What would you do if a member of your family went insane? I'm not sure how many people have really considered this possibilty, but it's quite a scary concept not uncommon in horror movies.
Higurashi no Naku koro ni Onisarashi-hen addresses that concept, being a side story to the popular Higurashi series that's able to be enjoyed even by readers not familiar with the original series.
Onisarashi-hen focuses on a girl from the rural town of Okinomiya who has recently moved to a much more urban area only to later learn of a gas leak that wiped out the entire village of Hinamizawa, a villiage near Okinomiya that her grandmother was from. Following this are numerous reports of formor residents of Hinamizawa and the surrounding regions going killing their family members as well as innocents.
As stated before, this concept of a family member going insane and murdering their own loved ones has been done before, but it's pulled off very well here. One of the reasons this idea is probably so popular is due to how realistic it is, unlike horror concepts that have to do more with the supernatural, and that gives Onisasari-hen a nice edge of foreboding.
The ending as well was very good, with a very good and unexpected twist that remains reminisent to the rest of the Higurashi series, though it may be a bit too unexpected for some people.
The art as well is very good, having a disturbing sense of realism to it without looking real enough that it becomes more disturbing than it should be, something that helps with the overall atmosphere. The only thing is that a couple of the character models look a bit out of place or just oddly drawn. I swear the grandmother looks like ET in a wig every so often...
The murder scenes are also well drawn, never going noticably off model while managing to fully represent the horror or anger the characters are feeling.
Character-wise though, this series could use a bit of work. While all the characters are likable, exept maybe the murderer at times, they aren't very well developed little buggers, forever doomed to the same character traits. This can be blamed a fair bit however on the fact that it's a very short series meant mostly to instill the reader with fear, quite a bit of it being action scenes. As well, they try to cram a fair number of characters in, some of which probably weren't needed, but still aren't too much of a hinderance as they all play some role in the overarcing story. Also in this arc, we're greeted once again by Ooishi and Akasaka, who stay wonderfully in character throughout.
This is an enjoyable little romp through the land of psycosis that is wonderfully reminiscent of a good old fashioned horror movie with added links to the overall Higurashi story. As I mentioned before, this can be enjoyed by people not familiar with the original series, though people familar with it will probably get more out of it, so if you're thinking of trying Higurashi but aren't sure if you'll like it, consider giving this a try. Be warned though, it's about as bloody as the series ever gets.
Also, a warning to animal lovers, there is a puppy killing scene near the beginning of this, though it luckily isn't very detailed.
All in all, I'm happy to give this wonderful side story an 8 out of 10.