By William Haderlie / July 25th, 2016
|Title||Higurashi When They Cry – Chapter 3 Tatarigoroshi|
|Genre||Mystery Horror Sound Novel|
|Age Rating||All Ages|
With this chapter of the popular sound novel, Higurashi When They Cry, we are finally caught up to the current release schedule. While we don’t have a firm date for Chapter 4 yet, you can be certain that we will keep our eyes out for it. In the meantime, how did their most recent chapter compare to the first two? As I said in my review for Chapter 2, it ended up being like a cross between a Yakuza story and H.P. Lovecraft. This was a pretty sharp departure from the first game, so I was a little more prepared for a sharp left turn this time around. Chapter 3 did indeed go off into its own style of story as well. I’m just going to say right off the bat, as a warning, that this particular tale is about child abuse. It is mostly not sexual child abuse, although there was one particularly strong hint that it might have been. But it’s a very frank, and rather brutal portrayal of what a real life situation could be like. So if that is something that is particularly upsetting for you, and I really have a lot of sympathy for that circumstance, you may want to pass on this one. However, that would be one of the only reasons anyone would want to pass on it.
There are a few primary patterns that have been emerging now that we are in Chapter 3. The dam project, the guardian deity, the curse, and the festival all combine to frame each story. One of the major changes each time within that framework has been which of Keiichi’s friends will be the story focus and how that story will change not only the way he experiences events, but even the rippling effects among the entire town. This time the focus is on that adorable prankster Satoko. Through the events of the previous chapters, you have a good idea of some of her issues going in. Honestly I had more of an idea about her story than anyone else previously, but part of that is also that the world story has been slowly building with each chapter as well. Even if these stories do tell an alternate take of the same time period, you learn more about the world and the characters each time and many of these specific things are carried over into the next chapter. So even though you can jump into Chapter 3 and enjoy it as a single story, you will miss out on a lot if you do. They reference events in this story that happened in both Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, but give little to no extra explanation for new readers. It’s rather refreshing, to be honest, instead of falling into that trap of having to rehash previous events all the time in a sequel.
This time, instead of one new character, they have two new additions. However, one has been a very vocal member previously, and that is your teacher. Now she actually has a face with her name and her curry love. The decision was definitely very understandable because she had a much larger part to play in this story. The other new person you see above is the baseball coach for the school, and he is totally new to the series. Thankfully the new member from last chapter, Shion, was not entirely abandoned in this new story. She will show up in this story and it becomes apparent that some of the events of the last story still occurred in this timeline.
But this definitely does not go down the same road that story did, even with the presence of Shion in the mix. Stylistically this is a very different story. Unfortunately part of that change means that you get to spend quite a bit less time in the fun part of the story. Each of these stories has started off very fun and pleasant, then something happens to flip everything on its head to fatal results. Previously the primary thing that has flipped everything on its head has had a hint of the supernatural, but because this event is a very human and very common one, the result has been quite a bit different. The event in question is the ongoing child abuse of Satoko by a family member. And so, not only is the fun time shorter, but the horrible period is a lot longer. This actually makes sense from a narrative perspective, of course, because abuse tends to be a very protracted affair. But that did lend this story to feeling like more of a general malaise than quite the bipolar experience that I described in the two previous reviews. That is not a criticism, it’s just how this story was told, and all told you will still end up with about a 10 hour experience, on par with the first two titles.
That’s not to say that there is no supernatural element at all, or that it doesn’t get extremely horrific again. It definitely does both of those things and in spades. In fact, like the series of abuse, there seemed to be a protracted element of the supernatural as well. So the popular novel that this story ended up reminding me the most of was 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. And, while that particular novel had a lot of parallels, the overall feeling of this story had a very Murakami feel to it. It was like reality was a bit stretched, like the fantastical and the horrifying were there the whole time if you only looked around the right corner at the wrong time. Real life still seemed to be happening around you, but something was always a bit off. In many ways that style of story very much appeals to me, so even if I could do without the body mutilation things, especially when it happens to young girls, this might be my favorite chapter of this story yet.
The writing for this series has always been top notch, as has the translating, and that has not changed here. But what affected me more this time, for better and worse, was a circumstance that was easier for me to get into. Not that I lack the ability to understand or empathize with the other circumstances, but they are far more outlandish than this one was and there was a bit more subtlety to the writing as a result. There were a couple of frustrating issues that cropped up, however. The first one is that there is a cultural barrier to understanding, or agreeing, with the way they treat child abuse. To be fair, the USA does not have the greatest record in the world with handling cases of child abuse or endangerment. However when it came time to ask if any families would take a little girl in to protect her, even all her best friends could not imagine burdening their parents with that. I know enough about Japanese culture to understand that is a fairly accurate thing. However, in the US this can be a bit difficult for some people to understand. Both out in the country and in the city, I’ve seen families take in a child’s friend because they had a bad home life. It frankly happens all the time in my world, although I can’t speak for anyone else. The other minor issue is that the protagonist is a bit of an idiot and is also very irrational and emotional. For one visual novel story that wouldn’t be much of an issue, but when he is so unlike myself and I’m spending this much time with him, that becomes a bit of a problem. It’s not enough to turn me off of the series, but I do wish he was a bit more likable. He is still young, but that is immaterial to whether the experience is something you enjoy.
Those are the only issues I had with this title. The music is slowly getting better as the series moves along and they add new songs to the mix, and the ones added for this one are even more lovely than Chapter 2. The sound effects have always been great, but now the music is starting to catch up. There was also some minor animation mixed into the static pictures this time around. You can see the series growing before your very eyes. Also, from a technical standpoint this was a much more solid experience for me. Chapter 2 ended up being very buggy for me, personally, but Chapter 3 I only had one crash the entire time. To be fair to MangaGamer, they have actually contacted us to get more information on the crashes so they could try to fix them. I give them huge props for caring enough about their games post-release to want to fix those issues. Not every company cares enough to do that, especially for a game that they only charge $7.95 for. Even as emotionally difficult as these sound novels have been for me, they still have their hooks in due to the outstanding writing and fantastic characters. So I will also be eagerly anticipating Chapter 4, and finding out the fate of the beloved Rika. Of course this old man still considers the lovely Mion my waifu.
Review Copy Provided By Publisher
07th ExpansionHigurashiHigurashi When They Cry Ch. 3horrorMangaGamerPCSteamvisual novel