Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Sep 3rd 2011
Higurashi: When They Cry
GN 14 - Eye Opening 4
Shion is gone. She has been consumed by the Sonozaki Demon, and as she continues her murderous rampage in Satoshi's name, she feels that she is no longer human. Manipulating Mion's friends and her own family, Shion leaves a trail of blood and death in her wake. But what will happen when she remembers that she was once a girl in love with a boy? Is there any hope for her soul?
The final volume of the first of Higurashi: When They Cry's answer arcs is a heart-wrenching, gut-churning compilation of images that will remain burned into your eyes long after the final page is turned. As promised, Ryukishi07 does answer the central questions posed in the companion “Cotton Drifting Arc” (volumes three and four of the greater series), but not the main mystery behind the entire series of Hinamizawa murders. We have a few more pieces of the puzzle, but the true answer is still waiting ahead.
Previously in the “Eye-Opening Arc” we have gotten to know Mion's younger twin sister Shion as she escaped from school, met, and fell in love with Satoshi Hojo, who later vanished, presumed to have murdered his abusive aunt. Shion believed that her family had him killed and set about enacting her revenge on her grandmother and sister. Now, as she descends further into madness, she decides that the other two powerful families, the Kimiyoshi and Furude clans, are also to blame, as well as Satoshi's sister Satoko. When Rika Furude attacks her – where volume 13 left off – Shion turns the tables and begins a vicious rampage that will carry through to the book's end. Rika's death is a foregone conclusion by this point, as series readers will have noticed that most “question” arcs involve her demise, but the way that it is carried out is powerful. Houjyou's art, still at its finest when depicting the frightening or the grotesque, takes on the flavor of traditional Japanese horror this time, with snake-necked women and reptilian eyes being the order of the day. Several scenes in the Rika sequence also call to mind the “slit-mouthed woman” of Japanese urban horror, and those familiar with that legend will recall that she kills you, no matter how you answer her questions.
Houjyou's comfort level with depicting scenes of torture, specifically of little girls, makes this volume more gruesome than previous entries in the series, including earlier volumes in this arc. This is not a book to read over dinner or before bed, and a few of the torture scenes will be too graphic for some readers. While it is not, perhaps, deserving of an “M” rating, it certainly lives up to the “OT” one, and even if you have been comfortable with the level of gore in the series so far, this may make you uncomfortable. Going into it aware of what's ahead will be helpful for younger or squeamish readers. Houjyou is capable of making nightmares live on the page.
The majority of the volume takes place in Shion's head, and several scenes are exact reflections of those we saw from Keiichi's point of view during the “Cotton Drifting” part of the story. Watching Shion manipulate Keiichi for the sake of revenge on Mion is fascinating, and readers may want to have volume four available for comparison purposes, especially if you're actively trying to solve the central mystery. Rena, interestingly enough, is largely absent from the book, indicating that Shion does not deem her a threat or worthy of notice. What role this will play in the ultimate resolution of the Hinamizawa mystery is uncertain.
Several very important revelations are made here. They cannot be mentioned in the review as that would be giving far too much away, but suffice it to say that various pieces of information that were not in the anime are given, making this a sound investment even for those who have already watched this arc. (New, unlicensed territory will begin with series volume 19.) While it is probably best to read the manga from the beginning, it is possible to pick it up at any point if you have watched the anime, and those waiting for new material not covered by that adaptation of the games would be fine starting with this volume. That is absolutely not true for people entirely new to the franchise, who really need to start at the beginning of one version or other.
With the conclusion of the Eye-Opening Arc, Ryukishi07 brings us some answers, though not to the most important questions. As more pieces of the puzzle are put into place, the larger picture becomes just a little bit clearer. While there is a definite ending, it is far from a happy one, and you may be left feeling just a little bit empty as you hold the detritus of wasted lives, nearly weightless, in your hands.
Overall : A
Story : A
Art : A-
+ Terrifying, emotionally manipulative, and haunting. Important information not in the anime version is revealed.
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