WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 18 of Higurashi: When They Cry - Gou, "Village Destroying - Part 1," now streaming on Funimation.
Having rooted itself in the original series’ setting, Higurashi: Gou finally feels like a sequel now that it’s started to explore what happens following the end of the original story. As Satoko’s involvement in this new set of tragedies is revealed, the new “Village-Destroying” arc looks to explore her motives, with her relationship with Rika being the key factor.
Episode 18 starts with a flashback, this time to the “Festival Accompanying” arc, showing Takano’s failure and subsequent arrest. As the group celebrates their victory, Satoko and Rika promise to stay friends forever. Following the flashback, Satoko wakes up and tears a page off her calendar, revealing the date as June 8th, 1984. Rika and Satoko head to school and when Satoko asks Rika why she’s been staying up so late recently, Rika promises to tell her soon enough.
At school, it's revealed that Mion has graduated and now attends a school out of town. The group somberly discusses not seeing much of Mion since her graduation, but Satoko optimistically claims that their bonds are strong enough to withstand anything. Keiichi and Rena -- now the new heads of the club -- call for a club meeting after school, have expanded the organization so more of the class can participate.
With so many new members, Keiichi has imposed a “no cheating” rule so that no one feels isolated by the original members’ usual tactics. Satoko has trouble adjusting to the new club and leaves early with Rika. The two discuss all the new changes Hinamizawa and their friends have gone through over the past year. While Satoko feels uneasy over it, Rika encourages her to embrace it.
At the Irie Clinic, Irie reveals that Satoko no longer shows any traces of Hinamizawa Syndrome. Irie is convinced that Satoko is cured, but Rika is still unsure, remembering Irie's earlier claim that carriers of the disease could not be cured once it advanced past a certain stage. Irie claims that he doesn’t know why Satoko’s disease has digressed so drastically but attributes it to the root cause has likely changed. He tells her that he noticed these improvements the year prior, and Rika credits the recent improvements to Hanyuu’s efforts.
Later on, Rika asks Kimiyoshi and Oryou to aid her in doing something beneficial for the village’s future, and while Kimiyoshi immediately agrees, Oryou is reluctant. After Rika’s dance at the Watanagashi Festival, she, Kimiyoshi and Oryou address the villagers, with Keiichi, Rena and Satoko also in attendance. The three great family heads publicly deny the existence of Oyahirou-sama’s curse and implore the villagers to move past the events of the dam war -- forgiving all those involved in the struggle as a result. Satoko perks up after hearing this, and Oryou announces that the village can now move forward. The next day, Rika tells Satoko of her plans to apply to St. Lucia Academy, wishing for Satoko to attend the school with her.
The ominously named “Village Destroying” arc might be off to an optimistic start, but fans already know where things are heading with this storyline. The only things the series needs to answer now is the why and how. There should be plenty of time left in the season to fill in the blanks, but whether or not the story will continue in a second season remains to be seen.