Serving as a side story to the main arcs in the Higurashi When They Cry manga, the Demon Exposing arc is a great read if you happen to be a huge fan of the series. Chocking up at only two volumes long, what seems like an unnecessary addition ends up bringing a new perspective to the series, moving it towards a location outside of the cursed village Hinamizawa and into the vast city full of new characters and new opportunities for its more intense scenes.
It may be a new location with a one-off character story, but rest assured: new fans of the series can enjoy this standalone horror thriller while the more experienced ones can take it as a supplement to the main plot and experience just how far the dreaded Oyashiro curse can reach its victims.
Higurashi When They Cry - Demon Exposing (Omnibus)
Our protagonist, Natsumi Kimiyoshi (whose surname die-hard fans may recognize) is a typical high school girl, self-admittedly average at everything in school and anxious about her crush to yet another typical, average teenage boy named Akira Toudou. Living with her mother, father and kind grandma Natsumi fits the mold of a tragic character whose fate is out of her control, no matter how much the reader wants her to stay safe. While Natsumi herself moved from her village in Okinomiya to the big city with her family, her elderly grandma was raised in the cursed Hinamizawa, whose locale God, Oyashiro-sama, looks down upon those who leave its village. Because Natsumi and her family dragged her grandma out of that village to live with them, everyone often hears the pleading prayers to Oyashiro-sama day and night, constantly and constantly. The family is starting to get fed up.
So when the local news station reports on a horrifying natural toxic gas leak that killed every citizen of Hinamizawa one night, followed by more reports of former members of the village dying in gruesome, horrifying ways of insanity, the cries of from Natsumi's grandma, as well as the patience of her family and the pressure of Natsumi's dream-life in the city, begins being pressed more and more by the looming presence of Oyashiro.
What follows next is the great build-up, pacing and revelation that Higurashi is well known for. There are plenty of ups and downs in the story that keep you cheering followed by gluing your eyes to each page, hesitating to turn it. It's almost inevitable of what to expect in a typical Higurashi manga, but the way some of the key plot points are revealed and brought up add a sense of eeriness to things.
Sadly though, in some of the more intense, edge-of-your-seat moments, there are large red flags signaling the most cliche of tropes found in most psychological horror works, particularly towards the end where, while still surprising enough to make you reflect upon and possibly change your entire perspective of the story, is followed by what seems like two or three more endings... throwing way too many twists than you can possible believe. Other segments, like the scene with Natsumi and her family towards the end of volume one, really change the game up and keeps readers on their toes. However, as with many moments in Higurashi lore, the characters who succumb to the curse of Oyashiro turn so bat-shit crazy that it's almost as if they were never sane in the first place, let alone that they lived normal lives just a couple of days ago. Despite instances of this, it's nonetheless scary to see the dramatic change in some of the characters, as well as the surprising ulterior motives they'd have from the beginning.
Truthfully, I can't recommend this enough to those madly in love with Higurashi already, and even newer fans still trying to make sense of plot in the original story wouldn't mind this too much, either. The artwork by Mr. Kito is great as usual, using dark, gritty ink splotches and rough sketching for the darker moments, and then switching to the clean, almost surreal innocence when things are in happier times. With each new manga instalment typically comes a new artist bringing in their own flavor into the mix, and Kito is always great when it comes to Higurashi.
Given the liberties taken with creating a spin-off story, it's great to see a unique spin on the typical small village approach. Hearing about how the dreaded curse of Oyashiro-sama affects more than what we've previously thought brings more fear into the potential and power it holds over its citizens. To see the dreams and happiness of a young girl being slowly taken away due to events occurring that out of her own hands is a very fresh-- and tragic-- sight that makes one of the better manga arcs of the series yet, not to mention one of the most shocking.
8.0 – Great. A well-executed release that defines its genre without becoming unbearable or repetitive. Well worth its full price-point with plenty of replay value.
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