‘Friends… How many of us have them? Friends… Ones we can depend on.’ -Whodini, Friends (1983 rap single) The power of friendship is a tired concept in anime. It’s a trope used as either a final hour plot device or a moral boast given to the hero from their freinds as a power-up, or a motivation toll to push […]
How many of us have them?
Ones we can depend on.’ -Whodini, Friends (1983 rap single)
The power of friendship is a tired concept in anime. It’s a trope used as either a final hour plot device or a moral boast given to the hero from their freinds as a power-up, or a motivation toll to push forward in the face of despair. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni isn’t exempt from this. However, how Higurashi tackles this theme makes it stand out from other series that uses the power of friendship such as Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh.
Using mature and controversial themes (such as child abuse, mental health, trust issues, etc.) for its overarching narrative, Higurashi makes the power of friendship, and the benefits of it feel realistic compared to other anime series.
With series main character Keiichi, we see Rena and Mion attempt to reach out to Keiichi in his time of stress and paranoia, whom he couldn’t seem to trust. Rena herself would wind up untrusting of her friends; accusing them of betraying her (as she believed they snitched on her for murdering Rina and Teppei).
Finally, The Club unites the village of Hinamizawa to rescue Satoko Houjou from her abusive uncle – including villagers who once outcast and hated her.
Join me in part one of my analysis of the Power of Friendship in Higurashi as we explore how Rena and Mion reached out to help their friend Keiichi, only to be murdered by him due to his paranoia.
Keiichi, Rena, and Mion
‘Give me a reason why not to adapt in this way,
or judge me to be guilty of so many incurable sins
Tell me why, or why not, complaining way too much,
Maybe I overlooked something fatal for me’
“Why or Why Not” by Katakiri Rekka (Higurashi no Naku koro ni ED 1)
Ever since he moved to the small and close-knit village of Hinamizawa, Keiichi grew close with new friends Rena and Mion. They walk together to school, play after-school games and kick it and chill with one another as good friends. It’s clear by their interactions and the time they spend with each other that they’re bonded by friendship.
A bond of destroyed by paranoia and distrust.
Keiichi’s distrust towards his friends began when he was informed by Tomitake about the Hinamizawa Dam War (a protest conflict against a dam construction in the village). The “war” resulted in the unsolved murder and dismemberment of the project’s director. Now mind you, this information was given to Keiichi after he was joking with Tomitake that Rena may had hid a body in the garbage dump (the land that was going to be used for the dam) where she normally hangs out at. We must also note that some of the remains of the project director have yet to be recovered at this point of the story.
This news doesn’t ease Keiichi’s paranoia. It will get worse after the Cotton Drifting Festival.
It’s the night of the Cotton Drifting Festival. After kicking it with The Club, Keiichi goes off on his own to explore the area. He links up with Tomitake and his girlfriend, Miyo. The lovers get Keiichi hip on Oyashiro’s Curse: a series of unexplained “supernatural” deaths and disappearances occurring at the festival for the past five years – with this year’s festival being the fifth anniversary. This new information in combination of the murder and dismemberment case freaks Keiichi out.
There’s more to the village than he is aware of.
The following morning, Keiichi is visited by detective Oishi at his school. Oishi notifies the boy that Tomitake was discovered dead during the festival. In addition, Miyo is missing. He asks Keiichi if he believes these incidents are linked to the curse. Keiichi replies that he doesn’t believe in such things such as curses and gods. Pleased, Oishi sees Keiichi as an useful person for the case . Oishi ends their meeting with him requesting that he does not repeat anything to anyone –especially to Mion – as she is a member of the notorious Sonozaki Yakuza clan.
Returning to class, Keiichi overhears Mion and Rena discussing the disappearance of past victims of the supposed curse. Satoshi is mentioned, which Keiichi questions Rena about the boy later. After school, Keiichi confronts his friends about the murders, the village, and the curse. He suspects them of withholding information. Rena counters this, asking him why he too is withholding information. She brings up that she knows that he spoke with Oishi (contradicting his lie of him talking to their teacher).
The friends argue back and forth. Rena grows hostile. In the height of their verbal fight, Rena questions the subject of Oishi and Keiichi’s discussion, which he dodges. Rena snarls at Keiichi – accusing him of lying. Returning to her normal sweet nature, she tells Keiichi that just like he has secrets, they too have their own.
Knowing that the Hinamizawa Syndrome causes paranoia, one can assume that Keiichi is imagining Rena becoming hostile in her actions. For all we know, Rena could have been teasing Keiichi for fun. Maybe she was concern that Keiichi was talking to a police officer that he did not know.
Later that night, Keiichi receives a call from Oishi requesting new information. Keiichi mentions Rena and Mion were talking about the curse, the murders, and Satoshi (with Oishi informing Keiichi that Satoshi was one of the victims of the curse the year before). Keiichi links everything Rena and the others told him earlier – suspecting that he will be the next victim; Confirming his theory that his friends are withholding information from him. The phone call is cut short when Keiichi’s dad comes up to his room to give both Keichi and Rena tea. Keiichi freaks out. He never noticed Rena standing outside of his room, even though his father saw Rena going there. Keiichi believes that Rena might have overheard the phone call and starts to worry.
Keiichi decides to skip school the next morning. Feeling sick, he heads to the doctor clinic. At the waiting room, he overhears that Miyo may had been spirited away by the demon. Following that, he links up with Oishi for lunch (as well as to provide the kid with new information). Oishi informs Keiichi that Mion and her family were involved in the Dam Wars. He also supplies Keiichi with new information on Satoshi’s disappearance. Finally, perhaps the most important pieces of information he can give Keiichi – Rena’s past as well the links the curse’s past victims and his friends.
Oishi reveals to Keiichi that a few years ago, Rena suffered a mental break down; resulting in her assaulting her friends with a baseball bat. She was admitted to a mental health clinic following the incident. It was documented that during therapy, she repeated the words “Oyashiro-Sama”. It was also noted that Rena believe Oyashiro was watching over her.
(Bare this part of Rena’s past in mind as it will be important later on in relation to Keiichi’s paranoia.)
Oiishi then explains the link between Keiichi’s friends and the victims. The victims had a relationship with each friend. The dam director got into it with Mion and her family. The dam project’s supporters, the housewife that died in the fourth year, and Satoshi were kin of Satoko – blood or otherwise. The priest who died and his wife who disappeared were Rika’s parents. Finally, Tomitake was friends with The Club.
With this knowledge, Oishi theorizes that Keiichi will be targeted next.
That night, Rena and Mion visits Keiichi out of concern (due to his absence from school). They gift him with dinner and make him play a game to see who prepped it. As they chat, the light-hearted visit turns into an interrogation of sorts. They question Keiichi on his meeting with Oishi, which Rena brings up she noticed the two at Angel Mort. Keiichi starts to worry. He tells Rena that they weren’t talking about them, but she doesn’t believe him. Mion tells Keiichi that no matter what, she’ll find out his secrets between him and Oishi before leaving.
Keiichi examines the ohagai, suspecting nothing of it. As he takes a bite out of it, he starts to freak out and spits the food out into his hand. He spots a “needle” covered in “blood” sticking out and goes berserk. He tosses the food in the garbage and screams. Fearing that his life in his danger, Keiichi hurries back to his room, grab a piece of paper and starts writing:
‘I am Keiichi Maebara, and my life is in danger. I don’t know why or who. The only thing I know is that it has something to do Oyrashiro-Sama’s curse.’
In reality of course, the Hinamizawa Syndrome is clouding Keiichi’s thoughts. As the disease grows, so does his paranoia – therefore, creating false perceptions of reality. When examining the situation outside Keiichi’s perceptive of fear, you have to take in a few points:
The “needle” in Keiichi food (and the pain caused by it) is an illusion. The sharp, painful poke from the “needle” was actually spicy hot sauce (which also explains the “blood”). This was a prank by from Mion used to mess with Keiichi and cheer him up. We can assume that Rena and Mion both knew that something was bothering Keiichi and wanted to make him happy. This can be further supportive with the fact the girls visited him to check up on him.
It’s possible that Mion and Rena knew Oishi and Keiichi were at Angel Mort through Shion; Mion’s twin sister and an employee at the café. One could theorize that Shion informed Mion that Keiichi was talking to Oishi. Keep in mind that Oishi and the Sozonakis have beef. Oishi suspects that the Sonozaki are behind the mysterious murders. The dam director (one of the victims) was Oiishi’s best friend and father-like mentor. Taking this into account, you can assume that Mion thinks that Oishi is using Keiichi to get information off Mion. Mion could also just have been playfully teasing Keiichi (as well as telling him to stay away from Oishi because her family doesn’t like him due to reasons).
The following morning, Keiichi heads to school alone; planning his next course of action against his enemies. He’s nearly run over by a van (driven by members of the Yamainu). Thinking that they’re after him, Keiichi declares that he must not drop his guard. He must fight back. Upon arriving to school, Keiichi search the lockers for a weapon. Coming across Satoshi’s locker he finds the perfect weapon – Satoshi’s metal baseball bat.
At recess, Keiichi is “practicing” swinging the bat with aggression. Rena and Mion see this, questioning why he’s playing around with the bat. Keiichi lies, stating that he’s practicing for the national finals. The girls looked on with confusion and concern. They leave, letting Keiichi do his own thing. After school, Keiichi decides to drop out of The Club’s after school activities and tells them to leave him alone.
They’re worried about him.
Rena follows Keiichi to check up on him. Keiichi sees her and snaps. He points his bat at Rena with a threatening stance; demanding the girl to walk ahead of him. Rena complies, but not before asking him why he’s emulating Satoshi’s actions from last year (as well as using his bat) Rena tells Keiichi how he and Satoshi are alike (such as carrying baseball bats despite not being athletic, being paranoid, and dropping out of the club activities). Then Rena asks Keiichi if he’ll “transfer out” of school like Satoshi did prior. Keiichi uneasiness worsens. He believes that he’ll disappear like Satoshi from the tone and body language of Rena’s words.
Reality: Rena is troubled by Keiichi’s actions. She cares for him. She doesn’t want to see another friend suffering (remember: she regrets not reaching out Satoshi when he was suffering). To take it one step further, Rena had her own bouts with paranoia, stress, and mistrust in others before receiving help. She is by all means attempting to reach out and help Keiichi.
That night, Oishi calls up Keiichi again. Keiichi tells the cop that he’s certain that Rena and Mion are trying to kill him (with the whole “needle” in his food ordeal and the Yamainu trying to run him over) Oishi asks Keiichi to find the needle for him for evidence. Keiichi fails to do so (since the “needle” was hot sauce) and thinks he had accidently thrown it away. Next, he explains how he got new information on the Satoshi situation from Rena to Oishi. During this, he is startled by Rena ringing his door bell. Keiichi goes answer the door.
Just like the other day, Rena brings Keiichi over food and checks up on him. She asks him if he had anything to eat all night. He lies to her, which Rena calls him out on. Rena brings up that she saw him eating noodles and food he brought from the market. She starts playing around by yanking on the door chain of his house in an attempt to “break in”. Thinking Rena is out to kill him, Keiichi smashes her hand in the door several time, forcing Rena to leave.
Reality: Rena was reaching out and checking up on him like last time (since he scared everyone earlier that day) Plus, Rena is close with his mom, so it is possible for her to know that Keiichi was alone without food. And given that Rena has a playful nature, her attempting to break him was just a joke.
Returning to his room, he notices Rena standing outside in the rain, looking into his bedroom chanting “I’m sorry” repeatedly. The following morning, Keiichi is back to practicing his swing with the bat. Mion confronts Keiichi and orders him to stop. Everyone is frightened of Keiichi’s unexplained erratic behavior. He goes off on Mion, asking her why is everyone is scared. He also tells her that he knows that Satoshi never “transfer” (given his sister Satoko is still in the same school and town). He tells her that he also knows about her fights with the dam war and asked why did she wasn’t truthful to him about that fact.
Mion breaks down in tears. She becomes enrage soon after. She assumes that Oishi – the “old bastard” – was the one who told Keiichi about her fights between the dam director and express regrets of not killing him earlier. Keiichi ponders if the “old bastard” in question is Oishi.
Reality: Mion is troubled by Keiichi’s actions. Like Rena, Mion fears Keiichi will end up like Satoshi and run away. Mion is also angry that Oishi made her seem like a ruthless killer to Keiichi due to her past with the dam director. The stress of her family dealing with Oishi’s police force, as well as rumors of her family murdering people has taken its toll on Mion. Therefore, out of rage, Mion snapped. Her wishing death on Oishi was due to anger. Deep down, I just think Mion was blowing off steam.
Keiichi leaves school and walks alone again. He spots Rena and books it, hiding into the woods, but his efforts fail. Rena catches up to him. He notices her billhook in her hand and questions her why she has it. She laughs at him. She then explains about how Satoshi was doing everything that Keiichi was doing in the past, her regrets for not helping him, and if he knows about Oyashiro’s curse. She ends with telling Keiichi that only she and she alone can help him solve his problems and that she’ll save him.
Rena starts to manically laugh and Keiichi runs off in the woods.
Reality: Rena was carrying her billhook for one of two reasons:
1. To help her on her grand ‘ol treasure hunting adventures in the not-so-grand garbage dump
2. To protect Keiichi from danger, as it’s implied from Rena’s point of view of the Onikakushi-hen arc (which you can watch a video of that POV below):
Rena is very observant. Her watching Keiichi becoming like Satoshi and him pushing everyone away is something not out of the ordinary for her. Like everyone else, she clearly noticed Keiichi felt and appeared troubled. Thus, reaching out to him was a priority. She states that she felt regret for not helping Satoshi out with his problems before he left. Perhaps she felt guilty for that and to atone for her it, she vows to save Keiichi.
Maybe, just maybe, she can save him.
A few hours later, Keiichi awakens in his room (he appeared to have been knocked out by a Yamainu solider). In his daze, he notices Rena sitting at the foot of his futon. He starts freaking out, asking her why is she in his house. Rena tells him that she found him in the woods and decided to carry him back to his house to recover. While they’re chatting, Mion comes through to the house, welcoming herself to his room. Mion ask if Rena called the sports supervisor, given Keiichi has an “interest” in baseball. Keiichi (with his paranoia at its highest) asks who the supervisor is. The girl simply laugh at him.
Mion suggests that they finish the Punishment Game before he comes, which Rena agrees. Rena gets up, walks over to Keiichi, and restrains him. Mion gets up and pulls out a syringe from her pocket with a sadistic smile. Keiichi is terrified. As he struggle to break free from Rena she asks what they’re about to do to him. Keiichi remembers Oishi telling him how Tomitake died and they suspected drugs were involved.
Keiichi overpowers Rena, grabs his baseball bat and beat the two girls to death with it in what he believes to be in self-defense. After killing the girls, he spots Dr. Irie rolling up to his house in the same van that attempted to run him over earlier that week. Seeing this, he reaches into the back of his clock to recover the letter he wrote earlier.
Finishing the letter, he names Rena and Mion as suspects, list five adults in the van, and suggests that the “drug” that Rena and Mion were planning to use on him is the same as the one that killed Tomitake. He then escapes the house, dodging Yamainu guards in the process. Keiichi calls up Oishi from a phone booth, panicking. In his dying breath, Keiichi tells Oishi that he thought the suspects were human, but at this point believes that Oyashiro’s curse is real and that the god is following him. Keiichi starts to tear at his throat – effectively killing.
Reality: Keiichi murdered Rena and Mion in cold blood. There were no drugs discovered at the crime scene. The “drug” he spoke of was a marker. Rena and Mion never attempted to harmed or kill Keiichi – simply, they wanted to help him and be there for him as friends. They wanted to cheer him up and wish him to get better. Sadly, Keiichi’s perspective of reality was distorted from his paranoia and the Hinamizawa Syndrome. He could not see that his friends only wanted to help him, not harm him.
Because of his paranoia, three young lives were cut short.
The truth of Rena and Mion’s kindness and Keiichi sins would be later revealed in the Atoment Arc. Rena, the airheaded, kindhearted girl, needed help herself. Help from her own pain, mistrust, and paranoia.
And what better friend to save her than Keiichi himself?
I write about why you should have a greater appreciation for wacky Japanese cartoons and the otaku culture revolving around it.
I also co-host a Black Nerd Empowerment podcast with my friend The TV Guru over at http://swarthynerd.libsyn.com/ and create off-color memes about crap tier anime over at https://www.facebook.com/yukithesnowman/
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