Friendly reminder again that there will be some discussion of spoilers in this post.
There is content in this episode that isn’t revealed until much later in the OG anime so it will be hard to discuss Episode 02 without contextualizing what this means for this remake.
There’s a ton of craziness to unpack with the second episode of Higurashi. Aside from the OP and ED using completely different music, the beginning of this episode starts this new series on a completely different note with Rika finding out that she’s been stuck in the infinite time-loop in the summer of 1983 right from the get-go. Understandably, this is a bonkers revelation because now this means it is meant to be in the back of our minds as we continue our way through this remake.
It’s a shocking way to introduce newer viewers to Higurashi to bring up this kernel of information as early as they did. It’s interesting for older viewers such as myself because now it draws attention to Rika’s every move such as her interactions with Tomitake.
But for newer audiences who just want to see how everything unfolds naturally, it’s jarring to automatically have that information in mind when the story is still trying to ease you into the idea that Hinamizawa has some seedy things going on. The ED already hints at spoiler moments for some of the other arcs, but it’s a ballsy move to tell the story in a way that brings Rika’s experiences in the forefront.
It also calls into question how much the other characters remember as well. There’s a flashforward of the fiesta that Keiichi has in the future when he frees Colonel Sanders by hacking at the wood with her hatchet. Keiichi also directly acknowledges these memories before collecting his thoughts and getting him ready for Rena to take him home. There’s definitely a hint of some repressed memories of other loops that the characters are currently having resurface.
There were implications in the OG anime that the characters were vaguely aware of memories from loops where horrific events happened to them. But this time around, it’s far more direct about the fact that Rika is fully aware that she’s the only one who can steer the ship in the right direction. It’s why I have a difficult time trying to slap “sequel” or “reboot” on this adaptation.
It follows the odd trajectory that the Final Fantasy VII remake has where you could say the plot follows the original up to a point, but due to details that were revealed and changed up in the story, the final product deviates heavily from what you’d traditionally assume a remake would be. I am open-minded though and enjoyed the new FFVII, so I wouldn’t be upset if the plot doesn’t follow every beat from the original.
In fact, it might even be an interesting way of seeing the events of the original story from Rika’s point-of-view. It could follow the new FFVII’s footsteps by making one dramatic change that alters the future to such a degree that we get new alternate versions of 1983 we never experienced in the original Higurashi. I think with that perspective, it’s a lot easier to digest the idea of this series being more about Rika navigating through all of these loops and trying to change up the future with every loop than trying to be a beat-for-beat replica of the original material.
Aside from the changes made from the OG, this episode still followed similar beats with Keiichi slowly finding out little details about Hinamizawa that are far less innocuous than they seem. While we get familiarized with the small-town appeal and Keiichi’s friend group consisting of girls that are potentially interested in him, Tomitake is leaving a more prominent impression on Keiichi and Rika before he meets up with Miyo by the end of the episode. The Cotton Drifting Festival seems like a fun moment for all of the characters, but they did well with the scene where Rika does the festival’s maiden dance. The animation was smooth, but it also revelled in the ominous atmosphere it presents as it marks the point where things start to go downhill for our cast. It’ll be interesting to see how much is retained for this newer series given the changes and if they’ll do anything to flip the script on the events of the original.