When the Seagulls Cry (Umineko no Naku Koro ni)
I’ve been a bit of a When they Cry fan ever since I started reading the Higurashi When They Cry manga series that Yen Press started bringing over 2 Years ago (Nov. 2008). I haven’t seen the Higurashi anime series, I started episode 1 and didn’t care for the art style in comparison with the manga. But when Umineko no Naku Koro ni started airing, I certainly had no complaints on the art style or the quality of animation. But I read comments from forum friends that both made me want to both watch this series and stay away. Basically I saw lots of positive comments…followed by a comment about a desire for a 2nd season. Given that this is a murder mystery series I realized that desire for a 2nd season is likely because not all questions were answered. But despite knowing this I became far too curious about Beatrice (The Golden Witch) to stay away from watching it.
Those who have read “And then there were none/10 Little Indians” will feel right at home with a lot of aspects of this series. The Ushiromiya family is a rich and prestigious family, once every 5 years they all gather at their privately owned island. However, this year there is more going on than just a family reunion. The head of the family is aging and has been given 3 months to live, he’s openly obsessed with a woman named Beatrice, and is playing with the black arts. Meanwhile his adult children are all anxious about laying claim to their inheritance for their own immediate families. Their children realize the power/money struggle that’s currently going on, but choose to stay separate from that and get along with their cousins. Suddenly people are dying one group at a time and the main character (Battler) is determined to find the culprit. Many of the household members feel that the witch Beatrice is responsible for the murders, but Battler refuses to accept the existence of magic. So this series becomes a battle between Battler’s logic and the seemingly impossible murders at hand.
A lot of the murders in this series are brutal, but the goriest parts of the corpses are usually censored/hidden from the viewer. However the path that led them to that injury paints an accurate scene ,so I understand quite well what injuries the other characters are seeing when they look in horror at the corpses. I’m the type that likes it when the author leaves the more gory parts to my own imagination so I like this approach.
I’d say a fairly open mind is needed to enjoy this series, some of the preposterous/fantastical scenes had me shaking my head in disbelief. But one aspect of this series is that you have the freedom to decide if certain scenes were simply fabricated to confuse you…or not. The series will play out a crazy and supernatural explanation as to how the victims died, and then challenging Battler (and the viewer) to come up with a way a normal human could have done these murders. Initially I found this confusing and annoying that such amazing battles could be considered false, but I accepted it by the end. I like that this series lets me make my own decisions about what’s going on and doesn’t lead me by the hand to the answer the creator felt was right. I should note that this series takes a drastic change after the first 6 or so episodes, so if you’re watching this series and don’t care for it, you still may like it by the end. But personally I really liked those first episodes.
***SLIGHT SPOILERS*** (I researched the visual novel a bit)
“Unlike the previous chapters, this [last portion of the] game has features that require […] the choice between interpreting the events of the series as magic or a trick, leading to two different endings.” I honestly don’t think this anime was ever meant to continue any further. If the anime followed the visual novel plot to the end it would have forced the viewer to accept if magic exists or not. It would have had to have made that decision for the viewer and that’s something that Higurashi in general seems to avoid. What do I think? I think I love the idea of Beatrice being a witch, but what I really think is that she is an ordinary human, and all of the current events are being moved by other normal humans. I REALLY want the chance to play this game. But since it’s not available yet, in the Meantime I’m going to continue to read the Higurashi manga and I’m trying to figure out how to get the first game (that’s being officially released by MangaGamers) to play on my laptop. I had to install and use linux as my OS last fall and I’m trying to find a way to get the game to play on it. Otherwise I’ll have to wait until it’s time to buy a new laptop.