This blog post is going to be different, because I’m not going to be really talking about SOTSU itself. While there is stuff to discuss, too much of it is just a re-hash of GOU done through the eyes of a different character. Interesting stuff at times, but nothing that I can really pull out myself. Instead I’m going to discuss the entire Higurashi sequel. Either way, let’s get into Higurashi -SOTSU- after the cut.
For any sequel to succeed, be it anime, book, movie or whatever. They have to simply answer one question: Did we need this? Did the series need a follow up? Was there a story to tell and better yet, worth telling? For Higurashi SOTSU, the answer is the same as all the anime sequels that have come before it: no we didn’t.
That is not to say that what is on display is bad, it is just that, we didn’t need it. For as dated the animation is, the original Higurashi remains a masterwork of storytelling. At one point a brutal and horrific ‘horror of the week’ that expertly transforms itself into an intense government thriller. It is a triumph of story telling, and unlike say Mirai Nikki, one of the few “holy shit” shows that actually lives up to the hype years later. By the time the credits roll on the final episode, Higurashi feels wholly and totally complete, and there is nothing left to really add. But now, well over a decade after the anime’s final bow, GOU and SOTSU have come to say ‘not so fast,”
And the result is both brilliant and messy. For what it is worth, I am very glad that this sequel series decided to branch out and do its own thing. Lazier minds might have rushed back to the well of the first season, mined those legendary moments, and tried bank on viewers’ nostalgia. While that is present in some regards, especially in GOU, it is not what this series is about. Regardless of the outcome, GOU and SOTSU’s choice to take the story forward is something to be respected.
And the path they choose is a damn effective one. At its heart this is a story about change, the fear of change and the desperate struggle to fight against time. Satoko Hojo’s desire to keep Rika in the village forever, to lock both of them in the safe sphere of their childhood is both a cruel and relatable thing. The lengths she goes to, the horror she unleashes and the pools of blood she leaves behind are true to what Higurashi has always been, but it also something new and fresh. Rika and Satoko both want something different and valid out of life, and their inability to reconcile those differences, to accept that change is inevitable and sometimes painful is frankly the best way to take their characters. It is a great narrative arc and I applaud that the series was able to take a chance and do something different. And while some have grumbled at the way creator Ryukishi07 wishes to connect Rika and Satoko to his later stories Umineko and Ciconia, I found it to be deeply compelling to watch, and honestly just plain fun, even when the action takes a dip into Dragon Ball Z levels of fighting.
But, like with all sequels to popular shows, there are flaws and noticeable ones at that. While GOU/SOTSU’s revelations of the truth lead to some of the franchise’s best moments, the path getting there is, at my most generous, lukewarm. Simply put, the show does not have the ability to carry itself when the story is not directly about Satoko and Rika. For someone who has watched the first series twice now, going back and is in the midst of re-watching the GOU half. I can’t help but feel like I’m pulling teeth at times. Many of the characters who make up the first series are merely supporting cast, and the bait and switch of the big twist means that most of their roles are essentially meaningless. Shion, Mion, Rena and Keiichi are reduced to bit players, and do little to move the plot forward, especially when SOTSU decides to basically retell the events of GOU through Satoko’s point of view. Furthermore, both series, until the big twist, never reach the levels of carnage and chaos the original did. There is no great breakdown like with Shion, or terrifying looks given by Rena. There is no insane Keiichi, clawing at his throat, or Takano and her terrible, but somewhat sympathetic motives. Something just seems to be missing, and while things do get back on track when Satoko reveals herself, there is frankly too much time wasted.
In the end, Higurashi: When they Cry: GOU and Higurashi: When they Cry: SOTSU are unnecessary sequels. Like with Boruto, Yashahime, Gundam SEED Destiny, and more. They fail at answer that simple of question of “did we need this?” Again that answer still remains no. However, in terms of anime sequels, these may very well be the best I have ever seen. The animation is great, the music is fantastic, the voice cast gives their A-game, and the story is brave enough to not run back to what worked before. I LOVE what this show did right, but I was ‘meh’ about everything else. And for a sequel to a popular and beloved series like Higurashi? I think that might be the best we could hope for. Give it a look for yourself and make up your own mind, just make sure to listen for the cicadas.