Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Higurashi: When They Cry
GN 13 - Eye Opening 3
The fifth year's cotton drifting has passed and with it the murders of Miyo Takano and Tomitake-san. But Shion is less concerned with them than she is with the previous year's deaths, specifically the possibility that her family was behind Satoshi's disappearance. She determines that Takano and Tomitake were killed for setting foot in the saiguden, and since Keiichi Maebara went in as well, if she follows him, the killer could be revealed when he comes for Keiichi...and herself.
There is terror in these pages. It hides behind long expository passages and scenes of Shion lolling about the house in contemplation, but all of a sudden you turn a page and a nightmare face leaps out. That has been, and remains, artist Yutori Houjyou's strength in her work for Ryukishi07's horror series and there are a few crazed faces that will remain burned onto your eyes long after the pages are closed. The speed with which Shion goes from mild-mannered girl detective to raging psychopath is breathtaking, and Houjyou's art does an excellent job reflecting it.
That is, in a way, the meat of this volume – Shion's transition from heartbroken teenager to raving psycho lunatic. We started to see her break down in the previous volume, but now it is clear that something is not right in her mind. After she imprisoned Mion in volume twelve, Shion was left without a plausible way to get information...until she realizes that they are identical twins. Shion jumps fluidly from being herself to her sister and back again throughout the book, convincing to the point where it becomes easy to forget that there even were two girls to begin with. As Mion, Shion infiltrates the town meeting about the fifth year's deaths and learns a major secret about the way Oyashiro-sama's Curse is carried out. This is a nice piece of the puzzle for readers in the series for the mystery too – the answer isn't a complete one, but it certainly goes a long way towards solving the story. For Shion, however, it does appear to be the full answer, and she begins to act accordingly, manipulating the council into enacting her wishes as she searches for the answer to Satoshi's disappearance.
Satoshi continues to be the driving force for Shion, to the point where Satoko, who has had a large, if not central, role in other arcs is largely absent from this volume. Rena gets a brief mention, but it is an important one, particularly if you consider the family names of most of the players. Keiichi, the nominal protagonist of the series, is more in evidence than he has been previously in this arc – but not in the way we are used to seeing him. Before this book, Keiichi has come off as more of the competent, smart young man trying to make sense of the situation in which he finds himself. Through Shion's eyes, however, we see someone a little different. This is another of the series' strengths that only really shines in the answer arcs: the way that we see the characters both as they see themselves and as others see them.
On the subject of “seeing,” however, it is worth mentioning that the cover to this volume is not the series' usual simple horror design. In fact, if one were to judge this book by its cover, it might give a totally different impression: Mion is suffering from floating bosom syndrome, and Shion has been badly placed over the series' usual blood splatters so that it looks as though she has her period. Yen Press usually does a better job than this with their designs.
There is only one more volume in this answer arc, and the end of volume thirteen, or Eye Opening Arc 3, is promising. A major player in the series makes her move in a way that you may or may not have seen coming, depending on how much attention you've been paying to the color images. Shion is certainly taken by surprise, and given that it is through her deranged eyes that we are seeing things, readers fully absorbed by the story will have a good shock as well. But that viewpoint can be confusing as well – one scene towards the end of the volume may or may not be a hallucination, and since we are narrowly focused on Shion's point of view, it is unlikely that we will ever know whether it was real or not. On the one hand, that's a nice trick of storytelling. On the other, it carries an element of frustration for readers who really want to know. But maybe when the higurashi cry for another character we will learn the answer. After all, there are many more volumes to go.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-
+ Good scary art, some real answers to the mystery, and a nice trick of seeing old characters through new eyes.
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