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So immediately on the cover we’re greeted with something, a green haired woman with a sword who I did not recognize initially. The back cover sheds some light, though that only raises further questions. Apparently this takes place two decades after the great Hinamizawa disaster, so we’re presumably still in the same timeline as Curse Killing and Time Killing. Mion Sonozaki is among five people exploring the ghost town, and it’s probably her on the cover too. I reviewed the police report at the end of volume six, and Mion is confirmed dead. As Ooishi said, “There’s too many dead people walking around.” I’m just gonna keep volume six nearby as we proceed.

Right away we’re introduced to a new character, a journalist who initially reported on the Hinamizawa disaster named Arakawa. I mustn’t make FMA references. I mustn’t make FMA references.
We’ve also got what appears to be a couple with a possibly NEET man and creepy woman, and some emo guy. And Mion. Apparently emo guy heard “one extra footstep” in the summer of 2006. So a) it’s actually been a bit more than twenty years since the 1983 Hinamizawa disaster, and b) shit’s gonna get real. Just a dozen pages in, and we’ve already got someone cursed.

Apparently, following the disaster, people related to Hinamizawa would die or go insane. This may explain Tatsuyoshi’s and Shion’s deaths. Though I’m not ready to let Shion of the hook yet; I don’t trust that demon. Also, they apparently said “It wasn’t a natural disaster,” so there go any hopes of a logical explanation to any of this. Bring on the demons!

Four more characters, an older man, Akutagawa, driving with two girls, Machi-chan and Chiaki, and a boy, Otobe. They open the window and hear the Higurashi cry. Death is already in the air. Also, I’m not sure which one of the girls has creepier eyes. For now I’m running with the assumption that Otobe is emo guy, and we’ve moved back in time a couple years.

Higurashi When they cry Beyond Midnight eyes

I think I found the demons

“[The village is] haunted by the spirits of villagers who haven’t realized they’re dead yet…” Well, Mion’s presence just went from significant positive, to significant negative.

Otobe wanders into the forest and meets our supposed Mion with a Katana. I don’t know, the katana just doesn’t seem to fit Mion. She was always the pistol type.

When Mion sees Otobe, she first thinks he’s Satoshi, because every teenage boy is apparently Satoshi, regardless of high colour, personality, or which millennium they’re in. Oh well, at least I kinda prefer Otobe over Keichi so far.

The curse is in full effect, as Otobe’s companions have already been demoned away. That means Oyashiro-sama’s curse demands three sacrifices.

The two meet the couple, Takumi and Towada at the Furade shrine. Seems Takumi is an abusive boyfriend, and Mion asks Otobe if he knows the difference between broccoli and cauliflower. Got some Satako parallels going on.

Otobe, Mion and Arakawa enter the Saiguden. We’e also got one random reported death so far, so if Mion’s a ghost, Arakawa and Otobe’s deaths should satisfy Oyashiro-sama’s curse.

Slight change to the timeline, apparently just before the gas disaster, Rena took over the school, so we’ve got a bit of the Atonement arc getting involved. This mixed timeline is confusing the hell out of me, and I don’t see any way to make sense of it without unwarranted speculation, so for the time being, I got nothing.

According to Arakawa’s notes, Mion died in the school fire. But according to the police list at the end of volume six, not only is Mion listed as dying the day after in the disaster, but there’s no mention of the school situation at all. I think I’m gonna have to throw out the Curse Killing aspects and treat this as a separate timeline then, but that doesn’t change the fact that Mion is supposed to be dead. Also, we still know this is Mion because she had Mion’s memories of playing with Satako, Rena, Rika and Keichi earlier.

Spirit of Rika appears in the shrine. Nothing usual there. But Mion though it may have been an illusion, imply more doubt can be cast on the supernatural elements then initially apparent. If even Mion doubts it at this point, so should the reader.

Otobe tells Mion “It’s dangerous to go alone.” He even has a sword in his hand as he does it. But the kid doesn’t finish the reference. Sigh, I guess he’s just a little bit too young.

Takumi disappears, but no worries, he’s not demoned away, just dead. That’s two corpses now. One more and everything should be A-Okay.

Well, if Arakawa’s theory that the killer is one of Otobe, himself, Mion or Towada is correct, I expect it is Towada. Mion seems to have come for other reasons, and if she wanted to kill anybody, the job would have been done ten times by now. She could have killed Otobe when they first met in the forest. And it’s clear that there is no weird Hinamizawa/Onigafuchi ritual to these since Takumi’s course just shows up. And she wasn’t near Takumi at the time of his disappearance anyway. Towada was.
Given her relationship with her boyfriend, it may be that the only reason she wanted to visit Hinamizawa in the first place was to eliminate him in a place no one would investigate, or wonder why he disappeared.
Arakawa is another possibility, trying to manufacture a story, especially since he’s still the only source for the unusual claim that someone committed suicide in their car. But he can’t explain Takumi’s death.
As for the other disappearances… Oyashiro-sama?

That’s volume nine done. Volume ten will conclude the Beyond Midnight arc. Until then

Don’t Lose Your Way