Just when Satoko thought she was out, Hinamizawa pulls her back in
What They Say:
Tensions continue to rise at St. Lucia as the gap between Satoko and Rika grows wider and wider. But a sudden reunion in Hinamizawa rekindles old friendships and reminds them of what they left behind.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Rika arrives at school with her posse in tow. The students fawn over her, calling her “Rika-sama”. Meanwhile, Satoko is met with judgmental gazes and harsh criticism for her uncouth behavior. It’s miraculous that two girls from the countryside, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, made it into the prestigious St. Lucia academy. But now that they’ve settled in, Satoko’s and Rika’s social standing could not be any further apart. Strangely enough, it isn’t much different from how they were viewed in the village. The priestess of Hinamizawa had found a new group of devout followers, while Satoko is scorned by those very same people.
The two have a brief argument in the main hall before school starts. Last episode, I felt like Satoko’s alienation was mostly self-inflicted, but episode 20 makes it clear that Rika shares just as much of the blame. Satoko confronts Rika for abandoning her. Satoko worked so hard to help make Rika’s dream come true, and now she won’t even so much as associate with Satoko. With all eyes on her, Rika can’t help but keep up appearances. It’s not until her posse starts bad-mouthing Satoko that Rika defends her old friend. Rika recalls the many times Satoko was there for her and reminisces on her old trickster ways, but these pleasantries are a day late and a dollar short. Rika ignorantly pins Satoko’s attitude on her grades slipping and not on the fact that Rika went back on her word and now Satoko was suffering in isolation. Her words carry no weight if she can’t even say them to Satoko directly. Gou has done a stellar job with framing its character arcs. Up until now, we’ve fully sympathized with Rika and her plight to leave the village. But the last few episodes have completely flipped the script, giving us a reason to take Satoko’s side.
Speaking of, Satoko is still transfixed on the past. If only she could remind Rika of the fun they had in Hinamizawa, then maybe she would return to the Rika she knows and loves. But Satoko is quickly thrust back into reality when one of her classic traps injures Rika’s friend. Rika doesn’t rat her out, but a classmate who heard Rika talk about Satoko’s traps tattles on her instead. Satoko is then thrown in the school’s prison cell (???? orange jumpsuit and all????) as punishment. The teacher mentions that a student told on her, but to Satoko’s knowledge, Rika was the only one who knew it could be her. The idea of her best friend’s betrayal torments Satoko as she cries in her cell, wishing she could go back and stop them from ever coming to St. Lucia. A year passes and nothing changes between the two. Satoko is assigned to the special class for her second year, sealing her fate in the hellish trenches of St. Lucia’s caste system.
The second half changes gears, as a surprise letter from Mion prompts a sudden return to Hinamizawa for a reunion. It’s so strange to see Mion, Rena, and Keiichi all grown up and living their lives outside of the village. But overall, they haven’t changed all that much. For the sake of their friends, Satoko and Rika put on a happy face, but the distance between the two is noticeable. Rika even lets out a “nipah”, which must have sent Satoko through a plethora of emotions. The group plays a card game at the school and have a grand old time. It feels as though nothing has changed. But this reunion won’t last. Life goes on and these care-free times in Hinamizawa are long behind them.
The group goes to Angel Mort for dinner, but Satoko opts out to walk around the village one last time. Satoko walks past the old Hojo house and the remnants of the house she shared with Rika, which has both metaphorically and literally collapsed. The happy memories of her time in Hinamizawa have all been tinged with sadness. Night falls and Satoko finds herself at the shrine. A strange force beckons her and Satoko can’t help but answer the call. She opens the shrine tool shed and approaches the Oyashiro-sama statue. A single touch sends cracks rippling through the statue, and a horn falls onto the ground. The moment Satoko touches it, she’s transported to another dimension – the same one where Rika had her conversations with Hanyuu. But Hanyuu wasn’t the one to greet her. In her place stands a tall priestess with sharp features and long purple hair.
With that final scene, Gou takes another step further away from reboot territory. The priestess revealed is an Umineko character, tying Ryukishi’s universes together and setting up the inevitable reveal of Satoko’s looper powers. I’m sure fans of the games are going crazy right about now.
The St. Lucia arc has been great so far – it’s starting to become clear how the “perfect timeline” came to an end. Both Satoko and Rika will have to make amends if they wish to set things straight.