by Rebecca Silverman,

Higurashi: When They Cry

GN 1 - Massacre Arc

Higurashi: When They Cry GN 19
Rika Furude has been in every arc of the Higurashi story, and what's more, she is aware of it. Constantly brought back to relive the same tale over and over again, Rika is ready to give up the ghost. But this time things seem to be a little different – do Keiichi, Shion, and Rena remember the other times they've lived through the Cotton Drifting? Could it be that this time things will be different?

There is a moment in a puzzle, whether intellectual, jigsaw, or otherwise, when all of a sudden it becomes clear what is going on. This first installment of the Massacre Arc, penultimate answer to the mysteries posed by the earlier volumes of Higurashi: When They Cry, opens with that moment. This time around our primary point of view character is Rika Furude, the seemingly young and proper head of the Furude family and priestess at the shrine. The omnibus volume begins with Rika awakening in a strange world out of time. There she meets Frederica, a girl who looks just like her, and who reminds her that once again, even after one hundred years, Rika has failed to survive June of 1983.

We have suspected for a while now, and perhaps most strongly with the recent Atonement Arc, that Rika knew more than she let on. This opening chapter confirms that, as it recaps the events that have been replaying over and over again. There is a strange, somewhat clunky, element of metafiction here, with Rika and Frederica even naming the three sequences that have been playing out endlessly - “I think of these fragments as something like a series of books,” Frederica says, “So I've named them all.” She then goes on to recap the three question arcs we've read up to this point: Abducted by Demons, Cotton Drifting, and Curse Killing, before going on to recap and name the answer arcs. On the one hand, this is an interesting way to include the reader in the unfolding plot, sort of like the author coming out and congratulating you on your progress thus far. On the other hand, it is a clumsy use of the metafictional device and feels a bit forced. Be that as it may, Rika and Frederica do go over the three major elements that must happen each time the incident plays out, no matter who the villain is, allowing readers who have been following the series from the beginning to go back and mentally account for each of their points in each arc. Essentially it is the recap episode in manga format, although some new information about Rika is supplied, one of which provides a reason for her frequent habit in the other arcs of tilting her head and saying “-nyu.”

Having Rika as the point of view character for all but the last two chapters, which return us to Keiichi's narration, makes the series as a whole seem more cohesive. Because Rika remembers everything that has come before, we as readers are encouraged to actively sort through the earlier storylines and bring them together, like joining disparate sections of a jigsaw puzzle once the frame is put together. It also makes things ever more startling when events deviate from the path, something Rika points out each time. Most of these incidents surround Keiichi and Shion, although Rena has her moments as well, and this arc really brings characters who have heretofore been peripheral into play. This strengthens the overall structure of the central mystery, and numerous pieces of new information that are frankly staggering are also revealed.

Where the previous arcs have been for the most part flat out horror, the Massacre Arc, despite its name, begins more as a mystery. Readers who have been enjoying the shock value of the distorted faces and gruesome killings may be disappointed, as this volume contains very little physical violence, but relative newcomer Hinase Momoyama does give hints that she will be able to skillfully depict those moments should the time come. Momoyama's art is distinctive within the Higurashi series for the fact that it is much more mainstream and stylized than the previous artists – this is the first time that characters have had a recognizably “anime” look to them. While this does make some of the visual clues that define each character less obvious, it also streamlines them, making Rena's hair more feasible, Keiichi more earnestly good-looking, and giving the Sonozaki twins believable cleavage. The most untouched character in terms of design is Ooishi, who remains jovially menacing in a very similar way to how other artists have portrayed him.

Ooishi and Satoshi remain two of the most mysterious characters as this arc moves forward, although Rika doesn't spend much time thinking about the latter. As she strives to overcome her cynicism about her failure to break the Hinamizawa cycle, she gives us even more of a stake in the events and a renewed urge to solve the mystery. As events pile up, some changing and some constant, the sensation that if you could just tilt your head in the right direction everything would become clear grows. Many are the small answers put into if only we could get them to link together to show us the big one.

Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-

+ Momoyama does a good job with haunted eyes and has a better grasp of human anatomy than some other artists. Good clues are provided while still keeping us guessing at an answer which dangles tantalizingly out of reach.
Art may be too “typically anime” for some, the metafictional aspects are somewhat clumsily done. Not as much action as previous volumes and Rika's cynicism/depression can drag at times.

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Production Info:
Story: Seventh Expansion
Art: Hinase Momoyama

Full encyclopedia details about
Higurashi When They Cry: Massacre Arc (manga)

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Higurashi: When They Cry - Massacre Arc 1 [2-in-1 Omnibus] (GN 19)

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