Higurashi When They Cry: Massacre Arc Vol. 1 TP (Manga)
Publisher: Yen Press
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Price: $18.95
Creator(s): Ryukishi07 (Writer) and Hinase Momoyama (Artist)
Format: 480 pgs., Black & White, Trade Paperback
ISBN:  978-0-3162-2541-0
Age Rating: Older Teen
ICv2 Ratings: 3 Stars out of 5
In June 1983 Rika Furude is murdered but "thanks" to the intervention of a mysterious celestial stranger for a hundred years she's constantly forced to revive the same two weeks before her death in hopes she can stop it from happening.  Her attempts are complicated by the fact she frequently finds herself living through different timelines where events play out differently, but just as tragically. But just as she’s completely given up hope she finds herself in a world where changing her destiny actually seems possible.
Imagine the movie Groundhog's Day played as a tragedy, set at a middle school, crossed with a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book and you'll get some idea just how complicated the plot of Higurashi is.  Usually the initial volume of a manga slowly introduces the characters and it’s premise but from the first page the reader is immediately  immersed in exposition and unnecessary complications.  Not only are we introduced to a half dozen characters but we're supposed to remember what happens to each in multiple that have names like The Curse Killing Arc, The Time Killing Arc, etc.
Which is a shame because when Higurashi actually concentrates on the human drama at the heart of this dizzyingly high concept it can really be quite effective.  Just as I was starting to lose interest I found myself turning pages at a rapid clip so I could find out whether Rika and her friends would be able to save one of their friends from her abusive home life.  This one is frequently difficult going, but manga fans will find it well worth the effort.

--Steve Bennett: Writer and retail services consultant.