By William Haderlie / October 26th, 2016
|Title||Higurashi When They Cry Hou – Ch. 4 Himatsubushi|
|Genre||Mystery/Horror Sound Novel|
|Age Rating||General Audiences|
This is not the review to read if you want to know whether to get into the Higurashi series of sound novels. Starting at Chapter 4 is generally never a good idea, but some games and stories have more continuation hooks than others. If you had started on Chapter 1, Chapter 2, or Chapter 3 you would not be too bad off. Each of those chapters tells a different story about what could have happened, but since they build on each other and often reference events that happened in a different alternate story, it’s still wise to read them in order. But with Chapter 4 that is not a good idea to just start with it, but telling you why will involve some spoilers, hence why I am beginning the review with this spoiler warning.
Each of the previous three chapters had focused around a specific female friend of the male protagonist; Chapter 1 was Rena, Chapter 2 was Mion, and Chapter 3 was Satoko. So you would expect the story of Chapter 4 to revolve around Rika, and ostensibly that is the case. There are several reasons why it’s only ostensibly, and not in actuality. The first reason has to do with the protagonist and the surprising reveal that you will not even hear from Keiichi Maebara at all in this entire game. One of the main reasons for the change is that about 90% of the story takes place several years before the events of Chapter 1-3. You are going to finally see the infamous dam project that set everything in motion first hand.
Akasaka is a new officer with Tokyo Public Safety, which are a federal investigative force similar to the FBI. He has a very pregnant wife that is far enough along to be in the hospital waiting for labor to start. The story begins with the kidnapping of the Minister of Construction’s grandson, and so the Public Safety Ministry is investigating any groups that may be tied to that case. The Minister himself is not cooperating with the investigation, or even verifying that the event occurred in the first place. So they are casting a very wide investigation net to include anyone who might have a beef with that department of Construction, or might want some leverage in a current negotiation. This has left a rookie officer to travel alone to a very remote village that is trying to prevent the construction of a dam that would require them to move their small town. There are a lot bigger fishes to fry in the investigation. There was little chance that a simple protest movement of hicks from the country would have anything to do with a kidnapping, it was thought at the time.
The local liaison that Akasaka ends up getting hooked up with is Detective (and future Police Chief) Ooishi. He’s been a part of all the previous games, but to varying degrees. Surprisingly, this final story features him so much that he’s almost the second protagonist of the story. It ends up being one of my favorite parts of this new chapter that I finally got to know this character’s true motivations. You were never quite sure of whose side he was on and what his angle was in the previous stories. That fed quite well into the sense of fear and isolation and certainly provided a very Hitchcockian sense of not knowing who to trust. Even if Ooishi is never really a hero, nor a villain, he is definitely the hero of his own story, and that is good storytelling. If this whole series was from his point of view, I can’t help but think it would tell like an old film noir. He’s a somewhat unreliable private dick, but when the chips are down, you definitely want him on your side.
You will meet Mion a couple times, and the Doctor has a little bit larger role than that, but you really are only going to be spending time with Ooishi and Rika. There is one instance where Satoko is mentioned as an event in the future, but Rena and the previous protagonist are not mentioned at all. I do have some theories as to why that would be, but they are too full of spoilers for even a spoiler review. There was one major issue that even having all these characters in this story at all presented. Either the artists (both the classic and the new artwork) did not account for how much children and teenagers change over 5 years, or there is something that is keeping these people eternally young. I tend to think it’s the former, not the latter, which is rather disappointing.
The tone of each Chapter has varied, largely due to the personality of the girl and the secrets that she is hiding. Because a cop and a federal agent are the main stars of this story, even more than Rika is, this is definitely a police procedural story. There was a small side sequence that felt like a sports anime, only with mahjong instead. But overall you are investigating a kidnapping and a mystery. There is a large potentially supernatural element as well (as you would expect with the previous chapters), but it’s always given in context to how a police officer would be investigating it. Sometimes that can be a little frustrating because, the investigator in question, Akasaka, is a bit of an idiot at inopportune times. So there were several times that I wanted to reach through the screen and strangle the fool.
Because Rika has always been the village mascot, this story is even more about the village itself than the previous stories were. As such, you do finally learn why all the old people give her so much leeway, and why everyone considers her the mascot. Because this story takes place before the events of the other three chapters, however, you are basically filling in the details and the past. Really, I would not have minded if they called this one Chapter 0, or the Prologue. The only problem with doing so is that it does actually make some sense to read this story last, even though it takes place first. One of the main reasons for that is that it seems to pin down which of the three previous stories was the “real events”. I’m going to give a major Spoiler Alert here, so don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want it spoiled, but it’s also important to know you need to read one of those chapters before you read this one. While all three of the Chapters built on each other, they all had a different ending that made them mutually exclusive to the other stories. But with each false tale you learned a bit more about what was really going on behind the scenes. However, the real story turns out to be Chapter 3. If you want to enjoy Chapter 4, you really need to have at minimum read that chapter.
There is not much more to say about this Chapter without going even further into spoiler territory. As the game tells you right from the start, this is a much smaller story than the previous ones. I was able to finish it in just over 4 hours, which is about half of the other stories. But I really do not mind this from a value proposition, since MangaGamer did the wise thing and made this title available for only $5.99. And this game is definitely worth it for that price. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but feel that Rika got a little bit short changed by this design, and likewise her ardent fans. But because of her nature, I can see why this choice was made. Maybe she will feature more in the Answers arc, which I hope is upcoming. Because this game was the last one of the Questions, it does have the most polished music. The art was consistent through all four, but the music got better and better. And one other major thing was better in this version, I don’t know if it was because the game was delayed for an extra week on Steam, but this was the only game in the series that had zero bugs for me. So bravo to both 07th Expansion and MangaGamer for upping their game with each release. I really look forward to more Higurashi in the future, even if it goes to some very dark places. More writing of this quality improves the medium as a whole.
Review Copy Provided By Publisher
07th ExpansionHigurashi When They Cry Ch. 4Higurashi When They Cry Hou - Ch. 4 HimatsubushiMangaGamerPCSound NovelSteam