When a sequel or reboot of a completed series appears, we must ask ourselves one critical question: did it, technically speaking, need to happen? Sometimes the answer is yes; for example, the 2023 reboot of Tokyo Mew Mew, Tokyo Mew Mew New, tightened the plot and delivered an especially current message. When it comes to Higurashi: When They Cry: GOU, the answer is far less clear, and that goes double for this first volume of the manga. The original version(s) of the plot, which included visual novels, anime, and manga, all came to a reasonably good end, answering the lingering riddles and settling the majority of the character relationships. Most importantly, they allowed Rika Furude to escape the summer of 1983 in which she was perpetually trapped.
That latter aspect is what makes GOU’s existence at least a bit frustrating, because it ruins Rika’s joyful conclusion, at least in this first omnibus book. It returns us to the first question arc of the original story, renaming it the “Demon Deceiving Arc” although still substantially following the same events. Of course, there are some modifications, but not quite enough to make this feel wholly new, and as a result, we get the impression that this is a rather stupid attempt to capitalize on the original’s popularity. We know from Rika’s talk with Hannyu that things have reset again, and that not even Hannyu knows why, but it doesn’t bring enough to the table to feel like much more than a truncated version of a story we’ve already seen.
I call it “condensed” because both arcs featured in this book, one of which is the “Cotton Deceiving Arc,” are notable for what they do not include. Satoshi is never mentioned, and Rena is mostly on her own in the Demon Deceiving plot. Similarly, Shion is completely alone, without her bodyguard, and the effect feels like the characters were reduced to make for a shorter recounting of the tale. This works in some ways since the assumption is clearly that we already know the chronology of events here; Ryukishi07 appears to trust us to fill in the gaps, which is unusual for him as an author. But it also makes the entire book feel a little pointless, because why go over the same plot again and again if the purpose is merely that something has gone wrong with the world fragments? Why not dive right into the new material?
Obviously, it’s too soon to conclude that this is as meaningless as it occasionally appears, and people who came from the anime (which this adapts) may not have this problem. However, when seen as a standalone plot, the novel falls short…Although, given that the franchise is a horror/mystery hybrid, that could be the case. Because, on the other hand, we could see this volume as lulling us into a false sense of security before it does something altogether different that justifies its existence in ways that this book alone cannot.
If we accept that theory, Tomato Akase was a good option for these arcs’ artist. Akase describes being a big admirer of the Higurashi franchise in their remarks, and it shows in their artwork. Akase captures the essence of the artists who drew the original arcs retold in this book, and when combined with their pleasingly soft-looking faces and bodies, it manages to be both a call-back and its own version of the characters and events. Two-page spreads and page-turn surprises are featured, as is usually key with this series; even if you know what’s coming, Akase’s art manages to offer at least a little shock. The only major complaint (aside from the usual about the clothing choices not really looking like the 1980s) is that Akase has some issues with crotches; mostly this is an attempt to inexplicably emphasize them despite the girls wearing skirts or dresses that wouldn’t highlight that area of the body. Fanservice is good, but I prefer it to appear at least a little natural.
Is Higurashi: When They Cry: GOU necessary? Not at all. That may change in the future, but the first omnibus feels like a Readers Digest Condensed version of the original series. There are hints that it could become something more, but for now, you’re better off just re-reading the original series.