Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for the Higurashi anime, especially Higurashi Kai (i.e. the 2nd Season) Episodes 6-12.
One thing that a lot of good horror stories have in common is an isolated setting. Good horror involves some dimension of disempowerment, the inability to do anything in the face of an oppressive force. The small village tucked away in the mountains, hidden from the rest of civilization, is as good a place as any to promote that anxious and hopeless feeling. An almost inevitable sense of suspicion and paranoia lingers on the outsider looking in. An all-too easy fear and anger festers in a community that’s supposed to be tight-knit. Disempowerment seemingly and realistically encroaches into the lives of its protagonists from multiple facets: the interpersonal, the political, the Kafkaesque. Higurashi’s “Hinamizawa” village embodies all those aforementioned aspects. They infect the protagonists and affect all the village’s denizens, eventually, and lead them to a gradual but inevitable doom.
Well, Kafkaesque might be a little hyperbolic a descriptor for Higurashi, at least when compared to the systematic and soul-crushing absurdity of Franz Kafka’s bureaucratic nightmares. But there’s a relatable enough parallel in the story arc of one small Higurashi girl. In the latest of a series of unfortunate events, a parent-less and brother-less Satoko Hojo finds herself suffering under the roof of her domestically abusive uncle… yet again. Satoko considers herself complicit in both her parents’ deaths and her brother’s disappearance, feels duty-bound to protect her family home and beloved brother’s room from her uncle, and suffers from a pathological predisposition to panic attacks. Satoko’s small frame bears the weight of terrible emotional issues, and being just a little girl, we might expect our society to have some mechanism in place to take her out of there ASAP, even as Satoko herself is hesitant to admit she’s being abused.