When a sequel or reboot of a finished series pops up, there’s one very important question that we need to ask ourselves: did it, strictly speaking, need to happen? Sometimes the answer is yes; the 2023 reboot of Tokyo Mew Mew, Tokyo Mew Mew New, did tighten the storyline and have a particularly timely message, for example. With Higurashi: When They Cry, the answer is much less clear when it comes to Higurashi: When They Cry: GOU, and that goes double for this first volume of the manga. The original version(s) of the story, comprising visual novels, anime, and manga, all came to a fairly solid conclusion, providing answers to the persistent mysteries and resolving most of the character relationships. Most importantly, they allowed Rika Furude to move beyond the summer of 1983 she was endlessly trapped in.
It’s that last that makes the existence of GOU at least a little disappointing, because it craps all over Rika’s happy ending, at least in this first omnibus volume. It resets us back to the first question arc of the original story, at least nominally reframing it as the “Demon Deceiving Arc” while still largely following the exact same events. There are some changes, of course, but not quite enough to make this feel like something entirely new, and the result is that we get a sense of this being a mildly lame attempt to cash in on the popularity of the original. We know, from Rika’s conversation with Hannyu, that things have somehow reset once again, and that not even Hannyu is sure why, but it doesn’t quite bring enough to the table to feel like much more than a condensed version of a story we’ve already experienced.
I call it “condensed” because both arcs included in this book, the other being the “Cotton Deceiving Arc,” are most remarkable for what they leave out. Satoshi isn’t mentioned at all, and Rena largely acts alone in the Demon Deceiving storyline. Likewise, Shion is entirely on her own, without her bodyguard, and the result is that it feels like the characters were trimmed to make for a faster retelling of the plot. In some senses, this works, because the assumption is clearly that we already know the sequence of events here; Ryukishi07 seems to trust us to fill in the gaps, which is frankly unusual for him as an author. But it also makes the entire book seem just a little unnecessary, because why go over the same plot in detail if the point is simply that something has gone wrong with the world fragments? Why not jump directly into the new material?
Obviously, it’s a bit early to assume that this is as pointless as it occasionally feels, and those who are coming to this from the anime (which this adapts) may not have this issue. But looking at the book as its own separate story, it doesn’t quite work…although, given that the franchise is a horror/mystery hybrid, that may be exactly what it’s going for. Because on the flip side, we could look at this volume as being a way to lull us into a false sense of security before it does something completely different that justifies its existence in ways that this book alone cannot.
If we go with that theory, Tomato Akase was an excellent choice to be the artist for these arcs. In their notes, Akase mentions being a major fan of the Higurashi franchise, and that shows in their artwork. Akase manages to capture the essence of the artists who drew the original arcs this book is a retelling, and when added to their pleasingly soft-looking faces and bodies, it manages to be both a call-back and its own version of the characters and events. As is always important with this series, two-page spreads, and page-turn surprises are included and are very well done; even if you know what’s coming, Akase’s art manages to still provide at least a little shock. The only major complaint (apart from the usual about it really not looking like the 1980s in the clothing choices) is that Akase has some trouble with crotches; mostly this is an attempt to inexplicably emphasize them despite the girls wearing skirts or dresses that simply wouldn’t highlight that area of the body. Fanservice is fine, but I admit to preferring it to look at least a little natural.
Does Higurashi: When They Cry: GOU need to exist? Not really. That may change down the line, but in its inaugural omnibus, it just feels like the Readers Digest Condensed version of the original series. There are clues that it may turn into something more, but as of this volume, you’re better off just re-reading the first series.