Original Run: July 21, 2021 - September 30, 2021 Number of Episodes: 15 Genre: Horror, Mystery, Supernatural, Thriller Based on the Visual Novel: When They Cry
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Higurashi: When They Cry SOTSU. Reader discretion is advised.***
Having survived a hundred years of death, pain, and suffering, Rika Furude (voiced by Yukari Tamura) found her miracle. She escaped her doomed fate and was ready to begin her life.
Or so she thought.
Although Rika found her happiness, the same was not true for Rika’s best friend, Satoko Houjou (voiced by Mika Kanai). As the two grew older, they grew apart, and Satoko pained over losing Rika. So much so, she could not and would not accept it.
Satoko made a deal to restart the time loops and return to that nightmarish June of 1983. No matter what, Satoko will show Rika that the only happy life is the one where they are together forever. And if that means breaking Rika once and for all, then so be it.
*WARNING: The following review was written under the assumption the reader has seen Higurashi: When They Cry Gou. Hence, spoilers from that installment will be prevalent.*
I apologize; I am about to enter a lengthy explanation dump. So before we start, let me confirm that, yes, this season was better than last season. With that said:
In the review for the predecessor of Higurashi: When They Cry SOTSU (SOTSU), Higurashi: When They Cry Gou (Gou), I said this:
“As long as you have seen the original When They Cry and [When They Cry – Kai], you only need, like, four additional details from Gou to get ready for SOTSU. And there is no reason at all why you should have to sit through twenty-four episodes for that to happen…I won’t say what those four details are until the SOTSU review for the sake of not wanting to spoil anything.
Well, we have come to the SOTSU review, and I stand by that statement. In fact, SOTSU not only reaffirmed Gou’s irrelevance, it cemented it. Thus, to save you the tediousness of sitting through twenty-four episodes to learn just a handful of new details, here is what you need to know for SOTSU:
- Rika Furude gained the ability to retain her memories after each time reset.
- Satoko Houjo became another character who lives within the time loops.
- Satoko wants to push Rika to utter despair to ensure the two of them will live in Hinamizawa forever.
- Rika obtained a sword fragment that can kill someone living in the time loops.
If you know those four points, you don’t need Gou. Granted, I can’t say there are zero benefits from watching both seasons.
Although Gou was mostly a retelling of the original When They Cry series, there were some key differences. The most significant change was the antagonist and why the town of Hinamizawa was once again stuck in June 1983. Therefore, death scenes and catalyses for certain events deviated from the original series.
Or, in other words, if you’re here for When They Cry’s signature brutality, then both Gou and SOTSU don’t drop the ball here. But if you’re expecting this franchise’s addicting intrigue, then you will not get that – until you reach SOTSU.
Without question, SOTSU was better than its direct predecessor. I know I found myself far more interested in what was going on this time around. This series neared – but never reached – the same level of fascination as the original.
What SOTSU had that Gou severely lacked was a sense of derangement. To use a loaded word, there was evil in this season. In this case, it was Satoko. That in itself is not a spoiler because SOTSU was Satoko’s show; we got to see her as the vindictive puzzle master.
Keep in mind, Gou had that disembowelment scene. Sure, this season never got that graphic (except when it too had the same disembowelment scene), but the amount of pure violence in this installment was off the freaking charts. And since there was an utter lack of mercy, SOTSU was far more intense than Gou.
Throughout much of the When They Cry franchise, we often only got the aftermath of a bloody murder. On a few, VERY notable occasions did we see the crime itself. SOTSU was a full access look behind the curtains. We witnessed every single death.
Also, don’t forget, who was the character responsible for that disembowelment scene?
A feature of the original When They Cry run was the attention to character growth. By the time this new series started, there was already a well-established idea of who everyone was; there weren’t many places left for people to go. Unlike Gou, SOTSU recognized this. It made sense for this season to focus the majority of its attention on one person.
Watching Satoko’s descent into unfeeling madness was a hell of a ride. Let me put it this way; there’s manipulation, and then there were the lengths Satoko went to. This franchise has never shied away from cold-bloodedness. However, past perpetrators had no love for the victims whenever there were executions in this series (it’s a little disturbing there was more than one). Likewise, the victims felt scared, betrayed, and despondent.
But in SOTSU, I have never seen a stronger atmosphere of unbelieving. In some of these characters’ last moments, the looks of primal confusion and fear were hard to watch.
But that’s always been When They Cry’s power; this has never been an easy series to get through.
Like I said earlier, SOTSU made Gou even more unnecessary. Or, at the very least, Gou had no business being as long as it was.
But before we move on, let me make one thing clear.
Although SOTSU may have been better than Gou, it was still a long way away from When They Cry. This was a sequel series that did not need to exist; the original had its ending. Everything could have stopped there.
Frankly, that will always be the legacy of Gou and SOTSU. They were continuations that didn’t need to be.
The repetition in both Gou and SOTSU was astounding. To be honest with you, these two installments should have just been a single season; there was no need to drag things out.
Although Sotoko’s manipulation was sinister, nothing about her actions went beyond what this franchise has done before. In a dark, twisted way, her behavior was clear-cut and not at all surprising.
But, again, I might have been more enthusiastic about this sequel series’s story if: 1) Gou did not feel like a five-second update surrounded by twenty-four episodes of padding, and 2) SOTSU didn’t also cover all the same material seen in its predecessor.
With that said, if you were to follow through with my suggestion and watch SOTSU without experiencing Gou, then I truly believe you would have a much better time.
That is until you reach this season’s ending. The entire reason I had hope for the Gou-SOTSU storyline was seeing the ultimate confrontation between Rika and Sotoko. At first, it was intense as hell, these two girls did not hold their punches. But the longer it went on, the more I realized, “Wait a minute, none of this makes sense.”
In exchange for a spectacle-filled conclusion, SOTSU sacrificed the well-defined rules it had established for itself. You know, the very rules that horror-mystery narratives such as When They Cry need to work effectively.
Specifically, SOTSU made it clear that Rika had to die before Sotoko. Otherwise, Sotoko would not be able to follow Rika into whatever new timeline she reincarnated into. However, with how hard these two were going after each other, you cannot convince me this series did not bend that rule.
To this day – to the very day of publishing its review (October 30, 2015, to October 30, 2021) – I still remember how immensely satisfying the ending of When They Cry – Kai was. It brought to a close a story that had been tense, dark, sad, and exciting. As a result, the original When They Cry series is one of the best horror anime ever.
Had SOTSU been a standalone release, it still wouldn’t have matched up. But it would have been a proper nod to what came before it. And yet, since it and Gou are a pair, we must look at the bigger picture.
This return to the When They Cry franchise had its moments. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, it was disappointing.
I did want this to be good. I wanted a new, proper entry to this story. The problem was, this story already had its ending.
If you were to look up the word “unnecessary” in the dictionary, you would see this sequel series. Why did we have to come back here? Was it just for the violence and gore? Sure those were aspects of this franchise, but they weren’t what made it amazing.
Now, this second installment was superior to the first; I did have noticeably more fun with it. But when considering the ultimate payoff, I don’t think it was worth it.
Sadly, you can skip Higurashi: When They Cry SOTSU.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Higurashi: When They Cry SOTSU? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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