Umineko no Naku Koro ni: And Then There Were 18<X<19

I cannot tell whether it is more awesome when Battler points or Phoenix Wright points, but accusative pointing is AWESOME and happens a lot.

I cannot tell whether it is more awesome when Battler points or Phoenix Wright points, but accusative pointing is AWESOME and happens a lot.

This front page is for general thoughts about Umineko no Naku Koro ni with as little spoilers as I can withhold, designed for those who have not played the game yet, waiting for the anime, are on the fence about it, or otherwise interested parties. Page 2 is my crackpot “theory” (more random observations and thoughts) of what’s going on and will be heavily littered with spoilers up through episode 3 of the game. So don’t go there unless you’re ready for it, okay? Beatrice might get mad.

Over the past couple of months, I have (very slowly, I will admit, to the chagrin of both myself and friends encouraging me to play more near-constantly) played through the first three episodes/arcs of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, which is probably more of a personal achievement than it might seem. I love books, and I liked the immersive feel of Umineko’s “sound novel” format, but I would still rather have a physical book than press “enter” a lot, so I chalk up the fact that I was able to overcome that to Umineko‘s rather gripping nature once things start to enter full swing. And lots of free time to allow me to space it out so that I can stave off carpal-tunnel and repetitive-motion injuries until at least after this post.

At this point I would imagine that most interested parties are by now at least passingly familiar with Umineko‘s locked-island mystery setup, although viewing it simply as a locked-island mystery would prove to be the first red herring in a long, long string of red herrings. Umineko is less about who is doing the Rokkenjima island murders so much as what is going on inside the whole Umineko-verse–in other words, rather than being a story about a mystery, the mystery is the story itself. The “whodunit” question is still integral, mind, but given the world-reset nature of the Umineko narrative the question “whodunit” shifts its focus, methodology, and implications away from the traditional understanding of the term. The central mystery revolves around puzzling out the nature of the ceremony Kinzo invokes and Beatrice carries out, and then its desired results, rather than who, specifically, is killing whom at any given point in time. “Whodunit” becomes a means to the end, rather than the end itself.

That end is proving, to a witch, that witches don’t exist. And if this sounds mind-melting already, then you should either go forth unto the breach or run away screaming, depending on how much you enjoy the feeling of your mind melting, because it only gets worse from there on out. For the path to that proof is paved with twisty logic, bizarre paradoxes, a desire to not suspect one’s own relations, and the Dread Inequality 18<X<19. Oh, and graphic, wanton slaughter. It is Ryukishi07, after all.

When you see this, prepare for your death by uu~uu~

When you see this, prepare for your death by uu~uu~

To that end, the repeating nature of Umineko serves as its strongest asset: the 18 trapped on Rokkenjima are a complex bunch, and nearly all of them have an issue that could potentially affect the outcome of Kinzo’s fate roulette. They range from the four cousins Battler, Jessica, George, and Maria, who together compromise a more palatably friendly bunch than their parents and their spouses who are eternally at everyone else’s throats (hint hint), and the servants who generally require coaxing to have personalities unbefitting of furniture. Well, okay, except maybe for Maria when she goes evil, but it took me approximately 3.86 seconds to have Maria melt my heart with askew (and pointless) crown, oversized (and pointless) purse, and framing every single one of her lines with the (pointless) interjection “uu~uu~.” It very closely resembled a perfectly executed Hokuto Hyakuretsuken of cute, rendering me helpless against anything thrown at me regarding Maria.

Each episode/arc chooses to focus on different sets of characters and different interpretations of central themes. The delightful Higurashi method of storytelling, with the character development spread across different story arcs with different progressions of the same events, is in full force here. Each arc brings with it new light on old questions and dregs up more questions as an encore, with the interesting result that each of the episodes/arcs thus far upend and scatter any theories one concocted from the previous arcs, leaving the reader much more in endless confusion and consternation than the Higurashi anime seemed to. In terms of Our Protagonist Battler’s favored style of “chessboard thinking,” the chessboard that is Umineko not only gets turned around, but also knocked over, upended, thrown across the room, jumped upon, ripped to shreds, and set on fire. Repeatedly.

In other words, I’m not entirely certain that a combined sleuthing team of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey, Frank and Joe Hardy, Nancy Drew, Those Meddling Kids and Their Dog, and Encyclopedia Brown (feel free to replace and/or add your favorite fictional sleuths here) would be properly equipped to deal with Rokkenjima. But I’d pay good money to watch them try.

Umineko bears more than a passing resemblance to NisioisiN’s Zaregoto, where the appeal lay less in the mystery than in the characters (which, in the first book, seemed roughly as developed as they were in Umineko episode 1, i.e. not very much) and in the psychological effects of having no idea what was truth, what was not, and who to trust, and having the rug yanked out from under you when you think you have it. I would argue at this point that Umineko is better, but that’s unfair since I’ve read more of it than Zaregoto. Not that it matters much, as I’m a sucker for both, and may very well be a red herring.

It is devilishly (ha) difficult to describe Umineko for the uninitiated, as specifics confound and confuse more than they elaborate–in part because those who have played it have already had their minds broken by it, reducing them to gibbering fools and incompetents, and I am certainly no exception–and I’m not even fully caught up yet! And this thing is going to go on for at least four more episodes over the next two years!

What madness have I gotten myself into it? It’s useless, it’s useless, it’s all useless!

Pages: 1 2

4 Responses to “Umineko no Naku Koro ni: And Then There Were 18<X<19”


  1. 1 Honya 30 May 2009 at 2:01 am

    Yay! More Umineko Fans!

    *SPOILERS AHEAD*

    You raised some interesting points especially with your meta-verse interpretations that I haven’t really thought of which could honestly be on the right track. Of course I have some points of my own.

    I think that whoever the killer(s) is well aware of their actions and not necessarily controlled by the “Beatrice” in the meta-verse. Eva seemed well-aware of her actions and I believe that Eva-Beatrice is an illusion shown to meta-verse Battler in place of the real Eva (that actually committed some of the killings) in order to deceive him. Rather I think Beatrice in the game boards refers to a fictional entity or just merely a code-name for the killer. Witches definitely exist in some form BUT I really doubt they are directly responsible for any of the murders. Instead it seems like they merely facilitate the game that Beato and Battler play.

    I also believe that none of the 18 initial characters are the true mastermind behind the plot. In Episode 4 we learn that Kinzo is actually dead at the start of the story. Since Beato told Battler in red that there are exactly 18 people on the island, that would mean there is someone else on the island that Battler doesn’t know about meaning that that unknown person could be the real culprit. Judging by the meta-verse conversations between all the Endless Witches and Lambdadelta concerning the use of puppets, I believe that this 18th person is somehow manipulating the others into killing each other.

    On a lighter note Episode 4 goes into more detail concerning the Endless Power and as demonstrated by Maria and Ange does not actually have to be used maliciously as you have conjectured.

    I also agree that Maria is crucial for Battler to be able to defeat Beato. I’m really curious since it seems you like Maria, have thought about any theories regarding her existence? She’s incredibly knowledgeable about the occult and changes personalities occasionally. We could use the Rika argument but that would not make any sense considering that we know that the game has only been iterated four times so far not giving Maria the time to develop in a similar fashion as Rika. I’m honestly at a loss to explain her. The only real explanation I can come up with is that in some kakera Maria actually becomes a witch and in order to help other versions of herself and family temporarily takes control of in-game Maria as a hidden game piece. I don’t really like that idea though.

    *END SPOILERS*

    Anyway, thank you for this great post.

    • 2 Hisui 1 June 2009 at 1:51 pm

      For some reason Hokuto Hyakuretsuken of cute just makes me think of Maria dressed as Ken (but still with pointless crown and purse) taping you 100 times saying uu~uu~ instead of yatata. Then when she is done she starts to walk away but then turn as says, “You are already moe.” Then your heart explodes with moe passion. Oh and her purse has been significant so far if you think back. Crown less so.

      I feel one of the major differences between Higurashi and Umineko is that you go into Higurashi thinking it’s a horror game but it turns out to be a mystery game with horror elements. (Well actually you go in thinks it’s a moe school drama game, then you think it’s a horror game, and then ultimately you realize it’s a mystery game.) Umineko pretty much states what type of animal it is up front. I’m a mind screw mystery game with horror elements. It then waves it’s hand at you saying, “Bring It!” This makes the narratives feel very different despite similar motifs.

      Having not finished Episode 4 but I have a feeling so far Episode 4 is much more Ange’s chapter than anyone else in the family’s by leaps and bounds. I think your theory about parents is valid. To that effect I think that means we might get a chapter that combines two parents. I’m thinking a Rudolf and Kyrie chapter. They seem the two most likely to be a package deal. Unless poor Hideyoshi just got lumped in with Eva and we did not know it. I also wonder if each of the first 7 chapters is also related to a sin. Episode 1 being pride, Episode 2 being wrath (Maybe), Episode 3 being greed, and I will venture a guess that the sin of 4 is envy but don’t quote me on that. I will be more sure when I finished episode 4.

      Also whichever chapter Rudolf is the star will deal with lust. This is a fact I would place money on.

      Building on what Honya is saying I wonder if Beatrice is not somewhat a reflection of those who speak with her. We get the distinct impression later on the Stakes of Purgatory are only as evil as the people who summon them are. Mammon can be the greed to destroy other to get what you want just as much as the desire to improve one to get ahead. I wonder if Beatrice is just a higher level of this. What if Beatrice is also a reflection of those who have summoned her? Maybe not necessarily of just Kinzo but of all the participants of the ritual. Essentially she grows and wanes in evil depending on the collective soul of all the people on the island.

      I’m not sure how much I believe this theory but I’m throwing it out there to see how people build on it or tear it apart. Also this discounts Beatrice’s own will, which I’m not sure you can do.

      My personal pet theory is the Maria’s power is to tap into the power of any other Maria that exists. Basically Maria is a Network of Marias all over the multiverse and each one is able consciously or unconsciously to pass information back and forth. Since we have not see a Maria that does not get killed/spirited away we don’t know if she ever grows into someone who can use this power at will. The ability to pass info between the worlds would easily make her a key to the puzzle.

      This is once again my personal crazy theory. If it’s wrong I would hardly be shocked.

      Also I am firmly of the conviction by what I have seen that the only way to really win is from Battler and Beato to team up. Basically the marriage of magic and science. Both of them agree that the other one’s world view is equally valid in Schrödinger’s cat bubble that is Rokkenjima. The real person to defeat is of course Lambdadelta. I have more theories on that but they are post episode 4 discussions.

      I am also wondering if the initial setup of the island change with each universe. Battler and to a certain degree I think the audience believes this as well. I’m not sure how true this is. Kinzo might be dead in the beginning of Chapter 4 but that does not necessarily mean he is dead at the beginning of each chapter. Red text from Chapter three might not be red text from Chapter 2. I think it’s an easy logical fallacy to make.

      Oh well I have rambled on enough. Good post.

  2. 3 OGT 2 June 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Okay, happy fun theory time. Still haven’t played ep4 yet (oops) but here goes:

    Eva was very aware of Eva-Beatrice’s actions–in some ways, we could think of Beatrice as a kind of multiple-personality entity, and those who control her/it are dissociated, Jekyll and Hyde style. It may only be a metaphysical manifestation, though. I think the answer lies (as Hisui does) in a synergy between the scientific and the fantastic explanations. How this works I cannot say, but the two co-exist and that has to be important.

    Maria’s own bipolar nature (Happy Maria! and IHIHIHIHIHI Maria) might point towards this “Beatrice as controlled by the user” theory. I don’t think a GOOD END is possible without Maria being happy–and Maria wants everyone to be happy for her to be happy–which leads me to think that the whole situation is supposed to be a trial by fire to force the Ushiromiyas to cooperate and regain trust for one another, which was lost when Kinzo re-established the family name.

    Whatever IS going on, though, love is the answer. You may start singing Barry Manilow songs now.

  3. 4 Rin 7 June 2009 at 12:27 pm

    “Without love, the truth cannot be seen” I bet this little sentence is fundamental on the story. Not just love in a romantic way, also friendly and maternal/family love. It is stated on the Opening and by Beato herself, though its meaning is more explained on the development of the plot :3


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