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.
As I review this final volume of the main Higurashi series, it’s worth noting something: Ryukishi07 really, REALLY loves his shonen cliches. It’s something I’m sure I’ve said before, but to properly enjoy this volume you really have to buy into the fact that it is going to be totally ridiculous. A majority of this volume is a counterintelligence task force from Tokyo getting their asses kicked by a group of 12-17 year old teenagers.
The manga actually tones down the original source a bit – Mion brags about her leadership skills briefly, but the narration praising her to the skies is mercifully cut. Even so, the physical battle between her and Okonogi (who has elf ears just so you know he’s EVIL) should spell out how this has become an action movie. Everyone gets to do their thing – Keiichi beats up soldiers with his bat, Rena pounds ‘adowable’ guys with cute kitty buckets stuck to their heads, Satoko deals out horrible traps to Amakusa from Umineko’s manga (making a brief cameo here, possibly to remind us not to trust him in the other series) and Rika, her future finally secured, gets to pat people on the head.
There’s another team sent to deal with the clinic – they’re there to rescue Tomitake and move the comatose Satoshi somewhere else. Shion, by the way, does NOT get to be awesomely shonen like everyone else – possibly as repentance from her former villain status, she runs off half-cocked and gets captured. But then, she’s just found out that Satoshi is alive, and is not in the best of mindsets. I did like Rika forgiving her – in our eyes for the events of the Eye Opening Arc, but to Shion more of a general ‘you are a good person after all’ forgiveness.
Of course, there’s still Takano to deal with, but we’ve spent 6 volumes showing how she’s not so much an evil villain as a horribly broken PTSD-afflicted tragic villain. The scene at the start with Tomitake is one of the best in the book, where she says that after all this is over she’ll return to the orphanage to die – i.e., kill herself. Even more lucid Takano knows she’ll be killed once her usefulness is over. And she’s absolutely correct, as Okonogi, whose team is working for Nomura and not her, gives her a gun to blow her brains out with.
But she doesn’t want to die, so instead runs off to have a final confrontation with Hanyuu, who is her mirror in many ways – especially spelled out in this final scene, where Hanyuu also notes that after all this is over she plans to die, or at least return to her incorporeal state. It’s Rika who, pulling one last deus ex machina from her deck, stops time and stops the bullet Takano fires from hitting anyone. (She shows off the bullet afterwards, and it seems totally ridiculous, but I wonder if Rika simply grabbed a bullet casing and is using narrative structure to bend reality to her story? But that way lies Umineko…)
So in the end everyone lives, and we get a long epilogue showing the happy endings. Rika planning for her first post-June 1983 days. Mion mildly preparing for college, but still stuck on Keiichi and unable to get past his denseness. Rena in the same boat, but happier about it. Satoko learning cooking and awaiting her missing brother, Shion reading to him in hopes he’ll wake up. Even Takano, recovering in the clinic from Hinamizawa Syndrome, isn’t condemned, and Hanyuu wonders if she’ll be up and about telling everyone scary stories before long. (Optimistic, I suspect, Hanyuu. Have you discussed this with Rika?)
Two odd discordant notes in the happily ever after, by the way. Firt, we get the report done with the Tokyo Government, with edits by Nomura. She gets away with everything 100% here, and Ryukishi07 admitted in interviews that this was on purpose, as he wanted to show that not everything gets wrapped up in a big bow (likely why Satoshi doesn’t wake up either.) Second, we get the odd epilogue where an adult Rika meets a child Miyoko Tanashi, on the morning her parents are killed, and manipulates her into going with them. History is changed, though, and no one dies in the crash. No more Miyo Takano… which means many, many things change in the future. Where could this be leading?
If we see the Dice-Killing Arc, we may find out. In the meantime, this is an excellent (if at times ridiculous) conclusion to a series that proved to be far more than just “Lol killer lolis”, as I expected from opinions from anime fans. I really came to adore the franchise, and have since read the sound novels it was based on, and urge everyone to do the same (it’s out in English via Mangagamer, though beware when you buy – it’s their one non-porn title.) And if you enjoy Ryukishi07′s writing, there’s still more Umineko to go!