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
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.