WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 7 of Higurashi: When They Cry - Gou, "Cotton Deception - Part 3" now streaming on Funimation.
As the "Cotton-Deceiving" arc looks to be nearing its end, Higurashi Gou's latest episode continues with the series' slow pacing. But keeping things fresh, the anime openly welcomes deviation from the original storyline -- as usual -- making for some great fan service for those in the know. In Episode 7, those fans are rewarded by Rika suddenly demonstrating a sudden and shocking level of self-awareness.
Continuing on from Episode 6, Keiichi enters the Ritual Equipment storage with Shion and Miyo while Jirou keeps watch outside. As the three look around, Keiichi discovers various tools, which he initially thinks are for farming. Miyo teases him at first but them delves into Hinamizawa's disturbing folklore, telling him of how the villagers came to worship Oyashiro-sama and their rumored demon bloodline. The group leave when Shion accidentally knocks over a statue of Oyashiro. Shion and Keiichi leave Jirou and Miyo, and Shion tells Keiichi to not tell Mion about what they did that night.
Keiichi later runs into his friends who assume that he was watching Rika's dance. Keiichi compliments Rika on a flawless performance, causing the rest of his friends to grow suspicious of him as Rika made a noticeable mistake in her performance. Mion asks Keiichi if he'd see Shion, Miyo or Jirou but he doubles down and lies to her.
The next day, Ooishi also asks Keiichi if he'd seen Jirou or Miyo the night of the festival. Keiichi lies again but Ooishi reveals that he saw them together near the storage room before leaving. Things only escalate when, late that night, Keiichi gets a call from Shion who informs him that both Jirou and Miyo disappeared the night of the festival after stealing a truck and running off. But when she tells him that she fears their disappearance is punishment for scooping around the storage room and that the two of them might be the next victims of the curse, Keiichi simply berates her until she hangs up on him.
Keiichi continues to worry over the events that transpired the night of the festival at school, which only worsens when the homeroom teacher reveals that the town mayor is missing, causing the students to assume that he's become a victim of Oyashiro-sama's curse.
While most of the students play outside, Rika finally approaches Keiichi. He tries to confide in her by telling her what happened the night of the festival with a made-up story, to which Rika drops her innocent persona and begins to mock Keiichi with a cruel expression on her face. She insinuates that things in the current time loop are already doomed, telling him that nothing he does going forward will matter but admits that she doesn't know how Jirou and Miyo's disappearances will affect things this time around.
Rika's sudden shift in personality leaves Keiichi speechless. His concentration is broken when Satoko invites him to play with her and the rest of his classmates, leaving Rika to quickly revert to her child-like persona and tell Keiichi that he's better off playing with his classmates than worrying about what happened on the night of the festival.
If the "Demon-Deceiving" arc is anything to go by, the "Cotton-Deceiving" arc looks like it should be wrapping up soon. As it stands, the series continues to give fans a lot to chew over, with the circumstance surrounding Rika's redeployment into the June 1983 time loop serving as it's biggest question thus far.
Rika unexpectedly breaking character and showing Keiichi her pessimistic and cruel Bernkastel persona all but guarantees the upcoming tragedy awaiting him and his friends, but the question of how things will differ from the original still remains.