By Danica Davidson
Miyoko Tanashi, the little girl who will grow up to become the woman Miyo Takano, starts out with a normal childhood. She’s an only child, and though she gets scared easily by her dad’s stories about demons, she’s really happy in her life.
But the “Higurashi” franchise is about horror, tragedy and all the things that could go wrong. Miyoko’s parents are killed in an awful train wreck. She does get to see her dad one last time, and he tells her that if she winds up alone, she’s to go to his mentor, Hifumi Takano. The amount of gore from the train wreck and her father’s death scene is almost overwhelming; not because “Higurashi” hasn’t used gore before, but because the reader feels bad that a character as young and innocent as Miyoko has to witness this.
There are no other relatives, so the newly orphaned girl is sent off to an abusive orphanage. People on the outside think the children there are being treated okay, but they have no idea. It’s like a torture chamber for kids, so Miyoko knows she has to escape it and find Takano.
After much suffering Miyoko is eventually adopted by Takano and she becomes Miyo Takano. Hifumi Takano is researching the Hinamizawa Syndrome, which he believes is caused by a parasite infecting people’s brains and controlling them. His research is thrown out and mocked by experts, and Miyo takes this so personally that she decides it’s up to her to make people accept his research.
After this, the years go by quickly. Miyo, once the essence of innocence, takes on a darker and darker edge. Readers can see the abuse and horrors from her childhood catching up on her and changing her. Two color pages early in the manga — young Miyoko on the right, haunted and hurt in the rain, juxaposted to the adult, sinister Miyo on the left — visually show the change in her. Miyo’s alteration isn’t portrayed in an especially complex manner, but it definitely gives more understanding to this character, whom we know from previous volumes of “Higurashi.”
Toward the end of the volume we also get a backstory on Dr. Irie. Dr. Irie’s story is much shorter than Miyo’s, and yet it manages to pack a wallop. In the past he’s seemed like a wacky, maid-obsessed eccentric, but his backstory shows that he acts this way to try to cover up what’s happened to him. The volume ends with a great cliffhanger, and it certainly brings more perspective to the universe created in “Higurashi.”
HWTC: FAA V1, as fans call it maybe, will hit stores on June 25th.