So, it seems that in GOU’s attempt to replicate the original Higurashi format, we will get its own variation of Kai ala SOTSU in July. I have mixed feelings about this, predominantly because it didn’t feel like GOU’s time was utilized particularly well. The series included its Question Arcs from Rika’s perspective, then a “world-building” arc from Satoko’s perspective. This finale sets up SOTSU to explain Satoko’s mechanizations during the series’ initial loops but…
I’m not convinced that we need more than an episode or two to explain it. The thing about Higurashi leading into Kai is that if you hadn’t played the visual novel, you still had no idea wtf was going on. Miyo’s status as the end-game villain was still unknown. The series ended with a big confrontation with Rena, not Miyo and her lackeys, so the audience was left with, well, questions. With GOU we know the who, what, and why, just not the how. While I’m curious about the ‘how’, viewers can probably find most of the pieces just by rewatching the first half of the series.
In each case, Satoko administered the stolen virus to a key person, be it Ooishi, Shion/Mion, the twins’ mother, or Akasaka. She likely manipulates her uncle in at least one scenario. All of these situations are driven by her need to punish Rika for leaving Higurashi and destroy her mental fortitude and all of this is background information leading to the confrontation in the classroom.
The earlier half of this episode is contextual information about Miyo’s character that is already known to previous Higurashi fans. The staff’s attempts to make this series accessible to new viewers means that these sorts of flashbacks are unavoidable, but this is still the finale, even if the episode doesn’t remotely feel like one. To put it succinctly, we’ve been in background context mode for seven episodes. At least give us an exciting cliffhanger to keep the show in our thoughts until July. It doesn’t help that I’ve always considered the finer details of the “secret government conspiracy” to be the least interesting thing about Higurashi. It’s always been a little too convoluted for its own good where “gov’t secretly plots to carry out experiments to develop potential bioweapon” is good enough on its own. There’s a whole bunch of text dedicated to different developed virus types and which agency oversees what that I mostly understand but wish I didn’t have to bother with.
I’d be lying if I said I was excited about SOTSU. Mostly I’m invested in however the final confrontation plays out and how that might involve Eua, Hanyu or elements from Umineko. The Answer Arcs at the very least might provide some fun, over-the-top hack n’ slash. In summation, the back half of the series had some considerable pacing problems and I’m not entirely convinced everything couldn’t have been tied together within GOU itself.
Also a small aside, the kanji for SOTSU is “卒” and can be read as “a soldier of low rank,” or creatively, “pawn” however it’s also used in the word “卒業” for “Sotsugyō” which means to “graduate,” “outgrow,” or “leave behind” (a group). Both tie into the story’s themes. It is also used in the word “Sokkyo” which means “death” specifically of someone with social rank or status.
The multiple readings compliment GOU (業) which when read as “gyō” means “to study” (like Satoko did to get into school with Rika) and when read as “Gō” means “karma.” Finally, the phrase “業を煮やす” (Gō wo Niyasu) means to “lose your temper” or “get fed up” with something. Funnily enough, “niyasu” means to “cook inside” and lends itself to the image of a pot boiling over inside of someone.