Satsuki YukinoChafurinHigurashiNaoko Matsui
Higurashi When They Cry: Gou
Also known as: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Gou
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2020
Director: Keiichiro Kawaguchi
Writer: Naoki Hayashi
Actor: Chafurin, Fumiko Orikasa, Katsuhisa Houki, Mai Nakahara, Mika Kanai, Miki Ito, Naoko Matsui, Noriko Hidaka, Satsuki Yukino, Soichiro Hoshi, Toru Ohkawa, Toshihiko Seki, Yui Horie, Yukari Tamura
Keywords: Higurashi, anime, horror
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Season Five, 24 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=23297
Website category: Anime 2020
Review date: 17 September 2022
Higurashi
I've watched all of this franchise from its beginnings in 2006, including the live-action adaptations. I love it. I quite liked this 5th season until its final story arc (Village-Destroying Chapter), which for me could more accurately be called Interest-Destroying Chapter. There's a sixth season, Sotsu, which I won't be watching.
I'll go into SPOILERS, eventually, but I'll give plenty of warning first.
This series is based on a visual novel with lots of very bad endings. Keiichi, Rika, Rena, Mion, Shion and Satoko are children in a mountain village called Hinamizawa where the neighbours are lovely, the scenery's to die for and the local school's so small that it only has one class, with children of all ages in it. Unfortunately, though, every year, on the night of the Watanashi Festival, someone will go missing and someone else will die. This isn't superstition. Almost anyone can go mad and start clawing bloodily at their own neck before committing a disgusting act of violence.
The previous four seasons had done an impressive job of leading us through the mysteries. Hinamizawa has a lot of secrets and some pretty astonishing conspiracies. The franchise's last anime instalment, though, had been in 2013, so most of Gou's episodes are basically reminding the audience of stuff.
DEMON-DECEIVING CHAPTER (parts 1-4)
Re-establishes the basics. The white van. Repeating for 100 years. Rika's personality change and the Sea of Fragments. Torture tools and disembowelment. Frenzied stabbing to death. All the old favourites, in other words.
COTTON-DECEIVING CHAPTER (parts 5-8)
Shion, torture chambers and the possibility that Keiichi will starve to death if a certain person disappears. The blood as he bashes against the door. Ewww. It's good old-fashioned Higurashi, but reintroducing Shion makes it feel like a recap and it doesn't really feel as if it's doing anything new.
CURSE-DECEIVING CHAPTER (parts 1-5)
It's about Satoko and her abusive uncle Teppei, i.e. it's an alternate retelling of Minagoroshi-hen from Season 2 (Kai). It's pretty cool, though. The local government are stonewalling and our heroes are hard-pushed to save Satoko. Can they win in time for the Watanagashi festival?
CAT-DECEIVING CHAPTER (parts 1-4)
At last, the Gou season gives us something new. It starts with multiple Higurashi-bad endings (i.e. very very bad) and has an offer of permanent death as a release from the infinite loops. It's about despair and it suggests some very unexpected possibilities. Halfway through the next story arc, I doubled back to rewatch certain scenes from this one and confirm that, yes, they were what I'd thought. Clever. Surprising. It's foreshadowing a huge change in direction.
VILLAGE-DESTROYING CHAPTER (parts 1-7)
I hated it. I'll be explaining why after the spoiler space... which will, incidentally, spoil all of Higurashi up to this point. Stop reading now if you might watch any of this franchise in future, not just Gou or Sotsu.
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So, here we are.
For about eighty episodes, we've watched our heroes struggle against Hinamizawa's fate... and now it's all over. They've won. They grow up. Rika and Satoko will get taller, start wearing bras and think about high school. At last, Rika's been released from the Hinamizawa time loop she's been trapped in for 100 years. Together, she and Satoko attend a posh school for refined young ladies. Rika fits in beautifully and earns a circle of admirers, but Satoko falls behind and gets stuck in a hell class for underachievers, thanks to her rough edges and hatred of studying.
Result: Satoko chooses the same time-looping fate that Rika just escaped. Her objective through the loops will be stopping her break-up with Rika.
The sensible approach, of course, would be to learn the school's curriculum. After even two or three loops, you'd already know it backwards. You'd look like a genius. You'd have the school at your feet. Satoko hates studying, admittedly, but this is a girl who's willing to use her time-looping to memorise the positions of an entire pack of playing cards, just to win a classroom game of Pelmanism.
Satoko doesn't do this. Instead, she tries to sabotage Rika's study sessions, repeatedly commits suicide, occasionally murders Rika (her best friend), etc. She joins forces with a sadistic bitch goddess who locked Satoko into the time loop for entertainment. She ends the season by setting up even worse atrocities in Sotsu. And it's all pointless. In every single episode, I was saying "just study". It's not difficult. Hit the books. You can do it. It's their standard curriculum, for crying out loud. It's not leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
No no no no no. Sod off. I lost interest. There's some interesting causal looping, admittedly, with mysterious happy endings being eventually explained by Satoko's later actions. That was clever. But I still don't care about Satoko's daft goals and the next season, Sotsu, can bugger off.