WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 23 of Higurashi: When They Cry - Gou, "Village Destroying - Part 6," now streaming on Funimation.
The “Village Destroying” arc has answered quite a few questions so far, but plenty still remain as the series inches closer and closer towards the end of its supposed 24-episode run. Demonstrating this, Higurashi Gou’s latest episode brings about a major revelation concerning Satoko’s looping that might explain why things have played out so strangely in each loop, while simultaneously setting up one of Higurashi’s most despicable antagonists for an unexpected redemption arc.
Episode 23 opens on a series of “Cotton Deceiving” loops, with the gang all playing games at Da Vinci Toys. Satoko resets the loop various times during her game and sneaks out an easy win, prompting Rika to ask Satoko to show her how she won, but Satoko implies that Rika already knows how she did it. Back in the Sea of Fragments, Satoko talks with the mystery woman, Eua. Satoko tells Eua she’s noticed that various non-loopers can sometimes remember events from past fragments. Eua claims that, because her power is so great, the events of various loops sometimes carry over and reach those most affected by a given loop’s events. Satoko theorizes that those closest to the looper are the most affected, which Eua confirms, insinuating that one’s family is usually the most affected. Satoko scoffs at the notion, clearly setting up this episode's twist.
Back in what seems like a “Curse Deceiving” fragment, Teppei, Satoko's uncle, twice has vivid, disturbing recollections of dying horribly. Feeling a twinge of guilt over his family situation, Teppei heads back to Hinamizawa and checks in on his old home, eventually running into Satoko. Despite his kind demeanor, Satoko is justifiably cautious around her uncle, and so he takes his leave. Teppei’s change of heart now provides some context as to why he so suddenly returned to Hinamizawa in the “Curse Deceiving” arc. It was initially suggested that his motives were similar to what they’d been in the original “Curse Killing” arc and other similar fragments. But as the name suggests, this, like most of Gou, was nothing but carefully planned deception.
The next day, Satoko's errands are disturbed by a group of delinquents harassing her. Teppei steps in to protect her but is easily overpowered by the gang. Satoko seems confused by his actions and, when brought in for questioning, Teppei refuses to acknowledge why he started the fight. However, Ooishi reveals that there were plenty of witnesses who testified to it as an act of self-defense. Ooishi seems to view Teppei in a new light here, which could explain why the police and child services were so unwilling to budge on the domestic abuse accusations from Satoko's friends.
Teppei is released soon after and is met outside the station by Satoko. As they walk home, Satoko asks why he’s suddenly changed. Teppei tells her about his nightmares dreams and acknowledges that he’ll soon die alone if he doesn’t shape up. Satoko sees through him, though, saying that Teppei just wants someone to care for him for free, which he doesn't deny.
When Satoko starts to shy away from the conversation, Teppei acknowledges his past wrongdoings and promises to leave her alone if she still resents him for it. He even offers to stop associating with his shady friends and spend more time with her. While he doesn’t expect to be forgiven, he wants to at least be on speaking terms with Satoko going forward. Satoko is on the verge of accepting, but remembers her uncle's past abuse and recoils in fear. Teppei, true to his word, leaves her alone. While Satoko has certainly been opportunistic when altering the outcomes of these new loops, this episode seems to put her at something of a crossroads. But it's worth noting that if she felt comfortable manipulating her closest friends, she's likely more than capable of doing the same to her abusive uncle.
Teppei’s redemption arc is an unexpected but welcome surprise, though it is one that’s likely headed towards a violent disaster. Despite being one of Higurashi’s most despicable characters, Teppei’s regret and melancholy felt genuine in this episode, which makes the inevitable events of the “Curse Deceiving” arc all the more tragic. The big question now is what role Satoko will play from behind the scenes. Though it seems likely that Satoko once again manipulated the events of the fragment to break Rika’s will, her reactions throughout the arc seemed so incredibly genuine that it might suggest a certain someone could have taken on a much more hands-on role.