Now that we’re reaching the end of the Bookclub, I’d like to open up a question that I hope many people will attempt to answer.
What does Higanbana mean to you?
Here’s my answer.
For me, Higanbana was a well deserved journey that I’d long since been putting off. Coming off the back of Umineko, I wasn’t quite ready for a trip down Ryukishi’s twisted criminal mind. But what I did, was fail to acknowledge Higanbana for the wonderful potential it had, and instead was turned away at the door by the unsettling content of the first chapter. It starts with a shock to the system, but Higanbana is much more multi-faceted than merely forcing uncomfortable material in our faces.
Being an anthology of short stories, it serves as a huge departure from his other works, and the very format leaves me feeling mixed impressions based on each individual story. But as a collective, I can safely say that Higanbana is one of the most beautiful and poignant stories Ryukishi has ever written. It’s clear that Ryukishi has a mission he’s set out to accomplish. Higanbana presents unsettling tragedy and asks the reader to reflect on them. Bullying happens everywhere, people are struggling just to live day after day. It’s not youkai that are terrifying: it’s a horrible everyday that’s the most terrifying. And, since these stories feel so real, it’s clear that Ryukishi wanted to draw our eyes to these horrible acts in the hopes that we might reflect on our own lives, and do whatever we can to prevent such suffering from happening in our own lives, to those we love, and to those we don’t. It’s been a healthy wakeup call to some important messages I’d taken for granted. Don’t underestimate the power of the majority over the minority, be mindful of how your conduct influences the lives of others around you, and don’t abuse that influence. Live for the moment, and don’t waste time worrying about questions you can’t answer. And when you see someone suffering, don’t stay silent. Listen to them, help them, show them that someone cares. Because if you don’t, you’re hardly any better than the ones causing suffering.
As a community, I feel like many of the values presented in Higanbana are things we can take upon ourselves to create the kind of community we wish to see. I take a small amount of pride in Rokkenjima serving as a sanctuary for wandering souls where the problems of the outside world don’t matter, but I also have an extremely important role of maintaining the balance of power, and making sure that everybody has a voice, even the most meek and passive. It feels I couldn’t have found a better time to read this.
So, to everyone else, I really hope you reflect on the messages Higanbana puts forward. You don’t have to necessarily agree with all of them, but for every tragedy it puts forward, please consider what you can do in your own life to prevent that tragedy occuring for you or someone you love. If Ryukishi’s thoughts can affect people like this, then I’m sure he’d be very happy, and I’d be very happy too. It’s a damn shame this wonderful work of art has often gone so unrecognised by the community, and I’m glad to have been doing my part to change that, even if only slightly.
Thanks, Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni. I won’t be forgetting you any time soon.