Manga-ka: Hinase Momoyama
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: September 2012
Synopsis: “The ‘Curse Killing Arc’…The ‘Time Killing Arc’…As each incarnation of the terrible events in Hinamizawa unfolds, Rika Furude must watch as her friends descend into madness and despair, knowing the only fate that awaits her is death. With the unique ability to see all of these worlds, Rika desperately searches for the common links between them that will help her stop the cycle and give her and her friends a happy future beyond June 1983. But with less than a month before the cotton drifting in her current life, will Rika be able to change destiny in time?”
Before now you could read the individual Higurashi arcs and still be able to understand well enough what was going on. With this volume, however, everything that has come before gels together and starts building towards a climax that brings all the previously unrelated events into one story. With the bigger scope comes bigger stakes. In the Massacre Arc it’s not just the lives of everyone in Hinamizawa that’s in danger but the very fabric of reality itself.
The authors waste no time in cracking wide open the world and showing us the gears that have been propelling the story. While it’s nice to have a peek behind the curtain, it’s handled in a rather clumsy way. Basically Rika and a mysterious new character named Fredrica Bernkastel spend a whole chapter explaining the mechanics and rules of the world. While it’s a lot of information to dump on the reader all at once, it’s not all bad. After all the mind games and weird twists it’s kind of nice to have ‘the rules’ laid out clearly. Also, exposition can be a good way to reveal character if done right. For example, we see how much Rika loves her best friend Satoko when she and Fredrica Bernkastel talk about the story arcs where Satoko gets put through the wringer.
Fredrica Bernkastel is a weird character, even for Higurashi. She’s hasn’t shown up before in the manga and has very little impact on the overall story. She seems to be an aspect of Rika, the part of her that has grown jaded from dying over and over again. Personally, I would have rather that Rika spend the time hashing things out with Hanyu, who is much more integral to the plot.
Hanyu is another new character, though in truth she’s been part of the story the whole time. Hanyu is the god of Hinamizawa. While most of the villagers think of her as the fearsome Oyashiro-sama, in truth she’s a gentle crybaby who looks more like a little girl than a fearsome god. Rika is the only one who can see her, and it’s thanks to Hanyu’s power that Rika is able to retain her memory of each world. Both Hanyu and Rika want to stop the bloodshed that happens over and over again in Hinamizawa, but they’re starting to get discouraged. By the time the Massacre Arc kicks off, both Rika and Hanyu have given up any hope of changing the world and averting Rika’s murder.
But one thing Rika didn’t take into consideration was Keiichi. Keiichi might not be a god or have any special powers, but he does seem to have the ability to change fate. In my favourite scene in this volume, Keiichi shows Rika how simple it is to change your destiny during a board game tournament. Keiichi’s advice to Rika is simple: if you don’t like how something is, speak up. For all the blood and gore and paranoia, at its heart Higurashi is about simple and sweet sentiments: be considerate of others feelings, trust your friend and talk to other people about your problems rather than bottling them up inside.
After seeing Keiichi change fate, Rika is cautiously optimistic. For once she seems to have ended up in a pretty good world. Everyone appears to be getting along, no one has started killing people in horrible ways, and maybe, just maybe, she’ll actually survive and live past June 1983. But this is Higurashi. Even during the happy, heartwarming parts you know the authors are just winding you up for the dark turn. Here it comes in the form of Teppei, Satoko’s abusive uncle. Soon Satoko is showing up at school beaten and bruised, and then she stops showing up at all. Rika is desperate to help her friend; she’s lived through other worlds where Satoko was abused and they were always the worst ones. But as much as she wants to save Satoko, she’s also afraid of failing once again.
Once again it’s Keiichi who steps up to the plate. Higurashi never holds back when it comes to showing people at their worst, but every now and then it also shows them at their best. Seeing Keiichi rally the whole school into taking up Satoko’s cause is a great scene that highlights not only Keiichi’s dedication to his friend but also the basic goodness in most people. Of course, in this series, there are always dark edges, and not everyone in Hinamizawa is on board the ‘Save Satoko’ wagon. Will Keiichi and co., be able to win them over, or will they have to fight against the village’s most powerful family, the Sonozakis?
Yen Press is releasing the Higurashi series in two volume omnibuses, which gives you a lot of manga in one bundle. This was an especially heavy volume with a lot of information packed inside. It’s also heavy content-wise. Rika is my favourite character, so it’s tough to see her torn between hope and despair. Also, Satoko’s abusive uncle plotline might not be as exciting as past story arcs featuring aliens and ancient viruses, but its mundaneness makes it that much more harrowing.
With this volume the mythology of Higurashi becomes a lot more complicated but it also clarifies the bigger picture. This isn’t the volume you want to start with if you’re new to the series, but if you’ve been following along it offers a fantastic pay-off for all the strangeness that has come before.
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Book provided by Yen Press for review purposes