Readers’ Choice: When R86 Cries (Or Maybe Not)

I have been remiss by failing to mention in this space that I finished Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. In fact, it was probably about a month ago that I finished it. Several of you had warned me that I would probably feel trolled by the ending, and that this was largely because I was experiencing the anime rather than the visual novel. You were very clear that I would be missing a great deal of explanatory information from the visual novel that the anime left out.

Frankly, I was trolled much less badly than I thought I’d be.

While I was hoping for a clear victory of either Battler over Beatrice, or Beatrice over Battler, to me the ending came across like endings in many anime series: left open to the interpretation of the observer. And maybe in some ways this is the best kind of ending for this show.

I will probably disappoint those who recommended I watch this series, because I don’t have a lot more to add to what I’ve already written about my opinion of the show. It is sharply made and of high quality, with attractive characters and high tension. And not so much my cup of tea. Fans of action will find something to their liking, fans of horror even more so, and those who like to ask what happens when the irresistible force meets the immovable object perhaps most of all.

I am not into the horror/gore element, but I am still somewhat persuadable on watching/reading (?) the visual novel, since I have never experienced one before. So I think it’s best if I end by asking those familiar with the series why they’d recommend I watch/read (?) the visual novel — and I mean this question sincerely, and not as some kind of taunt or challenge. And let me be clear that spoilers are welcome! Especially, that is, if you feel they would make your case stronger.

I doubt that I will watch this anime again. And the male/female ratio that is very much smaller than 1 in Higurashi inclines me against watching that show, as I prefer a more balanced cast. But if I am missing as much background to Battler’s story as many of you indicated, maybe I will watch/read (???) the visual novel.

Who knows? Maybe I owe Battler at least that much.

Final verdict: 6/10 at MAL, for reasons already stated. I’d give it a 6.5 if I could, but I can’t. πŸ˜‰

R86

R86 is a chemistry professor, which is the sort of job that probably made you stop reading already. He teaches at Texas A&M University, also known to Austin dwellers as "Enemy Territory." In his spare time, he enjoys music (flute/saxophone/clarinet and MIDI/Vocaloid synthesis), gaming, and watching anime.

12 thoughts on “Readers’ Choice: When R86 Cries (Or Maybe Not)

  1. I won’t try and sell you on the visual novel, because it’s ultimately up to you (especially considering how big a time sink they can be), but since it’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever read, I may as well chime in with my two cents. Or more like two dollars, seeing as I don’t know how to shut up.

    I don’t recall where I read it (probably the AnimeSuki forums), but someone said something quite true when the novels were coming to an end and people started complaining about how it wasn’t like Higurashi at all. I know you’ve said you haven’t seen Higurashi, but it still applies:

    “He doesn’t write Higurashi, but something completely different that examines the subjective nature of truth, the reasons people commit murder, and the eternal pursuit for answers within detective fiction.”

    The last one doesn’t primarily become the main focus until the four answer arcs, when you start to realize the true reasons behind Beatrice’s actions, and that the story you’ve read so far isn’t a horror story, but a tragedy. You are given the details of how Beatrice came to be, but you’re only given larger hints about what really happened on the island that day and the answers to Beatrice’s closed room puzzles from the first four novels, never a straightforward answer.

    Rather, the question arcs set up what you see as a standard mystery setting, just for the answer arcs to do a 180 and start asking you why you want to know the answers. Do you really want to think that lowly of one or more of your family members?
    You could even say it’s a statement about how whenever there’s a tragedy, we need someone or something to point our fingers at and blame.

    It’s simply a topic that’s never been addressed this way before. Just how important is the truth? If not getting answers at the end is something that rubs you the wrong way, then you’ll probably want to pass. But if it’s something you’re open to, it’s an interesting perspective told in an entertaining – and occasionally, convoluted – way.

    1. I will certainly still consider the visual novel, in spite of its being potentially a time sink, just because I’ve never read one before. And also because it seems like it’ll flesh out what you quote being called “the eternal pursuit for answers within detective fiction.” Ultimately it probably comes down to how much spare time I’ll have, which as for everyone else, is a sketchy proposition. πŸ˜‰

  2. Alright, Not-challenge accepted ! Warning : might be a bit spoilerish !

    First, you mentioned action and horror, but not the conflict between mystery and fantasy which is the major theme of the story. I found this part very interesting, as you can follow what’s going on and try to solve the closed rooms and various murders, but unlike Higurashi, you never really manage to solve anything ; because this isn’t a straight mystery, it’s a battle between the realistic and fantastic aspects.

    The narration (and by extension, what is showed to you in the Anime) is constantly lying : you can only hold onto some rare red truths (more present and detailed in the VN) to build your reasoning, which is soon blown away with a mischievous “cackle cackle”.
    Did you realize what happened after the time limit was passed and why only Eva survived ? (I didn’t find out about it before a big clue in EP 5).

    Then, I would add that the characters hold a lot more depth in the VN. They are given a more thorough backstory, and you realize that Umineko isn’t as much about what happens this day on Rokkenjima, as it is about what happened before to the family and what happens after (Ange point of view).

    Did you understand who was really Beatrice in relation to Kinzo, who was really Beatrice in relation to Battler ? What was Beato’s goal ? (It wasn’t to “win” against Battler).
    What did you think of the relationship between Maria and her mother, between Maria and Ange, between Eva and her family, between Kyrie and Battler ?
    The VN really shines when it demonstrates how utterly broken the Ushiromiya family is, and how they all hurt each other while still showing you that they are all normal and sympatethic people on their own.

    Ultimately, you have to choose between fighting like Battler against impossible odds, which is increasingly harder as the mystery option becomes less and less plausible with each EP, or acknowledge that this is fantasy and simply enjoy the great characters interactions and the awesome logic battles the likes of which I have never seen anywhere else. This choice is even a big plot point in EP 8.

    Also you need to read the VN to learn about Battler’s Small Bombs ! and Bernkastel’s delicious AngeBurgers.

    Well, I tried to be convincing without being annoying ; I hope my enthusiasm for this series didn’t make my text into a big incomprehensible mess !

    1. It’s totally fine about the spoilers — I did notice some of the things you mentioned, but others no doubt got by me. I certainly wouldn’t mind it if the visual novel clarifies the whole “red truth” thing, along with Battler’s “blue theories,” which you indicate it does.

      The “small bombs” sound interesting too. πŸ™‚

  3. I think you should still watch Higurashi it’s good. And who cares about. Balanced cast? Anime girls have better personalities than guys.

    1. Well, whether it’s anime girls or boys that have better personalities is probably in the eye of the anime beholder. Most likely it depends more on the anime itself — it seems that those series that have a bunch of cookie-cutter girls are just as likely to have cookie-cutter boys on their cast. (I may or may not be thinking of Little Busters as I type.)

  4. The visual novel convinced me that loving strangers and enemies is a perfectly reasonable choice by showing through easily reproducible thought experiments that love empowers you and always increases your odds at arriving at the best possible solution.

    This lesson has since helped me get through a plethora of everyday situations like taking exams, dealing with a disliked superior at work etc. Can’t think of any other novel which would affect my life so directly.

    And small bombs, too.

    1. As I mentioned to ZZZ above, the small bombs do sound interesting. I’ll definitely keep an open mind about reading the visual novel, if I can only find enough spare time (commence laugh track). πŸ˜‰

  5. R86, do you remember the very first scene of the anime? Kinzo screaming in defiance, in the storm. Now compare that to this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioKqNJiVnb0

    Instead of depicting a lunatic mad man, the original scene is actually a (relatively) calmer conversation between a hardened bitter old man and his doctor, watched by his servant.

    That should illustrate the different direction & presentation between the visual novel & the anime. Whether they’re significant enough for you to make you take the dive … your call πŸ˜€

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