Story by Ryukishi07; Art by Hinase Momoyama. Released in Japan as “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Minagoroshi-hen” by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine GFantasy. Released in North America by Yen Press.
This review has spoilers!
Ladies and gentlemen, after 18 volumes, meet our heroine.
The author talks in the notes for this volume about how he tried to keep Rika’s main character-ness a secret at first, with Keiichi, Rena and Shion getting all the attention. The Time Killing Arc was probably the one exception, and even that was 5 years before the main action. We’ve known Rika is much deeper than she seems, and that she can see/understand the constant resets in this world. But this is where the manga outright has her as the star. And while no one is going to pick up a new manga 19 volumes in, the first chapter does a decent job at setting up the ‘mysteries’ and ‘rules’ of the resetting worlds… even if it turns out to be wrong a lot.
By the way, the twin girl that Rika meets is Frederica Bernkastel, whose poetry we have been enjoying at the start of each arc. She is somewhat unimportant to the Higurashi series (we’ll only see her again at the very, very end), but is a far larger player in Umineko, which begins over here in two months… Also, Frederica, not Furude Rika. I don’t know how anyone could mix them up. :)
We do also meet another major character here – Hanyu, aka ‘Oyashiro-sama’. For a series that has combined moe and gore to such a large degree, it’s not as much of a surprise as one would think to find that their torture god is an adorable little girl who hates all the killing. Seeing her stomping her feet in rage at Takano’s insane ravings is quite funny. Possibly the only funny thing she gets to do in this arc – Hanyu is a drag, and ends up bringing Rika down with her. Downtrodden and depressed, she’s the one resetting the worlds, but it’s clear she has no confidence this one will be any different.
But oh, how wrong she is. This is what the previous 18 volumes have led to. Remember Higurashi is actually an adaptation of a game, where the player saw everyone make really, really horrible mistakes. And in this world, through the constant replays and reboots, they subconsciously learn from those mistakes, and make the right decisions. This is one of the more heartwarming parts of the volume. Seeing Keiichi give Mion the doll, seeing Shion treating Satoko like a little sister, Rena confessing that she got her dad help and a job… it’s great to see. And it has a wonderful capper, as who should show up in Hinamizawa but Akasasa. With his wife. Who is not dead. It’s pure happiness on a manga page.
And this is where hubris starts to hit Rika. After being so depressed for so long, seeing this is a world where everything is ‘perfect’ makes her a little too cocky. She goes to tell Tomitake and Takanao that they’re going to be killed… and they seem to believe her. She deliberately incites a gang to hit her… and it turns out she now has hidden bodyguards. So she gets the tiniest bit smug… and oh, does she ever pay for it. Because this is the Answer Arc for the MOST DEPRESSING ARC EVER, the Curse Killing Arc.
See, when Rena turned to Mion and confessed the difficulties she and her dad were having, Mion told her family. Who are yakuza. Who responded by simply quietly killing off Mamiya, the woman blackmailing Rena’s dad. And with Mamiya now dead… Satoko’s uncle has come back home. This leads to the most chilling image of the volume, Satoko with a huge bruise on her cheek and empty eyes. We only have one problem to solve in this world, but oh, it’s a doozy.
But remember, people are learning from their mistakes, mostly. So even though Shion backslides a little, murder for once ISN’T an option. Instead, they go to child services. Who suck. Horribly. So they go back, with their teacher and principal. And fail again. It’s like beating your head against a brick wall, mostly as Satoko refuses to admit that she is being abused. (Well, maybe murder isn’t an option as it’s being taken off the table… the first thing Rika does is go to Takano and ask that her hired goons take out Satoko’s uncle. She should know better.) And Ooishi, despite getting a nicer introduction than usual, is not helping at all with his usual elliptical warnings.
By the way, there’s still the matter of who is killing Rika. When this first started in GFantasy in 2009, the games were finished. As was the anime. 95% of the people reading this knew who the main villain was. So you see the author cheating a bit, with perhaps a few more creepy villainous smiles than might be warranted. More on this later. It isn’t called the Massacre Arc for nothing, after all.
As you can see, there’s a lot going on in these first two volumes. I am pleased that Yen omnibused them. The next two aren’t out till December, but luckily we have Umineko in November. We switch from cicadas to seagulls… and also switch from a series searching for its happy ending to one where that may not even be an option.