For some reason I spent yesterday in 07th Expansion Mode and ended up watching the first two episodes of Ookami Kakushi. From the very start I couldn’t help but get my tablet ready to take down notes as per usual for mystery-solving purposes and before I knew I had enough to make a post. In my theory-induced mood I also finally got around to watching the second half of the Umineko anime. If you haven’t watched/read Higurashi no Naku Koro ni/Kai/Rei, Umineko/Chiru or Ookami Kakushi be prepared for tons of spoilers.
The thing that struck me most is that Ookami Kakushi at first glance appears to be more Higurashi-like than Umineko-like. First off I’ll start off with the more trivial and non-serious stuff. The protagonist Hiroshi isn’t too much like the other 07th Expansion protagonists Maebara Keiichi or Ushiromiya Battler. He seems to still be pretty popular among the ladies like his two predecessors but is much less playful about it; He doesn’t try to mess with the girls or make perverted jokes. Actually he’s sort of cute and girly (which is pretty obvious when he’s in his school uniform which at first I thought was a seifuku) which might be one of the reasons next-door-neighbor Isuzu is so infatuated with him. She sort of reminds me of Rena and every time she acts lovey-dovey towards Hiro I can’t help but fill in my own words for her–“I’m gonna take you home!” Anyway back to Hiroshi he reminds me more of Satoshi or Kanon which is kind of understandable since Kobayashi Yuu did their voices in the anime verisons of Higurashi and Umineko. If Ookami Kakushi takes a more paranormal turn like Umineko it’s safe to say that Hiro carries a significant amount of anti-magic power like Battler given his rejection of the paranormal. Speaking of the supernatural Hiro should have ample resources in dealing with the occult as his father is a famed occult researcher and one of his new friends, Kaname, is an occult maniac herself. Combine this with Isuzu’s knowledge of the town poises Hiro to have a sort of better position in comparison to Rika or Battler at least on the surface; Rika had essentially given up for the last thousand years while Battler had to learn the rules of the games from scratch.)
As in Higurashi the setting of the story is a rural town that is undergoing growth despite the objections of the elders and like Higurashi and Umineko takes place in the 1980s. In addition is the legend of the wolf deities and the accompanying hassaku harvest festival which is more or less analogous to Hinamizawa’s worship of Oyashiro-sama/Hanyuu and the Watanagashi Festival. The town is roughly segregated into two halves geographically between those that live in the mountains and those that don’t. Those that live on the mountains consisting of the older families seem to revere the wolves more and protect the local traditions. They look down on those of the new town that they view as “fallen wolves.” In fact the animosity seems to be such that Isuzu warns Hiro to not go to the old town.
Once again this is analogous to being marked by Oyashiro-sama’s curse. The anime version of Ookami Kakushi depicts masked individuals in the guise of wolves taking actions against people of the lower town. The motivation behind this is unclear. One can speculate that it has to do with the reasons outlined above but that would be a rash judgment considering the lack of evidence presented thus far. Actually whether or not the individuals are humans or not (as the goat servants from Umineko) is also up to debate but until proven otherwise I’ll take Battler’s side and go by the assumption that they are not paranormal. At the very least the town shuts down very early at 7pm while almost no one is out walking past 8pm. This could be some sort of local practice or more ominously a response to the attacks by the masked men. Of course all this is still up to speculation but I can’t help it since my mystery senses are tingling once more.
The only credible evidence for now in regards to this are the class’s reaction to Nemuru and Isuzu’s conviction to protect Hiro. Nemuru comes into the classroom and a once jovial classmate Ogasawara is instilled with unspeakable terror. It seems to be an open secret that something bad will happen and the classmates in relative silence just leave the classroom. The next day he doesn’t show up for class with the excuse that he has moved away. No one aside from newcomers Hiro and Kana question the lack of warning or the circumstances behind the departure. Soon Hiro himself is also targeted by Nemuru after which Isuzu confronts her alone saying she will protect Hiro. Of course part of the conversation is unheard so essential details about motivations or the nature of the plans for Hiro remain unknown. It is also implied that this is not a unique case and that this has happened multiple times.
Could this be a cover-up or occult ritual like Higurashi and Umineko? It could be but supposed conspiracies such as this like the Three Great Families of Hinamizawa plotting together as in Higurashi have been proven false. Without further evidence there isn’t enough proof to substantiate or dissolve such weak speculations. Furthermore there is still the question of whether or not any murders took place at all. There are glimpses of people being hunted down and blood but it could all be lies. Possibly the victims are still alive are maybe none of it happened at all as. This wouldn’t be too surprising considering 07th Expansion precedent such as when Keiichi during Watanagashi-hen thought he was killed by Mion when in fact the true killer Shion had already died and that he in reality had a heart attack. Also if the murders do exist were they committed via a scythe, a symbol of the harvest of life and death? Without further confirmation by a credible witness I’m not calling anything yet.
Another question for Ookami Kakushi is whether the story is of a cyclic nature and will call upon the metaverse so prominent in other 07th Expansion stories. The opening sequence which reminded me of Higurashi in the first episode shows Isuzu defending Hiro from a mysterious girl wielding the already stated scythe. The question is was this scene a representation of what will happen later or some sort of flashback to a previous chapter? I also wonder if there will be any cameos. Bernkastel will you be the only character to appear in all three 07th Expansion anime?
Another thing that has come to my mind is the enigmatic character Nemuru. Is she the new Rika and Maria in that could she have important knowledge on the same scale as those two? That has yet to be revealed. There’s also the mysterious scythed girl herself. Is she one of the characters Hiro already knows or is she someone that he has yet to meet? Then there’s the significance behind the red moon and the red eyes. And the hassaku-shaped bottle in Issei’s car. It could be hassaku juice or some sort of liquid derived from the fruit and serve as a red herring but I won’t discount it just yet. Given the track-record of the anime adaptations which have to omit some clues due to time constraints I’ll take what ever clues I can.
On the topic of the festival Hiro, Isuzu and Kana practice a game in which someone has to grab presents wrapped in paper. I’m not sure how many others would pick out this seemingly minor activity but it makes me wonder what is its purpose. On the surface it seems like an excuse for fun action but I don’t think that’s quite it. Ryukishi 07 has a thing for allegory which serve as clues and insight into the story. Higurashi had games while Umineko had chess and magic. For example in episode 2 of Higurashi Kai, it started off with Zombie Tag in which the person who is it can recruit others by tagging them. At the end only Rena was left and when the game finally ended it was revealed that not everyone who was after Rena was actually “it” displaying things such the power of paranoia, mistrust and other things. Then there is one of my favorite scenes from Higurashi when Miyo is finally beaten. Rika explains to Takano that they don’t play Old Maid but rather Old Geezer. In Old Maid the objective is to not be left with the lone card which will lead to defeat. Players pass on this card onto each other in essence passing on their sins to each other until there is only a loser left. In Old Geezer the missing card is added so that there are no losers and the chain of sins is cut. I won’t go into the detail in regards to Umineko but they serve the same function as already mentioned. I wonder if this too has a significant meaning or if I’m just looking into this too much.
Before I forget to mention I like the theme music so I’ll definitely translate them when they come out.
All this theorizing led me to also finish the anime version of Umineko from episode 15 to the end. Having already read the first four episodes of the sound novel there wasn’t too much of a rush to finish. However it was a good opportunity for a slightly different perspective on the story just in case plus I love hearing all the voices. More importantly I wanted to see Episode 4 animated and I actually was quite pleased. Alliance of the Golden Witch is my favorite episode especially with all the character development between Ange and Maria, and Battler and Beato and all the emotional impact that went along with it. Even though I knew it was coming I still ended up crying when Maria’s spell for happiness was forgotten by Rosa, when Kasumi denied Maria’s magic and tore her grimoire to shreds in front of Ange and when Ange was torn piece by piece as she she revealed the truth to her brother in order to get him to win the witch’s game so that he can finally return to his sister who will remain waiting for all eternity. (Wow I’m getting teary just writing this). Anyway all in all I have a more positive opinion of the anime than many other hardcore fans. Obviously the original sound novel is still the way to go but I still liked the anime.
Now that I have finally gotten those two out of the way I can finally get back to finishing Episode 5 of the sound novel, End of the Endless Witch. I can’t wait but I really, really need to sleep right now. (Sorry if this sleep-deprived writing sounds funny. I set this to auto-publish later so that I wouldn’t forget but I actually finished writing this at 4am.)