Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Higurashi: When They Cry
GN 25 - Festival Accompanying Arc 4
Takano's plans have been revealed, and now it is up to Rika and her friends to thwart them. Working with Akasaka, Sonozaki family retainers, and former allies of Takano, the group uses everything in its power to bring an end to Takano's mania. Is there hope for everyone in the days beyond June of 1983?
Usual spoiler warnings apply – it's best to read this review when you're caught up with the previous volume!
It's been a long time coming, but at last we have reached the final volume in Ryukishi07's Higurashi: When They Cry cycle. The final volume of the Festival Accompanying Arc, once again presented in a two volume omnibus by Yen Press, gives us the happiest of possible endings for our characters, although in one case the ending may be too happy or hopeful. To a degree, this volume essentially embodies Jane Austen's words in the final chapter of Mansfield Park: “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery!” Not that this is unabashedly happy, but it certainly is resolved to “restore every body...to tolerable comfort.”
The story picks up with Rika and her friends, having previously recruited Tokyo policeman Akasaka and Sonozaki family retainer Kasai, along with Tomitake and the doctor, preparing to take on the increasingly insane Takano. Takano's devotion to her grandfather's research has gone beyond scientific or familial obligations to land her firmly in the deranged camp, and astute readers will notice a resumption of her habit of scratching at her hands until they bleed. (Even more astute readers will have guessed what this means.) Takano has barricaded herself in the clinic, tracking what she assumes to be Irie's movements via bug. What she is unaware of is that Shion and Irie have already found the tracking device, and the whole thing is an elaborate set up to get Takano and her wild dogs out of the clinic so that they can become fodder for Satoko's traps. In the midst of all of this, Irie reveals an important truth to Shion, giving her the will to fight on, and Hanyu begins to take more supernatural matters into her own hands.
When you come right down to it, very little time actually passes during the main action of the book. Takano's downfall, while satisfying, is over fairly quickly in real time, and really the demise of the wild dogs turns out to have the more impressive denouement. Takano's mania has already been very fully explored in earlier volumes, so taking her out, while important, isn't a question of uncovering her true intentions or somehow intellectually thwarting her. The ostensible selling point her is that everyone is using the skills they've been honing over the previous arcs to take down the big bad – Mion's leadership, Satoko's traps, etcetera – and this is very exciting. More of the book's draw, however, comes from Rika and Hanyu's enduring hope that this time, somehow, things will be better.
For those who have developed a virulent hatred of Takano, despite her horrible past, her punishment may not seem to be enough. She certainly doesn't get off without some punishment, but given all of the trauma she caused over the course of many Junes in 1983, her burden is a bit light. Granted, this is the totally happy ending, where everyone gets to have a good end, but in her case, it comes off as feeling like too little...and possibly, if we look back at her childhood, too late. She's a difficult character, both sympathetic and utterly horrible, and readers may find themselves feeling conflicted about her treatment.
Now that the series has closed...but wait! Ryukishi07 says that this is not the final arc in the Higurashi: When They Cry series, with one more in which Rika faces her last challenge. Unfortunately for English readers, as of this writing, Yen Press has not made any mention of translating this arc. One wonders just what it is that Rika will face, and whether or not it will answer the single unanswered question here - who is the burned body in the oil drum found in most of the other arcs?
This and other issues aside, the small extra story at the end, an exploration of if one single thing had changed way back in post-war days, is a particularly good touch. It smacks a bit of “how to end the series in five minutes,” but it also perfectly illustrates the ongoing theme of the series, that a single, small change can have a major impact on future events. Ryukishi07 has shown this with varying levels of subtlety throughout the series, and by ending the book on that note, his point is nicely driven home.
Higurashi: When They Cry has been a wild ride, but this volume does make it worth it. While not as strong as other, more troubled, arcs, Festival Accompanying ties up nearly all of the loose ends and conveys a sense of hope. While the very end is a bit too drawn out and one wishes he had gone a little further into the future, on the whole this is a satisfying conclusion to a long and twisted tale.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-
+ Satisfying conclusion, really does wrap almost everything up. Good lead-in to Umineko and the little “what if” story at the end is a nice touch.
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