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Umineko no Naku Koro ni Visual Novels : the LiveButDelayed Blogination:

NOT holding a Shoe Phone
Tonight, the anime version of Umineko no Naku Koro ni will start being broadcasted. In anticipation for that, I've started looking into the original visual novel. Fortunately, it is quite easy to import, and the (unofficial, but authorized) English fantranslation project has recently caught up completely with the Japanese version.

So hey, perfect fodder for a Liveblogging thread.

Except it's not exactly "live". I've already started this on another forum a couple of weeks ago, so I'll be slightly reformating my initial comments. It'll still follow the spirit : each comment was written with no knowledge of what would come next.

I've gone into this relatively blind. I've (mostly) avoided any kind of spoilers. I know it's a supernatural murder mystery with a bunch of people trapped on a remote island, but not much else. I've already watched Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, so I expect each chapter will be a different version of the same basic scenario, with more clues to the whole explanation. There will probably be some Kill 'em All versions, and at least some gruesome murders. I certainly doubt the answer will be the same.

This thread should be spoiler-free for Higurashi (if I do go into that direction, I'll mark them clearly). Anyway, I don't expect many obvious link to Higurashi beyond thematic resonances. The few common characters to both series seem to use obscure codenames (I know there's someone called Bernkastel running around in the background or something, for example), so there shouldn't be much risk of unintentional spoilerage.

In your comments, try keeping spoilers to the minimum, especially on parts I've not watched yet. I'm currently starting episode 3, but I certainly have no idea what the heck is really going on.

Okay, let's start.

THE PREMISE

This is the annual reunion of the rich Ushiromiya family on their private island of Rokkenjima, in 1986.

The head of the family, Kinzo Ushiromiya (hereafter called "Grampa") doesn't have much time left to live, but certainly is taking his sweet time. His four children are squabbling over the inheritance. Their respective spouses (minus one, for some reason) and one child each are also there. Add to this five servants and the family physician, and you get a total of 18 people.

There's a weird rumor that Grampa's got tons of gold stashed somewhere, and that he's used it to build the family fortune. He's supposed to have obtained it from a "witch" called Beatrice. He worships her and has been supposedly dabbling in black magic. Anyway, he now lives as a recluse in his study, barely allowing anyone inside. (There's been various ghostly sightings of Beatrice among the staff over the years, who assuredly live in fear of her.)

The weather is very bad, making the island completely isolated. And then people start dying...

THE GAMEPLAY

This is a Visual Novel in the truest sense of the words : at least the first chapter is completely uninteractive. Your only action is to control the flow of the scrolling text. Behind the text (which takes the whole screen), you can see a background scenery of the room/place the scene happens, and usually some basic sprites of the people talking.

The When They Cry series are often called "sound novels", and it's accurate. The soundtrack is very well done, with appropriate sound effects, and average-to-quite-good music.

Also of note is the "Tips" menu : instead of random bits of background info presented as deleted scenes (like in the Higurashi VNs), it's just a collection of the various important (but cryptic) documents appearing in the plot. This way, you can go back to them at any time to give them another look.

There's also a diagram of the cast of characters, with short profiles, as a reference of who's who. It gets updated everytime someone dies or disappears.

THE CAST

By order of appearance, mostly. I'll add my initial impressions on their possible degree of culpability.

Warning : Grampa is in love of occidental culture (he made his fortune in the post-war occupation), and decided to give weirdly western-sounding names to his children, and the tradition has carried over to the grandchildren.

  • Kinzo Ushiromiya : Grampa. See the premise for more details.

Obviously he's a key player. On the other hand, it would be far too simple for him to be orchestrating everything. Other agents are probably around to screw his plans.

  • Doctor Nanjo : The family physician, and longtime friend of Grampa.

I wouldn't exclude him being in league with Grampa or whoever else, but it has a low probability. Maybe he's just there for the "character with medical knowledge" quota.

  • Genji : Head servant of the Ushiromiya home, and Grampa's right hand man. The "reserved butler" archetype.

If he's involved, it's obviously by following Grampa's orders.

  • Battler Ushiromiya : Our protagonist/POV character, at least for the first chapter. Son of the third child of Grampa. 18 years old, in high school. Thoroughly despises his father, who apparently remarried only instants after the death of his first wife, six years ago. Battler has been living with his maternal grandparents ever since, and is only coming back into the fold now that they're dead.

Battler is rash, outspoken, prone to bad jokes, but very far from stupid. There's been a mention of him having a little sister, but she's not here.

An ideal POV character : involved enough to remember various bits of backstory, but his long absence means he's completely out of touch with most recent events (as well as everything he was too young to be really aware of).

I really doubt he's an active conspirator for the murders. Maybe he'll pull a Keiichi and kill some people out of paranoid delusion, but some of the events are too well-planned to be just that. And we get too much into his head for him to be deceiving us.

  • George Ushiromiya : The son of the second child of Grampa. Oldest of the "child" generation. 23 years old, already working as an apprentice. The ideal son, calm, soothing. Deeply respected by Battler.

I doubt he's involved much, but who knows ?

  • Eva Ushiromiya : The second child of Grampa, George's mother. A sneaky bitch with a serpent tongue. Somehow, she's managed to keep her position in the family despite her marriage (We'll get more details later).

I wouldn't put it past her to be involved in some way, or to be plotting something.

I don't know. He'd obviously be following Eva if she was involved, but I don't see him as the instigator.

  • Kyrie Ushiromiya : Battler's stepmother. Interestingly, he has a very healthy and pleasant relationship with her, considering her a Cool Big Sis.

Again, I don't know. She's very nice, but that doesn't mean anything in When They Cry. Also, she seems to have a very sharp mind.

  • Rudolf Ushiromiya : Battler's father, and the third child of Grampa. A former (?) womanizer (it's implied his relationship with Kyrie predates his first wife's death), and overall not a very pleasant person (we're not told in what branch of business he works, but it seems a bit shady). The object of Battler's scorn, though he doesn't seem to mind that much.

Possible suspect, but nothing definite.

  • Rosa Ushiromiya : The last child of Grampa. She seems to be quite nice and fading in the background, but her relationship with her daughter looks quite strained. Her husband is the only spouse absent to the reunion, with the implication that he left her a while ago.

You know what they say about sleeping water. Very high in my suspect list.

  • Maria Ushiromiya : Rosa's daughter, 9 years old. A gothic lolita if I've ever seen one. Interested in black magic. Her childlish speech patterns get annoying very quickly (she aims for cute, and misses the mark), and not just to the reader (it's one of the reasons her mother Rosa is displeased with her).

Again, high on the suspect list, though maybe manipulated by someone else.

  • Jessica Ushiromiya : Daughter of the first child of Grampa, and thus the heir of the family. She really doesn't care for it, though, and acts like a tomboy (though her speech patterns don't translate well).

I really doubt she's involved, but who knows ? Maybe she'll pull a Shion at some point.

  • Kumasawa : The old family servant, and token gossip hen.

I'd be laughing extremely hard if she was the mastermind behind everything. Maybe she's an accessory, but I even doubt that.

  • Gohda : The cook. Very professional, but distrusted by most of the staff : while they were all hired by Grampa, he's Krauss' man (the first son).

Maybe as an helper to Krauss, but that's it.

  • Kanon : A young male servant. Orphan, and around 16 if I'm not mistaken. Very sullen, he barely talks at all and seems to have low self-esteem.

Following Grampa's orders, probably.

  • Shannon : A young female servant, around Battler's age. A bit clumsy under pressure. It's not her real name : all those young orphan servants take one of those "xxxon" names while working.

Ditto.

  • Natsuhi Ushiromiya : Wife of the first child of Grampa, and Jessica's mother. She seems to be in charge of the island mansion (since neither Grampa or her husband can be bothered). She has a perpetual headache, and obviously doesn't like her awkward position in the family.

Maybe as a support to Krauss, but I doubt it. She's too impulsive for this.

  • Krauss Ushiromiya
Grampa's first child, and the father of Jessica. He has all the hallmarks of a magnificent bastard. Manages most the family fortune, so he has the most to lose in those inheritance talks.

Very high suspect, of course.

Next part : the first day of Episode 1, setting the stage for the tragedy.

edited 1st Jul '09 2:51:49 AM by Jhiday

Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
NOT holding a Shoe Phone
Just a warning : I wrote this several days after the fact, so my memory is a bit fuzzy and I may forget a few points.

EPISODE 1 : Legend of the Golden Witch

We open with a cryptic foreshadowing conversation between Grampa Kinzo, Dr Nanjo, and butler Genji. All three of them have similar-sounding names, so it's a bit confusing. Anyway, the gist of it is that it's now time for Grampa to conclude his contract with the witch Beatrice. Or something. Our good doctor appears bemused, and the butler watches this stoically.

Opening credits ! It's surprisingly enthralling, given that there's no actual animation.

Everyone meets at the airport ! Well, actually, the three branch families : Eva/Kimiyoshi/George, Rudolf/Kyrie/Battler, and Rosa/Maria. This scene is very exposition-heavy, with eight characters and their relationships to introduce. Thankfully, it's not too clunky : our viewpoint character, Battler, hasn't seen most of the others for years, and thus gets a excuse to get exposition thrown at him. It's well choregraphed : each character appears after the other, is introduced, and then fades a bit in the background.

I've already detailed my early impressions of everybody in the first message, so I won't elaborate. In summary : Battler is a fun protagonist with lots of personality, Maria is already annoying, and most of the others try to stay rather bland for now.

We are treated to another credit sequence while the plane is flying, with just the names of all characters (including Beatrice !). I'm not sure why, but whatever.

We are quickly introduced to Jessica and old bag Kurasawa, would guide everyone to the boat for the island. Along the way, we are treated to mildly funny scenes about Battler's travel sickness. The only thing that seems vaguely relevant to the plot is that the island's shrine has been destroyed or something.

For some reason, the cook welcomes everyone on the island. This Gohda rubs me the wrong way. It's off to the mansion, but not before Maria falls in love with a random flower in the garden.

All the guests settle in the brand new guesthouse for a while, then it's off to lunch. And what a lunch ! Grampa doesn't even bother coming down from his study, which of course humiliates everybody. Most of all Natsuhi, who takes it out on the servants (poor Shannon !). It's interesting that, in the seating order, Natsuhi, who runs the house, rates below the grandchildren. It's an obvious sign of her place in the pecking order here, and it obviously wears her down.

Wait, I had forgotten. On his way to lunch, Battler stumbles on a big portrait of Beatrice, with a sinister epitath. It's a TIPS ! There's a bunch of cryptic instructions to find the mythical family gold, and then it gets disturbing : it announces 6 sacrifices, then another couple, then a succession of 5 more, and finally everybody dies anyway as the witch is revived. Why do I have a feeling this is exactly what is going to happen ?

Anyway, after lunch the grandchildren go to the beach to play a bit and try to solve the epitath's riddle. They're stumped, obviously. Shannon is with them, and obviously happy to spend her free time this way.

Meanwhile, the adults are talking about the succession. And it's far from cordial. Eva, Rudolf and Rosa are ganging up on Krauss to try and extort money out of him. There are accusations of embezzlement of Grampa's fortune (which Krauss is managing), stuff like that. Natsuhi is pathetic in her defense of her husband, and is chased out of the room. Then Krauss counter-attacks, and points out that each of the other needs some money quickly for various reasons. Anyway, he's not prepared to give up to them so early. It's a very unpleasant scene, with nobody really getting the moral high ground. What a bunch of greedy rats !

Back at the beach, the conversation has shifted to Maria's interest in black magic. She's deadly serious, and gives Battler and Jessica some cheap-looking talismans. On the way back, Maria looks for the previously-mentionned flower in the garden, but cannot find it. The other try to help her, but to no avail. Rosa comes, and ditto. She gets quite angry with her daughter's stubborness, up to mild physical violence. Wait, what ? Okay, Maria is very annoying, but still... In the end, everybody but Maria gives up, and she's left there alone.

Jump to dinner time... and it has apparently been raining a lot for a while. Nobody has seen Maria for hours (Rosa thought she went with the other kids, and vice-versa). They find her still in the garden, under the torrential rain. Fortunately, somebody gave her an umbrella. Maria, true to her unhelpful self, repeats over and over that it was "Beatrice". And, back at the mansion, everybody denies having given it to her (except for Grampa, who's still in his study).

Dinner is obviously tense : nobody has a good reason to hide this (Rosa wants to thank them !). And at the end, Maria reveals she was given something else by "Beatrice" : a letter sealed with Grampa's personal crest (he indeed threw his crest ring through the window in an earlier scene, though only a couple servants know that). The letter was supposedly written by the witch Beatrice ; she announces that her contract with Grampa is over, and that she will take her gold back as well as the family as interest, except if someone finds the gold first.

(The wording is interesting : she'll take the family, not the family fortune. Sinister...)

Everyone's flabberghasted, and the adults immediatly start squabbling over the gold (much to their kids' disgust). Maria is grilled about who gave her the letter, but keeps saying it's Beatrice.

Later, Battler crosses the path of his parents, and they seem very tired by the whole thing. Kyrie encourages Battler to think outside the box to find who has to gain from sending a letter in such a convoluted way (she thinks it has to be one the 18, and denies there's a 19th person on the island). Rudolf off-handly states that he may die soon. Hum-hum.

Elsewhere, Natsuhi is in despair. Krauss has just revealed to her that Grampa's gold is probably genuine (he's found an ingot), but has been hiding the fact to her for quite a while. Obviously, he doesn't trust her with his subtle games.

Jessica finds her mother in this state, and they reconcile. Jessica gives her Maria's protective talisman, which Natsuhi puts on the door inside her room before falling asleep.

The kids are then sent to the guesthouse, as well as most of the servants (only Krauss' trusted Gohda is allowed to stay in the mansion). We are treated to an unexpected tender scene between... George and Shannon. There was some chemistry there, but a full-blown relationship, with the scene ending with him proposing to her ? Wow, I didn't see that coming.

Anyway, Shannon goes to the mansion to occupy her minds. Gohda unloads all his chores on her, the slob. So she starts checking the windows and doors are closed everywhere. It's midnight...

Next part : Everyone dies.
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
NOT holding a Shoe Phone
Now we get into the meat of the story : the second day.

The morning breaks, and Gohda is nowhere to be found. Actually, several other people have disappeared : Krauss, Rudolf, Kyrie and Rosa appear to have taken a morning stroll, and taken Gohda and Shannon with them. Natsuhi, trying hard not to lose face in front of snickering Eva, makes Kurasawa prepare breakfast while Genji and Kanon look for them. Without any results. In last resort, Genji gives Natsuhi his key to Grampa's study. But Grampa's alone there, so no dice. (Though we are treated a surprisingly nice conversation between him and Natsuhi.)

Finally, Kanon finds a suspicious cabalistic circle on the garden storage barn's door. Everyone else eventually gathers there... and what they find inside isn't pretty. Six bloody corpses, their faces horribly mutilated. (Rosa, Rudolf and Kyrie are recognisable only through their clothes). Everybody's shocked, of course. Well, except Maria, who's surprisingly unaffected by her mother's death.

Later, Natsuhi and Eva go back to Grampa's study to warn him... But they don't see him there. Eva starts suspecting Natsuhi : Eva had put a little piece of paper on the door just after Natsuhi had left earlier, and it was still there as they came in (so the door was never opened). Battler saves Natsuhi with a far-fetched theory : maybe Grampa was hiding under the bed, and left after the two women came out ? Anyway, Eva and Hideyoshi where the last people to see the other parents : the same line of reasoning would mean the couple had killed them... (After all, Eva had the most to gain in having the other heirs die.)

Natsuhi is getting increasingly paranoid, and found a shotgun somewhere that she's now waving around at the slightest provocation. Eva and Hideyoshi prefer to lock themselves in their own rooms, the servants go into the servant room, and all the others chill out in the parlor. (They avoid the dinner room, which looks like a crime scene, what with all the blood spilled inside.)

Did I mention the phones are not working anymore ? At best, a boat will come next morning, when the weather will become more bearable.

Battler pretends to go to the toilet in order to escape the stuffy atmosphere, and goes to the servant room instead. All the servants are convinced that the murders are the witch Beatrice's doing. Battler's obviously not convinced. Then Maria shows up and acts creepy. She claims he's doomed if he goes on denying Beatrice's existence. He's already lucky to still be alive, probably thanks to Maria's talisman. (The other one seems to have been effective in saving Natsuhi, since she found strange mark on the outside of the door.) Battler won't believe any of it, and challenges the witch to commit a murder that's really explainable only by magic. Wait, wasn't he trying to relax ? He'll go back to the parlor, thanks.

Hours pass, and it's already dinnertime. Eva and Hideyoshi are not responding, so Genji opens with his master key, Kanon finds something to cut through the doorchain... And on to the next two corpses. They were killed by knifes screwed into their head. Oh, and it's impossible to aim for them through the tiny opening allowed by the doorchain (Hideyoshi was in the freaking bathroom !).

But what's this smell ? Ignoring all caution, Kanon runs to the basement (where he heard a door closing, even though everybody else but the missing Grampa was together). He confronts alone whoever is there... and is staked through the chest for his trouble (Let's kill all suspense : despite Dr Nanjo's efforts, he'll succomb to his wounds just a bit later). In that room, our survivors find the charred corpse of Grampa (with another knife in the forehead). And Dr Nanjo assures us it's really Grampa : the body has six toes on each foot, a rare mutation Grampa also had.

We now only have 8 people left (Battler, George, Jessica, Maria, Natsuhi, Genji, Dr Nanjo and Kurasawa). And they're a bit panicky, obviously. The boat won't be there until next morning, the killer(s) have already killed several people at once, and have shown an uncanny ability to act through closed doors. After much debate, they decide to fortify themselves in Grampa's study : there's enough room for everybody, the doorlock is impressively tough, and there's even a protective magic seal on the door (with the same symbol as Maria's talismans). There are only two keys to the study: Genji's, which Natsuhi still has, and Grampa's, which Genji had previously retrieved on his corpse. Time to stock some canned food and burrow !

So now they're all confortably inside the study. But wait ! There was another sealed letter near Eva's room, and nobody could be bothered with opening it until now. It just says "Praise my name". Then Battler finally notices all the deaths follow the sinister epitath under Beatrice's portrait (conveniently, there's a copy of both in the room). So everyone turns to the portrait and epitath to discuss it.

And then they discover there's yet another letter on the food tray. Natsuhi is certain it wasn't there mere minutes ago. Jessica, Battler and George were already by the portrait by then, so that leaves only the four others as suspects : two devoted servants of Grampa, one of his old friends, and Maria, who's been creepy all day (though she has perfect alibis for all murders). Natsuhi makes the decision to chase them out of the study (to probably a certain death). Battler gives his talisman back to Maria in remorse, but that's it.

Inside the third enveloppe, there was a new taunt by "Beatrice" (basically : "there will be no draw : if you don't solve the epitath, I win, you all die") and another magic circle. Not having anything better to do, Battler dives into Grampa's black magic books in order to interpret that last item. Meanwhile, the others discuss Maria's behaviour, which is probably due to the fact that Rosa didn't like her daughter much, and considered her a burden to remarriage. That would screw anybody up.

Finally, Battler deciphers the magic circle : it's a symbol for "discord". Which is exactly what happened : with her letter, "Beatrice" seeded discord in the group of 8 people, and made half of them leave the safe room. Well played. While the four are wondering what to do now, the phone rings. Wait, weren't the communications down ? They hear Maria singing distantly, and that's it. (The phone still can't be used to reach outside, of course.)

Our four characters decide to come to Maria's rescue. Inside the parlor, they find the three corpses of Genji, Dr Nanjo and Kurasawa (all killed in the way suggested by the epitath), and Maria standing in the corner singing. She claims she's obeying Beatrice, who's coming back to life soon (all the other steps of the epitath are now done).

Natsuhi discreetly goes alone to confront Beatrice in a duel (she apparently found a fourth letter about this), in the room with the witch's portrait. Even though she has a shotgun, I doubt she has much chance to succeed. And indeed, the four kids find her dead instants later, as if she had shot herself. At this stage, Battler is the only one still denying the witch's existence. George and Jessica have given up trying to find a rational explanation to all this madness, and Maria is the same as ever.

(ellipsis)

When the cops arrive the next day, nobody's left alive on the island. The children's corpses have been somehow blown to bits, puzzle-style. Only Maria's identifiable, through a partial fragment of her jaw. Whatever happened to them, it can't have been pleasant. The cops also find a letter from Maria, imploring them to solve the mystery.

Next part : two epilogues, and my thoughts on the first episode.
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
NOT holding a Shoe Phone
Episode 1, Bonus Scene 1 : Tea Party in Purgatory

So, we're in "Purgatory", which actually looks a lot like the mansion's parlor. Are present : Battler, Jessica, Maria, George, Shannon, Kanon... and Beatrice. Everyone, including the narrator, berates Battler for his stubbornness in denying Beatrice's existence and trying to find a rational explanation for everything that happened.

Beatrice re-enacts the more inexplicable deaths (Eva and Hideyoshi's), as well as those of all the other people in the tea party, just to show to Battler how pointless it is to refuse accepting the obviously magical nature of the plot. But Battler recovers from the assault, and picks up on what Beatrice is really doing : she cannot be revived until everyone including himself acknowlegdes her. So he won't. He'll stay in his defiant posture, just to spite her. Beatrice's amused to find such a spirited opponent.

Other points worthy of notice in this scene :
  • Beatrice claims she'll recompense those who acknowledged her by restoring their lost love : the Shannon/George romance, Jessica's barely voiced feelings for Kanon, and Maria's broken relationship with her mother.
  • In the last moment, Jessica encourages Battler in his defiant attitude.

Episode 1, Bonus Scene 2 : The Witches' Tea Party

Beatrice has invited for tea another witch, the mysterious Bernkastel. Beatrice's openly fearful of Bernkastel, who's recently defeated another witch called Lambdadelta.

Okay, this is a sideways allusion to Higurashi's resolution, so I can't discuss it without HEAVY SPOILERS FOR HIGURASHI. If you don't want Higurashi's plot spoiled, don't read the following. Thankfully for the purposes of this Liveblogging, The "Bernkastel" and "Lambdadelta" pseudonyms have been completely excised from the Higurashi anime, so I can use them with minimal care.

Lambdadelta would be the moving force behind Takano Miyo, while Frederica Bernkastel was the moving force behind Furude Rika (say both names out loud, and notice the similarity). All of which has been excised out of the Anime adaptation, except for an incomprehensible scene at the end where Bernkastel intervened very early in the timeline to prevent young Miyo from ever being involved in the Higurashi plot.

Anyway, Bernkastel decides to slightly help Battler, supposedly out of boredom. Though her powers are a very bad match for Beatrice's, so she doesn't hope much to happen before she gets bored again.

My thoughts on Episode 1

Well, this was a very interesting read. Even though the end was mostly a foregone conclusion once the Epitath was known, the suspense was still effectively maintained, thanks mostly to the bizarre happenings along the way and the impressive characterization of all the characters involved (Natsuhi's transformation from a pathetic whiny bitch into a Bad Ass Mama Bear was especially very well handled).

I was surprised by the timing of some deaths : I certainly wasn't expecting three of Grampa's children to die in the first round. For some reason, I sensed something akin to And Then There Were None, and presumed the nicest people would die first (hence, Hideyoshi would have been in the first lot), with probably the grandchildren surviving until the end. After the first set of deaths, everything more or less went as expected : Eva/Hideyoshi were the only couple left, after all.

Like Battler, I'm quite puzzled by everything that happened, including the closed room murder. I'm convinced that Beatrice is NOT the one doing the murders at random : it would be far too disappointing, and moreover that's what she wants us (and Battler) to think. She could have been manipulating some characters, but this tragedy has to be man-made. Otherwise, what's the point of the story ?

I'm assuming the narration plays fair. Everything we're told is real (or thought by the POV character to be real - it can be hallucinations or paranoid delusions, I guess). Also, that means that the thoughts we see of the characters are genuine : they can be misleading (through careful wording), but not actually lying to us. This rules out Battler as a culprit in this first round (this is confirmed by the first epilogue, which makes no sense if he's involved). Ditto for Natsuhi, I guess.

Then, who do I suspect ?

  • George is probably innocent. The poor guy loses his girlfriend and his beloved parents in rapid succession, and looks completely out of it after that.
  • I'd also exclude Jessica. She seems mostly baffled and distressed during the whole incident, and has decent alibis for most of the murders. Natsuhi may be covering for her a bit, but that's it.
  • Maria is very, very involved : she cooperated with "Beatrice" openly at least twice. On the other hand, she does have good alibis for most of the murders. So, she couldn't do it alone.
  • No idea about Kumasawa, Genji and Dr Nanjo, but I still have a hard time seeing them as big players in the game (especially Kumasawa).
  • Kanon may have been an accomplice at some point, but he certainly rebelled against somebody at the end.
  • Grampa obviously put something into motion. I think he's been outwitted.
  • Eva and Hideyoshi may have attempted something, but their death is really puzzling (and ends their involvement anyway).
  • Shannon, Gohda and Krauss die too early, and leave recognizable bodies. There's also a hint that Krauss may have been killed first, and that Shannon and Gohda just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. So : Krauss may have attempted something at first, but it backfired.
  • Kyrie and Rudolf have unrecognizable bodies, and he somehow expected to die... but the TIPS hints suggest he was unlucky. Again, they probably attempted something, and failed.
  • Rosa is very suspect : unrecognizable body, and ambiguous TIPS. Also, she's too quiet : she must hide something.

Some questions are still quite open at this point :

What is the extent of Beatrice's involvment ?

What can she actually do ? Did she actually commit any of the murders ? How many people did she manipulate ? And how ?

Was there a nineteenth person on the island ?

I'm not talking about Beatrice, but an actual 19th flesh and blood person. I think it unlikely, but I have no way to exclude it yet.

Did any of the victims fake their death ?

This is a definite possibility for Kyrie, Rudolf, Grampa (despite what his best friend and servant told us), and especially Rosa. Moreover, this would open the question of what happened to them in the end.

What happened in the first night, which ended with the six corpses in the shed ?

I expect that several parties tried to act, with maybe some bystanders caught in the crossfire, and the survivor(s) putting the corpses there. Which leaves the question of what each was trying to do, and who survived.

Why (and how) did Grampa leave his study ?

We've been given two possible ways how (through the window with Natsuhi closing after him, and through the door after the women left). But why ?

How were Eva and Hideyoshi killed in their closed bedroom ?

This is one of the big puzzles of this story.

Who killed Genji, Kurasawa and Dr Nanjo ?

Why did Natsuhi appear to shoot herself ?

Also, what was in this mysterious fourth letter that conviced her she should duel Beatrice ?

What happened to the four children at the end ?

Seriously, something horrible seems to have happened to their corpses.

What's the deal with Maria's final letter ?

She was the last person I expected enjoining others to find out what happened.

Why is Tsuru Pettan in the VN's soundtrack ?

Seriously, why ?

I hope the next chapter will answer at least some of these points...

Next part : the beginning of Episode 2, where we actually see Beatrice in action.

edited 2nd Jul '09 3:05:28 AM by Jhiday

Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
NOT holding a Shoe Phone
EPISODE 2 : Turn of the Golden Witch

We open with a series of out-of-order setup scenes about the Shannon/George romance. I'm not going to bother following the original order, and will just do a summary in chronological order. It'll be shorter that way.

  • George and his parents come to visit Rokkenjima (the parents want to discuss some business or other). For the first time, she notices how kind George is to her, and begins developping feelings from him. Eva nearly immediatly intervenes to discreetly discourage her (she's only a lowly servant, "furniture"). Depressed, Shannon gets clumsier, is scolded, and becomes even more depressed. Kanon (who views her has a sister) tries to comfort her, but to no avail.
  • Shannon, in punition for her clumsiness, has to clean the room where there's Beatrice big portrait. There, Beatrice appears in front of her. She thanks her for the care with which Shannon cleans her portraits, and offers to give her George's love. Just one condition : destroy the mirror in the island's old shrine. Kanon barges in, and is very defiant of Beatrice. She offers him the same deal with Beatrice, but she refuses. The witch disappears.
  • Later, Shannon indeed destroys the mirror. We're later told that the shrine is destroyed by a freak lightning bolt soon after. Her relationship with George progresses, and she has regular meetings with Beatrice. The witch has given her a love-helping talisman, and she offers it to Kanon.
  • It's made clear that only a few people can see Beatrice in her current "phantom" state, especially before the mirror is broken. It's explicitely stated that Grampa cannot see her even when she's standing right in front of him. (She affects to find him pitiable for this reason.)
  • We jump to Shannon and George in an overnight trip at Okinawa (actually, this is the first scene in the chapter). They're wearing some very awful casual clothes : George looks really stupid in a T-shirt, and I won't even comment on Shannon's outfit. Anyway, they tread a fine line between lovey-dovey and embarrassed. At the end, George announces he'll propose an engagement to her at the annual family conference.
  • Later, Shannon discusses the trip with Jessica, who's a bit jealous of their love. She pretended to her schoolmates she'd bring her boyfriend to the school festival, but she has none. Shannon suggests for Kanon to pose as one, and so he does.
  • Jessica has been secretly taking guitar courses, and fronts one of the bands at the school festival (she sings Tsuru Pettan, which is an awesome sight). Kanon discovers his feelings for her. Anyway, thankfully her parents haven't heard about this.
  • Jessica starts flirting with Kanon, but he turns her down. Hard. He's very self-conscious of his position as "furniture".
  • Kanon is furious against Beatrice for encouraging the Shannon/George couple, as well as a Kanon/Jessica relationship. He destroys her talisman in front of her. She's very open about her intentions : she's screwing around with them because those doomed relationships are fun to watch.

Thinking about it, all these flashbacks are much more about Kanon than Shannon. Oh, well. Also, a good reminder of how evil Beatrice is.

Anyway, we finally come to the day of the family conference. We get an explanation of why Rosa and Maria were late for the plane : Maria was being difficult, Rosa beat her up, they made up, and Rosa went around town to buy her some candy (and so they missed a train correspondance).

This scene is a very good examination of how broken the Rosa/Maria relationship is. In the past, Rosa used to cede to every of her daughter's whims, which obviously spoiled her. Now Maria's completely unbearable, which of course annoys Rosa and makes her resort to physical violence in desperation. But it doesn't work at all : Maria thinks an evil witch has possessed her caring mother, and just waits for the storm to pass. She never learns anything. Then Rosa feels remorse, and spoils Maria more than ever to assuage her guilty conscience. And then the cycle continues. Though her flaws are understandable, Rosa is a terrible mother. And she knows it.

And now we're back to the opening sequence of the first episode. Actually, we skip a large portion of it, and it's made clear that it's a different scenario through careful dialogue alterations (this time, Maria is obsessed with Halloween).

The "Maria obsesses over a random rose" scene goes slightly differently. She starts blathering about Halloween again, which leads to another beating by Rosa. She chases everybody else, and goes back to the mansion's "adult discussion" after that. It starts raining a lot sooner (it's not lunchtime yet), and this time Rosa remembers she left Maria alone outside immediately. She runs to her daughter, which means that overall she completely misses the siblings' argument about the inheritance.

Rosa finds Maria still in the garden... and then they both meet Beatrice. In flesh and blood, apparently : she even has a different costume (something that barely resembles a cross between a business suit and a western schoolgirl uniform, instead of her usual fancy dress). Anyway, she does a magic trick in front of them, and gives them a sealed enveloppe each. And then goes into the mansion through the front door.

Genji greats her as an honored guest, and leads her to a special guest room. They meet Kyrie on their way, and they exchange a couple of words. Beatrice's especially arrogant, and Kyrie is left nonplussed. She warns Rudolf, Eva and Hideyoshi about the new guest, and they can't decide whether this is a trick by Krauss or Grampa.

Kanon confronts the witch while bringing her lunch. She threatens to kill Shannon & George as part of the "couple of deaths", but accepts not to do it if Kanon licks her shoes and convinces Shannon to refuse George's engagement ring.

Nothing much happens during the afternoon.

Shannon brings the witch dinner. She completely refuses the deal, and states that Kanon was foolish to accept. I agree : there's nothing in the deal preventing Beatrice from killing Shannon & George at any other point in the ceremony.

In the main dining room, it finally comes to light to all that there's someone calling herself Beatrice in the guest room. (At this point, only Rosa, Maria, Genji, Kyrie, Kanon and Shannon have seen her.) Krauss and Natsuhi were obviously not aware of it, and everyone starts wondering if this is a ploy for the inheritance. The discussion is getting quickly ugly, so the children are chased to the guesthouse.

Later, in an isolated room, George gives an engagement ring to Shannon, who accepts immediatly.

(ellipsis)

Late in the night, Beatrice has somehow gathered Krauss, Natsuhi, Eva, Hideyoshi, Rudolf and Kyrie (but NOT Rosa) in the small chapel beside the mansion. She's apparently shown them something that makes them acknowledge her as the Golden Witch.

edit:Rosa IS present in that scene, and even in the "where's everybody at midnight" montage later she's still in the chapel with the others (but not Beatrice, who's back in her room). Hum...

Next part : The second day of episode 2, and things go completely insane.

edited 15th Aug '09 1:46:35 PM by Jhiday

Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
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It's the early morning of the second day, and the staff is frantic. There was a note about the chapel displayed in plain view somewhere (I don't exactly remember), and they found a cabalistic circle on the door of that building. There's also an inscription with "Happy Halloween, Maria", so they call Rosa.

There's only one key for the chapel door, and it's missing. Rosa remembers the enveloppe given to Maria by Beatrice seemed to contain a key, goes searching her (still asleep) daughter's handbag, and indeed finds the chapel's key there.

Inside the chapel... Six corpses : Krauss, Natsuhi, Eva, Hideyoshi, Rudolf and Kyrie (no surprise here). They're sitting around the altar, and someone has gouged out their stomachs, and stuffed them with sweets. This method of death means that the corpses are identifiable without any doubt. On the table, three gold ingots, which are presumably the reason why the six acknowledged the witch the night before. The kids have noticed the commotion, and come to the chapel. They're upset, of course. Jessica runs to confront the mysterious 19th guest, followed by Gohda and Kanon (ordered by Rosa to protect her).

Battler calls for a "time out", and confronts Beatrice in the astral plane or something. They debate for a while about this closed room mystery (how was the chapel's door closed if the only key was in Maria's possession ?), but it quickly ends in a deadlock. Then, Beatrice adds a new rule : everything she'll say in red is "true". Battler somehow manages to use this stipulation to corner the witch into admitting that the key could have been taken from Maria's bag at various points. So there's no need for supernatural explanations yet.

Meanwhile, Jessica finds the guest room empty. Well, of course "Beatrice" wasn't going to wait there : she's even left a letter to brag about it. Jessica's so angry she has aspthma fits ; Kanon helps her go to her room to rest. He goes into the corridor to allow her some "alone" time... and meets Beatrice there. Uh oh. The witch brags that she will be targetting Jessica & Kanon instead of George & Shannon : their couple is more tragic and angsty. Just in cue, Jessica screams. Kanon dashes back into her room.

There, Kanon finds lots of golden butterflies (a sure sign of the witch), which coalesce into a goat-headed man in a servant uniform. Wha huh ? The goat-servant manifests an arc of light around his hand that looks like a blade, and prepares for assault. But wait ! Kanon does exactly the same, and goes in front of Jessica to protect her. Epic fight scene with un-moving sprites ! Thanks to the superb score and clever editing, this is actually a lot better than it sounds. In the end, Kanon slices the goat-servant in half, and he dissolves.

It's not over ! A skimpy-clothed girl enters the room like a ghost, gloats a bit, and transforms into a knife. It targets Kanon's back, but Jessica puts herself in between and is killed instead. Not that it helps Kanon much : he's killed minutes later by another girl-knife.

At this point, I more or less give up any hope that this story has a rational explanation. Not that I mind : this scene was very, very cool, and it's an intriguing direction for some of the 18 people to have genuine magical powers. It does make Battler look a bit stupid, though (or at least, in complete denial of the obvious).

Anyway, the other characters notice it was probably a bit stupid to let Jessica run alone (even if she was followed by Kanon), so they rush to her room... and discover another locked room mystery. Inside, there's only Jessica's body (Rosa makes sure to search the room). There are only six keys to the room : Jessica's (in plain sight inside the room), and the five servants' master keys. Jessica had taken Kanon's key to open the guest room, and it's still in her pocket. Shannon and Genji have an alibi (they were with Grampa) for that precise period of time. That leaves Gohda and Kumasawa.

In his timeout session with the witch, Battler is a bit nonplussed (though he does get the critical information that Kanon is dead and was killed in that room), and refuses to decide what happened yet.

Rosa is getting more and more paranoid. She decides to hole into the parlor with the children, and exiles the servants (+ Dr Nanjo) to the kitchen. Also, she collects all 5 master keys.

Time passes. Suddenly, someone knocks at the servant room's door. It looks like an heavily-injured Kanon, but something's off. (After all, he's supposed to be dead !) Shannon goes to the basement to gather something, just in case. Meanwhile, "Kanon" is gushing blood from his wounds to a ludicrious degree (Dr Nanjo has no idea how he's still alive), and tries to mount everyone there against Rosa (who does have some motivation for the killings up to now).

When Shannon puts some spiderweb on "Kanon" (it's apparently something painful to demons and the like), he goes completely berserk, and kills both Dr Nanjo and Kumasawa in one blow. Shannon is a bit dumbstruck, and survives only thanks to Genji's reflexes and l33t knife-throwing skills. Gohda and Genji manage to overpower the thing, and Shannon makes it dissolve thanks to more spiderweb application.

The servants go to the parlor to warn the others, but they're not really able to explain WTF happened (which is completely understandable). Especially to an impatient and trigger-happy Rosa (did I mention she found the same shotgun as Natsuhi in episode 1 ?). It doesn't help that when everybody comes back to the kitchen, the corpses have disappeared (and yet another closed room mystery ! Yeah !). At this point, Battler's rational reasoning is completely defeated by Beatrice's assault of "truths". He loses his spirit, and more or less acknowledges the witch.

Rosa goes back to the parlor with Maria and Battler. On the other hand, George decides to trust Shannon and the servants. He gets an explanation of what happened, and takes it in full stride. Now, the question is how to prevent being killed by those supernaturals things ? They remember about a talisman mirror kept by Natsuhi in her room. Of course, they don't have master keys anymore, so only key available is... Natsuhi's. Probably still on her corpse, back in the chapel. And they can probably break a window to enter there.

Genji decides to stay back in the servant room, in case he's needed by Grampa. Well, whatever. When the others have left, some golden butterflies appear near him... and he nails them with a carefully-thrown knife. Wow, Genji really is badass.

George, Shannon and Gohda's expedition to the chapel goes more or less well. They're pursued by golden butterflies, but at least they found the key and escaped. They run to Natsuhi's room, Gohda barricades the room with his own body, and George starts searching frenetically for the small mirror. Behind the door, some... things... are trying to enter. Then a Knife-girl manages to go through the door and kill Gohda. Oh dear. Goat-faced servants swarm the room, Beatrice herself shows up, all appears lost... and then Shannon erects magic barrier fields around herself and George. Wait, she can do that ? It works against the goat-faced servants, but even with the mirror's power it's not enough against the last two knife-girls. But this was certainly an impressively heroic scene.

Genji has somehow found Dr Nanjo and Kumasawa's bodies, with the addition of those ubiquituous knives, and warns Rosa, Battler and Maria. They're sceptical, then twig out that Genji is now alone. He tells them the others have gone into Natsuhi's room. There, they find yet another locked room mystery. Eh.

But wait, there's more ! When Rosa, Maria and Battler come back into the parlor (locked by Rosa), Battler finds a letter from the witch. How did it get there ? Well, Rosa accuses Battler, so he's thrown out of the parlor too. He drowns his sorrows with some strong liquor in the dining room. Genji invites him in Grampa's study, where he also finds the witch Beatrice. Battler submits to her, and she makes him her "furniture". The four then go down to the dinner room, where there are lots of people with goat heads/masks. (One of them is Bernkastel, who barely looks at the defeated Battler before leaving. "Sore loser", comments Beatrice.) The goat-people then start eating Battler and Grampa alive.

Outside, Rosa and Maria are running for their life, pursued by golden butterflies and goat-people. Rosa has taken one of the gold ingots in the chapel, and hopes to swim out of the island with it to start a new life from scratch. Nice try, and the shotgun does help quite a bit, but in the end they're overwhelmed and eaten alive too.

Next part : two epilogues, and my thoughts on the second episode.
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
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Episode 2, Bonus Scene 1 : Tea Party in Purgatory

Rosa wakes up in the same parlor-like "Purgatory" we saw last time. She's very groggy and can barely move. Beatrice shows up and thanks her for her tenacity in denying her. What could the witch offer her for this ?

Flashbacks to Rosa's childhood. Basically, each of her siblings treated her like shit : Krauss abused her physically, Eva verbally, and Rudolf did both. Which explains a lot about her psychological problems.

Beatrice offers Rosa a superb meal. In Rosa's state, this is more like force-feeding, actually. Especially once the witch lets the penny drop : the wine is actually Krauss's blood, the "salad of tongues" is made from Eva, the main course is Rudolf, and the dessert is Maria. Rosa hated them all, right ? So there's no problem...

Rosa is completely horrified, and tries to spit out. After a while of this cruel torture, Rosa breaks down and finally acknowledges the witch Beatrice. Has the Golden Witch finally won ?

No ! She's kicked by Battler : Rosa's struggle has helped him regain his spirit, and he's ready for another round.

Episode 2, Bonus Scene 2 : The Witches' Tea Party

Beatrice notifies Bernkastel that she's noticed her meddling, and gloats that it was useless. She's now brought in Lambdadelta, Bernkastel's archrival, to better counter her moves now that she's getting serious in fighting Beatrice.

Alone, Berknastel gives a motivational speech to Battler (I presume : the scene actually looks like she breaks the fourth wall and addresses the player). She's been in his position before (the toy of a cruel witch), and empathizes with him.

Then, it's Lambdadelta's turn to encourage Battler against Beatrice (!). After all, Lambdadelta's goal is to get back the position of "most powerful witch" taken by Bernkastel. If Beatrice wins against Bernkastel, LD won't gain anything. Or will she ? Her powers are more suited to fighting Beatrice than Bernkastel (a "rock-paper-scissors" analogy is made). Anyway, Lambdadelta warns Battler that Beatrice is currently torturing Rosa, which presumably leads to the end of the previous scene.

My thoughts on Episode 2

Well, this was certainly different from Episode 1. While the former could still be argued to have a rational explanation despite all the mysteries, it's all out of the window for this one. It makes Battler's position all the more incomfortable, of course. In the previous episode, Beatrice's existence could easily be denied. Here, she's everywhere, and the surnatural elements are completely undeniable. One may take the position that all the death scenes are some sort of halucinations, and the culprits are really human (which implies that at least Rosa would be an accomplice for the last few ones). But it would completely gut the plot and the meaning of the story. If you can't take Kanon and Shannon's heroic struggles at face value, what's the point ?

Conversely, it would be too easy to fall in witch's trap where she tries to fool us into thinking she controls everything. That's obviously what she wants and needs us to believe, so it must be false. If you pay attention, there's something very screwy with the order of the last few ritual murders. It looks like this : Kumasawa & Dr Nanjo, Gohda, George & Shannon. But the ritual knives are in a completely different order in the prophecy : Shannon, Gohda, George, Dr Nanjo & Kumasawa. There's absolutely no reason for this discrepancy, so it must hide something.

Another interesting thing : we have yet again no idea of the context for the first six deaths. Given the amount of detail we get for the other ones, this also must mean something. My current opinion is that there's an human factor for the first six murders (which, again, points to Rosa), and the identity of these people forces the remainder of the plot. But this is mainly speculation.

There's also something slightly strange with Beatrice. She has two forms : the otherwordly, "witch" one (with a dress), and the "mysterious guest" one (with a suit). I first thought the "guest" Beatrice could be an impostor, but both Shannon and Kanon recognize her as the same person. Still, there must be a special meaning to this (the "guest" Beatrice only appears in casual scenes, while the "witch" Beatrice only appears when something supernatural is going on).

Finally, Beatrice states clearly that she noticed Bernkastel's meddling. Well, good for her, because I haven't seen Bernkastel's touch anywhere. What did she do ? Who did she influence ?

On the whole, I'm completely nonplussed, and have no idea where the story can go now. Battler is stuck in his denial posture, and I cannot see how he could get out of it. Let's hope Bernkastel and Lambdadelta's open interference will spice things up...

Don't take me wrong : I tremenduously enjoyed this episode. The opening scenes were a lot less boring (the Shannon/George romance is goofy, but in a good way). Beatrice steals any scene she appears in (I just love her cackle sound effect and her various leitmotivs : they're delightfully smug and creepy at the same time). All the supernatural scenes are completely made of win, despite their silliness (arc blades ? WTF ?). There's just a slight ending fatigue (it gets very depressing once Battler appears to give up), but that's it. Also, Rosa's characterization was impressive : she's put in a situation similar to Natsuhi in the original, but her behaviour is a lot less sympathetic. The woman has serious psychological issues.

Next part : I don't know. I've finally caught up to the present, and won't make much progress in Episode 3 for several days. Maybe I'll comment on the first anime episode.
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
I'm going to post this just so you know you have my moral support but I'm going to avoid reading it until I read the novels too so I can go back to comment and compare our theories.

BTW: How much time does it take to read each episode? Are some episodes longer than the others? This is including the TIPS.

edited 3rd Jul '09 12:18:57 PM by TheAdversary

Pink Gunslinger
NOT holding a Shoe Phone
I'd say about 12 hours per episode, bonus epilogues included. The TIPS amount to nearly nothing.

The second episode is a bit longer than the first one. On the other hand, the third one looks like it'll be shorter, if the first half of the first day is any indication (there were 4 scenes where the first one had 6 and the second one 9).
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
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EPISODE 3 : Banquet of the Golden Witch

We open with a scene at some point in the past. A young girl inside the mansion has broken a vase, and is afraid of her grandfather's reaction. She invokes her friend the witch Beatrice, who fixes things so that the girl is not blamed. Impressed, the girl asks to become Beatrice's apprentice, and the witch accepts.

This is a very intriguing scene : we're not shown the girl's identity, and this isn't the Beatrice we know. She looks completely different, and moreover has a completely different behaviour (she's kind and humble). Also, she's a lot less powerful (she's quite far from the "Endless Witch" status she has in our main story). I have the sneaking suspicion that this happened a very long time ago, and that the unnamed girl actually usurped Beatrice's name and role at some point.

We cut to the boat on the way to Rokkenjima, which is mostly an excuse for Eva to reminesce over her childhood. And it's not pretty. She was an overachiever, trying to surpass big brother Krauss on every opportunity. But Grampa and Krauss will have none of it : she has to prepare herself to being a good wife for her future husband. I know this flashback takes place around the 50s or early 60s, but the misoginy is grating. Interestingly, Eva doesn't even come off very well from this scene : her arrogance and horrible sense of timing make don't do her any favor.

And now we learn that Eva has the ghost of her child self always egging her on to be more assertive and screw those misoginysts bastards. That can't be good for her temper... I'm a bit suspicious about this "young Eva" : has she been around since the beginning, or is this someone else meddling ? I really wouldn't put it past Lambdadelta, for example. Especially since Eva shares a voice actress with Miyo...

Anyway, we're now at the "Maria has lost her flower" incident. (This episode is skipping a lot of the boring setup stuff that we've already seen twice. I approve.) Again, we see Beatrice helping her (sans Rosa this time), and actually bringing that flower back to life. There are yet more hints that Beatrice was indeed the little girl in the beginning.

Battler calls a time out ! Well, whatever. We're introduced to Ronove, Beatrice's demon butler. I hate the smug bastard already. His only redeeming value is that he often shows no respect for his boss, which is quite entertaining. Anyway, his appearance brings up an interesting point : the more Battler doubts himself (such as last chapter, when he nearly gave up), the more powerful Beatrice becomes, and the more servants she can use. Well, that's what she says. I suppose Ronove could just have been hiding in the background all along.

Then we cut straight to Maria reading Beatrice's letter at dinner. Wow, that was fast. The mandatory bickering between the siblings goes on for a while before the children are dismissed.

The discussion between the adults goes in a very interesting direction (mainly thanks to Kyrie's sharp reasoning). The letter states that anyone that finds the gold will become the new family head. This is an obvious ploy to put the younger siblings (who have everything to gain) against Krauss (who has everything to lose). But wait. The letter's author claims to be Beatrice, Grampa's mysterious financial backer. So she may already know where the gold is, and be using this to become the family head in exchange of the gold. Which wouldn't be that bad of a deal for the siblings, actually : the family's finances are far from healthy at this point. But does the gold really exist ? What is "Beatrice" trying to accomplish by giving the siblings a chance to find the gold themselves ? Is it just arrogance ?

Then there's some speculation that the "Beatrice" person may actually have been on the island all along. The rumors about Grampa's mistress have always been strong, and there's a suspicion he built her a secret hidden mansion somewhere on the island, decades ago. Nobody's ever found it, but that's no proof. Also, was Krauss's failed resort project on Rokkenjima (the "guest house") just an excuse to look for this hidden building ?

Of course, if Beatrice was still alive, she'd be pushing at least 60 by now. But then I remember some speculation from episode 2 : maybe "Beatrice" had a daughter ?

Switch to the mysterious parlor where Beatrice and Battler are starting their game. Battler's opening move is the "Devil's Proof" : there's no way to prove there isn't a 19th person on the island, so he'll chose to believe that this 19th person is the culprit, and that the 18 known people are innocent (and there's no witch involved, of course). Beatrice counters with "Hempel's Raven" : it's far easier to prove the 19th is not the culprit (if they're a victim, or have perfect alibis), than to do the same for all of the other 18 people. Battler counter-counters by pointing out he can add other people on the island infinitely, which would make them innocence unprovable.

Of course, at this point Beatrice could wheel out her red "truths" to limit the number of people of the island. But for the moment, she's reluctant to do it. Battler tries to trick her into saying "The culprit is one of the 18 known people", but then bungles it by acknowledging it's a self-defeating move (since it removes the possibility of a witch). Battler, don't prevent your opponent from making stupid moves ! Of, course, she refuses. She also refuses to state how many people really are on the island.

Beatrice gives the reason for this decision : there was a time when she lived on the island as a human. She didn't know who she was at the time, or why Grampa kept her confined in an isolated building. The only way out was suicide (of course, death is far from the end for witches). Ronove helpfully confirms in red that there is indeed a hidden building on the island, and that such a scene between Grampa and "Beatrice" did happen about 20 years ago. Well, thanks.

Meanwhile, in the siblings' argument, Rosa has seemed more and more uneasy as the existence of "Beatrice" is discussed. (She's already been trampled over and over by Krauss and Eva in this conversation.) Finally, she drops the bomb : she killed Beatrice 20 years ago !

Next part : Hopefully I'll resolve this cliffhanger and actually finish the first day before going on vacation. Then, the murders will probably start.
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
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20 years ago, Rosa was just a kid, and one day she ran away from the mansion into the island's forest. She got lost, and found by chance the hidden building where "Beatrice" lived. She managed to find a hole in the fence, and led "Beatrice" outside her golden cage. Their path took them to the cliff, "Beatrice" missed her step, fell and died. Oups.

But wait, if the human Beatrice died 20 years ago, she can't be on the island now. And Beatrice choses this moment to confirm in red that "there are no more than 18 people on the island". Well, so much for all that speculation about the 19th person...

It's about midnight, and Grampa is alone in his study. He's drawing tarot cards to predict what will happen... and the results are bad. So he calls for his closest servants (Genji, Kanon & Shannon), because he's that kind of bastard. Beatrice is there with Ronove (who is apparently an old friend of Genji's), and kills Grampa as soon as the servants arrive.

Genji and Shannon are fine with dying now (Shannon is fulfilled from getting George's ring). Kanon, on the other hand, rebels yet again. Beatrice promises he can chose the five last survivors if he defeats her "furniture". And summons Lucifer, the eldest of the knife-sisters, for a duel.

None of those fights against the knife-sisters went well in the former chapter, but Kanon eventually manages to defeat Lucifer. It helps that she's crippingly arrogant, and announced where she would hit him. He stopped and caught her at the price of his left hand. Yeah Kanon !

Oh, Crap. Beatrice calls the remainder of her furniture : the six other knife-sisters. Kanon is so screwed.

But wait ! Shannon was moved by Kanon's struggled, and decides to protect him with her magic shields. She won't last long, though. So Genji does the honorable thing and swiftly kills them both through some variant of the vulcan nerve-pinch. Beatrice is super-annoyed, but before she can do anything, Ronove mercy-kills Genji in the same way. I'm starting to like this guy.

There's still two sacrifices to do, so the knife-sisters corner poor Gohda in the kitchen. They're going for the full set of servants, so old bag Kumasawa is next. For some reason, she's waiting for them in the garden... and completely immune to their attacks ! WTF ?

Wow ! Remember the "predecessor" Beatrice in the flashback at the beginning of the chapter ? she's been sealed and asleep in Kumasawa's body for a while. Beatrice's growing power has now awakened her, and she's not happy about what her former disciple has done. It'll be a fight to the death between the two witches, and the knife-sisters are politely invited to get the heck out of here.

Wow, this is an impressive fight scene. Beatrice and The Witch Formerly Known As Beatrice go all-out, draw giant weapons out of nowhere, and even grow giant buildings from the ground as protection. It nearly looks like Beatrice is defeated, but Not so Fast, Bucko!, we're only halfway through the third chapter out of at least four. Indeed, she had actually pulled a sneaky move early in the fight, and killed her former master without her noticing. Eh.

It's geting late, so Beatrice orders Ronove to place the six bodies in impossibly closed places to maximise confusion. Eh. Battler's spirit self, who has seen everything, is completely nonplussed. So I am : what is the point of dangling some interesting mystery threads when everything is explained right away as "The Witch Did It" ? For now, this is mainly a Shaggy Dog Story...

Next part : The second day. Hopefully the plot will go into a more interesting direction...

edited 15th Sep '09 6:31:18 AM by Jhiday

Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
Stopping for five days at at this exact point with this exact misgiving about the plot is absolutely agonising. Play just ten minutes more and you'll see what I mean. smile

(Beside, you can't give up now! Who'll make it back to Ange if you give up now?)

NOT holding a Shoe Phone
I'm spending my (short) holidays far from my usual computer, so I won't be able to come back to Umineko until Friday night (or, more probably, Saturday).

It's good to know my misgivings about the plot will be addressed soon, because it's becoming hard to care about anything with super-powerful Beatrice steamrolling through any opposition.

(I did watch about ten minutes more, but nothing much happened yet - the parents are discovering a bunch of closed rooms with demonic circles.)
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
NOT holding a Shoe Phone
Wow.

I don't have time to write about my progress yet, and I've yet to reach the third twilight, but... this is a very surprising turn of events, to say the least. I was not expecting this at all, despite the heavy foreshadowing on how this could happen.

I like being surprised. This is getting very interesting.

On the other hand, this is a very bad development for the meta-plot : somehow, things have gotten even worse than before. Umm.
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Eh. I've still got no time to do a full write-up, but this chapter is getting more and more interesting, with some very cool scenes (I didn't expect that revelation about Kyrie).

I've more or less guessed the only way this chapter can end (with Eva confronting the witch), and I'm looking forward to it.

edited 20th Jul '09 10:52:59 PM by Jhiday

Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
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Okay, finished the third episode (with still the epilogues to go, but it's late), and...

Fuck you, Beatrice.

(Full summary coming up in the next few days, I swear.)
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
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And we're back !

The second day opens with Grampa and all five servants missing, with five rooms in the mansion (+ the chapel) sealed with an ominous cabalistic sign painted in red on the doors. Gee, I wonder what's inside...

The (remaining) adults break into the parlor through the window, and find Shannon's corpse inside. Well, duh. For reference, Kanon was found in the chapel, Grampa burnt up in the boiler room, and Genji, Kumawasa and Gohda in random other rooms. There's nothing as macabre as the Halloween banquet from last episode, and the corpses are clean and perfectly identifiable (except Grampa).

On the other hand, Ronove has outdone himself with the closed room setup. Each room was closed, and contains both each servant's master key, and the key to another closed room. In the end, the six rooms constitute a perfect closed circle.

Battler's spirit looks completely defeated by all this, but then receives an unexpected pep talk from... The Witch Formerly Known As Beatrice. She's still dead, but is still able to give advice to Battler. She points out that all of the magical happenings are only one explanation for the murders. They could be just an elaborated PowerPoint presentation from Beatrice, and just represent the witch's theory. As long as Battler can present a concurrent rational explanation, he can still win the battle.

And just when typing "The Witch Formerly Known As Beatrice" is getting annoying, she adopts the name of Virgilia. Well, that's convenient. And yet another Dante Shout-Out, I assume.

Anyway, Battler's spirit is back in action ! Virgilia plays Ms. Exposition to sum up the facts (sparing us protracted scenes of all the corpses being found), and Battler ends up pushing that one of the six is the murderer, created the 5 other closed rooms, then locked themselves in the sixth room and accidentally killed themselves. Beatrice has blocked most of the other possibilities (faked deaths, outside influence, suicide, etc.), but is unable to refute this one, and concedes this round.

Back to the island, all twelve remaining people have locked themselves in the guest house : the mansion cannot be safe, what with five people getting killed there. And the guest house is smaller and easier to defend, I guess. Speaking of defense, they've found four shotguns, so it's one for each heir (Krauss, Eva, Rudolf & Rosa). The children (and Nanjo) go upstairs in their rooms, while the adults prepare their guns in the guest house's parlor room. And since they've got nothing better to do, they start brainstorming about the epitaph's riddle.

Well, with Kyrie in the room, this could actually go somewhere, for once. Rosa and Eva also contribute their thoughts, though by the end of the scene they're still far from the answer.

Wait, Eva has somehow sneaked out to the guest house's library, in order to check into a hunch. And not just a hunch : the "Young Eva" spirit is egging her on to stretch her brain and solve the riddle.

Cut to a bit later, and... Eva has somehow solved it ? (Of course the narration won't tell us what the answer actually is.) She's in some sort of underground tunnel, and finds at the end of it a hidden underground room. Very ornate, probably the bedroom of Grampa's lover when she was alive. Also, there are tons of gold right in the middle of it. Wow.

Congratulations, Eva : you've won the witch's challenge. Hope you survive the experience...

On her way back in the tunnel, Eva crosses Rosa's path : the younger sibling has also solved the riddle, but a bit too late. After some posturing with their guns, they reach an agreement : as long as Eva gives Rosa the previously-agreed-upon share of the gold (1/8th for each sibling, with the head - Eva - taking 5/8ths), she'll support her sister and keep quiet about finding the gold (which gives Eva more time to smuggle it out without Krauss noticing).

"Young Eva" has stayed in the room with the gold, and she does not seem to like all this talk of "sharing" the gold. And then, the witch Beatrice appears before her, and congratulates her for solving the riddle. So now, "Young Eva" has won the right to be the new Beatrice, Golden Witch of Rokkenjima. Wait, WHAT ?

The Young Eva is led into some big reception room, where she's dressed in proper witch-y attire, and the various assembled demons all congratulate her. Even the spirit of Battler have joined applaud her for becoming the new Beatrice by using her wits. There's a nicely awkward shot of Battler and the former Beatrice applauding side by side. Eh.

[edited to add] Oh, and Lambdadelta is also there. She claims to have been Young Eva's sponsor to become a witch, which is an interesting claim. No sign of Bernkastel, though. Is she sulking ?

Because it would be too confusing otherwise, the new Witch Formerly Known as Beatrice is given a nickname : Beato (which is much less dignified than Virgilia, eh). It's not actually new (it's been used at various times in previous chapters, usually in derision by Battler), but it's now consistently used in the narration to avoid confusion with EVA-Beatrice. (This nickname is used only in the TIPS, where they insist on still calling Beato "Beatrice". Well, Whatever.)

Back in the real world, Eva is apparently a bit sickly, and goes resting in her room with her husband. Meanwhile, Maria has another of her "episodes", and insists on checking upon the flower in the garden. Rosa eventually relents and goes with her.

(Maria really is a Manipulative Bastard. She starts with her usual annoyingly incoherent cries, and then cheefully announces she'll be quiet for the remainder of the week-end if her mother accompanies her to the garden. Maria knows very well how to pull Rosa's strings...)

In the garden, Rosa and Maria are attacked by the new Beatrice (whom Rosa recognizes as Eva almost instantly. Humm...). Curb-Stomp Battle time ! The new Beatrice completely massacres Rosa and Maria... several times over. And over. And over. With more cruelty than Beato ever showed. The girl is gifted, and obviously drunk with power.

Elsewhere, Beato and Battler are watching this... and Battler is appaled that Beato is enjoying the show. He calls her on it, and refuses to resume his logic battle with her. He doesn't want to see her face anymore, and tells her to get out. (Ronove is still fine for playing the witch's side in interim, since he's got a lot more class and restraint than her.)

Beato appears completely dejected... and it's her turn to get a pep talk from Virgilia. She likens the situation to the fable of the Sun and the North Wind : both want a traveller to take off his coat, but the North Wind's brutal and direct approach is counter-productive. On the other hand, the Sun patiently warming up the traveller is much more successful. Basically, Beato is mistaken on her goals : she needs to make Battler accept her as a witch. There is no need to make him surrender with a direct assault.

Anyway, Beato goes to tell the new Beatrice that maybe she should calm down a bit, and stop torturing her two victims. Battler's rant has obviously got to her, even though she sounds like a complete hypocrite (as the new Beatrice delightfully points out). Beato points out that the new Beatrice still need to obey the ritual in order to properly become the Endless Golden Witch, and shows her how to do it : pushing Rosa on a fence and strangling Maria (come on, we've all wanted to do it by now). These quick (and final) deaths are much more gentle than what the new Beatrice's been doing (or than Beato used to be doing, for that matter).

Beato starts hoping that this will help her get back into Battler's good graces, but no dice for now : he's still not talking to her. (Ronove is still playing for her, but had to concede early for this round : Battler's theory that Eva did it is much too powerful to try countering now.)

Meanwhile, thinks are looking difficult for the new Beatrice, too : she's facing a group of heavily-armed rational people barricaded in the guest house. Apparently, Beatrice's magic isn't much good when there are many people together. Especially with the low-key nature of the murders up to now not doing much to grow supernatural fear (Take That, Ronove and Beato !). Interestingly, it's explicitly stated that despite her power, the new Beatrice can still be killed by a gunshot.

But don't worry, she's got a plan...

(I think it's a good think that I've watched till the very end of the episode by now : there are LOTS of twists later that depend on carefully-written setup scenes that I would probably have omitted without the hindsight.)

Next Part : Oh noes ! The new Beatrice is even worse than the former one ! Can anybody stop her ?

edited 24th Jul '09 12:30:07 AM by Jhiday

Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
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(Eh, I've been having a hard time finding the time to write this. Which is too bad, since it gets very interesting...)

It's now 01:00 PM (I love that clock annoucing the exact time for each scene), and the adults are getting hungry. Actually, not that much, but Kyrie and Rudolf insist in mounting an expedition to the mansion in order to retrieve enough canned food for everybody to last until the boat comes the next day. Hideyoshi tags along, having been given Rosa's shotgun when her corpse was found. (Yeah, Beatrice didn't bother hiding that powerful weapon. Overconfident much ? Or did she know that Hideyoshi would get it, as the only adult male without a weapon ?)

The three reach the mansion's kitchen without too much trouble, but the food cart is a bit heavy, so Hideyoshi pushes it while Kyrie takes his gun. Just before they reach the mansion door to the outside, two knife-girls show up before them, and prevent their exit. So the three split up in different directions. For some reason, the two knife-girls go after Kyrie and Rudolf, even though Hideyoshi's defenseless. Hum...

We're then treated an awesome but nonsensical scene where Kyrie confronts her pursuer. The knife-girls are modeled after the Seven Capitals Sins, and this one is Jealousy. She powers up and becomes immensely fast by feeding on her own jealousy for her sisters (or something, my memories are getting fuzzy). But Kyrie has 18 years' worth of jealousy (for Asumu, Rudolf's first wife), so she can get even faster, and manages to shoot through the knife-girl. Who dies. Wow.

Forget about the mechanics of the fight scene, which are completely laughable : what's actually interesting is what Kyrie says about herself. She and Asumu were already rivals for Rudolf's attention 18 years ago. They both got pregnant at the same time (Rudolf is a player !), but Kyrie miscarried, while Asumu had Battler. So Rudolf did the honorable thing and married Asumu (Kyrie implies that this was all a ploy but Asumu, but obviously her opinion is debatable). Anyway, Asumu died six years ago (and Kyrie does nothing to deflect my suspicions in this speech), and Rudolf married Kyrie immediatly after (provoking Battler's anger). It's not exactly clear when they conceived Ange (who's now 6 year-old, and absent from the island for health reasons), but the whole thing is very suspicious...

Meanwhile, Rudolf's a lot less successful. He's heavily wounded, and EVA-Beatrice has even appeared to gloat. The knife-girl is impressed enough to allow him a traditional duel (back to back, three paces, and bang!) to go out with a bang. He has no chance, of course : the knife-girl is fast enough to dodge his shots. So he shoots and... the knife-girl did not move ? Because EVA-Beatrice was just behind her, and she noticed only at the last minute ? Wow, that was sloppy. Well-played, Rudolf.

Kyrie and Rudolf are now marching on the witch (that they immediatly recognized as Eva)... but she turns the tables by summoning two heavy-duties demons, the Siesta sisters. Beato, our greek chorus, informs us that this is very impressive and that she had trouble doing that back in her time. Well, our protagonist's parents are screwed, then. And indeed, they barely last 10 seconds. EVA-Beatrice then goes into her despicable pastime of killing them repeatedly in creative ways.

Hideyoshi is back, and protests about this. Well, I approve, but this is a bad time to show a spine. So the inevitable happens. So long, Hideyoshi.

Beato appears in front of EVA-Beatrice and tries to tell her she's maybe going a bit to far with the repeated killings. Who denounces her as a complete hypocrite, of course, and proceeds to tell her to get lost. With both of the Siesta sisters aiming at her, Beato obtemperates.

Next Part : Well, things are bad. And I was completely wrong on this chapter being shorter.
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Well, let's try to finish this up. Especially as I've finished Episode 3 for quite a while (I've even started Episode 4), and my memories are getting fuzzier by the day.

Anyway, it's been at least half an hour since Kyrie, Rudolf and Hideyoshi went to gather some food, and the others are starting to panic. I vaguely remember that some characters decide to go and see what happened, and discovered the corpses. This includes at least Battler (anxious to know what happened to his parents) and Eva (the same about her husband), but I'm not sure about the rest. Maybe George and Dr Nanjo, too. But not Krauss and Natsuhi, who have to stay at the guesthouse to protect it.

Nothing really happens during or after the discovery of the corpses, except that now everybody is depressed : the murderer(s) got to THREE forewarned people who had TWO guns. Now, there are only seven survivors left, with only two guns (this time, the victims' guns where hidden out of reach). They hole back into the guesthouse.

Beato's not feeling very good. She barely has any power left, her "apprentice" doesn't want to see her face, and it's the same with Battler (Ronove unhelfully informs her that he's had to concede this round of their game too, as Battler's theory that Eva did it is too costly to fight back against yet). She's starting to understand what Virgilia tried to explain to her : breaking things up without consequences isn't what being a witch is about (and EVA-Beatrice is a perfectly repulsive counter-example) : it's more about helping humans and mending things (remember that opening scene ?).

By a happy (?) coincidence, George is brooding about Shannon's death. So Beato offers to help him bring her back to life for a limited time. He accepts, and Beato leads him out of the guesthouse by... flying out of a second-story window ? Hum... Anyway, they go to the parlor in the mansion, where Shannon was. It looks difficult, but Shannon is resurrected by the combinination of George's willpower and Beato's magic. Happy reunion time for the two lovers !

Meanwhile, Krauss and Natsuhi are mounting guard in the guesthouse's lobby. Eva has conveniently gone to the bathroom. This is the perfect moment for EVA-Beatrice to attack, with the Siesta sisters managing to fire and kill them... from the garden, through locked doors. Wow, those two are quite powerful.

EVA-Beatrice notices that Beato's been resurrecting someone in the mansion, gets fed up, and fires the Siesta sisters in that direction. George and Shannon are killed immediatly. Beato only survives because Virgilia did a Heroic Sacrifice and got killed instead. Now that I think of it, EVA-Beatrice has never seen Virgilia, who IS a "former Beatrice"... That's a good trick indeed. Though Beato's still in a dire position.

Eva cannot find George, Krauss or Natsuhi, so she warns the remaining survivors (Dr Nanjo, Jessica and Battler). Since the guesthouse has proved completely unsafe, there's not much incentive to stay there, so they go hunting for corpses. They find Krauss and Natsuhi's near the garden, and George's in the parlor.

At this point, Jessica snaps, and accuses Eva of being the murderer. They fight around Eva's gun, and a shot rings out. Fortunately, nobody's killed, and Jessica is merely injured in the eyes. Dr Nanjo goes with her to the servants' room in order to find a first aid kit, while Battler and Eva search the mansion.

Jessica's wounds won't be too deep, but she's still mostly helpless for now, what with being blind. Dr Nanjo steps out of the room to let her cool... and is immediatly attacked by EVA-Beatrice and the Siesta sisters. Oh, Crap.

Beato, now openly defiant of her apprentice (who believes her dead), is trying to at least protect poor Jessica. So she manages to bring Kanon back to life, and Kanon discreetly leads Jessica out of the room and into the parlor while EVA-Beatrice is busy slaughtering Dr Nanjo repeatedly. There, Kanon and Jessica will be able to enjoy his last few minutes to live (did I mention Beato's magic is getting weaker and weaker ?). Beato uses the last of her power to seal the door from the outside.

By now, EVA-Beatrice has found out about her predecessor's actions : there'll be no escape now. The Siesta sisters fire on her repeatedly... but Beato. Just. Won't. Die. Both of the witches know that when Beato dies, her shields will disappear, and it will be game over for Jessica. So Beato toughs it out, finding inner force in her last few "good" actions.

The Siesta sisters can't kill Beato, so both them and Ronove start acknowledging Beato as the real Beatrice. EVA-Beatrice's dumbfounded, but Beato knows she can't beat her that way, so she transports everybody to the place where she was playing chess with Battler's spirit. Battler is quick to understand, and challenges EVA-Beatrice to finish the game. On the witch's side : EVA-Beatrice. On the human's side : Battler, with some help by Beato (and... Virgilia ? Wha uh ?). Ronove is the referee.

EVA-Beatrice's first challenge to Battler's "Eva did it" theory is about the bizarre actions of Kyrie. She wasn't hungry : why did she lead the expedition to find some food ? EVA-Beatrice claims she planted this desire in Battler's stepmother. Any counter-theory ?

Well, Beato finds a crucial clue on Kyrie's body. A cigarette butt, but not the brand Rudolf was smoking. The one Hideyoshi was smoking. And then Battler finds the answer : Kyrie must have found it in Eva's room. Why would Hideyoshi have smoked near his ill wife ? The only valid explanation is that Eva was away for a time - when she committed Rosa and Maria's murders ! Kyrie must have come to the same conclusion, and used the food expedition as an excuse to confront Hideyoshi.

All good and well, but EVA-Beatrice counters with another puzzle : who killed Dr Nanjo ? Jessica couldn't do it, she was blind. And Eva never stayed away from a very suspicious Battler who was watching her every move. EVA-Beatrice even helpfully confirms in red that neither of the three was his killer, that there were only 18 people on the island, that each of the other 15 (by name) is dead now, and that it was neither a suicide nor an accident.

Of course, Battler is stumped. And all appears lost... until Beato steps in. She decides to make the ultimate gambit : she'll explain everything, all the mysteries, and how humans were responsible for everything. All course, this will kill her in the same time as EVA-Beatrice, but she's grown beyond such considerations. She just asks of Battler that he closes his ears while she does it. Awed by this self-sacrifice, he accepts.

So, conveniently, we don't get to hear the solution. Well, that would have been too easy...

Anyway, it works, and EVA-Beatrice dissolves into thin air. Yeah !

Back in the real world...
  • Battler : "Aunt Eva ! YOU were the killer !"
  • Eva : "Well, duh. Took you long enough to notice."

And then she shoots him.

Next part : There's still an important scene and two epilogues to go, but I wanted to stop there, for reasons that will become obvious soon.
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In some sort of formless afterworld, Battler congratulates Beato for becoming a "good" witch, who helps people instead of torturing them. This acknowledgement is apparently enough to open the doors to the "golden paradise", where everybody is alive and happy, and everybody congratulates Battler.

Now, wait a minute...

The only thing Battler has to do in order to confirm the Golden Paradise is to sign the registry. But why does this whole scene seem reminescent of the first Tea Party ? And the one in the second episode, for that matter ? Why is there written "I believe Beatrice is a witch" on the registry ? Wasn't this what Beato was trying to achieve in the past few episodes ? Why is Beato sneering ? Why is Virgilia (!!!) sneering ?

Oh, Crap. It was all a lie. Beato never "reformed". It was all a trap to lead Battler to this instant. Okay, it didn't completely work, but there's enough goat-servants in the room to force him to sign...

And then, a red-haired girl crashes through the window (what window ? from where ? who cares ?). She saves Battler from the goat-servants' grip, and berates him for being so gullible. And not allowing her to participate in the game, for that matter.

It becomes obvious from context that this is a teenage version of Ange, Battler's half-sister. Beatrice recognizes her as Bernkastel's agent, and invites her to the next game.

Episode 3, Bonus Scene 1 : The Witches' Tea Party

In the aftermath of the end of the episode, Lambdadelta is wondering who the mysterious girl was. For obvious reasons, Beatrice and Bernkastel are teasing her for her cluelessness.

But as soon as Bernkastel leaves, the atmosphere completely changes. This is actually the first time we're seeing Beatrice and Lambdadelta alone, and thus can gauge their actual relationship. They're not really allies : Lambdadelta is Beatrice's master. She claims she transformed Beatrice into a witch and owns her now. Beatrice is aquiescing meekly, so I guess it's mostly the truth.

Lambadelta's plan is chilling : she helped Beatrice set up her perpetual "murder week-end" so that Bernkastel would be lured in to try helping Battler. Lambdadelta doesn't want either Beatrice or Battler to "win" (she will even help one if the other is in position to win) : she desires a perpetual draw, where Bernkastel would be trapped forever !

Episode 3, Bonus Scene 2 : 1998

Twelve years after the Rokkenjima incident, Eva was indeed the only survivor. Somehow, the police investigation cleared her (though the public suspicion remains), and she's built an even bigger financial empire with the Ushiromiya fortune. Her ruthless methods made her a controversial figure, often called a "witch"... (And of course, the Rokkenjima Incident doesn't help her reputation.)

Now gravely ill, she's on her deathbed in a hospital. She's summoned her only living relative : Ange, Battler's half sister (daughter of Rudolf & Kyrie), who is now 18. Ange was ill on that fateful weekend of 1986, and so didn't come to the island. She's become Eva's heir by default, but there's no love between those two. Of course Ange blames Eva for her family's death, and Eva resents Ange for not being her beloved son George. Eva had taken Ange into her custody, but only to send her into a private school/prison where her life was miserable.

Anyway, Eva has now decided to give her whole fortune to Ange. Which is obviously a poisonned gift : as a very rich teenager, Ange's life will become a living hell. Everybody and their brother will try to get close to her and try to make a pass for her fortune. Worse of all with be Kyrie's family, who are technically next in line to Ange, and sound like a horrible bunch of vultures.

Eva also gives to Ange the title of "Beatrice, witch of Rokkenjima". Er, okay...

After Eva croaks more or less in front of her, Ange goes to the hospital's roof. There, she sees Bernkastel, who offers her help to master her witch powers and solve the Rokkenjima Mystery. Ange accepts, officially gets the title of ANGE-Beatrice...

...and jumps off the (12-story-high) roof...

My thoughts on Episode 3

Well, that was unexpected. Just when Beatrice's "I just ram through everything" act was getting stale, she goes for something completely different. I must admit I was fooled, even as the hints were starting to pile up (Beato's inconsistant power levels, Virgilia's unexplained resurrection for the final confrontation, or even the scene very early in the game where Virgilia suggests the whole plan to Beato). I did start to notice something was wrong when the Golden Paradise showed up, but of course it was too late...

I'm pretty sure EVA-Beatrice wasn't in on the scam. She would have no reason to participate, and most of Beato's actions look designed to fool her, not Battler. Presumably, Beato was stuck with the rules about the one finding the gold becoming the new Beatrice, and used her stratagem to get rid of her. Which worked.

What is also interesting is that we're told unambiguously that there's an "human" answer to everything on the chessboard. And indeed, we have here a clear "who?" (Eva, with at least Hideyoshi helping her), "why?" (to keep the gold to herself), with some of the "how?". There's still some unanswered questions (what happened with the first six murders ? How did Eva overpower victims that were forewarned and outnumbering her ? Who killed Dr Nanjo ?), but it does sound like it should be solvable.

Another positive development is Ange's arrival. I was getting quite tired of Battler as a protagonist : he's too much of a whiny crybaby, and far too gullible. Ange's no-nonsense attitude looks promising.

And finally, we're finally getting a good look of the big picture, the Bernkastel/Lambdadelta fight. It raises the stakes, and makes the story as a whole a lot more interesting, as it explains most of Beatrice's contrived scenario.

Next part : the beginning of Episode 4, where Ange takes over as main protagonist.

edited 2nd Aug '09 7:18:07 AM by Jhiday

Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
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EPISODE 4 : Alliance of the Golden Witch

This episode looks like it'll be a pain to summarize, with at least four main story threads happening in different time periods (or even parallel universes). I'll try my best, but expect quite of lot of Meanwhile, in the Future. Hopefully it will make sense in the end...

We start with a new O Pening : still the same song as far as I can see, but integrating all the new characters from Episodes 2 & 3. It's actually very impressive how good it looks when all characters are still sprites.

Ange's story picks up right after she jumped off a 12-story-high building (in the second epilogue of Episode 3). Through sheer luck, magic or good planning (she had noticed lots of stuff that would soften her fall on her way down), she survived without a scratch. She goes to see Okonogi, an old business partner of Hideyoshi's who had become Eva's trusted right-hand man. He seems genuinely friendly towards Ange, but of course she's now the main shareholder of the company whose board he presides.

Ange presses Okonogi about what he knows of the Rokkenjima Incident, which does not amount to much. He trusts Eva did not commit any murders : after all, the police cleared her, and if she was the culprit she wouldn't have killed her beloved husband and son. Ange points out the obvious counter-arguments : the police can be bought off, and Eva may still have had a reason to kill them both (the 3rd episode actually had some hints in this direction), or they may have died in another way. It's all a matter of belief, now that everybody that was there is dead. Ange is obviously not satisfied with this, and announces she'll lead her own investigation. Okonogi wishes her good luck.

By the way, Kyrie's family is coming to kidnap, er, pick Ange up... right now. Action story time ! Okonogi, always diligent, has prepared a car waiting for Ange at the second basement, so that she could escape discreetly. Ange smells a rat and leaves the elevator at the third floor instead. She goes for the outside emergency staircase, but some goons were waiting down there for her and are now climbing up. Oh, Crap. Ange jumps off the third floor, and her fall is broken up somewhat by the roof of the goons' van. But one goon was smart enough to wait back down there, and quickly pins her down. Is all hope lost ?

No ! A black car comes out of nowhere, stops right besides the goon pining Ange, and an athletic young guy comes out to dispatches him (with a stun gun) while taking her with him. That's Amakusa, a super-trained black ops agent (ex-French Legion, currently on vacation from Blackwater) that used to work on Ange's security. Eva fired him because he was acting friendly with Ange ; Okonogi re-hired him temporarily to help Ange escape Kyrie's family. He was the one waiting in the second basement, and Ange's lucky he kept track of the goons' whereabouts. So yeah, We Could Have Avoided All This if Ange hadn't been so paranoid. Eh.

Anyway, Ange and Amakusa are now on the road. Next stop : the person who found a bottled letter in a nearby island, a couple of years after the Incident.

In the lobby, Okonogi greets the representative of Kyrie's family : Kasumi Sumadera, Kyrie's younger sister. She's her complete opposite : Kyrie was always cool and collected ; Kasumi is not. She's also not half as clever, since Okonogi more or less manages to fast talk her about Ange's escape.

Meanwhile, in the past... Well, it's not really the past. While Ange appears to be investigating the future of the third iteration, a fourth one is starting. So this 1986 has no direct relation to the 1998 future we see. I especially suspect that Eva won't be the "survivor" this time around.

Anyway, Ange is somehow lurking around this Rokkenjima in spirit. She can't physically be there, though (Beatrice has contrived the game so that the 6-year-old Ange can never be on the island). She intrudes into the place where Battler and Beatrice are starting their new game. She presents herself as Battler's ally, under the pseudonym of Gretel. Of course he sees the resemblance with his half-sister, but she says he can't completely trust her (after all, he was completely fooled by Virgilia last time).

Now, Beatrice is changing the rules. In the last two iterations, she was helpful enough to say the "red truth" when Battler prompted her (which allowed him to have solid foundations for his next theories). Now she won't, except when it really fits her fancy. Or at the end of the game, when she will have five minutes to debunk Battler's theories if she hasn't yet. On the other hand, there's no problem with Battler preparing lots of contradictory theories for each mysterious happening : Beatrice will have to show how none of them work.

Basically, Battler has to switch from a single-minded, laser-guided reasoning to a "More Dakka"-style assault on Beatrice. I like. And Ange/Gretel is no slouch on the reasoning front, so this promises to be entertaining.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the Ushiromiya siblings are again quarrelling. But not about the inheritence or the gold (yet) : they want to see Grampa. Krauss refused last year because "Grampa wasn't in the mood", but this time they won't back down. This time, Kyrie leads the assault with a pervasive argument : what if Grampa was already dead, and Krauss was delaying the announcement, for example to keep the inheritence from being distributed yet ?

Now, this is a very interesting argument. It certainly would explain some things about the third iteration, especially the Nanjo murder. The way the red truth about that was worded, it left open the possibility of Grampa's body not being on the island, and the 18th person on the island being an unknown murderer/accomplice. With Gretel's help, Battler points this out, but of course Beatrice chooses not to answer.

Of course, we're on a new iteration. I expect Grampa to be very much alive this time. And indeed, when Krauss concedes to his siblings and goes to try and convince Grampa to see his other children (it was that or paying an ungodly amount of bribe money to them), Grampa completely chews him out for being such a weakling. But he will show up after dinner for an important announcement.

In between all this, we've been getting quite a few flashbacks. They started with Ange's adolescence : stuck in a private school, shunned and bullied by all her peers... Her only respite was then she could hide in a corner with her most treasured possession : Maria's diary, that she somehow managed to snatch after the Incident. When she reads it, she can escape her dreary life in the company of her Cool Big Sis Maria (remember, she was three years older than Ange). And I mean this litterally : when reading that diary, Ange can somehow actually see and talk to her cousin. Of course, Ange's classmates mock the crazy rich kid talking to her imaginary friend, but what do they know ?

Anyway, the flashbacks soon shift to Maria's childhood, before October 1986. Upon first sight, this Tastes Like Diabetes : Maria's hyper-happiness drips through every line of her diary. Okay, mama Rosa often has to stay late (or whole week-ends) at work while leaving Maria all alone at home, but the scenes they do share together look genuinely endearing. But Ange is very good at reading between the lines. And so is the reader, who has seen Rosa and Maria interact without the rose-colored glasses. You can easily gather that (1) Rosa's work is often just a cover story for avoiding Maria, (2) Rosa is hiding her Parental Abandonment to her neighbourhood, making Maria lie about her mother being home, (3) Rosa often goes on evening dates, where she drinks quite a lot, (4) Rosa barely interacts with her daughter anymore, and (5) Rosa recently went on a thermal cure while pretending she was stuck at work for the week-end. (And of course, let's not forget the various instances of terrible parenting shown in previous episodes.)

So, basically, Maria was a Stepford Smiler. And, after a while, Ange duly calls her on it. Maria thinks it's all a question of perspective. She, too, thought her life was crap, until she found a secret... When Beatrice taught her magic ! Cue another flashback... And it's an interesting one. Basically, it happens somewhere on Rokkenjima, with Maria, Beatrice and Virgilia. Maria is already Beatrice's apprentice by this point (curse those generic character sprites that make it impossible to date those flashbacks, but I assume this must have happened one year before 1986). Beatrice thinks Maria's reached a step in her training, and should be elevated to the rank of "Witch of Origins" (specialized in affixing life to objects). And indeed, her stuffed pet lion Sakutarou gets a dedicated cat-boy sprite, indicating that he's somehow got a life of his own (and his speech patterns manage to quickly get more annoying than Maria's !). Also, Maria gets a shiny new "witchy" dress. All this is formalized by an invocation contract written in Maria's diary/grimoire by Beatrice, and co-signed by Virgilia.

There's also some talk about "Mariage Sorcière", an alliance between witches (Argh, the terrible Gratuitous French, it burns !). From context, the alliance is only between Beatrice and Maria, and it's both a non-agression (extending to their servants, which is why the knife-girls cannot kill the harmless Sakutarou) and non-interference pact. Well, I had guessed as much from the previous episodes, especially in the third when Maria was surprised to be attacked by EVA-Beatrice (with Beato making a contrite posture : "sorry, I cannot prevent my apprentice from doing this").

Of course, this scene could all be a delusion in Maria's mind. But just wait a second for an intriguing "confirmation"...

Meanwhile, in the Future, Ange is chatting with an old professor who's dedicated his life to the search of the occult, is very interested in the Rokkenjima Incident, and part of a worldwide organisation of similar-minded people called The Witch Hunt (a Shout-Out to the unofficial translators). Anyway, the Rokkenjima Incident was initially just a gruesome "accident" with some suspicions against Eva, the lone survivor. But six months later, desperate for cash (the succession was still being argued upon at that point), Eva sold the whole of Grampa's occult library. This included some rare or even unknown manuscripts, which made the whole occult community's collective eyebrows raise simultaneously. And started the rumor of the Rokkenjima Incident having some occult origin.

Because of all this fuss, some fishermen from an island nearby to Rokkenjima brought to light a Message in a Bottle they had found a bit after the Incident (here, there is an explicit Shout-Out to And Then There Were None, with the professor lampshading that this is a common plot device in western mystery novels). It's supposed to be written by Maria, and reads like a diary of the two days. What prevented it from surfacing earlier was its content : it claims the Witch Beatrice did it. Also, the police reveal they've found a similar Message in a Bottle a couple of days after the incident. And the handwriting matches the first one. So from then on, the legend of Beatrice grew worldwide.

Of course, there's three problems that could prevent those messages from being authentic. First, though both messages were written by the same person, that person wasn't Maria : the handwriting doesn't match. Second, there would have been no time for anyone involved in the events described to write them, so they must have been written either before the incident (making it premeditated) or just after it (when the only person left alive was Eva). And third : both manuscripts are completely contradictory about the events happening (and the order of the deaths)... and both of them have Eva among the first victims !

All this is common knowledge from anyone with a passing interest in the case, and even Ange acknowledges she didn't learn anything in this As You Know scene. That's not what she came for, anyway. She pulls out Maria's diary, opens a page, and shows it to the professor. From his stupefied reaction, she knows she's hit the jackpot : it's the same handwriting as the bottled letters. (And from context, it's obvious it's the "invocation" written by "Beatrice"...) Having gathered all the information she wanted, Ange leaves the befuddled professor then and there.

By the way, you may be remembering Ange was on the run from the Sumadera family, who of course are monitoring the people Ange would try to meet, including the professor. But Ange cleverly bypassed the professor's surveillance team by introducing herself as Sumadera. So it's official : the Sumadera goons are idiots. When Kasumi arrives and catches on, Ange is long gone...

Next part : Hey, remember when this series was featuring 18 people on an island ? Well, don't hold your breath : we've still got hours of flashbacks to go through before going back to them.
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
NOT holding a Shoe Phone
I've just finished the fourth episode, and... wow. This is an impressive puzzle, with some brain-wrecking complications. I'll try finishing this liveblog as soon as possible.

Of course, there'll still be the Chiru episodes after that... but there's no English traduction of the first one yet, and it's a differently-named series anyway, so I'll stop this thread with the fourth episode.
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
NOT holding a Shoe Phone
After visiting the professor, Ange finds the best way to hide for the night while on the run : a high class hotel for the obscenely rich. No questions asked, and very discreet. Amakusa sleeps on the couch in the living room of the suite, of course : Ange doesn't have any hormones.

Since she can't seem to find any sleep, Ange reads Maria's diary once again. Cue Maria on the passenger seat, this time in her fancy new witch dress. To pass time, Ange decides to do some magic, something she apparently did a bit in the past, but stopped after a while. She had somehow managed to lay her hands on the last existing killing knife from the Incident (you know, the ones the knife-girls become), and now she's trying to invocate this specific knife-girl, Mammon. Which she manages to do, with some difficulty.

Mammon being aligned with Greed, she immediatly asks for her sisters to be invocated too. At the sixth one, Ange starts faltering, and collapses. But hey, not bad for the first invocation magic Ange has done in ages. She'll do better in a while.

Meanwhile, around the chessboard for the 4th iteration, "Gretel" has isolated herself a bit, discussing some stuff with Mammon. She's not supposed to be her master yet, so they try their best to have a friendly if cryptic chat. (I don't really remember what they talked about, but I doubt it was that important.)

Just after Mammon leaves, ANGE/Gretel senses time stopping, with Lambdadelta showing up to have a friendly chat. Basically, our evil witch justs points out the obvious Plot Hole in Bernkastel recruiting ANGE : if Battler wins against Beatrice with her help, Ange's family will probably saved, and return to the 6-year old who is waiting for them. not the 18-year-old ANGE, who won't exist in this reality if Battler wins. So, ANGE will never be reunited with her family.

On the other hand, if ANGE helps Lambdadelta stalling the game, by helping Battler only when he's in danger of losing completely, she could play with her brother forever. Wouldn't that be nice ? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Wow, Lambdadelta only shows up one or twice per episode, but she manages to top her Magnificent Bastard-ness each time. I have no doubt ANGE will recover in a while, but this is a very well calculated blow. I like it. And it makes Bernkastel look more manipulative, which is always a bonus.

Back to the flashbacks to Ange's childhood. Maria has started teaching her magic, which mostly involves summoning the knife-girls and playing around with her imaginary friends. But at least now Ange is happier.

The main problem is that Ange has now become a worse student than ever. Which is a bad thing, because she's attending a Boarding School of Horrors. Her bad grades lower the average of the whole class, which makes her classmates despise her even more. Even when they "help" her by giving her tests subjects in advance, she screws it up. So they set up a "teaching group" for Ange... and the upshot is that now her free time is completely gone and replaced by hours of her classmates humiliating her. Fun !

After a few hours of this, Ange snaps, and orders the knife-girls to kill her classmates. Which they can't do, since there are two many magic-repelling humans in the room, or some such nonsense. Ange's not pleased, and dismisses them brutally. And Sakutarou too, since the catboy is annoying. At this point, Maria thinks Ange has crossed the line (you DO not assault servants of a fellow witch, especially someone as helpless as Sakutarou), and expells her from Mariage Sorciere.

And then Ange really snaps, uttering a soul-crushing speech with so much self-loathing that her classmates are taken aback. Basically, she thinks she should have died with her whole family. Ouch.

Now we're back to the Maria flashbacks... and Maria's complaining about Ange being mean to her. Wait, what ? The Timey-Wimey Ball makes no sense here... For the moment, I'll assume Maria is alluding to something else the 6-year old Ange did back in 1986, because it makes no sense otherwise. (Anyway, it's not as if it matters that much in this scene.)

Maria has been left all alone at home once more by her mother for the whole weekend, due to "work". This time, she manages to lock herself out. Thankfully, the neighbourly shopkeepers warn the police, and Maria's able to eat some dinner and sleep in a bed. But there's now a stern social worker wanting to have a good talk with Rosa. Especially after the police found out that Rosa was actually not working, but on a three-day vacation with her lover. But Rosa won't have any of it, and chews out the social worker. Then she transfers her anger onto her daughter, for not being discreet enough when she was alone. Especially with that big stuffed lion she always walked around with, making her very recognizable. So Rosa tears up and destroys Sakutarou there and then.

Rosa, BEST MOTHER EVER. No wonder Maria turned into a Creepy Child after that...

Meanwhile, in the Future, Ange has arrived on Niijima (an island nearby to Rokkenjima, but with a proper town and everything) to interview some relatives of the victims. This includes Dr Nanjo Jr, and a son of oldbag Kumasawa. Both have received a curious letter... sent on the day before the fatal weekend, supposedly from themselves, and to their respective deceased relatives at a nonsensical adress (the street number is something like 12345678). So the mail company sent them back to the "expeditor" about a week after. (Ange also remember receiving something similar back when she was six, but lost it.)

Anyway, inside the letter was a key and a password for a coffer in a high-class bank. Inside the coffer : millions in cash. The relatives smelt a rat and left that blood money well alone (or so they say). But who could have prepared all this ? On the day just before the massacre ?

But enough of all that. This is a show about 18 people on an island, and we've barely seen them in the last 10 hours. Let's check back on them, shall we ?

Grampa has summoned everybody but the four grandchildren (who are sent back to the guesthouse) in the main dining room. He's very displeased with his children, whom he considers complete failures as heirs. One of the grandchildren may qualify as his successor, so he will test them ; but the adults are definitely out of the running. But they'll still be useful for something : Grampa needs 13 sacrifices to revive Beatrice, and besides himself there are 13 people in the room...

Next part : Everybody but one person dies. It also gets very weird.
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
NOT holding a Shoe Phone
Grampa has barely announced he'd kill everyone in the room when he suddenly summons three Siesta sisters. They immediately snipe Natsuhi, Hideyoshi, Eva, Rosa, Rudolf and Genji. The quota for the first set of sacrifices is reached, so the others will just be kept as hostages. He summons another demon called Gaap (whose costume design is Stripperific Gone Horribly Wrong), who teleports Krauss, Kyrie, Shannon, Kanon & Dr Nanjo in some sort of cell (that's her power). Gohda & Kumasawa manage to escape and reach the guesthouse, where they warn the grandchildren about what happened.

In the cell, Kyrie finds a working phone (!) and manages to call the grandchildren in the guesthouse. Everybody compares their notes, and the hostages decide to do nothing for now while advocating the young ones to hole themselves up in the guesthouse.

Grampa shows up soon after, accompanied by his cronies (Gaap, Ronove and Virgilia). He gloats that the phone was on purpose, so that the grandchildren could be given instructions for their tests. First, they have to lock up Gohda and Kumasawa in the garden shed (which they do, but leaving the key inside : they can't go out, but nobody can attack them either). Jessica goes first to her own room in the mansion, while George goes to the rose garden. Each of them is handed a Sadistic Choice (by resp. Ronove & Gaap) : they have to sacrifice one of the following three - (1) themselves, (2) their loved one (resp. Kanon & Shannon) or (3) everyone else. For the record, Jessica choses herself (she would not be able to stand becoming the woman who'd have done any of the other choices) and George choses everyone else (he was prepared to fight his whole family for Shanon anyway).

Not that it matters much, since they both Take a Third Option (well, fourth... or even fifth, since "chosing nothing, and everyone dying" is acknowledged as a valid option). Jessica assaults Ronove with brass knuckles that are surprising effective, while George declares that "everyone else" should start with Gaap, and immediatly demonstrates his knowledge of karate, jiu-jitsu and capoeira.

Those fight scenes are epic, but alas Gaap manages to subvert both of Jessica and George's killing blows by teleporting them next to each other. Ouch. Somehow, Jessica survives long enough to give a depressing phone call to Battler.

Meanwhile, the hostages have been left alone, and Kanon choses this moment to reveal that he's got psychic blades that can go through bar cells in no time. Time to escape ! Virgilia sends tons of goat servants after them, but they're too big to go through the little gaps in the bars our heroes have gone through. She readies the Siesta sisters, but Shannon manages to BSOD them through her long-distance shields (er, what ?). But just as they say Nothing Can Stop Us Now, our heroes are stopped by Virgilia and a super-goat. Time for a boxing match between it and Krauss !

What has happened to Virgilia ? I know that everything I liked about her in Episode 3 was a lie, but here she's become a stupid James Bond villain with a full-scale Idiot Ball. She's spouting bad guy clichés like "I Lied"... and there's even a counter at the bottom right of the screen for each element of the Cliché Storm ! For some reason, this powers up Krauss's boxing ability. Combined with some Gretzky Has the Ball-style nonsense that sounds nothing like real boxing, this allows Krauss to overpower the super-goat, and make it land on Virgilia. So now our heroes can escape !

But they've barely reached the garden when the Siesta sisters reboot themselves, and take aim. Kanon, Shannon and Dr Nanjo are shot down immediately. Krauss is killed at the door of the mansion. Kyrie manages to reach some random room and lock herself inside... but she can sense the Siesta sisters trying to reach her through the keyhole. She uses her last moments to call Battler and narrate him everything that happened to her group. And then she stops talking.

Battler has barely hung up and started to go down the stairs when the phone rings again. Maria receives the instructions for her own test... and then passes the phone to Battler before going. It's "Beatrice" ! Battler is to meet her at the mansion's entrance !

Battler, using his last remnants of Genre Savvy, tries to gather the help of Gohda and Kumasawa... But as he looks from the window of the garden shed, he sees them both hanging from ropes, looking very dead indeed...

"Beatrice" is waiting for Battler near the mansion's door... but from a balcony on the second story. She foregoes the Sadistic Choice test (since Battler has no obvious loved one, it would be pointless ; he jokes he should put Beatrice's name on the second choice), and instead requests him to repent for what he did six years ago. Battler retorts that his dispute with his father has nothing to do with her, and that they resolved it at Asumu's funeral anyway (with Rudolf apologizing profusely). But "Beatrice" is talking about something else (and it doesn't have anything to do with the two of them, since she didn't exist back then). Battler has no clue what she's talking about, which infuriates her. She leaves.

In his study, Grampa is celebrating Maria passing her test with success. Somehow, this annoys "Beatrice" even further, and she burns him down without warning. WTF ?

The scene switches to the room where Beatrice and Battler are playing there game... and Beato has a new strategy. First, she removes anyone possible interferer from the room (this includes Lambdadelta and Bernkastel, but also ANGE/Gretel). Then she announces that she thought her game was with Grampa's grandchild... and uses the red text in a tricky way to prove that Battler is not Asumu's son. Having an existential crisis, he dissolves into nothingness.

Meanwhile, in the Future, Ange has finally reached Rokkenjima, unboarding on the secret mansion's side. In full Idiot Ball mode, she leaves Amakusa on the boat, and goes exploring. Of course, she's easily caught by Kasumi and half a dozen henchmen. But this time around, she manages to kill all of them by summoning all seven knife-girls (!). Then she finds herself ready to help Battler...

Back to chessroom, ANGE/Gretel manages to come back, and summon back Battler's spirit to the board. She points out the obvious flaw in Beato's attack : Battler not being Asumu's son does not prevent him from being Grampa's grandson. Which he is.

Battler is still shaken by this attack, so ANGE/Gretel uses her ultimate card : she reveals that she is indeed his sister Ange, from a future where he never came back. This shakes him up out of his funk. But then ANGE/Gretel has to face the consequences of her action : not revealing her identity to Battler was the one condition she had to subscribe to in order to attend the game. So she dies horribly.

All this has completely reinvigorated Battler. He's ready to fight Beatrice on her game. Bring it on !

It's now midnight on the first day...

Next part : the two epilogues, and my comments on the episode and the whole series.

edited 28th Aug '09 6:19:17 AM by Jhiday

Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
NOT holding a Shoe Phone
Wow, it's been far too long since the last installment. Especially since I've finished the VN a while ago, and my memories are already getting fuzzy.

Episode 4, Bonus Scene 1 : The Second Day

Nothing at all happens the second day.

Battler spends the whole day looking around, finding the various corpses. Maria is found poisonned in the dining room with the first six victims. Battler even breaks into the garden shed to confirm Gohda and Kumasawa's death. Only Kanon's corpse is missing : as he fell into the well, it's now inacessible for some reason. No trace of "Beatrice", either.

Despite his growing paranoia, nothing at all happens to Battler. Even after he finally fells asleep. Nobody attacks him at all. There seems to be noone else alive on the island, though he obviously can't search it comprehensively.

And so he finds himself wandering in the garden at midnight of the second day. Time for a final duel with Beatrice !

This time, Battler has prepared his argumentation for all of the four iterations. Basically, he argues that Grampa has always been dead, in all four of them. Yes, even the fourth one (this wasn't his original argument, but Beatrice forces his hand by stating in red that "Grampa's status at the beginning was the same in all four cases"). This opens room for an unknown 18th person, which explains most of the mysteries.

Beatrice counters by upgrading "there were no more than 18 people alive on the island" to "there were no more than 17 people alive on the island". Oh, Crap.

Battler nicely recovers through clever if sometimes ridiculous theories (some people faked their deaths in the first iteration ! Some elaborate traps were set to kill people bizarrely - for example Natsuhi in the first case ! There were some impersonators - for Kanon in the second case, and Grampa in the fourth !). Each time, Beatrice seemingly cannot counter. There is a lot of What Do You Mean, It's Not Awesome? imagery with Battler's theories piercing Beatrice's body. It's a bit ridiculous.

But Beatrice reserved her best weapon for the end : "Only Battler is alive on this island right now. Nobody outside the island can affect you. I WILL KILL YOU. And, of course, I am not you !"

Oh, Crap.

At this point, we get the usual cast list and summary of how everyone died. It's interesting how Ange's is just "died in 1998", which opens a lot of possibilities for what really happened...

Episode 4, Bonus Scene 2 : The Witches' Tea Party

Bernkastel and Lambdadelta are hanging around in some bedroom (Les Yeah !). Lambdadelta complains a bit about Beatrice's taste for theatrics : she deliberately waited until the end of Battler's assault to strike back. Even though she had tons of ways to cripple Battler's theories all along. Then Lambdadelta proceeds to lampoon most of Battler's arguments by denying them with red text. She even overdoes it a bit by stating that Natsuhi was definitely killed by a normal human being.

From this conversation, it's obvious that Lambdadelta knows the solution to the murder mystery, but not Bernkastel. Or does she ?

There's also some talk about Ange, as Lambadelta is impressed by Bernkastel using and sacrifying such a powerful pawn so quickly. But it had to be done.

And then it appears that Lambdadelta and Bernkastel are much more friendly than would be expected, as they agree to gang together against Beatrice if it appears she has any chance of winning. Which is logical : Bernkastel wants Beatrice to lose, while Lambdadelta yearns for a perpetual draw. So Beatrice has no chance of ever winning...

My thoughts on Episode 4

Well, this was certainly different.

I liked the future elements a lot : it's a complete Genre Shift into an action thriller, and it works. I'm not enamoured with the ending of that thread (I find the magic battles the weakest element of the novels, and the knife-girls are borderline Scrappies for me), but by then the main focus had thankfully shifted back to the past.

The endless flashbacks could have been a chore, but they're handled rather well. It helps that Maria's sugar-coated narration is subverted at every instant. Overall, it bridges some gaps in the backstory, and raises a bit more mystery about "Beatrice". Ange's flashbacks were a bit more painful, partly because I don't like the knife-girls, but chiefly because her dreadful childhood experiences resonated a lot with me (although, of course, I was never sent to an horrible bording school).

There was a lot to like in the past sequences, but I at times got the feeling that most of it didn't matter (since it becomes clear that barely any of it is real), and the author is indulging himself in truly ridiculous fight scenes. I could just barely buy George suddenly knowing capoeira and the asthmatic Jessica being able to handle herself in a fight against frigging Ronove, but the completely nonsensical battle between Krauss and the big goat was just stupid. Fun, but completely stupid.

The real meat of this chapter is of course the battle of theories between Battler and Beatrice, now that Battler finally has a decent fighting chance and more facts to his disposal. Still not enough, but he's getting there.

Now, we get a lot of interesting information in red here :
  • Grampa has always been dead for the duration of the weekend. Which means that not only are all his scenes fake, but anyone ever seen interacting with him is suspect. Krauss, Genji, Natsuhi and Dr Nanjo are constants, with the addition of Kanon and Shannon in most cases. Most of them had every reason to hide his death (or could have been bought), so I can see it working.
  • Does "Beatrice" really exist, or is someone pretending to be her ? The "no more than 17" statement seems to exclude her existence, which makes Rosa, Maria, Genji, Kanon, Shannon and Kyrie suspect in the second episode - and, actually, most of the adults, because of the chapel scene. What was the deal with that ? (Battler seeing her at the end is no problem, as he's drunk by then.)
  • In the fourth episode, "Beatrice" can be dismissed as trickery : Battler only sees her from afar, and only confirms everyone's death after. There's nothing to prevent, say, Jessica or Shannon, from impersonating her.
  • The "Battler is not Asumu's son" revelation is an interesting twist. It's heavily suggested that he's really Kyrie's son (which would make for some tragic irony), but my main concern is the suggestion that the "real" Battler could be running around. Especially with all those orphans employed by the Ushiromiya (isn't it right, KANON ?).
  • Speaking of which, this is the third time Battler can't confirm Kanon's death himself. Hum.

So, let's think back about all the suspects :
  • Grampa is dead, so he's out. Except that I'm not completely sure Beatrice said that much in red. For all I know, the "always been dead" character could have been Kanon or whoever. Anyway, the more interesting aspect of Grampa's death is the number of people who must have been in on it (at least 6 by my count), which does make me wonder about what else they've lied.
  • Krauss & Natsuhi... I have a hard time seeing them as masterminds. They obviously hid the death of Grampa, but that very fact gives them no motive for the massacre. Their involvement must be limited to wildcards who have no reason to play nice with our killer(s).
  • Eva and Hideyoshi : ditto. I take Episode 3 as a scenario where the original killer(s) lost, and Eva took over the massacre. Beatrice was barely able to save face on that one.
  • Rudolf and Kyrie : there's something very dodgy here. There are tons of hints that they have some clue about what's happening (Rudolf knowing he'll soon be dead in Episode 1, for example). Also, I've read a WMG stating that the Episode 3's initial six deaths felt very Kyrie-like (clinical, and a bit too clever)... and I cannot help agreeing with it. The "Battler is not Asumu's son" revelation adds to the mystery of what their game really is.
  • Rosa. Oh, Rosa... Her role in Episode 2 is very suspicious indeed (the chapel scene alone !). She's also one of the few characters to have seen "Beatrice"... and twice, both in Episodes 2 and 3.
  • Jessica : alas, she looks a bit too innocent to be true. She's one of my prime suspects for "Beatrice" (with some MPD, of course). Is her asthma an act ? Did she know about Grampa being dead ? So many questions, so few answers...
  • George : Ditto, he's too good to be true. On the other hand, he could just be wild card, like his mother (but not necessarily on the same side).
  • Maria : pitiful dupe, or Complete Monster ? The jury's still out. She's got one hell of a Freudian Excuse, for sure. On the other hand, her movements are mostly well-documented, so she can't be the main killer.
  • Genji : an obvious accomplice to the killer(s), that's for sure. I can't quite fathom why he's taken out very early in Episodes 3 and 4, but his actions in Episodes 1 and 2 are very suspicious indeed. Not to mention that he must have been aware of Grampa's death.
  • Shannon : another prime candidate for "Beatrice". Various scenes have proven there's a hardened steel core behind the Dojikko façade. Also, she must have known about dead Grampa too.
  • Kanon : where to start ? No corpse seen in three cases out of four, some very suspicious actions, an orphan background that could hide anything... And he must have known about dead Grampa too.
  • Gohda : I'd say completely innocent and unrelated to all this madness. Which would make him the only one...
  • Kumasawa : I have a deep suspicion she's the original "Beatrice", but the Virgilia connection may just be a red herring.
  • Dr Nanjo : his complete failure at notifying everyone that his old friend was dead makes any of his later diagnostics a complete joke. He's clearly been bought out (possibly by multiple parties), and is not to be trusted.
  • Battler : we've got a clear account of most of his actions... but his background has enough holes to drive whole buses through. I wouldn't exclude a secret agenda, whether with or without his parents.
  • "Beatrice" : I can't completely exclude yet that she does exist as a separate human being from all of the eighteen, but I do find it highly improbable. The most obvious suspects are Jessica, Shannon and Rosa (I find the flashback of their meeting in Episode 3 highly suspicious), but I'm not completely closed to highly bizarre suggestions (such as Kanon, Natsuhi or Battler himself).

That's for the "who". The "why" depends highly on it (though there are lots of possible motives, and hardly anyone motiveless). As for the "how", with all the bizarre closed room murders... I'm mostly dumbfounded.

My only conclusive guess is for the final deaths (the "10th twilight") : I suspect some sort of landslide that obliterates most of the island. It would explain the last victims dying without anyone to kill them, the authorities never finding any clue despite all the traces we find, Eva surviving in Episode 3 (she was in the hidden mansion on the other side of the island), and Ange not even bothering with exploring the main mansion in Episode 4.

Anyway, that's it for the Umineko no Naku Koro ni VN Live But Delayed-blogging. Hope you enjoyed it ! I may start a new thread for Episodes 5 onwards when they're translated, but it will be called a different name (Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru).
Liveblogging of EP 8 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni to start... sometime.
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