Higurashi: When They Cry, Vol. 23

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’ve been following the Higurashi manga, I’ve also been slowly going through the original visual novel, which MangaGamer has released here in North America (don’t look for their site – Higurashi is their token ‘not porn’ title). I just happen to be at the appropriate place in the novel as I am in the manga, so am able to compare them even more. It’s not clear how closely Ryukishi07 checked the content of the manga with the Higurashi artists – I know he’s very involved with the Umineko manga, particularly the final volumes, to correct certain issues with the novels – but certainly the manga glosses over a lot, being a sort of “greatest hits” compared to the deep immersion of the original. That said, where the manga does succeed is in the emotion. Be it heartwarming, sad tears, or dull horror, the manga delivers the goods here.


Nothing better demonstrates the difference between the two than the fate of Rika’s mother. The visual novel has this scene from the perspective of Ooishi, who is at the Festival waiting to see if anyone is killed. He’s on hand for the death of Rika’s father, made to look like a heart attack, and tries to follow the group back to the Irie Clinic but is hamstrung by traffic. Thus, we only hear that the wife is later found missing, supposedly having drowned herself in the swamp with a suspicious letter left behind. The manga, on the other hand, follows Rika’s mother. Rika’s mom has always been fairly high-strung from what little we’ve seen of her. It’s not hard to figure out why… Rika must be an amazingly difficult child to bring up. And what with the clinic using her as a guinea pig, and her father basically going along with it, her nerves just stretch to the breaking point. As such, she is ill-equipped to deal with Takano.

Takano remains fascinating, and though I think the visual novel does a better job of showing that a lot of this is Hinamizawa Syndrome rather than “lulz, I’m evil like that”, there’s enough here to keep everyone happy. Notably, for the sake of her research, she grovels at the feet of Rika’s parents, and when that fails, seems genuinely at a loss until Okonogi suggests “taking care of” Rika’s parents. Murder comes as a surprise to her… but once it’s in her head, she doesn’t hold back, as Rika’s parents instantly make the transition from “people” to “research subjects”. As such, she can easily justify using Rika’s mother as a live test subject. The murder is terrifying, and does not remotely hold back, with blood flying everywhere and Takano’s insane rictus grin it’s straight out of an Italian horror film.

Later on, Takano faces an even bigger setback when her mentor dies, and it’s shown that he was basically the only thing keeping her project going. Higurashi has a very realistic and cynical take on the Japanese political system and how power-grabbing it can be, particularly in the early 80s when this takes place. Takano once again has everything almost crumble around her, and it becomes apparently that even though she’s the source of all of Rika’s misery, she herself is being manipulated throughout this story, not just by Okonogi, but also a new faction who wants to use her in order to facilitate their own rise to power. If it works, great. If she dies, meh. And it’s clear the Mountain Hounds work for them, not Rika *or* Takano. Honestly, those two really have so much in common. They should talk over a nice cup of tea when this is over.

The visual novel goes into great detail on the pasts of most of the characters, and the manga manages to include some of it – Okonogi’s mourning for his father, and meeting his mentor after WWII shows why things starting with that guy’s death have led to his own obsession, even if it’s misdirected at the Sonozakis. Speaking of the Sonozakis, we see Mion’s grief and anger over Satoshi’s disappearance (Shion is carefully absent here), and her grandmother doing her best to bring “new blood” into the town while still trying to look old and crotchety. That new blood is the Maebara family, with Keiichi trying to start over after the BB gun incident. Rika and Hanyuu are at their most blatant here, with Rika actively showing she knows who they are and relying on people not realizing she’s living the same life over and over again so they laugh it off.

We also see Hanyu’s past, several hundred years ago. She really is a supernatural being, and her earnest attempts to stop the violence between the two tribes occupying Onigafuchi is heartwarming. I do think the drama needed more time to develop – as it is, it’s not as effecting simply as it goes by so fast – Hanyu gets her own daughter to kill her with a giant sword, which should have been given more weight. But then, Hanyu in general is the most problematic character of Higurashi’s so this is likely appropriate.

There are a few other things I felt didn’t work. Given how much Rika is using her past knowledge to make events work for her, her memories “catching up” with her at the end isn’t explained well enough, and seems to be awkwardly shoehorned in so there can be a cliffhanger. Also, four years pass between the start and end of this volume, yet the kids – all growing like weeds, one would think – look exactly the same in 1980 as they do in 1983. (The visual novel has a similar issue – the sprites never change.) More realism, please.

So now, all the pieces are in place – even Akasaka is having memories of a past life where his wife died and Rika was slaughtered, and is prepared to make his way to Hinamizawa immediately. Will all this be enough to defeat Takano and the forces that are manipulating her? And will Shion ever show up in this again? We’ll find out in January. In the meantime, this is still a very good adaptation with a lot of tragic and emotional scenes.

Higurashi: When They Cry, Vol. 22

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.

And so, finally, welcome to the Good End, as well as the longest of the arcs – it’s 8 volumes, or 4 omnibuses. We’ve come a long way to get to this point, seeing most of the main characters at their worst, and then later seeing them at their best. Well, mostly. The adults in Higurashi haven’t really gotten a good backstory yet. Particularly the villain of the piece. We knows that she’s insane and sociopathic – witness her face at the end of the Massacre Arc, as well as the plot she’s cooked up – but “she’s evil like that” is not a motivation, and Ryukishi07 has gone to great pains in previous arcs to show us how important someone’s past and the way their life unfolded can be to the actions they may take in the future. So, what’s Miyo Takano’s past?


Well, it starts with a little girl named Miyoko Tanashi. That’s her on the cover, isn’t she a cutie? She lives with a loving mother and father, and her hobbies are collecting flags of the world from a local restaurant chain. She is living a great childhood. Then… there’s a train accident. Miyoko went out to play with her friends instead of going shopping with her parents. From that, comes one of the most horrific childhoods we’ve seen in all of Higurashi, even managing to top Satoko and Rena’s. Miyoko’s father, before he dies, tries to get Miyoko to contact a researcher friend of his, but to no avail – Miyoko is sent to the local orphanage instead.

Orphanages in fiction are usually never a good deal, but this one goes above and beyond. (I have no idea if this is what orphanages in Japan were like in the early 60s – I hope it’s heavily exaggerated for dramatic effect.) It’s a prison camp for children, with daily beatings and abuse. Then comes the most striking scene of the volume, where Miyoko and her three other friends make an escape attempt from the orphanage – led by Eriko, who has heard there’s another orphanage a few miles away that’s loving and happy. What follows is… bad. They don’t escape – indeed, the whole “other orphanage” doesn’t seem to even exist. They are taken back. Eriko is tortured and killed by having her unconscious body tied down and covered in chicken feed, so she is basically pecked to death. I mention this as a spoiler because it’s so grotesque and graphic – everyone who reads the manga remembers this. The other two girls are rolled into a mat (which is then beaten with sticks) or put into a metal shower cage (and then beaten with sticks till they go deaf).

As for Miyoko, before capture she was able to accomplish a few things. First, she found a phone and managed to call her father’s friend. More importantly to the story, though, she screams at God to kill her, and a lightning bolt then comes down… directly behind her, missing her body. She takes this as a sign. It doesn’t go into effect right away – I won’t spoil her punishment, except that it’s the ugliest of the four, and the only reason she isn’t killed is that her father’s friend, Hifumi Takano, shows up to adopt her. (Note there is no suggestion the orphanage is ever shut down or stopped – only Miyoko is saved. I am reminded of the fact that everyone accepts Mion will be a yakuza head when she grows up. Morality in Higurashi can be starkly realistic when it wants to be.)

So, ten points to Hifumi for rescuing Miyoko, who changes her name to Miyo Takano. However, just putting her in a loving home and having her help with his research into brain parasites is not going to do the trick. Miyo clearly has post-traumatic stress disorder – we see her reliving the events of the orphanage more than once – and really should be getting therapy that she never gets. As a result, the PTSD will never really leave her, and drives her actions and descent into madness. Especially when the government mock and ridicule his research into parasites, and this drives him into deep despair. And so Miyo makes it her life’s dream to prove her father’s research is correct and that he was right all along. His research… into Hinamizawa Syndrome.

That leads us to the second half of the omnibus, where an adult Miyo is putting all her pieces into place. She’s not going to be stopped by some nasty old government officials – indeed, at one point, she believes that bullets won’t kill her (flashing back to the lightning bolt missing her as a sign). She delves further into his research, and also makes connections, showing that she’s an up-and-coming woman whose drive is not merely frivolous. (We briefly see her fighting a bit of “but gosh, why is a girl interested in parasites?” male doctors.) And finally, she gets what she wants – a research facility in Hinamizawa, with a helpful doctor in Kyousuke Irie, and a liaison in Jiro Tomitake. she notes Tomitake looks like an easy sucker, something that does not bode well for their relationship.

Irie is more complicated, though, and our sympathy shifts to him in this second half as Takano starts to slip deeper into madness. Turns out Irie, due to his parent”s crumbling marriage after his father had a head injury, has made it his life’s work to study brain injuries. Unfortunately, he was doing this around the time lobotomies were discredited, and therefore his career was somewhat ruined. Here in Hinamizawa, he’s trying to start over – being a nice helpful doctor, encouraging a young and stress-out Satoshi to take an interest in baseball – while also researching Hinamizaqwa Syndrome and trying to stop it. He’s a good guy, mostly.

Then they bring in a live specimen. The murderer of the dam construction manager, who is at Level 5 and trying to claw out his throat. And Takano blackmails Irie into dissecting his brain – while he’s alive. This really doesn’t bode well for Satoko Hojo, as she’s also showing signs of Hinamizawa Syndrome, and her parents fell off of a bridge just now in a very suspicious manner. Miyo isn’t too bothered – more live dissections! – but with Irie draw the line and cutting open a little girl?

As you can see, there’s a lot of backstory here, but it’s presented with a lot of dramatic effect – indeed, one might argue too much at times. This is really over the top grotesque in places, and the images of Eriko, and later the live dissections, are some of the more nightmare inducing of the entire series. That said, I think we can now see how Miyo Takano got to be the way she is, even if we can’t sympathize with her. Irie’s role in the series expanding is also a good thing, taking him away from “comedy lolicon doctor” and into a man trying to hold onto his ethics while still doing surgery FOR SCIENCE.

Karin Suzuragi did the Keiichi and Rena arcs, and her art is back as well for the final arc. It’s not my favorite of the artists, but it’s pretty good – although she’s not good at showing younger versions of our leads. Satoko in 1980 looks exactly the same as Satoko in 1983, and given that’s going between age 8 and age 12 or so, I’m not sure I buy that. Overall, though, for an omnibus whose job is to pour out backstory and explanations, this remains an amazingly gripping read, though of course I only recommend it for fans who’ve read the other books.

Higurashi: When They Cry, Vol. 21

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.

And so we come to the end of the penultimate Higurashi arc, and – no surprise here – everyone is dead. And I do mean everyone, as this volume, having finally given away most of the secrets, goes into great detail how the “disaster” that wipes out the village actually occurs. Things are not particularly improved by Takano, who is waving her arms around during all this as if she’s a conductor, and has a final face that is perhaps the template for all “crazy Higurashi faces”. But let’s jump back a bit and see how we got here.


Rika and Hanyuu both feature on Yen’s chosen omnibus cover art (sorry, Takano, you just aren’t cute enough), with Rika having a resolved, determined face and Hanyuu looking depressed and dead inside. Most of this volume is showing us how Rika gets that determined, as getting the news about Tomitake’s death just seems to take all the fight out of her. Especially when she hears Oishii’s theories about who did it. A lot of fans have gotten on Rika’s case about being unable to figure out the killer, who seems really obvious in retrospect, and that she should have pieced it together after so many worlds in a row. Of course, as we see here, this is the first world where she’s not drugged up at the time of her execution. More to the point, she may have a hundred worlds of experience, but they’re the experience of a girl who only gets to about 12 years old. Rika has years, but not maturity, and it shows clearly here, when she resolves to hide everything from her friends so they don’t get killed.

That’s hardly going to work, however, given what happened with Satoko just a few days ago. Indeed, Satoko points this out to Rika directly, and Keiichi and the others make it clear that they’re not going to sit there and let Rika be sacrificed. We even have Rika quoting one of Bernkastel’s poems – usually reserved for the start and end of each arc, and indeed we get one at the end as well – which talks about who has a right to happiness. It’s easy to stand up against someone when it’s for the sake of others. When you do it for yourself, it can seem selfish, especially if it will put your friends in danger. Rika has to break through that barrier before she can accomplish anything.

We are – finally! – starting to get answers here, and indeed most of the pieces are together now. Not only is Takano the villain, but so are the “Wild Dog” bodyguards, who have always resembled a militia a bit too much for my taste. (I like how they are mook enough to have Keiichi and company take them out in order to rescue Rika, but not actually mook enough to have that last more than a few minutes – in the end, the kids lose.) And Hinamizawa Syndrome, the disease that causes the paranoia and killing impulses, is explained as well. This leads to why Rika keeps getting ritually slaughtered on an altar – Takano has gone mad and believes that if she kills the Queen Carrier, she’ll gain godlike powers.

And then there’s Hanyuu. We still don’t know much about her. She’s the incarnation of Oyashiro-sama, but strangely powerless, except for her ability to reset the worlds. She’s also even more worn down than Rika, and is also terrified that if she loses Rika this time she’ll be alone again… as she was for about a thousand years. Rena calls her out on this, as she too has the reoccurring theme of the Massacre arc – fighting back hurts too many people, it’s best not to have any hope. We’ve just proven how wrong this is, even if it did end badly. What’s more, we don’t really have much background on why the hell Takano is doing this, aside from “She’s insane”.

Luckily, we have one more arc – the longest yet, 8 volumes/4 omnibuses! – that should tell us about them, and will hopefully finally give us something that the characters and readers truly deserve after all this tragedy – a happy ending. Stay tuned for Vol. 1 of the awkwardly titled “Festival Accompanying” arc, where we meet a young girl named Miyoko Tanashi, and find out what makes her tick.