The “Curse Killing Arc”…The “Time Killing Arc”… As each incarnation of the terrible events in Hinamizawa unfolds, Rika Furude must watch as her friends descend into madness and despair, knowing the only fate that awaits her is death. With the unique ability to see all these worlds, Rika desperately searches for the common links between them, which will help her break the cycle and give her and her friends a happy future beyond June 1983. but with less than a month before the Cotton Drifting in her current life, will Rika be able to change destiny in time?
Higurashi When They Cry: Massacre Arc Volume 1-3
Story by Ryukishi07; Art by Hinase Momoyama
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Price: $18.99 ea.
Higurashi When They Cry is a series I’ve wanted to read, but could never get through the first arcs, the Question Arcs. The way the characters fall into madness and despair was always too much for me to take, and I was never able to finish a single Question Arc. Things started to change when I started reading the Answer Arcs, the stories that start to explain what is going on. I gave the “Atonement Arc” a try, and found I really enjoyed it when there seemed to be some hope for the characters. The “Massacre Arc” continues this trend where a happy ending is not only just within reach, but almost everything is explained.
Rika, the young shrine maiden is the focus of this arc. She is joined by Hanyu, an entity that the people of Hinamizawa believe to be their god Oyashirosama. Rika is the only person who can see her, and she has since birth. It is Hanyu’s powers that allow Rika to go back again and again, and relive all the different arcs in Hinamizawa. At the beginning, Rika and Hanyu have little hope that the new world they have entered will be any different from all the others. But as Rika starts to see hope that destiny can change, Hanyu remains jaded and unbelieving. Hanyu, who has lived for ages, far longer than even Rika has, can’t find the hope that Riku sees. All through these volumes, she only sees the down side of things. She can’t believe in the miracle as Rika can. I was really starting to get annoyed at her, as for every good thing that happened, all she could say was it won’t work out they could go to the next world. But if she couldn’t believe in this world, how could anyone believe she would in the next? It’s this lack of belief is what ends up being their undoing in this world.
As Rika starts to relive this world, she identifies all the places where the story could diverge and one of her friends starting down the path of madness. But each time, her friends seem to pick a different path. Keiichi gives a doll he receives to Mion instead of Rena. Ooshi, the police office who seems full of suspicions about the Sonozakis is really just trying to give advice and help. Rena opens up to her friends about her problems instead of keeping them to herself. This seems to be the point of the arcs. As soon as the friends talk to each other instead of harboring unfounded suspicions, things move in a positive direction. Even with Rika, who has been keeping the multiple worlds to herself, finally gets real help from her friends when she tells them.
In this world it is Sakoto who must be the victim as her uncle, Teppe Hojo returns and forces her to live with him again. The majority of the arc then becomes how to save Sakoto from her uncle, who abuses her. Keiichi becomes the one who pushes the story forward constantly, and he pushes to find a new solution to every obstacle that they come up against. I really liked Keiichi here. He keeps everyone focused and calm, as they take steps to escalate Sakoto’s case with the Child Consultation Center. He shows himself to be not just a leader, but capable of bringing people together and fighting for his cause.
As Keiichi moves higher up through the village and government, more things are explained from the other arcs. Why the Sonozakis want everyone in the village to think they are behind the previous deaths, and why the head of the family, Oryou can’t forgive Sakoto for her parent’s actions back during the Dam construction. Keiichi’s confrontation with her is great. Rika’s final attempt to reach out to Sakoto, to get her to ask for help was also really inspiring. She finds the perfect words to spur Sakoto into action and really live up to her brother’s own bravery.
In the end, it’s for naught, but the person behind the Cotton Drifting Festival deaths, and Rika’s as well, is finally revealed in an ending unlike any before. The revelations continue even after Rika’s death, as the end of Hinamizawa is shown. Rika, and the reader, has all the answers now. They only question left is why.
I really enjoyed this arc. I had a hard time putting the volumes down. It was thrilling to see how ever obstacle was handled and how it was different from the previous arcs. All the madness and paranoia of the previous arcs aren’t present anywhere. There are moments when you start to think it might begin, but they are all dispelled and you see how it was misinterpreted by the unreliable narrator of that arc.
Ryukishi07 discourages reading this arc before the Question arcs, and I can see why. The answers don’t make sense unless you’ve seen the questions. Even though I hadn’t completed the Question arcs, I still found the answers compelling. Momoyama’s art was great too, showing the darkness and madness in the villains. She stripped away their masks to show their true nature and it was more horrifying than any of the deaths.
Higurashi When They Cry is not a series for the faint of heart, though this arc is better than others. While I think this title stands well on its own, I wouldn’t encourage others to pick it up without some familiarity with at least some of the Question arcs. Things will make more sense in the end. Now I’m really fired up to read the “Festival Taking Arc,” the one with the answer to “Why?” hopefully.
Review copies provided by publisher.