Higurashi: When They Cry, Vol. 17

Story by Ryukishi07; Art by Karin Suzuragi. Released in Japan as “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Tsumihoroboshi-hen” by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine Gangan Powered. Released in North America by Yen Press.

I will admit, very little happens in this volume of Higurashi, at least in terms of actual events. Rena’s paranoia grows, the others realize just how far she’s gone, and they resolve to save her. That’s about it, along with one other revelation. But that said, this was a fantastic volume of Higurashi, mostly as it rewards the readers who have been following along with the first volume.

We haven’t quite seen Higurashi get as ‘conspiracy happy’ as it does here, and that’s mostly due to the choice of protagonists. Keiichi was the newcomer, so his paranoia was stemming from not knowing his new friends well enough. As for Shion, everything about her revolved around Satoshi, making her manipulable in that sense. Rena, though, has already killed and is well on her way to the madness we’ve seen before. So it’s time to break out the silly guns. Yes, we get ‘aliens are causing it all’, along with ‘it’s a parasite burrowing into people’ and ‘my dead friends have been replaced with exact duplicates’ as well. Sadly, not only are many of those actual common diagnoses with folks who have paranoia, but several of them might be true. We’re still not sure what’s actually causing everything. And now we find that one of the series’ perennial corpses – Takano Miyo, the sleepy-eyed nurse – may have been dead 24 hours before she was supposed to have died.

So Rena’s not doing very well, and Keiichi, the one person she can trust, immediately goes and tells Moin about this. From Rena’s perspective, it’s the worst kind of betrayal. From *our* perspective, we’re cheering. At last, we’ve stopped distrusting our best friends! And true to form, Mion is able to put his mind at ease and also help start a search for Rena, who’s gone missing. Rena is, of course, hiding from everyone who is plotting to kill her – i.e. everyone. And unfortunately, the one to run into her first is Rika. We’ve gradually become aware that Rika can remember the previous iterations of this manga, and would appear to be very different from the small child she appears to be. She’s never been quite so bleak and uncaring as she is here, though. Some of what we see is clearly Rena’s ‘paranoia-vision’, but some of it is clearly a person who is exhausted and has just given up – and who has seen a bit too much of the nasty side of humanity. Rika’s cynicism here is the opposite of what we want to see in Higurashi, which makes it heartbreaking.

(She’s also drinking wine as well, which can’t be good for her. And talking to an offscreen voice we can’t see.)

After this, Keiichi tracks down Rena, but she’s prepared for him. She reveals Keiichi’s past to us. Given that everyone else in the manga has a tortured, tragic past, it makes sense that Keiichi would have one as well – it’s not as bad as the others, but it definitely shows us why he might be the way he is, and why he’s so tolerable of the girl’s goofy antics at his expense. And given that, like Keiichi, Rena has also shown signs of being very intelligent but hiding it under a mask of goofy, it helps to connect them even closer. If Rena wasn’t driving him away, that is.

So a guilt-ridden Keiichi confesses what he did before he moved to Hinamizawa to his other friends. And they’re OK with it, forgiving him, noting they were all little brats as well, and pointing out that being friends doesn’t mean telling everyone every aspect of your lives. It was good to hear that, especially from a comedy-horror manga. Then, just as Keiichi is coming to accept their forgiveness… he remembers the events of Book 2. Remember Book 2? The first arc? Seeing a shot of Mion’s head getting beaten in with a bat, especially as we weren’t expecting the flashback, is very startling. and now Keiichi’s in even worse shape. He thought he just had to be forgiven for his own past – now he has to atone for the other Keiichis as well!

Rika’s the one to notice the big thing, though – Keiichi REMEMBERS ANOTHER ARC! She even calls this an impossible miracle, noting that she’s the only one who remembers them. That said, it’s to Keiichi’s credit that this doesn’t turn him into a gibbering heap – remembering Rena desperately trying to save him (and it was terrific, if horrifying, seeing the events of the first arc as they actually happened – with Keiichi’s paranoia fueling his murders) makes him even more determined to avoid her going through the same thing. Even better, this actually galvanizes Rika. She notes that this world is beyond saving – this isn’t the last arc – but decides to help Keiichi anyway, as Rena is her friend and it’s the right thing to do.

So everyone’s forgiven everyone – except for Rena, who’s scratching at her bloody throat and getting out her billhook to prepare to kill everyone in the village in order to save them. (Something, notably, she and Keiichi had regarded as ridiculously stupid at the very start of this volume.) Will Keiichi be able to stop her madness? The previous evidence suggests the answer is no, but who knows? One more volume to go to find out.

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