WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 19 of Higurashi: When They Cry - Gou, "Village Destroying - Part 2," now streaming on Funimation.
When Higurashi: Gou first released, fans were confused whether it was a remake or sequel. The series started off with the characters, world and story beats featured in the previous series, but old fans couldn't be fooled for long. Even as we watched Rika nudge her friends into the right paths to avoid tragedy, small inconsistencies began fragmenting the reality apart to culminate in Rika undergoing a horrific series of deaths.
The anime finally reveals itself to be a sequel as the well-tread storylines spiral out of control with Mion, someone who has never gotten Hinamizawa syndrome, becoming a villain. Someone has been rolling the dice for Rika and forcing her to loop through the horrible timelines once again. After a gut-wrenching encounter and a shattering revelation at the end of Episode 17, we learn that Satoko is actually the newest villain. This development left fans scratching their heads as to why Satoko would do this to her best friend, but Episodes 18-20 explain the youngest Hojo's motivations like Higurashi Kai once did for Miyo Takano.
After 17 episodes of Rika forced through the wringer, the surprise reveal of Satoko with glowing red eyes and timeline memories all but confirms her as the new villain. To explain, Higurashi Gou unpacks Satoko's history from the original timeline at the end of Higurashi Kai. It turns out that Rika wanted to go attend St. Lucia to leave Hinamizawa and its traumatic memories behind. While this should lead to a happy future, Episodes 18-20 show how the golden friend group slowly drifts apart and Satoko begins to tire of her life at St. Lucia. Episode 20 ends on Satoko with an intimidatingly angry expression as she stares at Rika through a window, wondering why Rika has left her.
These episodes fleshed out how Satoko is becoming isolated and how she may have come to resent Rika. The St. Lucia episodes have set up Satoko's increasing isolation but the previous anime, Ni and Kai, established that Satoko has both a dangerously stubborn personality and a fragile mental state. We know that Satoko blames herself for Satoshi's death and tried to become more independent, resulting in her refusing to ask for help throughout her uncle's abuse and likely becoming traumatized. So, although Satoko could talk to Rika about her feelings, she chose not to because of her stubborn need to seem strong. But Satoko was still affected by Satoshi's disappearance, which causes her to overreact to the idea of people leaving, albeit unintentionally.
After the reveal, it's interesting to rewatch the previous episodes to see how Satoko's behavior is reframed. What's strange about the previous time loops was how quickly the "villains" were driven to Level 5. But we later learn that a vial of Hinamizawa Syndrome virus was stolen from Irie Clinic. Satoko visits the clinic daily to manage her own Hinamizawa Syndrome and she could have easily been the thief. If we also look at the previous episodes, there are moments where Satoko is with her friends one-on-one or is unaccounted for.
For example, when Satoko followed Rena into the bathroom to wash ink off her face, it's possible she said something to worsen Rena's paranoia. Later, when Mion develops Hinamizawa Syndrome, Satoko could've injected her with the stolen vial or stoked Mion's fear while they walked out of the arcade together. As events escalate, Satoko is the only friend who doesn't have her face shown when Kimiyoshi is declared missing and later when Rika goes missing. By Episode 8, Satoko is dead next to Mion under extremely fishy circumstances. At the end of her own abuse, she lured Keiichi away from Ooishi's rampage only for Teppei to beat him up with a bat. Thinking back, Ooishi went to arrest Teppei and it's entirely possible Satoko injected the police officer who went mad, leaving Teppei and Satoko.
The most damning scene is the most horrific one between Satoko and Rika, where the Furude heir has her guts pulled out. Satoko is far too composed to have Hinamizawa Syndrome and she only lightly scratches her neck as if putting on an act. It also seems suspicious that Rika woke up at that exact point and, if Satoko has control over the time loops, she could've placed her in that vulnerable position. With the background from St. Lucia, it all comes together when Satoko uses pain to engrave the idea into Rika's brain: don't leave Hinamizawa. Satoko is manipulating Rika into staying in Hinamizawa by insinuating she will have more nightmares (horrific timelines) if she leaves again. It's not coincidental that when Rika accepts this idea, the next timeline glides by as smooth as butter.
What's even more interesting is that there are links between Higurashi: Gou and Umineko. For example, there are two Umineko characters, Okonogi and Juuza Amakusa, and this does not seem to be a coincidence. In Umineko, it's revealed that the events of Higurashi were a battle between two witches named Bernkastel and Lambdadelta. Bernkastel has strong ties to Rika while there are theories that Satoko is related to Lambda, as the two are blond-haired and red-eyed with an aversion to pumpkins. It's entirely possible this is a new twisted round in their game with Satoko taking Takano Miyo's role as a villain.
Higurashi creator Ryukishi07 is a master of small details and he has left a discreet trail of breadcrumbs to Satoko Hojo. This recent twist was masterfully foreshadowed and future episodes are sure to be a rollercoaster as fans unravel the truth behind the latest series of murders.