All right, so now that we’ve taken a look at the happenings in our last post, let’s go back and try to work out… you know, what actually happened. Onikakushi drops a whole lot of questions. No answers. But if you know where to look, there might be a few hints. So, what do you say we start with the biggest question?
How much is actually real?
Yeah, yeah, Onikakushi runs really heavily on the “Is it magic? Is it mundane?” question, to the point it has the characters arguing about it OOC at the end. But you know, that question is nowhere near as interesting to me as this one. Stuff happened in this plot. A lot of stuff happened in this plot. But, did all the stuff that happened actually happen?
At its core, Onikakushi is a story about Keiichi’s descent into paranoia. You see him going from being a normal kid, run into a conspiracy so far beyond him that starts targeting him for even knowing about it, and in defense, Keiichi starts backing into the corner and pulling out the claws. Starts smashing up nothing, thinking enemies are all around him. But, maybe it goes beyond justifiable paranoia. Maybe Keiichi starts experiencing things that are not actually there.
It’s interesting to me how much Keiichi does that seems to serve no other purpose than to make his house a portrait of madness at the end. The entry way of his home is all smashed up. Mashed garbage strewn all over the room. A hastily scrawled note asking “Was there a needle?” on the fridge. The brief, hand-written memoirs of a crazed child stuck with tape behind his clock. The kind of home that would make you think its owner escaped from the asylum if you came across it in any crime drama. Of course, all of these were in response to something Keiichi was reacting to, and you see all the context for that, but take a look at that from outside Keiichi’s head for a bit. He smashes up his house by swinging at something invisible and intangible. He has a relatively calm phone conversation with Ooishi, then mention of the needle causes him to take a break and throw garbage all over his house, before he returns to the calm-ish conversation. Keiichi knows what it all looks like. That’s why he’s so very careful about what he puts in his dead drop note, and why it ends up being way too vague to be useful, outside of the bits that get torn out before the police find it.
But how far back does Keiichi’s altered perception go? Let’s start from the end, and take a look at some contradictions between what we’re shown and what we know.
So first, the police report at the end. Right off the bat, it states, and states conclusively, that Keiichi had called Rena and Mion over to his house before he beat them to death. Now, it doesn’t list any of the evidence for that claim, but logically, the police would be able to look into phone records in regards to what calls were made. At least, I’m going to assume they could. I don’t know ‘bout that 1983. So we can figure that it’s more than just an assumption that Keiichi called them out. Thing is, if you recall from the events we saw, when Keiichi woke up in his house before he killed his friends, Rena was already there. Sure, she called Mion from Keiichi’s house, but there’d be no reason for Rena to be called over. Unless, either the ‘Director’ she called share’s Rena’s number, or Keiichi had in fact called her over, and just wasn’t cognizant of it.
Keiichi died in exactly the same way as Tomitake did earlier. That’s exactly what Mion was threatening, saying he’d be injected with the same drug. But there’s two problems with this. The first, going by what we saw, Keiichi was never injected with the drug. He blacked out just before he did, came to with his friends dead, then recalled that he had knocked them away before he was injected. Possibly, this is recreating memories after the fact, but otherwise, he should never have been impacted by the drug at all. The second notable thing is that Keiichi started following in Tomitake’s footsteps long before the drug ever came up. The big moment is when he smashed up his front entryway, striking at the presence he detected but couldn’t see. Ooishi had notice that Tomitake had been found with a two-by-four that had impacted several things, but had no blood, skin, or biologic materials found on it. He smashed up a guardrail, but had no sign of actually hitting anyone else with it. Mayhaps he had been finding a presence that couldn’t be seen or touched, himself.
For that matter, the police found no trace of drugs in Tomitake, either. Mion explains they have a drug that can’t be detected, but what if the whole drug thing is a hallucination of Keiichi’s in the first place, and the actual explanation is something else entirely?
The evil Rena’s strength is really inconsistent. At one point, when she’s pinning his arms back, she has what Keiichi calls “freakishly monstrous strength”. The next, Keiichi is able to throw her around and overpower her easily. He even comes out of his little blackout wondering if he’d just been hallucinating.
Let’s go back a little further than that, because otherwise, we could spend all day on that moment of violence. A bit earlier, Keiichi had had that conversation with Mion that I had called the most revealing bit of the story. Keiichi’s just practicing his eventual murder-swing at school, when Mion comes up to him, and aside from asking him to knock it off, is just talking to him like normal.
Keiichi detects no hostility from her, no sense of violence. Well, at least up to the end of the conversation. Moreover, she doesn’t go into any threats, doesn’t bring out the dark side Keiichi’s been seeing, and doesn’t even act all that in control like she usually does. Rather, she leads into it by stating that she’s bothered that Keiichi’s been using the bat, and tries to use reason to convince him not to. She delivers no force, no assault, the way that she had when she visited Keiichi after he had his lunch with Ooishi, she just asks him not to do that and explains why it bothers her. Or starts to, at least. Keiichi breaks through that pretty quickly. Keiichi calls her on lying to him about Satoshi, about the dam murders, about it all, and rather than anything else, she just breaks down crying. And you remember the mochi, when Keiichi almost swallowed a needle? When he asks Mion ‘who was it?’ she readily admits it was her, and confused, says it was just a prank. ‘Just a prank’ couldn’t excuse nearly making Keiichi swallow a needle, but Keiichi doesn’t ask her about a needle, does he? He just asks ‘who was it?’, and Mion could be picking up on any of a number of different things she did to prank the mochi. There may not have even been a needle there, given that Keiichi was not able to find it after the event, no matter how he searched.
In any case, I had mentioned in the last post that it was clear that Keiichi and Mion were having two completely different conversations. I strongly suspect that’s because the two of them have been seeing completely different things. Or maybe Mion’s just that good of an actor. We’ll have to get into that later. Much later.
See, I can be good at foreshadowing, too.
That does almost get us to something we’ve been seeing a lot of over the prior couple of days. Even as things go all evil around Keiichi, even as he dips into paranoia, even as it becomes clear to him that his friends are out to get him, he still finds himself slipping into being friendly with them again. Teasing, joking, having fun, he even musses Rena’s hair at some point. After she’d already shown him the threatening side. Even with as much danger he believes himself to be in, Keiichi has a hard time committing fully to the idea that his friends are going to kill him. Part of that is the desire and belief that he expresses over and over again that maybe there’s a way for everything to turn back to normal, I’m sure, but mayhaps the reason he holds that believe is that somewhere, deep down inside, he knows that everything is not entirely as it seems.
Oddly enough, the biggest thing that stands out to me in this matter is possibly one of the smallest things there. Way back in the very beginning of the story, Keiichi finds himself really admiring the breakfasts his mother makes for him. She feeds him ‘perfect’ breakfasts, complex, with lots of dishes to go into it. Yet, when his world starts getting turned upside down, the breakfasts he gets turn bland. Very, very simple dishes, easy to make, that he’s getting tired of. No explanation is given for that, nor is any attention called to it, but given the emphasis placed on how great the breakfasts were earlier and how tightly woven this story is, that’s not a coincidence. On top of that, it’s a little strange that when Keiichi’s mother calls him to let him know they’ll be out a few days later on, she refers to herself and his father as ‘mommy and daddy’. A little infantile for talking to a high schooler. I haven’t been able to find many other reference points this chapter, but the only other time I find one of the parents referring to the other, it’s ‘your father’ then.
Also, when his breakfasts turn bland, Keiichi is seen on separate occasions eating rice and miso soup. There’s a lot I want to say about that, but I can’t without getting into spoilers for the next chapters. Just, remember that. I’ll call back to that later. Just make sure you bring a hat, then. Because it’s going to blow your mind.
In any case, it’s clear that Keiichi’s not a reliable narrator. The story makes no bones about that. Even Keiichi himself doubts what he’s perceiving at several points. The question is not “Is Keiichi crazy?”, the question is “how much is Keiichi’s craziness impacting what he’s seeing?” It’s very important to note that this is all told from Keiichi’s perspective, a first person story. Everything we see is filtered through him.
And there’s a bit of a balancing act the story has to pull there. It’s clear the way the story’s told is not entirely straight with you. So to some extent, you can’t trust everything you see there. On the other hand, if everything comes down to “oh, Keiichi was hallucinating and everything is lies”… well, frankly, that not a strong enough foundation to build an 8+ chapter mystery on. If that’s all there is, the tale is ruined, and I believe Higurashi is way too strong a tale for that. For this to progress well, there has to be more to the events than just Keiichi’s madness. Something more to keep that mystery alive. Especially since we do see the odd happenings through other, more limited but presumably more reliable, perspectives as well.
This guy. This guy. This. Guy.
So let’s talk about this guy.
We already talked about how Keiichi is not a reliable narrator. How his lack of sanity casts serious doubt on what we’re seeing. But you know, he’s not the only one I have problems with.
Onikakushi is a complex tale of questions. That much is clear. It poses questions, plays with your expectations a bit, but doesn’t have much concrete answers. Little solid information. And after things start going downhill what information you do get, comes from a single source.
Given the nature of the story, the whole paranormal mystery deal, that in itself is suspicious. As it becomes more and more clear that Ooishi is just using you, and things keep popping up that call his integrity into question, well, it becomes that much harder to take it all at face value.
The less Keiichi trusts everyone else, the more he sees the whole bloody town of Hinamizawa trying to kill him, the more he falls in line with Ooishi. He relies on Ooishi to save him, then later to carry on the investigation after his death. Ooishi is Keiichi’s sole confidant, and even as he starts seeing enemies all around him and he becomes convinced that he’s going to be killed if he learns more, he gets some sense of reassurance just in trading information over the phone with him.
And yet. And yet. It’s when Ooishi first shows up that Keiichi’s life starts going to hell. Kid even recognizes this fact. And every single time he talks with Ooishi, things get worse. And Ooishi has so much that just screams ‘untrustworthy’ about him, that it is hard to know where he stands.
Ooishi doesn’t really talk about it much, but he’s been working with people in exactly this way before. It’s known that he was in contact with and had been following Satoshi before he disappeared. Keiichi seems to view it largely as just one more of the strange behaviours he’s been inadvertently repeating. Keiichi wasn’t privy to this, but in one of the TIPS, outside Keiichi’s perspective, Mion points out that a lot of the villagers think of Ooishi as Oyashiro-sama’s herald, because everyone he approaches ends up being demoned away or killed. Now, this could be because he knows the pattern, the traits likely to make someone a victim. Or it could be it’s because he’s actively causing it through his involvement. And even if the latter is the case, that still raises the question of whether he’s doing so knowingly, sinisterly manipulating people into their own ends, or it could be that his involvement is merely pushing people into situations where they’re becoming victims.
Ooishi is from Hinamizawa. His family goes back there for at least a few generations. What sort of connection he has with the place is unknown. He works in the nearby city, the name of which I don’t remember, but doesn’t seem to have ventured far from Hinamizawa. At the same time, though, he seems largely unaware of what’s really common knowledge for the villagers. Perhaps the biggest omission in his knowledge, the idea that, along with someone being murdered every year, someone also disappears, is completely new to him. Which you could claim off as just being part of his standing within the village, but Rena, who should come from just the same social level as he, was well aware of that fact. It wasn’t just her, either; Keiichi overheard a few people speaking openly in the hospital about how Takano was the one to be demoned away this year. That this is so open among villagers, yet Ooishi knows nothing about it, well, it makes you think. For that matter, while he’s well educated on the village’s recent history, he claims to have gotten all his information about the long-term history and folklore of the region from his grandmother, rather than having learned about it directly. So, his connections to the village may not be as strong as they should be. Or he may be just playing dumb, trying to gauge where Keiichi’s at. It’s a little hard to tell, although he’s certainly plenty familiar to the other villagers.
Ooishi’s acting rogue. That much is clear. Now, that’s probably the most justifiable thing about his actions. It’s clear that the police are deliberately holding back on their investigations, heavily implied to be due to the interference of the politically powerful Sonozaki family. If Ooishi wants answers, wants to get to the truth, he would need to work around that. Yet, aside from just making contact with Keiichi and making him do all the work, he’s not doing much. Doesn’t investigate on his own, does very little to provide direction aside from making Keiichi suspicious of his friends, and really, for one who suspects the Keiichi is in grave danger, he does absolutely nothing about it. And perhaps most damning here, when we get to the end and switch to Ooishi’s perspective, he first plays off Keiichi’s calling him to the other cops, then makes sure that none of them can hear as they actually talk. He doesn’t want anyone else on the force knowing that he and Keiichi are talking. And in the end, when Ooishi gets questioned about Keiichi’s death, it’s only as the first person on the scene. The police still seem to have no idea that he was connected with Keiichi otherwise, and I’m guessing Ooishi never clued them in about it.
So, if we can’t trust Ooishi, what bits of info does that lose us? There’s plenty that seems to form the foundation of Keiichi’s perspective that we only hear about through Ooishi, that, even assuming everything else that occurs truly does happen, we’ve got no other evidence for. Rena’s background is a big one. Some bits and pieces we do get from Rena herself, that she wasn’t always living in Hinamizawa, that she’s believes Oyashiro-sama ‘exists’ (quotes are her own) and that she’s seen him. But that she smashed up her previous school and attacked her friends? That she’s been reporting to the psychologists examining her that she’s consistently visited by Oyashiro-sama? All Ooishi. The long-term background of Hinamizawa only comes from Ooishi as well. The demon-related folklore, that Hinamizawa was a place where people lived alongside demons and that Oyashiro-sama was there to keep the demon world and human world away from each other, that all comes from him. Along with that came the idea that it’s the entire village against their target, opposed to just a few isolated individuals. And Mion herself, the idea that she’s been involved in multiple violent altercations comes straight from Ooishi. If you excise those by themselves, it may not exactly change your perspective of the story. But these do all lead into happenings in the story later, after they’re introduced. If you combine this with the idea that Keiichi’s not perceiving things as they are, well, it could be that Ooishi’s not foreshadowing things so much as he’s triggering Keiichi’s hallucinations.