For my final Japanese selection for the year, we return to the horror-noir series popularly known from it’s anime version, Ryukishi Zeronana’s When the Cicada’s Cry: The Festival Accompanying Chapter, Volume 2 (竜騎士07の”ひぐらしのなく頃に解:祭囃し編”). Of course, it is known more popularly by its anime title, Higurashi When They Cry for the question cycle and Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni Kai for its answer cycle.
The bunko version can be purchased here (in Japanese only):
This is the Kodansha boxed version that I am actually reading:
This is the box cover, which I’m guessing portrays Takano when she’s young, though she does look strikingly similar to Satoko, too. The book does have a bookmark it came with that has the same picture from the box but with blood around her mouth and eyes, which also strengthens the idea this is Takano since she bit that guard’s finger in the flashback of book 1 of this story cycle. The actual book inside the box just has a plain green cover with a few interior drawings.
This volume is 453 pages and was published in 2008. It starts with a couple of sections of introduction from the author that situate this 3 volume chapter into the rest of the series and explain the arrival of Hanyu, the female spirit aiding Rika who also is the spirit acting as the Furude shrine deity Oyashiro-sama. It notes that this time Rika is hoping with everyone’s strength acting together that they can possibly win against Takano and see a miracle.
Since I haven’t covered the entire 16 volume series, I should mention that Rika is referring to the alternate realities she has been experiencing with Hanyu’s waning supernatural power, returning to a point shortly before her murder at the hands of sinister forces in the community over and over again to solve the mystery of who is behind it and find a way to finally stop the murder so she can live out her life in a normal lifespan. She has limited tries because Hanyu loses power each time they go back, and neither of them can remember what happened the last time they experienced Rika’s murder.
Just a reminder that this series will contain massive spoilers since it’s the last chapter of the series and features the true murderer’s story arc.
After this intro, we have another poem by Rika Furude’s strange alter ego, Frederica Bernkastel. We also have a beautiful black and white ink drawing of Rika Furude.
As usual, Ryukishi Zeronana’s chapters are really unpredictable, but first we begin with a section titled “Satoshi Houjou.” This part is told from his perspective in the first person, and he is the brother of Satoko Houjou, who is Rika’s best friend. He goes out to a hill behind their house looking for Satoko since this is a place she particularly likes. It’s very lush and has become Satoko’s secret base, though because it’s in the mountains, it can also be a dangerous place to get lost. Satoshi feels uneasy looking for her.
It gets dark early in the forest as night falls, and he can’t see very far, so he calls for Satoko. There’s a mention in passing of her love for traps and the sound of breaking of twigs, but eventually he finds her. He tells her everyone is at home for dinner and that she should return home. She refuses and asks about their stepfather being angry. She doesn’t like his addition to their family with their mother’s remarriage, and he apparently threw an ashtray at her when he was angry. Their stepfather has had no experience raising children, but Satoshi acknowledges he’s getting kinder and urges Satoko to reconcile with him. She refuses but returns home with Satoshi.
The next section is told from Satoko Houjou’s perspective and is set up more like an interview. From the very first sentence, the text is very aware of itself as a monologue as she introduces herself by name: 私は北条沙都子と言います. Some surprising details come out here that don’t show up in the anime, and they give a lot of insight into the character who has the worst case of Hinamizawa Syndrome in the village. Satoko notes here that her current father’s name is Houjou and lists three other variations of her name based on her mother’s four marriages!
今のお父さん – 北条 – her current father’s name is Houjou, so her name is now Satoko Houjou
違うお父さん – 畠 – the man before him was Hata, so her name was at one time Satoko Hata
吉澤 – the man before him was Yoshizawa, so her name was at one time Satoko Yoshizawa
松浦 – the man before him, perhaps her birth father though she doesn’t mention that detail, was Matsura, so at one time her name was Satoko Matsura.
She says she doesn’t know why her mother keeps divorcing, but that she is angry with each marriage and sad with each divorce. Satoko herself doesn’t want to get married, and since her mother isn’t warm to her, she feels very lucky to have her brother. This sets up the tight bond between brother and sister that makes sense of why she has such a hard time after he disappears later in the story.
This section has a total of three segments, and the next one gets into the reason for the divorce, but the final segment is really interesting. This subsection turns from black text gradually to red text on the last page. In this part, she talks about how she thinks she’s a burden, and how her parents want to murder her. Every few lines of this segment has a string of “I’m sorrys” before continuing. She declares she’s an ungrateful child and decides by the end that she must kill them before they kill her.
The next section, “Brother and Sister Houjou” appears to be narrated by Clinic Director Irie and is only one section. It begins by talking about the Houjous and their position supporting the dam project in the dam war that has caused the villagers to be cold to the kids as well. Irie talks at length about the stress Satoshi and Satoko are under; even though they aren’t really related to their father by blood, they are blamed for his political position. Irie laments that he can cure Satoshi’s illness when he comes to the clinic but he can’t cure him of his living environment. He also talks about studying Hinamizawa Syndrome and the youth baseball team’s role in keeping Satoshi healthy.
Satoko, however, has become Irie’s patient due to their parents’ accident on a trip to a park on the day of the Cotton-Drifting Festival. They fell to their deaths, which have been attributed to the curse of the shrine deity honored at the Cotton-Drifting Festival, Oyashiro-sama. Before that time, Satoko was just an afterthought for Irie. While he was coaching Satoshi and helping the boy cope, Satoko was left to deal with her stressful situation alone. Satoko was with her parents on vacation when they died, but Satoshi had stayed behind to work with Irie on the baseball team. This fact brings her to the attention of Detective Ooishi’s police investigation.
The section after that is “Mion Sonozaki,” and it’s in the first person talking about Mion and Rika. The second subsection turns its attention to the Sonozaki family and Satoko. The last of the subsections here talks about Satoko and Satoshi at school.
The story turns much more provocative as it delves into the murders at the time of the Cotton-Drifting Festival with the next section titled “Sacrifice Number Two,” which is also in the first person. I’m guessing that it’s being told from the perspective of Director Irie again. It starts off talking about how Satoshi is a good brother to Satoko, but before long, it gets into Ooishi’s investigation, which brings Irie and Takano into the picture. It mentions in passing that Sotoko made a false tip of abuse because of her strong opposition to her stepfather, so Ooishi wants to interview her about her parents’ accident. Irie expresses concern that Satoko will suffer more trauma because of Ooishi’s insistence.
He talks with Takano about the situation with Satoshi for a bit since they determined through an examination that Satoshi has level 3 of Hinamizawa Syndrome and potentially could go to level 4. Irie thinks about the autopsy of the dismemberment murder killer from the year before, which helped further their research on Hinamizawa Syndrome, particularly its level five symptoms.
In “A Brother’s Anguish,” Satoshi is at baseball, but he ends up in the car with Irie, where Irie has a chance to talk with him about his home life. Irie realizes that their mother’s remarriage has hurt both children deeply and that they are in shock over their parents’ recent deaths. They discuss Satoko’s problems since Satoko has been hospitalized for about two weeks by then. However, Satoshi doesn’t know about her having Hinamizawa Syndrome or that she’s at level five. In fact, in Irie’s opinion her condition is quite poor.
In “The C103 Medical Experiment,” Irie talks with Rika about her friendship with Satoko and Satoko’s medical condition, though he wonders how she knows about Satoko’s medical details and asks where she heard about Hinamizawa Syndrome. Because she already knows so much, he has to admit to Rika that Satoko has level five symptoms. The code of C103 in this chapter title refers to a specific drug trial that Satoko is involved in. Rika offers to come and help with the drug trial, though he doesn’t seem optimistic about her help.
The next chapter, “Shirakawa Park Plunge to Death” is particularly significant in the narrative up to this point. As far as I have been able to research, Shirakawa Park (白川公園) doesn’t seem to be a real place in Japan, at least not as the way it is portrayed in the anime as having some sort of observation deck above a waterfall. Here it is given as the name of the place where the Houjous fell to their death from the park’s observation deck while on vacation with Satoko. The real Shirakawa Park seems to be in an urban environment in central Nagoya that I don’t think has any feature like that, but there’s no reason why it has to refer to a real place in the novel since the village where the action takes place, Hinamizawa, isn’t real either.
This part of the story gets deeper into Hinamizawa Syndrome with a description at the beginning of the drug trial C103’s details, including Satoko’s autopsy plan, which comes up right off the bat. They will use the autopsy primarily to determine the safety of the drug, and the drug seems to have some connection to hormone secretions.
The part that really interested me here, however, wasn’t the mechanism of the disease that the beginning of the chapter discusses. Ooishi appears and wants to talk with Satoko about her parents’ death. He seems to be involved because of the Houjous’ connection to the dam war and the so-called curse, which seemed to begin the year before with the dismemberment murder killer. When Ooishi first talks with I guess Irie about seeing her – the dialogue here isn’t tagged to know who is speaking – the word “lie” gets thrown around a lot, but the official word so far is that Satoko was in backseat of their car at the particular moment her parents fell from the observation platform. Iries asks Oosihi if he thinks Satoko was with her parents on the observation deck instead. Ooishi admits that’s what he thinks. Irie now wonders if it’s possible that their accident wasn’t an accident at all and that Satoko might be implicated in their deaths. Most of this section shows Irie ruminating about Ooishi’s suspicions and never gets to Ooishi talking with Satoko directly.
The chapter ends on a spooky if slightly confusing note as the final subsection that takes place after Ooishi’s departure explains how Irie wants to protect Satoko and their secret research on Hinamizawa Syndrome, then he talks with someone about the Yamainu, the paramilitary force they have at their disposal doing this government-backed research into the disease. He’s probably taking with Takano, but again the dialogue isn’t tagged. Irie sees this whole situation as a tragedy for Satoko, and they discuss how they can suppress the idea that Satoko is the culprit using the Yamainu’s underhanded tactics.
The final section I’m going to look at today is titled “H170,” which refers to a different drug trial. Satoko Houjou is referenced at the beginning as a patient in their drug trial experiment C103, but a new drug trial starts to come into the conversation here. Interestingly, this section calls Hinamizawa Syndrome the “murder virus” (殺人ウィルス), and explains the contrast between drug trial C103 with the H170 “series.” The discussion seems kind of technical.
The narrator says that Irie is not involved with H170, which is characterized as a “dangerous drug trial.” One statement comes right out and says, “I am the lead researcher” (私が主導で研究した。), which leads me to believe with the change in chapter we may be hearing the story from the first person perspective of Miyo Takano, the murderer. Here Irie is talked about in the third person in the narrative parts, so there’s been a switch in perspective that you have to mostly get from the context. This drug trial deals more directly with the brain pathogens of the disease “host” – I’m surprised it doesn’t refer more explicitly to Takano’s parasite theory here – and this section repeatedly mentions the unexpected onset of the disease as a key factor. It ends with her pondering her grandfather’s fascination with this disease.
Later in the book, we have another ink drawing to match the one of Rika at the beginning. This one is of Hanyu, though, and I like seeing the two of them together, so I will post it here even though it still doesn’t pop up for awhile in the novel.
Part one of a three part series.