The Higurashi Notes, Chapter 1: Onikakushi-Wild Mass Theorizing

So after all that, we come around to the big question.  What exactly is going on in Higurashi?  The first chapter, Onikakushi, has no answers.  But it does have some fuel for speculation.  And you know what?  In the latest chapter released, the developers straight up ask you to spend some time on the speculation.  So let’s do that.

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Now, there’s two main questions the game leaves hanging.  Why, and HowWhy does the town hate Keiichi?  Why do his friends keep turning evil and trying to kill him?  Why do people get murdered there?  And How all of that?

Let’s explore this.  I do want to say, I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers here, and limit things to content as presented in this chapter.  But, honestly, some of these conclusions are informed by what’s been presented in the other question arcs, and really, I’m not going to be able to get around that.

Anyways, let’s go into some random guesses as to what all makes things work in this story.  I’m not entirely convinced in all of these, in fact, some of them I’m pretty sure the story will never even consider.  But they’re all taking up some mental real estate.  And you know what, before we get into the meat of it, let’s get one thing out of the way.

Natural vs. Supernatural

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Right, so I said earlier we could just brush this question off.  And really, we can.  But I figure, this chapter makes something of a deal of it, so we may as well address it.  In brief.  Because that’s all this question deserves.

Are the weird happenings in this game the acts of men?  Are the consistent murders a series of copycat killers?  Are the villagers getting organized to expulse any outsider they consider a threat to their operations?  Is there some sort of conspiracy going on among the major families to maintain the village in just the way they want by force if necessary?  Or is it the act of otherworldly beings?  Is Oyashiro-sama real and working to purge the village?  Are there truly demons among the villagers?

Again, this is a question this chapter tries to raise, and definitely the one it wants you speculating on, but I don’t think it’s very material to the story.  Some being is making murder, whether it’s a human or a spirit doesn’t make much difference in the end.  And really, this chapter doesn’t give you anything to base it off of.  The idea of the supernatural is raised, but if you take Keiichi’s fractured sanity into account, you don’t see anything concrete as to how it’s acting.  Unless that fractured sanity is how it’s acting.  But even that could be the drug they allude to.  They don’t give you enough either way to foster good speculation on that. 20160709181328_1.jpg

For what it’s worth, given the direction the story’s been going, even in this chapter, I’m of the opinion that there’s at least some supernatural element there.  The people are definitely involved in it, at least as far as covering it up goes, but there is some magic involved either in the actual execution of the murder/disappearances, or in the organizing people to do such.  I just don’t think the lead they’ve given and the way the following chapters progress will make much sense if there’s something beyond human running behind it.  But it’s not completely supernatural, because this is a character-driven story, and all that actual characters are human.  If you take the humans out of it, then you’ve wasted at least the early chapters.  So some mix of human and supernatural is where it’s at.  If it’s not, I will refund you the price of reading this blog post.  What do you have to lose?

The Theorizing

Keiichi’s Sanity

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Things happen in this story.  That’s something we can safely state, right?  That stuff goes on?  Let me know if that’s too far out there for you.  We can work on establishing that, if we need to.

You good?  Ok.  This visual novel shows you a lot of things.  Most of that is filtered through Keiichi’s point of view.  This is largely a first person narration.  Meaning we’re seeing what the POV character sees, rather than what’s actually happening.  With most stories, there wouldn’t be much difference between the two.  But some stories like to use this storytelling technique to throw a wrench in things.  The good old unreliable narrator.  Mayhaps Higurashi, or at least its first chapter, is just such a story?

We’re given plenty of reason to doubt Keiichi’s sanity, that what he’s seeing is actually what’s happening.  We’ve gone over these already in this little review series, so I won’t be spending much time on it here.  Sometimes, other people don’t seem to have experienced the same things Keiichi has.  Sometimes, Keiichi seems to lose control over himself.  Sometimes Keiichi vividly sees things that happened in the past based on information he’s just received.  Sometimes thing she encounters in one moment seems to disappear in the next. 20160707220853_1.jpg

Even Keiichi seems to realize he can’t really trust his perception.  And it’s clear that to some degree, what you’re seeing could be a bit removed from what’s really going on.  How much, though?  Just the internal stuff that’s in his own head, whereas all the actual events of the plot occur?  Are the feelings of the otherworldly presence that follows Keiichi false, whereas the rest of the stuff we see truly occurring?  Is the whole ‘my friends are turning evil’ thing a product of Keiichi’s imagination, and he is truly completely safe aside from his own actions?

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The exact level of Keiichi’s madness is hard to determine.  This chapter gives you little to go on besides establishing the suspicion there.  Personally, I’m off the feeling that he goes far enough to be imagining some of the aggression, some of the evil nature of his friends, and some of the actions the village has taken against him.  However, not all of it is chalked up to his madness.  The village, maybe Oyashiro-sama, and perhaps his friends, are honestly out for his blood, and even beyond his madness, his life is truly in danger.  For reference, look at the whole bean bun incident.  Keiichi thinks he almost swallowed a needle.  It seems clear Mion played some prank on those buns, although with her reaction, probably something much less dire than a needle.  So Keiichi’s mind wasn’t pulling something from nothing, rather, it took what was already there, and perceived it as being a bit more than it was.  My assumption is that he’s looking at the rest of the happenings the same way.

The Nature of the Murder/Disappearances

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Every year, on the day of the Watanagashi Festival, somebody is found murdered, and somebody disappeared.  Much is made of theorizing as to why.  Future arcs will reveal some more things as to what may be happening in the background here, although these don’t always match up between arcs, and it still waffles back and for between the Natural/Magical question.   Even this chapter itself posed a couple theories, without ever solidly swinging for any of them.  What do you say we add another one onto the pile here, eh?

It was mentioned by Ooishi that Hinamizawa used to be living on the verge of the Ogre’s Abyss, where demons lived.  He poses the idea that the denizens of Hinamizawa still carry the blood and traditions of the demons in them.  Moreover, it’s mentioned that Oyashiro-sama is not only a guardian deity for the village itself, protecting them from harm to the outside, but Oyashiro-sama also served to protect the outside world from the demons within.  Keeping Hinamizawa and the rest of the world separate, in effect.

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So, at least as far as the disappearances go, what if those who disappeared where always the murderers?  The act of murdering on that night triggers Oyashiro-sama’s protection of the rest of the world, and the deity removes the being who did that evil act in order to keep everything else safe.

We know that the disappearance being the murderer was the case in the first instance, where a group of people murdered and dismembered the leader of the construction site, and the leader of this group was the one to disappear.  We don’t have many details about the ones coming after, although it’s almost always someone with some association to the murder victim.  I don’t have much to base this on, yet, but what if they’ve all got some unexplained grudge against the murder victims, something that would maybe drive them towards murder?  Then, after they’ve done so, whatever supernatural force that gets called Oyashiro-sama just… cleans them up, to keep them from doing so again.  Just removes them from that word.  They give into that demon nature, so as a measure of protection, Oyashiro-sama lifts them away.

As for why a bunch of seemingly unrelated people are inclined to murder on a specific day each year, that, I’m a little more lost on.  Nor, why, if it’s just a matter of copycat killers, only one person dies that day each year.  Could be that it’s a day of significance to some overarching group that keeps them all organized.  Or it could be that that’s just the day when the veils between the human and demon world grow thinner, and people are more inclined to give into their demon nature.

The only real evidence pointing to this thus far are a) that we know this fits the structure of what happened the first time and b) that all the disappearance victims have been Hinamizawa natives, whereas not all the murder victims have.  But still, it’s an impression I’ve picked up, admittedly inspired by some more things we see in the other question arcs, that I just really can’t shake.

The Hive Mind

Mion and Rena both have times where they just know things.  Particularly, things that they shouldn’t know.  Things that happened when they weren’t around, or things that Keiichi’s actively been trying to hide.  In fact, Rena always seems to show up whenever Keiichi happens to be talking about her.  It’d be easy to take that as an aspect of Keiichi’s paranoia manifesting itself, him hallucinating that they’re always able to discover exactly what they shouldn’t be, but let’s ignore what I’ve theorized about before for this one.

It’s not just Mion and Rena.  Way back in the beginning of the story, Keiichi’s friends start showing him around town, and everyone knows exactly who he is.

So what if there’s some sort of collective consciousness, or a hive mind, going together along those in the village?  Not a very structured mindset, but something where information can transmit among members of the group.  If one villager learns something, that knowledge gets passed on to the person Oyashiro-sama or whatever wants to do something about it.

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I get the sense of this most strongly when looking at the Sonozaki family.  The way Mion constantly refers to herself as “This Old Man”, the way she’s respected even in spite of her age, the way she seemed to take leadership in the anti-dam protests, all seem to speak to a level of skill and experience that would require more than her meager years could afford.  Mayhaps some of the abilities and life lessons from the more elder members of her politically powerful family have made their way down to her.

Otherwise, there’s the fact that every single person in the village already knows who Keiichi is.  Easily explainable by it just being one of those small town things.  But what if it’s not?  What if nothing is a small town thing?  Likewise, the fact that those two thugs know exactly where to find Keiichi after he’d been manically chased around by Rena, then Rena knew exactly where to find Keiichi when they were done with him.  Remember, this is set in a time before cell phones.  I know, hard to imagine.  Yet two separate groups were still able to independently find him in a field right smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

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For that matter, how does Rena always know to show up when Keiichi’s talking to Ooishi about her?  How did she know what he’s been planning on eating, and what he bought at the supermarket so long ago?  How did she know his parents were gone when he went through so much effort of hiding it?  Well, because he really sucked at covering it up but NO THAT’S NOT IT!  It’s because the hive mind’s in his brain as well.  I am a genius don’t question me.

It’s not a universal hive mind.  People don’t have the perfect information.  After all, Rena was absolutely convinced that the spookies were going to be getting her next.  If she had access to the full information, she’d know better than that.  Likewise, while the rest of the village may have a bit of extra knowledge about the murders going on, it seems to be a bit of a mystery to them, too.  Information seems directed, sent only where whatever consciousness behind it thinks it needs to go.

Yeah, this one’s a bit of a stretch.

Keiichi Was Framed/Actually Injected

Keiichi didn’t actually kill Mion and Rena.

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If you recall, at the end of the story, Keiichi was about to be injected, blacked out, and woke up with Mion and Rena already dead.  He flashbacked to what happened in the interim later, but remember that Keiichi’s sanity is not quite there.

So what if he didn’t kill Mion and Rena?  What if he was out for longer than he thought, and he was set up by whoever the crew in the labcoats that surrounded the house afterwards were?  All we really have saying that he did is relatively circumstantial, and is filtered either through Keiichi’s shattered perspective or through the police reports, that are subject to political pressures by the powers reigning in Hinamizawa.

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Or you know what, let’s lump something else in here, too.  Keiichi actually was injected with the drug in that moment, that’s what caused him to kill Mion and Rena, then he went psychotic because of it and was never seeing things correctly through the whole epilogue.

Either way, I find it really really notable, Keiichi’s attitude completely changes before and after that event.  Beforehand, he’s both carrying around the idea that “I will not die unless I choose to” and the idea that “today will be the day I die”.  Afterwards, he’s filled with a commitment to survive.  Before, he was almost choosing to die.  Afterwards, he was doing everything he could to avoid it.  Until he killed himself.  Maybe the latter optimism was all in his head.  Well, I mean, of course optimism was all in his head, but… you know what I mean.

“But wait?”  I can hear you asking.  “Didn’t we straight up see Keiichi killing someone in the very beginning of the chapter?  Wasn’t it Rena he was doing in then?”  Well, maybe.  Maybe not.  Could have been Satoshi, he whose shoes Keiichi’s been following in, starting a cycle.  Could have been another Keiichi, in another time.  But you know what?  That’s something will have to start getting into when we’re talking about the next chapters.

The Loose Ends

There are two things going on here that I’m still not quite sure what to put my finger on, even after going through all the question arcs.  For one, I’m not sure what Ooishi’s deal is.  I’ve already raised the suspicions with him.  No idea what he’s thinking, no idea how honest he’s in, no idea whose side he’s really on.  He seems to honestly want to crack the case.  He also seems to cause a lot of the problems coming up here.

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The second are the Higurashi themselves.  Those cicadas.  They come in, they leave, they respond to happenings in the story.  I’m pretty sure they represent something.  Some sort of theming or imagery going on here.  I’m just not entirely sure what.

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