Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Higurashi: When They Cry
GN 18 - Atonement 4
Rena has reached her limit. As Mion convinces the Okinomiya police of her friend's instability, Keiichi uses his memories of another reality to try and connect with Rena. But when she takes the school hostage, will he be able to talk her down?
The chips are all down as this concluding volume of the Atonement Arc opens. Ooishi meets with Mion in her capacity as Sonozaki family leader-in-waiting to discuss Miyo Takano's scrapbooks and Rena's implicit belief in them. Meanwhile Keiichi tries to convince Rena that she doesn't need to worry and that he will always be there for her, a move prompted by his “memories” of the Abducted by Demons arc in which he played the part Rena does now. Things look to be moving in a positive direction...until the next day at school when Rena takes the class hostage.
While the action is intense, it is the quieter, smaller moments of this volume that provide the most satisfactory reading experience. A large part of the fun of the Higurashi series is unraveling the mystery, finding little treasures in the ball as it unwinds. Ryukishi07 and Karin Suzuragi provide plenty of those little hints if you're paying attention, almost to the point where this book merits two readings – once to get the story down, and then again to find all of the details. Two of those pertain to the most mysterious personages in the series as a whole – Miyo Takano and Satoshi Hojo. Satoshi we know more about, although all of our views of him have been from the outside. This volume presents another brief glimpse of how the other characters see him, adding a dimension to the picture we've been slowly putting together. Takano, on the other hand, is revealed to have more to her than we previously knew. With this new information, her character becomes more problematic, more inscrutable. What is her motivation? Who is she, really? With at least one character running around harboring multiple selves, it becomes possible that there could be another. Does Takano have a bigger role than simple catalyst? This is perhaps the most intriguing question raised by the book, particularly in light of the ending.
As far as conclusions go, this arc has one of the strongest. While Eye Opening revealed some important information about the Sonozaki family in general and the twins in particular, Atonement makes us look at what information we already have in a different way. Readers who are only familiar with the anime version will want to pick this book up in order to get the full story, something that is possible to do if you are already familiar with the general plot of the arc. A few images will be stripped of their significance if you do that, however, especially one in a bit of history narrated by Keiichi's father that relates to information not provided in the anime variant of the Eye Opening arc. Incidentally, this is another excellent example of small clues being seeded throughout the narration, and readers will want to look at the picture in question closely.
Suzuragi's art is back to the levels it achieved in the Abducted by Demons storyline, with surprisingly and horribly distorted faces appearing when you least expect them and moments of intense violence. Tension radiates from the page, pulling you into the story in a way words alone would be hard-pressed to do. While female anatomy remains a weak point – hips and thighs are exaggerated to the point where a few shots could be slipped into a Sir Mix-a-Lot video – but the tense action and emotional intensity keeps that from being as distracting as it otherwise could be. Overall the marriage of text and image is a harmonious one this volume, with the first two pages of the epilogue being especially strong and haunting.
That may in fact be the best word to describe this book – haunting. The combination of Rika's awareness, Keiichi's frantic need to fix the mistakes of that other reality, and Rena's hysteria all combine to leave a lasting impression. The epilogue takes all of that and adds in a little something extra to fix the events in your mind and to make you question not just what you have read, but the series as a whole. Can the world of Higurashi be fixed? Is this mystery solvable? This volume leaves you with these and other questions along with an unsettled feeling that will continue to haunt you, long after the book is closed.
Overall : A-
Story : A
Art : B+
+ Good combination of text and image, mystery and horror. Unsettling and haunting.
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