Story by Ryukishi07; Art by Karin Suzuragi. Released in Japan as “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Matsuribayashi-hen” by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine Gangan Joker. Released in North America by Yen Press.
When we last saw Rika, she had just recovered her memories of previous lives… or so we thought. As it turns out, the cliffhanger wasn’t that she was missing a bunch of memories, but just missing one specific world: the last one, the Massacre arc. Realistically this makes absolutely no sense, but dramatically it’s necessary, so that “this” Rika can have Hanyuu explain things all over again to her (which also shows us the strength of Hanyuu’s resolve), and also so that Rika can have the appropriate surprised and amazed reactions when things actually start going her way.
For once the adults get the cover image, as we see Akasaka, Tomitake, Irie and Ooishi walking in a determined fashion. And most of the first half of this volume revolves around their own concerns. Akasaka can finally release the guilt from past lives of forgetting about Rika by showing up in the nick of time (Rika even lampshades this, torn between sobbing in happiness and being angry), Tomitake is forced to realize that yes, he may be in love with a psychologically disturbed woman who will be killing him later on, Irie finds that just because Rika’s the Queen Carrier does not mean that everything can’t go wrong if she dies, and Ooishi deals with the very real and adult concern that if this turns out to be a lot of fuss over nothing, he’ll lose his entire retirement pension and be ruined. Oh yes, not to mention his reaction to finding the Sonozakis are not, in fact, behind everything.
Takano also gets some POV here, and it’s as horrifying as it is revelatory. What starts out as being honest anguish about her feelings for Tomitake (this is likely the first time she’s ever fallen in love, so she simply has no idea what to make of it) turns into a PTSD-laced loathing that ends with her flashing back to the orphanage – again – and realizing that if she’s screwed up her Grandfather’s Research because of this “kill everyone” plan, than it would be better for everyone if she’d died back there. Still, by the end of this volume, she’s back in the driver’s seat, and Tomitake is captured.
Ryukishi07 includes a lot of shonen GAR (look it up on Urban Dictionary) in this volume, which does not *quite* go over the top. Partly it’s because much of it is subverted by the bad guys ruining everyone’s amazing moments – only Akasaka succeeds in being too cool for the room. Tomitake’s daring and dramatic escape… ends with him captured. Shion’s noble self-sacrifice to let the others get away… ends with her being hostage bait. Just as with the Massacre Arc we kept almost getting a happy ending only to see it vanish, here we almost have things end in tragedy a lot. Luckily, Akasaka is the exception to this rule, as he gets to swoop in with the dramatic rescue, which is so filled with cliche that Rika decides to doodle on the ground rather than watch any of it.
(By the way, Yen translators, nice job with Akasaka as the speeding bullet and Tomitake being more powerful than a locomotive. Too bad Shion can’t jump all that high.)
Speaking of the Sonozaki twins, they get the cover art that wasn’t used here (it’s on the inside front), and a lot of the focus towards the end is on them. Shion arrives in the story late and upset that she was kept out of the loop, but that’s sort of been her role throughout almost all of these worlds, with only Massacre being the exception. I was surprised that she outright stated to Mion that she wanted to be the “big sister” again to protect her – I’ll assume this is sotto voce, though who knows, maybe Mion actually told them everything about the permanent switch at some point – and amused at her noting to Keiichi that she can’t teach him to use a Kalashnikov in time to stop the bad guys. (It’s not that hard – she’s likely bluffing.) For KeiMii fans, by the way, Shion outright tells Keiichi Mion is in love with him, and his reaction is less “wait, what?” and more “why are you bringing this up now?” Keiichi, Mion and Rena really need to have a long talk after this is all over.
And so at the end of this volume, Rika is rescued, and things are looking up for everyone except Tomitake, who’s been captured by the bad guys. Next volume is the final one (of the main series, that is… please license Dice-Killing, Yen) and so we will at last see what we’ve been waiting for so long: a happy ending. In any case, this penultimate volume is filled with humor and heart, and fans will love it.