Higurashi: When They Cry Volumes 13-14

Story by Ryukishi07; Art by Yutori Houjyou. Released in Japan as “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Meakashi-hen” by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine Gangan Wing. Released in North America by Yen Press.

Sorry for the numbering confusion. Initial solicits from Yen noted that the omnibus ‘Demon Exposing Arc’ was Volume 13, but I went with that. But they’ve apparently now decided that it’s a special one-off, and 13 and 14 are the rest of the Eye-Opening Arc proper. So we’ll go with that. In the meantime, let’s take a look at Shion! When we last left her, she’d locked Mion in the Sonozaki family torture chamber and was laughing maniacally. Where can we go from here?

Oh, there’s always somewhere further down you can go! Shoin still has to figure out what happened to her beloved Satoshi, after all. So she disguises herself as Mion and starts an odd double life, using Keiichi and the others to try to further her own agenda. Or at least what she thinks her agenda is. In doing so, she also runs afoul of the Village’s Council of Elders. Honestly, some of their reaction to hearing there were intruders in the shrine might be Shion’s paranoia, but I doubt it. They’re simply reactionary people in power, and not pleasant at all.

Of course, this isn’t comparing them to Shion, who outstrips everyone else in this arc for pure evil, even if it’s in the name of a misplaced love and revenge. She kidnaps the head of the village and sets him up in a slow hanging torture device that, well, slowly hangs him. (Shots of his feet danging in the backgrounds in Volume 4 are chilling, especially as they’re never the actual focus of the scene.) And unfortunately, Shion is still no closer to finding anything out, as the head of the village doesn’t know anything, and her grandmother is dead.

Shion has been attempting to be crafty, but it’s not particularly working well except against overly trusting people like Keiichi. So it’s no surprise that when Rika comes over to ‘borrow some soy sauce’, it seems to be a ruse in order to inject Shion with something. We think. This is the trouble with trying to trust a viewpoint in Higurashi. It makes for a good cliffhanger, though.

Then we get to Volume 4. It’s the final volume of the arc, and by far the bloodiest to date. Shion manages to defeat Rika from injecting her, and decides to take her off to be tortured like she did with the village elder and her sister. Rika, oddly, does not really want to be tortured, and decides that since it’s clear Shion is too far gone, she will commit suicide instead. By stabbing herself in the neck with a knife. Repeatedly. It’s a horrific scene to see, and even Shion seems briefly horrified by it.

But at least she avoided what’s coming next, after Shion invites Satoko over for some tea and torture. Given that Satoko is Satoshi’s brother, this is the grimmest scene in the whole arc (and that’s saying a lot). Shion is filled with misplaced blame and anger, and as it turns out so is Satoko, who has been blaming herself for her brother’s disappearance, and is convinced that if she’s a good girl and doesn’t cry that she can see him again. This is the only scene in the manga where Shion threatens to slowly torture someone to death and actually does it, as she stabs Satoko (who she has already crucified – no vague symbolism here) repeatedly in the arms until she dies from blood loss.

This is followed by an epiphany that would be rather touching if it wasn’t far too late – Shion, going over all her memories, finally recalls Satoshi asking her, right before he disappeared, to take care of Satoko for him. And I’m pretty sure he did not mean ‘take care’ as in torture. Shion’s anguish as she realizes that not only did she not do this but in fact has failed at everything she wanted to do to get closer to him is equal parts heartbreaking and amusing (there’s a wonderful shot of her thinking about Satoko and Satoshi, beloved brother and sister, keeping their promise to each other, and them slowly swiveling her head over to the crucifix where Satoko still hangs.), but in the end it’s a mere illusion, as Shion decides she is ‘possessed by the demon’ and goes off to kill Keiichi (who she still seems to blame for not being Satoshi.)

What follows is the end of the Cotton Drifting Arc, only from Shion’s perspective, now that we know it was actually her and not Mion. My favorite part of these two arcs occurs here, as Shion has basically made an unspoken bet with her sister to see if Keiichi is able to discover that she’s really Shion. He doesn’t, so she gleefully starts to torture him – only to have him beg the ‘demon’ inside her to release Mion, and Shion realizes that he not only can’t believe that his good friend Mion would be capable of such things, but ALSO can’t suspect Shion. Keiichi is simply too nice.

So she knocks him out with her taser, and goes to have a final heart to heart with Mion. We do actually get a few answers here, this being the first of the answer arcs – but not too many. It’s made clear that the Sonozakis don’t really have anything to do with Satoshi’s disappearance – they’re just really good at bluffing and looking evil. The whole twin switching thing is also given its last twist, as it turns out that when they were kids they switched so that Shion could attend a meeting and Mion could go to the amusement park. The only problem was this was when the elders of the family tattooed ‘Mion’ with the mark that branded her as the next head of the family. So Shion was actually born Mion, and fell into disfavor. Yet another reason she’s so screwed up. Unfortunately, this does not help the Mion we know, who Shion allows to fall into the pit in their basement and break her neck.

And so Shion, tormented by now by absolutely anything and everything she’s ever done in her life, goes to the hospital to stab Keiichi, convinced by now that she has to kill everyone to gain forgiveness. And then she falls off a roof trying to escape. Bad end. REALLY bad end. There’s a brief shot of a dying Shion regretting all the decisions she made, and imagining what would have happened if she’d ,listened to Satoshi and become a big sister figure to Satoko. Sadly, it’s just a fantasy, and the final shot is of her corpse staring up at the reader.

This was gripping stuff, but not exactly what I would call feel-good material. What’s more, we have yet another arc with a singularly unsympathetic protagonist, as despite all attempts to make Shion likeable, you really can’t get past the paranoia and madness. Luckily, this arc is over. In October we begin the ‘Atonement’ arc, which stars Rena (remember Rena? The supposed star of the series?), and is the ‘answer arc’ to the very first Higurashi manga. Hopefully it will be as well-told as this arc was… and perhaps a little lighter in tone? I know I can’t get a good end yet, but…

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