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by Rebecca Silverman,

Higurashi: When They Cry

GN 20 - Massacre Arc 2

Higurashi: When They Cry GN 20
Time is running out to save Satoko from her abusive uncle, and Keiichi is determined to make the deadline. But the town seems to be against him because of the actions of Satoko's parents during the Dam war. Is it really fair to blame the child for the actions of the parents? Keiichi doesn't think so, and with the help of a Rika determined to get it right this time, he takes on the three families. Meanwhile the night of the Cotton Drifting draws closer...

As series in omnibuses go, Yen Press made a good call with this arc of Ryukishi07's horror extravaganza Higurashi: When They Cry's Massacre Arc. Answers are of necessity more detailed than questions, particularly in whodunits, but releasing this section in single volumes may have proved a turnoff to readers. Why? Because the first half of this omnibus moves us further and further away from the key elements of the series, and while answers are provided, the action wanes and all of the feel-good determination exhibited by the characters doesn't make for compelling reading. To be fair, it might have in a series that wasn't based on horror and the supernatural; here in this context it simply drags.

The basic plot for the majority of the volume is Keiichi's plan to get Satoko away from her uncle Teppei's “care.” Previously Teppei had reasserted himself as Satoko's legal guardian and began abusing her and keeping her home from school to hide it. Keiichi, remembering other arcs of the story, decided that he was going to lead the effort to wrest her away from Teppei's control. Backed up by Shion and Rena, he began daily protests at the child services offices, and when that didn't work, he recruited more and more community members to join him. This continues to be the driving force behind most of this volume, with Keiichi having to face down the heads of the Kimiyoshi and Sonozaki families in order to continue his crusade. Buried in these chapters are some clues, at least one of which stands out with gemlike brilliance, particularly in light of the big reveal at the volume's end, but the overall subject matter is such a comedown from the excitement and fast-paced quality of previous volumes that they would be easy to miss if you weren't reading closely, the aforementioned line aside.

That aside, both the writing and the art still do manage to shed some light on the political makeup of Hinamizawa and the social effects of the Dam War, primarily in the middle of the volume. In a situation not unlike some current real-world examples, the rebels of the war have become complacent with the status quo now that they are in power, and knowing the power these men and women wield, ordinary villagers have grown afraid to make any social changes. Keiichi, as the outsider, is the only one really capable of turning the tide. This also brings an increased role for his father, which is nice to see as he was previously relegated to the role of “wacky parent,” and also allows for some of Ooishi's true motivations to come clear. This is not to say that after reading this book you will know once and for all what he is all about – Ooishi remains one of the most mysterious characters in the series. However we get some hints about where he falls in the scheme of things, which is perhaps more than we had before.

The ending of this omnibus takes us right back to the shocking twists that have consistently made Higurashi: When They Cry such and enjoyable series. The answer provided may not surprise some readers who have been mistrustful of a certain someone for a while now, but the way that the details are presented is masterful, nicely hearkening back to Keiichi's major clue in the first half of the volume. While you certainly shouldn't skim to get to the last chapter, it is the one that really makes the volume worth reading.

Hinase Momoyama's art continues to be more refined than most of the other artists, giving everyone a softer look in general but not skimping on the distorted horror faces that are a trademark of the series. Perhaps her best efforts are Satoko's battered face and the evil aura exuded by Onibaba, the head of the Sonozaki family. The twins' mother Akane is also worth mentioning, if only because Momoyama manages to make her look like her daughters while still giving her a fox-like quality that subtly makes readers question her, even though she says nothing all that alarming.

This may not be the best volume in Higurashi: When They Cry, but it still does manage to keep the story moving forward. Most of the book feels entirely too calm and gets bogged down in the characters doing good, but clues still abound and it brings us ever closer to the real answer. Take your time reading it so that you don't miss anything – it's a safe bet that Ryukishi07 is saying more than meets the eye.

Overall : B
Story : B
Art : A-

+ Good clues slipped in, well done art. The last chapter is a doozy.
Takes too long getting to the last chapter, a soapboxing essay by the author after the first half, and an anachronistic fist bump. Disproportionately tiny feet.

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Production Info:
Story: Seventh Expansion
Art: Hinase Momoyama

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

Release information about
Higurashi: When They Cry - Massacre Arc 2 [2-in-1 Omnibus] (GN 20)

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