Umineko No Naku Koro Ni, or When Seagulls Cry / When They Cry 3, is the successor to the exceptional anime Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (When Cicadas Cry) by Ryukishi07, but didn’t quite rate as great for many. Most were probably turned off by this show because they were expecting something Higurashi-like. Although Umineko sports similar concepts (parallel dimensions, grotesque murders, misery) reminiscent of its predecessor, it takes on a risky yet new approach by dwelling away from mystery-solving to a battle of wits between magic and reality using logic and reasoning.
It has its flaws and didn’t quite make the legendary impact Higurashi did, but the good things found in this anime still outweighs the bad. And I still love it nonetheless.
Plot: In year 1986, the annual family conference of the Ushiromiyas is held at their private property Rokkenjima Island. The four family members, along with their spouses and children, arrive at the island to discuss how the assets will be divided among them once the old and near-dead family head, Kinzo Ushiromiya, passes away. Shortly after, a typhoon traps them in the island and bizarre things started to happen where people in the island start dying.
Battler Ushiromiya, the son of Rudolph, hasn’t been in the family conference for six years and is re-acquainted with the island’s legend of the Golden Witch Beatrice, who supposedly lives in the dense forests of Rokkenjima. A portrait of her is erected at the entrance hall of the Ushiromiya mansion along with a puzzling epitaph underneath.
It is rumored in the island that when Kinzo lost most of his assets due to the 1923 great Kanto earthquake, Beatrice gave him ten tons of gold to restart his family and business. With that said, whoever solves the riddle of the witch’s epitaph will get the gold as well as the headship of the Ushiromiya family.
As the typhoon hits, a game of homicide begins where 6 people in the island will die, as stated in the epitaph. If the epitaph isn’t solved, then people will continue to die mysterious and brutal deaths until the Golden Witch Beatrice is resurrected.
Just about when the last person alive, Battler, is about to be consumed, he is suddenly able to stop Beatrice’s revival by stating his denial in the existence of witches. It seems that everyone in the island must believe in them in order for the Golden Land to open its doors. For Battler, believing in witches just because everyone says so is not enough, as it will be just a case where a lie is accepted by everyone and becomes the truth. Because of this, Beatrice shows herself and takes him to a parallel world, Purgatorio, where they will be able to oversee all the events that happened on Rokkenjima.
Thus starts the battle between them where Battler must attempt to explain every mystery via human means, and Beatrice, by witches and magic. Among the frequent concepts used is the ‘locked room mystery’, as well as several logical arguments including devil’s proof, raven’s paradox and Schrodinger’s cat.
The next chapter (Episode 6) starts the first official battle between Battler and Beatrice, where they will oversee everything through the ‘meta-world’, and attempt to fend each other off by reconstructing the murders with their theories.
It’s really exciting to watch the two battle it out, not to mention a fun way to exercise the mind, but sadly that’s also the downside – the series tend to focus on the notion where Beatrice says something like “Everything is caused by witches and magic is real!” and Battler counters with a “No! They’re not real!” all throughout the four arcs. It really tries out your patience. Though the thrill brought by their twisted arguments compensates for that.
Unlike Higurashi, the culprit isn’t revealed on any arc (of course), and will keep on feeding you with new murder mysteries that the two will keep on fighting about. I’m sure some will find it hard to keep track of the previous mysteries, so this show probably isn’t for those who are looking for a light and easy watch. On the other hand, those avid mystery/logic enthusiasts like myself who are looking for a mind-boggling anime experience, will find Umineko pretty awesome.
Two easter eggs from Higurashi appear in Umineko: The Witch of Miracles Frederica Bernkastel, who greatly resembles Rika Furude and The Witch of Certainty Lady Lambdadelta, who in turn resembles Takano Miyo. It is said that these two witches fought each other in a ‘game’ in the past. Now, I wonder what that ‘game’ could be? :D
The show finished with its four initial chapters, but left a lot of people disappointed with its major cliffhangers and unanswered mysteries – mainly Beatrice’s last riddle for Battler, which I won’t tell to avoid spoilers. Lol. To those hastily judging this show and trashing it relentlessly, I suggest you shouldn’t do so, since the same thing happened to me after watching Higurashi’s first season (Though honestly, the end with Rena and Keiichi had a more satisfying closure). The first season is supposed to be filled with the ‘question arcs’ where the 2nd would have the ‘answer arcs’.
But that’s also the problem – nothing has been announced yet for its supposed to be 2nd season Umineko No Naku Koro Ni Chiru. There’s hope though since the last chapter of Chiru’s visual novel game was just released last December 2010 – so there’s a lot of time and room for the production of a 2nd season. Let’s not be hasty and wait patiently! After all, there’s still the somewhat new Ougon Musou Kyoku (Golden Fantasia), a PC / Xbox 360 2D fighting game based on Umineko No Naku Koro Ni – which I’ll blog next! For now, here’s the OP for Umineko:
PS. I just can’t get enough of Beatrice, her twisted personality, and that elegant black & gold dress! She truly is the evil witch!