Higurashi: When They Cry, Vol. 26

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

As the readers of Higurashi plowed their way through the series, they gradually began to notice that the protagonist was changing before their eyes. At the start, this looked like a typical datesim variant, albeit a dark one, and therefore Keiichi Maebara was clearly the hero. After all, in the visual novels he didn’t even have a sprite. But as we got deeper into the plot, we realized who was really the driving forced behind this: Rika Furude, the young shrine maiden who was the only person who could remember all the past worlds. Indeed, she seemed at times to be much older than her unstated tween age, having lived her life till getting killed June 1983 over and over again. The main series, being more concerned with figuring out why this was happening and how to stop it, rarely stopped to consider the psychological implications of this. This epilogue, the “Dice-Killing Arc”, is here to do that.


The basic premise is simple enough: Rika, who is no longer threatened by impending death, becomes too careless when biking down a seldom-used hill and is struck by a truck. She wakes up in a world unlike all the others she’d been reliving over and over again. Keiichi isn’t here, Satoshi is alive, and so are her parents. In this new world, all the horrible things that happened in everyone’s pasts seem to have been avoided. It’s a “sinless world”… but is there a place for Rika in it? Can she return to the Higurashi world we know and love? And who is Rika Furude anyway?

As Ryukishi07 wrote this, he was also writing and planning his next series, Umineko: When They Cry, so it’s unsurprising that elements of that are seen in this. Most obvious is Rika feeling disassociated with her child self – she’s lived so many lives by now that she doesn’t feel like Rika Furude anymore, and when she makes the transition into this world she feels like she’s possessed the real Rika Furude. In a drunken stupor (we’ve seen Rika dilute wine and get drunk on it before, and she does here as well – be warned) she stares at the label on her father’s wine bottle and declares that her alternate self is actually Frederica Bernkastel.

As if this wasn’t disturbing enough, Rika’s mental state really takes a nosedive in this world. Satoko supposedly hates her and the others are mostly indifferent to her. Her parents are alive, but this doesn’t cheer her up – she simply regards them as nuisances. It all comes to a head when she’s sitting in class trying to work out how to return to her own world and Satoko decides to bully her a little too much – she snaps and punched Satoko, then starts to beat her over and over with a chair. “Fans” of Higurashi who saw this in the anime tended to be a little too happy over this scene, feeling Satoko “got what she deserved”. First of all, if you feel anyone in Higurashi gets what they deserved, stop following the series. Secondly, this scene is meant to be HORRIBLE. It’s preceded by a scene where Hanyuu (communicating with Rika via a relic) states that she may have to kill someone to get back to her world, and Rika hopes it’s her parents, as she has no attachment to them. It’s truly chilling.

What ends up happening, thankfully, is that Rika slowly understands this isn’t just her correct world and a “wrong” world, but two unique worlds with their own virtues. She starts to rebuild a relationship with her mother, who had always been upset at Rika seemingly knowing how to do things (due to the loops) and showing little affection; Rika also tries to remember what being a child who loves her parents was like in the first place. Likewise, Satoshi, Reina and the others help her to realize she can forge new bonds here, and maybe try to be friends with Satoko again. In the end, Rika makes the decision to stay in this world and not kill her mother…

A decision that turns out to perhaps be irrelevant, as she wakes up (after being in a coma for a month) back in the Higurashi world we know and love, with everything seemingly having been a “dream”. This ending is somewhat debated in Higurashi fandom, mostly as it’s implied it was a dream Hanyuu deliberately forced on Rika in order to get her to properly remember and grieve for her parents (and also possibly remind her not to bike into traffic). This would probably read better if Hanyuu had been better characterized throughout the series – we’re not even sure why she’s incorporeal again.

So not without its faults – there’s also a long expodump between Reina (who kept the i in this world) and Rika explaining the differences that’s almost painful – but it’s a story I’m happy we got, as it reminds us that even if there is a happy ending for everyone, lives still go on, and Rika has to make the decision to go forward at last, and not let herself be bound by her repeated loops and assumptions. I’m not sure if we’ll see more Higurashi manga after this (Daybreak and Bus Stop are still out there if Yen is interested), but as epilogues go, this is a fitting ending for the series.

Higurashi: When They Cry, Vol. 25

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!

Higurashi: When They Cry, Vol. 24

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.