Danielle Leigh's Reading Diary -- 2/26/09

Today I discuss the second, and extremely creepy, volume of Higurashi: When they Cry (Abducted by Demons Arc) by Ryukishi07 and Karin Suzuragi.

The first volume, which certainly piqued my interest but didn't really capture it, ends up being 200 pages of set up for the paranoid, cracked-out thrill ride that is volume 2.  At the end of volume one, protagonist Keiichi is starting to become suspicious his new female friends -- i.e. or as I think of them, "fanservice cliches" -- are part of the murderous circle that has been responsible for the death of one or two outsiders each year during the time of a small town festival.  In volume 2, we are stuck inside Keiichi's head, which is extraordinarily unpleasant place to be (which is part of the pleasure of a truly good horror story).  Is Keiichi right to suspect his friends of participating in the town killings?  Or has he become overly paranoid by imagining these girls (or at least two of them) are cold-blooded killers?

I think it is the paranoia that really makes the story so suspenseful -- it takes the context of Keiichi's everyday life it makes it extremely sinister.  Suddenly, you really don't want that cute girl from next door making you a box lunch, believe me.  As Keiichi takes steps to "protect" himself, he learns that a boy just like himself -- another transfer student -- went through the same motions a year earlier....and that boy is dead.   Add more instant paranoia and stir!

The fanservice-y art is actually a touch of brilliance.  A slight difference in eye shape and facial expression and suddenly you are confronted with the scariest beast on the planet -- a cute as a button teenage girl with murder on the mind.  The artist has taken the harem-shonen style and adapted it to this suspense tale, which is probably why this volume is so scary.  It takes the familiar and turns it inside out.  And that is why it is not only good horror, but also a good suspense tale.  In the end, the scariest demons may be the ones we can only imagine.

Review Copy provided by Yen Press.

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