederica Bernkastel becoming the witch Bernkastel is slightly more likely. In any case, some element of Rika is the origin of the witch Bernkastel (unlike the red herring Miyo and Lambdadelta similarities). Whether or not this was through Frederice Bernkastel or starting from a "different Rika".

But that's why I suggested Frederica Bernkastel as a potential antagonist on the meta level. She has all the relevant knoweldge and in terms of personality is quite clearly distached from Rika to the point that she doesn't care for Rika's misfortune or her friends'. (On the other hand, the cruel personality trait is only something we see in the witch Bernkastel, not so much in Frederica Bernkastel. But honestly, with so little content featuring Frederice Bernkastel it's hard to make that call).

On top of that, the witch Bernkastel would have little reason to do this. She most likely would've grown bored of Higurashi a long time ago (prehaps even resent it, if the logic error did take place on that board) and would not revisit it. But Frederice Bernkastel is a witch in the sea of fragments, but she isn't the Witch of Miracles yet (if she ever becomes it), nor is she (I assume) able to travel between boards. So I'd say:

Frederica Bernkastel learned the full truth about the board with the original end of Higurashi. This allowed her to take control of the board. She then pulled in Rika as a piece and changed rule Y.

(Now obviously this could be completely wrong and likely is, but I'll just continue spouting nonsense and I'm bound to get some things right 😅)

Now Lambdadelta on the other hand, I don't trust her (but I don't suspect her either).
I don't trust her either, but also don't suspect her in this case. Main reason being that she wasn't aware of the end of higurashi. If she were the game master she should know the ins and outs of the game board.