Readers’ Choice: Initial Impressions for Umineko no Naku Koro ni

Ushiromiya “Battler” (or Batora if you will) has a problem, to say the least. When he and a group of 17 family members and staff at his grandfather’s estate come together in 1986 for a reunion, one by one those 17 others start suffering violent deaths. Before long it is clear that the original purpose of the reunion, which was to enjoy each other’s company even while paying respects to Battler’s dying grandfather, has instead become a struggle to solve the mystery behind these deaths. And thus are we plunged into the rather frightening world of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the third of three in the “When They Cry” series.

The setting on Rokkenjima, a small island owned entirely by Battler’s grandfather Kinzo, is based on the Kyuu-Furukawa gardens in Tokyo prefecture. The title of the show could be translated “When the Black-Tailed Gulls Cry,” as this may be the best we can do to render the Japanese pun. For the now-famous red “na” hiragana in the title is placed intentionally, rather than using the kanji for 泣く or 鳴く. Both of these verbs are pronounced naku, and mean “to cry/weep” or “to make a sound (as an animal)” respectively.

This installment of the “When They Cry” series (and I have seen only a couple episodes of the first series, and none of the second) gets straight to the murder part of the murder mystery, even as we have barely met Battler, his grandfather, any of his grandfather’s staff, or any of Battler’s aunts or uncles or cousins. Soon it becomes evident that one possible suspect is Beatrice, allegedly a witch who lives on Rokkenjima but who no longer takes a human form. Battler’s creepy little cousin Maria is so delighted with this possibility that she barely seems to mind the death of her mother Rosa — although to be fair, Rosa’s physically and emotionally abusive parenting could also have something to do with Maria’s behavior. From where I sit currently, at the end of episode four, the body count is rising quickly, and Battler and his surviving relatives are trying to find whatever clues they can from the odd inscription near a painting of Beatrice, as she supposedly looked when she inhabited a human body.

Perhaps Battler doth protest overmuch, in his conversation with the (so far surviving) house staff?

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that odd inscriptions with Hebrew letters are appearing nearly as often as dead bodies in this anime. They turn out to be passages from the Psalms, mostly obscure passages taken in an odd context so far. I have my doubts that these will turn out to be terribly important, but I am writing down the references just in case.

I certainly love a good detective story, animated or otherwise, and have fond memories of watching series such as Tantei Gakuen QThe violence so far in Umineko no Naku Koro ni, while far from subtle, seems easier to bear than in Higurashi (which is probably why I could stand only two episodes or so). Will Battler and his relatives solve the mystery before they all turn up dead?

I don’t know, but I plan to stay tuned and find out.

7/10 at MAL so far, but movement either upward or downward is still very possible.


22 thoughts on “Readers’ Choice: Initial Impressions for Umineko no Naku Koro ni

  1. I’m not usually one for detective series, but you’ve got me interested in this one. What I wonder is why this series was so heavily favored by readers – what’s the connection? I’d be eager to find out.

    1. At times like this, I wish I was better with words so I could pitch in. But hey, R86 is four episodes in … that means he’s only one episode shy from the first “WTF” point in the series – that’s when the story breaks from the usual murder mystery and turns into something else. Can’t wait for his commentary then ^^

    2. It might be those Scripture passages that keep getting quoted, although I predict that’s going to be a big nothing. I wonder if it has something to do with Battler’s inability/unwillingness to reconcile what his lying eyes tell him with what he’s determined to believe (or disbelieve). Now that I’ve hit that “WTF” moment that L. Grey mentioned, that is. 😉

  2. The use of the Psalms as well as the magic circles are actually taken from a genuine (insofar as these things are ever ‘genuine’) Renaissance grimoire called the Key of Solomon (not to be confused with the more famous Lesser Key of Solomon, which isn’t the same or even particularly related text). Western occultism and–in the VNs at least, I didn’t actually finish the anime–Christianity insofar as it comes up, which it does a couple of times, are if memory serves subjects that the creator did a decent amount of research on, although, in the latter case unfortunately for our purposes, he doesn’t really seem to believe in either.

    1. I should clarify that by ‘Christianity’ in the above post I mean Christianity understood as a philosophical/doctrinal religion, not Christianity as a social heritage or cultus which is bound to show up in any portrayal of Renaissance occultism anyway.

    2. This is very interesting and I must admit broad ignorance on these topics, so I appreciate your bringing them up. 🙂

      EDIT: My comment reads exactly like the ones that go into our Spam folder. All I need to do is use a word horribly badly (“much captivating,” perhaps, rather than “very interesting”), and mention how my “partner” (or “spouse” or “cousin” or “friend” or…) stumbled on this post and found exactly what I/we needed. If I had, my comment would probably have been filtered out! 😀

  3. I must tell you to read the Umineko visual novel. As a true fan the anime is a horribly rendered adaptation and hardly follows it at all. Not only that but the visual novel finishes the story.

    1. I have never read a visual novel, and would be eager to do so in this case. Assuming I like the rest of the anime, that is. Or, based on what you’re saying, maybe especially if I don’t like the rest of the anime. 😉

      1. A lot of things were overlooked. And like Higurashi the visual novel has a second part known as Umineko Chiru. Which concludes the series. So yeah you might enjoy it you might not.

      2. In its form, this novel is a celebration of “text” as a medium, elevating sentences to plot points and giving single commas reality-twisting power. It would take a genius to make the adaptation at least close to the original… no such luck here.

        1. Hmm I guess you’re right. The only reason I’d like Umineko Chiru to get animated is so I can see Trollkastel’s true personality in animated form. And for Dlanor and Erika of course.

    1. Regardless, I’m still pretty sure R86 will get something out of it. I won’t speak for him, but I know for me, I just wouldn’t be able to dedicate the time to reading through the VN.

  4. I honestly believe the reason you can handle the violence in Umineko is because you’ve had time to process the violence in Higurashi. I found them to be equally violent in many ways. I’d recommend going back and giving Higurashi a shot one of these days…. perhaps after Umineko, just for comparison.

    1. Well, the problem I had with Higurashi (if I recall correctly) was that it involved much younger children. In Umineko, with the exception of Maria and Kanon, I believe they’re all adults.

      Though on the other hand, I recently made it through Mirai Nikki (often watching through my fingers over my eyes), so maybe my sensitivity is duller now. Though on the third hand, maybe I’ve had enough of that kind of thing for now. 😉

      1. xD The third option I couldn’t blame you for – I adore those series, but definitely need a break now and then from the depression and gore! ^.^

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