In July 2016, the Tadamura family gathers for the funeral of their grandmother, in the small mountainous village of Hirasaka. Her three sons Masashi, Nobuteru and Tsunemasa, plus their children Yue (Masashi's step-daughter), Yukito (his son), and Terumi and Teruya (Nobuteru's daughter and son), all come to pay their last respects.
The very demure Yue has some trouble fitting in the family; it doesn't help that her mother disappeared after she and Masashi ate up all of the grandmother's inheritance money in a careless business venture, which poisoned the relationship between the brothers.
But all that is put aside when inexplicable events start to occur that night: Yue sees the grandmother's dead body being seemingly dragged away into the night by some invisible force. The next morning, the family wakes up in a deathly silence, the power is out, two suns shine above their heads, and the village is surrounded by a strange barrier made of poisonous mist. And things only get worse from there.
Hotarubi no Tomoru Koro ni (When the Fireflies Glow) is a 4 volume manga written by Ryukishi07 and drawn by Koike Nokuto (known for 6000 and Kuromachi) in the seinen magazine Monthly Action between 2016 and 2018. While it is related to the When They Cry series and the initial setting is reminiscent of both Higurashi and Umineko, the story this time leaves out the murder mysteries, being instead a survival horror with more overt supernatural elements, but more realistic visuals and character designs. Another notable difference is that all the characters are adults − the youngest one, Yue, is 19 years old, while Yukito and the cousins are in their mid-20s.
The series was preceded by a short novel prologue called The First and the Last Gift, introduced by the Witch of Certainty Lambdadelta and starring Takano Miyo, who visits Hirasaka many years before the story of the manga. It can be read here.
The manga got a French release by Komikku in 2018.
Tropes featured in the series:
- Alternate Continuity: The Takano of this series is apparently from a different timeline than the one in Higurashi: When They Cry − the prologue takes place in the year Shouwa 58, which seems to indicate that this Takano never went to Hinamizawa. Seeing that she has all 20 flags in her box and goes by the first name "Miyoko", she probably doesn't share Higurashi!Takano's backstory either.
- Back from the Dead: Zig-zagged in a weird and horrible way. It seems like "death" works in a peculiar way in that "dimension". Notably shown in chapter 6 when Nobuteru succumbs to his wounds. Yukito successfully ressuscitates him... several times, but Nobuteru keeps dying and coming back to life. At some point he seems to die for good, but when ogres come to dig him up from his grave he wakes up again, only to be killed again by the giant ogre. As for Grandma, her soul died, but her body started to move again as a sort of seemingly unkillable clothes-ripping demon.
- Bittersweet Ending: On one hand Teruya, Terumi and her child and Yukito manage to escape from Hell and to rebuild their lives. On the other hand the parents are Deader Than Dead, Takano can't return to the human world because she was Dead All Along, and Yue chooses to remain in Hell to pray for the souls in pain.
- Bright Is Not Good: The fireflies glow quietly and beautifully in the night of the wake. This is not a good omen by any means.
- Bugs Herald Evil: The characters being transported to the bizarre, hostile world is heralded by a host of fireflies floating around the place.
- Continuity Nod: A minor example in chapter 11 to Higurashi: When They Cry. The diary mentions a girl named "Miyoko", whom the others assume died after she was infected by the miasma. Those who read Higurashi will remember that Miyoko is Takano's first name
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Poisonous mist barrier, blood-sucking flies, razor-sharp leaves, zombie dogs, giant man-eating monsters... Staying in the house is definitely a safer bet than taking single step outside. As long as it's not invaded by the mist, in which case your only option is to run and try to find another house with a talisman.
- Foreshadowing: There are several small scenes showing that Yue is the only one who seems almost happy with this situation. At the very end she chooses to stay in Hell, thinking that she has found her place there.
- Chapter 13 has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it panel of Terumi brushing at her lower abdomen. Chapter 20 reveals that she's been pregnant all along, which only Yue knew about. This also explains why Yue says "if only one of us survived, I'd prefer if it was you." the chapter before.
- From Bad to Worse: The situation starts just a little strange, then gets worrisome, then alarming, and by the middle of volume 3 it seems utterly hopeless. Nobuteru is dead, Tsunemasa turned into a zombie, the girl they found turned out not to be human anymore, food has run out, and the talisman that protected their house was accidentally broken, leading to the death of Masashi too.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played straight near the end. Terumi is revealed to be pregnant and initially considered having an abortion, but changed her mind after spending weeks in Hell and promising her late father to build a family.
- Left Hanging: We never learn what happened to Yue's mother nor why she disappeared.
- Minimalist Cast: The seven Tadamuras are literally the only characters in the story (save for a couple of Posthumous Characters and Takano). Everyone else in the village has vanished. And to make things worse, the three brothers die or get zombified in the span of a few chapters, leaving alive only four humans and Takano (who may or may not still be human).
- Perpetual Frowner: None of the characters smile an awful lot, but Yukito in particular seems to find everything pesky or annoying at first. He gets somewhat better over the course of the story, as he gets more responsible and proactive.
- Sibling Rivalry: There's quite a bit of vitriol between Teruya and Terumi, who often call each other out for... any reason, really.
- The Swarm: They're attacked by a huge swarm of blood-sucking flies in chapter 3. HUMAN-FACED flies. They're actually dead people reincarnated as blood-thirsty monsters.
- Wham Line: Delivered at the end of chapter 5. "Have you guessed, already? You are currently in Hell."
- Workaholic: Masashi's former wife is said to have died of overwork, which is partly why he tried so desperately to assist his new wife in her business. It didn't end well.