Just beat the First Night as well and wanted to share some observations, albeit ones that have likely been made before, and theories (I scribbled a lot of notes in the dark, so bare with me orz). A lot of it was inspired by reading midwinter's comments, so thank you for setting this up and getting me to think about things this long after release!
I'd like to mention first though, it's such a shame that Fatal Frame's music isn't as often remembered as RE or SH's. Hearing this after so long still had me totally convinced the mansion was alive and howling for me to leave, and my heart still stopped in the silence whenever a track looped.
Right, so my main theory trickles a lot into the others, so I'll start there. We know Kirie was divided between two conflicting emotions, which manifest as two separate entities: a younger self wishing to perform her duty, and a Malice-tainted adult intent on inflicting her misery on others, but during this playthrough, I wondered if the latter's intentions ("I'll make you feel my pain") had a double meaning, just like her. She lashes out and curses people who can't understand, as if to make them, but her relationships with people who might are a bit more complicated.
After seeing midwinter ask about possible symbolism in the mirrors, I started thinking about it. One of the first things we see is Mafuyu's reflection in the Intro screen, possibly foreshadowing his likeness to someone else. Miku makes a comment examining one of the mirrors about the meaning behind Kirie in the reflection, suggesting there is one, and I think it's to indicate their similarities.
Once compared, you find: they were both outcasts, attuned to the supernatural, the last caught in their respective games of Demon Tag, and even their significant others are identical. The path Miku takes is Kirie's, literally and metaphorically; she bares the ropes on her limbs, her routes (The Cell, Moon Well, attic, etc.) are the Rope Shrine Maiden's. She both feels and shares her pain, not unlike
I think Kirie associates with people who could possibly relate to her, who she shadows in visions, reflections and photographs (seen with Mikoto) in hopes they can empathize with and stop her. I thought it was odd her adult form would try to communicate with Tomoe for example, but then I noticed both she and Miku were drawn to the isolated Rope Shrine Maiden doll, likely due to their own feelings of being outcasts with their sixth senses, and that could be the symbolism of Kirie in reflections: she's trying to find someone like her.
This is significant to me because I'd often felt Miku's role gets shafted towards the end for Mafuyu to become the important figure, but seeing it this way makes me re-think that. She is the one to play Demon Tag, reassemble the Holy Mirror and purify Kirie. Company isn't what the pillar actually needs, as seen in the ending when they can escape together. Miku helped all on her own, because she's what Kirie was really looking for. A metaphorical mirror.
That...came out a lot more pretentious than I thought. But I'm not done!
What started this was actually noticing, or reading too much into, parallels between the Novelist's Group and the Munakatas, that are possibly playing into the theme of echoes through history 1 has and explaining why Tomoe couldn't relate to Kirie completely, as she's more similar to Yae. Both are in a unit of 3, in the mansion as part of their partner's research. Trouble starts when they photograph Person C (Mikoto/Koji) who eventually becomes spirited away, leading to a decline in their sanity and leaving them vulnerable to ghosts. They die not far from each other and their partners are murdered by Kirie after making progress with 5 masks/Buddha statues.
I have too much time on my hands. Some random comments I wrote down:
The Correlation Chart is definitely missed. I love the system of updates when you read particular notes, I feel like I'm doing research myself trying to piece it all together.
Do not raise your camera while wearing headphones as the tape recorder slows down. That sound is the most awful thing ever, my skin's crawling just thinking about it.
If they ever do remake it, a mode where you play as Tomoe with her mysterious camera would be cool.
Raised my camera to check out one of the screens and totally forgot the candle audibly flickers in response. Made me jump, I really miss environmental scares like that.
"I doubt he'll be able to find it, though." As if all traces of Ryozo vanished with him - creepy!
I didn't make the connection that the 5 sealed puzzle doors are broken in the 1st Night to reflect the smashed mirrors. That's cool.
Does anyone else find the wobbly Casper "Now Loading" screen cute?
Crack theory: Koji's "There's a rope!" note in the entrance was written by his ghost. It's dated September 12th, the day after his disappearance when he's discovered dead at 9:00AM. It's entirely possible he wrote it between then 12:00AM, but when Tomoe records her Red Tape 2 the previous day, the audible ghost voice says it's "too late for him", suggesting he's already dead. "There's a rope" is also his ghost mantra, and the graphic for the note is wrinkled and bloody.
A bit weird that Miku has no reaction to Yae hanging from the tree when leaving the Abyss, but has a flashback seeing her from the balcony.
I think that's all. Sorry for the waffling, I genuinely didn't think I'd have this much to say after all this time! See you's in Night 2.