I just finished Meakashi last night. I don’t have many articulate thoughts, but one thing I did notice was the theme of (Umineko spoilers) “without love, it cannot be seen” being quite heavily present in this chapter, which was a nice surprise as I feel like that aspect of things was kind of omitted in the anime with the lack of internal monologue. We get far more of an insight into the thoughts behind Shion’s actions, and most blantantly, she decides in the end she won’t kill Keiichi if he realises who she is. Of course, as she says herself, Keiichi hardly knew Shion that well to figure out this was her, though he did succeed in so far as protecting both Mion and Shion in his heart and seeing the person before him as a demon instead. Then, in the end, she does spare him, amongst realisations that there’s much more to him than she’d thought, and an achieved understanding of why Mion fell in love with him. Then there’s the heartbreaking tip at the very end seemingly depicting a conversation between Akane and “Shion” - probably the twin we know as Mion - about why Akane was ex-communicated. The twin in this scene thinks Akane and Oryou have a bad relationship due to the way they behave in public, but Akane explains they don’t at all. She surrendered her status, married the man she loved, and went through the same nail-peeling torture as Shion does later to atone, but was fully satisfied with her decisions, and she points out Oryou ended up peeling off her own nails as a kind of punishment towards herself. I feel like this scene really brought home how tragic the whole arc is - if Shion had known his much or remembered it, she might not’ve become so suspicious of her family and been able to trust they didn’t do anything to Satoshi however they acted on the surface. However, she was raised at a kind of distance and clearly felt unloved and unneeded to some extent. On both sides, here, the lack of love lead to a series of tragic misunderstandings - right until the end, where Mion tries to explain to Shion the Sonozakis didn’t do anything, and she can’t believe her, probably at this point because it would be unbearable to after everything she’s done. Without enough love between Shion and her family, she wasn’t able to see the truth, and nobody fully understood her feelings, either. What the tip at the end really brings home is how much even a single conversation could’ve affected everything - which of course leads perfectly into Tsumihoroboshi’s themes. I guess Meakashi is a kind of unique, bridging arc - we’re presented with the usual tragedies, but not the salvation of a solution or any kind of happy ending. The clues to the mystery begin to form quite blantantly, but the characters themselves still haven’t quite taken the steps they need to to reach the future they desire. There’s also Satoko’s torture scene, where Shion realises the crucial difference between the two of them - Satoko had love, had the belief the other characters end up fighting so hard for - and always trusted Satoshi would one day come home. Others might have seen that as weak or childish, yet even in spite of that, Satoko held on. It’s not a side to her we really see before this point, and just brings home why Satoko is one of the strongest members of the club from the get-go. You have to wonder if it’s part of the reason she’s so dear to Rika - this is the very belief she fights so hard for so long to gain within herself. It also reminds me of (Umineko spoilers) the messages behind Umineko, and Ange’s struggle to come to terms with the death of her family. In fact, it’s shockingly similar, when you consider Ange and Satoko are both fighting particularly with the grief of losing their older brothers. Satoko, at her young age, has already found a way through life for herself, a way to cope with the circumstances, and Hanyuu does later point out that this belief is something that will be rewarded.
I think Shion’s one of the most morally ambiguous and powerful characters in all of WTC, and it makes me quite happy to see how much love she gets in spite of how easy it might be to hate her. She’s particularly compelling, as the club member perhaps most capable of killing for her own gain even Hinamizawa Syndrome aside, because this means a large part of her arc is her conscious decision to move away from being such a person, when the other characters mostly would never have done the things they had if they hadn’t been seized by paranoia and fear. At the end of the arc, there’s a postscript from Ryukishi asking readers to think carefully about what can explain or perhaps justify murder, if anything, to them. Whether people sympathize with Shion or not, she recognises fully towards the end of the arc both that she’s made iredeemable mistakes, even states that she’s no tragic heroine but rather a character nobody should agree with, but also then makes the vow never to make the same mistakes again, which she follows through on, however miniscule or subconscious her knowledge of the past worlds is. She’s the first character who learns from her mistakes and takes that step towards the future the club needs, in a way. Shion did awful things, but I never once found myself angry at her reading Meakashi. If anything, she seems like the sacrificial lamb - this arc being the one that needed to happen before the club could really begin to move forward.
Hmm, I didn’t mean to ramble this much, but I guess the arc affected me more than I thought. Another aside, the music in this arc really made it. Thank goodness Ryukishi managed to get the composers on board that he did, and it’s even more rewarding jumping up from the royalty-free stuff from the question arcs. It’s almost like a happy coincidence with a lot of emotional pay-off. My favourite two tracks were Shadow and What is Wished, all in all they really created the atmosphere of gut-wrenching melancholy and heartache that fully allowed you to understand Shion’s feelings through everything she was doing.
In spite of everything I’ve said, I do think Meakashi will end up being the weakest answer arc for me, but I can see why it has the reputation it does. It’s certainly one of a kind, and perhaps is the most blatant illustration of how well Ryukishi writes characters and enables readers to understand and sympathize with them, even feel heartbroken for and cry for them, no matter what lengths they go to. There’s that same stunning, raw humanity in Meakashi that characterizes all of Higurashi, but the extent to which it’s laid bare here is really something. It makes it a truly unforgettable experience.