Manga-ka: Hinase Momoyama
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: December 2012
Synopsis: “Keiichi’s appeals to the Child Consultation Center receive an outpouring of support from his classmates and teachers, but still the authorities refuse to intercede. Hinamizawa is a village controlled by three powerful families, and without the support of the Sonozakis-and their fearsome head, Oryou-the Center will not budge. As Keiichi struggles to convince Oryou, Rika feels her dream of living a happy life beyond the summer of 1983 begin to fade away. Does Keiichi have what it takes to make a miracle happen? Can Satoko be saved? Can Rika…?”
This volume of Higurashi only lightly indulges it’s supernatural-conspiracy side, pushing the more outlandish elements into a corner to make room for more worldly problems like child abuse and small town politics. It makes for a strange tone, as even though the weirdness level is low, the manga stays as intense as ever – it’s just instead of murders and massacres we get lots of scenes of people in meetings. The strange part is that the manga treats the two as if they are equally dramatic, giving this volume an unintentionally funny edge.
But even though its super-intense delivery can be a more than a little eye-rolling, the dilemma at the heart of this volume (hope vs. pragmatism) still manages to ring true. Rika seems like a normal, cheerful, young girl, but in reality she’s lived the same short life over and over again, always dying in the summer of 1983. After seeing so much tragedy Rika is just about ready to stop fighting fate.
But before Rika can give up, two people shake her out of her complacency. One is Keiichi, a teenage boy who challenges Rika’s assertion that fate can’t be changed. The second is Teppei, the abusive uncle of Rika’s best friend, Satoko. With Teppei back in town, Satoko has become a zombie, shutting down and closing herself off from her friends as her uncle heaps more and more abuse on her. Rika tries to convince Satoko to hold out hope, but soon realizes how hypocritical that is when she herself has already given up.
One person that hasn’t lost hope is Keiichi. While the Massacre Arc is very much Rika’s story, for large parts of this volume she blends into the background and Keiichi takes over. It’s Keiichi who rallies Satoko’s friends, then her classmates, and finally the whole village. By watching Keiichi practically wage war to help their friend, Rika realizes that she’s been holding back. She’s stopped getting too invested in any of the ‘worlds’ (aka story arcs) because whenever she does it hurts all the more when her hopes are dashed. And yet some things can’t be achieved unless you are willing to put everything on the line. It’s an interesting dilemma and one that pops up often in real life- it’s good to have a contingency plan, but by making a plan B are you consigning plan A to failure? This volume of Higurashi argues that sometimes you just have to put all your faith in plan A.
The art in this volume is good, though I feel a little sorry for the artist having so many dialogue scenes to draw. I can’t really blame him for wanting to spice them up with a dramatic layout or exaggerated facial expression, but it’s so extreme it starts to feel more like a parody of itself after a while.
This is a bit of a waypoint volume, hashing things out so we can get to the big finale of the arc. In a way this volume is an anomaly from the rest of the series- there’s no on-page death and almost no one gets maimed or murdered. It’s interesting to see the series tackle such a real world storyline, but at the same time part of the appeal of Higurashi is how weird and gory it can get, and there was barely any of that in this volume. But that will probably change soon. This is the Massacre Arc after all, and so far there haven’t been any massacres, and with one volume left to go in this storyline… … Nah, I’m sure nothing bad will happen.
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Book provided by Yen Press for review purposes