Reviews: Umineko When They Cry
Review of the Anime
This is a review of the anime, as I haven't played the games. The main draw of the series is its crazy premise. First it's an And Then There Were None-style murder mystery. Then it's Battler and the witches watching the murder mystery and debating what really happened. Then the Red Truth and Blue Truth show up, which makes it sort of like debating a murder mystery with the author of the story. It's very strange and metafictional, sort of like House Of Leaves meets Agatha Christie. The characters are decent. It's hard to connect to them when they're getting killed off and brought back all the time, and their circumstances and motivations change rapidly. Meanwhile, the witches tend to be insane, playing an incomprehensible game, or both. But the story does put in the effort, and every character gets a moment in the spotlight. The main problem is that it really doesn't go anywhere. Battler debates his way through four crazy murder mysteries and four crazier witches, and what does he get? Not much, because the season stops there. Apparently the anime covers the first 4 visual novels, while the next 4 actually start answering questions. But on its own, the anime has no real sense of closure. Overall, I'd say it's worth watching for the novelty, but don't expect great things out of it.
A [Probably Biased] review of this Multi-Faceted Epic.
When The Seagulls Cry 3 and 4, or for the Japanese title, Umineko No Naku Koro Ni, is a colossal effort in transmedia, consisting on an ongoing manga adaptation, a Japanese animated cartoon, a spinoff fighting game franchise, fan-discs and assorted short stories and, of course, The original Visual Novel series and its remakes. Just the visual novels alone come to approximately double the size of the Russian epic War and Peace. With such a massive scale of work, with such a large reputation to follow and with so many ways to encounter and look at this series, does it manage to stay worth the commitment on all fronts? While the answer is always subjective, the reaction of this reviewer and the fan community as a whole is a resounding yes. Umineko consists of a slow first part where the main family is introduced. While some characters get full episodes surrounding them [The women, and Battler in particular.] some get none at all. This varied family and its servants serve as the love letter and the pale outline of the first part of the story - a murder mystery steeped in horror and psychological tricks. By the end of the first episode, many riddles are presented, including the one that the story revolves around at first - who is this Beatrice, how can she preform impossible feats and does, as she insist, magic exist in our human realm? I will say this. Those questions are dear to the readers and in the execution of thier answers, some felt truly cheated when not all were brought to light. But such complaints pale in comparison to the lessons of the story - Indeed they are based around the arc words "Without Love, It Cannot Be Seen" and "It Takes Two People To Create A Universe." The story evolves into something greater. It becomes a commentary on truth and love. As someone who was raised Wiccan - quite literally in a world where loved ones insist magic exists and that i could not see it. This...creation changed the way i saw my world ; the way i interpreted my truth. The story asks the questions of the right to discredit religion and the right to existence and belief. The story soon becomes a deconstruction and reconstruction of itself and suddenly, the mystery simply just didn't matter. It gave way to something much more beautiful. Such stories are more than precious, and do not be daunted by size. You will come to love this universe too.
A maze where the journey is what matters.
Umineko No Naku Koro Ni was one of my Gateway Series to visual novels, so I admit in having some bias towards this series. Nevertheless, I'll try to be as impartial as possible while writing this. Umineko starts out very slowly, taking its time in constructing the setting and atmosphere with Legend of the golden witch. A certain person on the TVT forums said that it was akin to watching people talk about the whether for two hours. An apt analogy might be a board game — it takes time to set it up before you can play with it. However, once the set-up is finished, the novel gets into the good part rather quickly. At its core, Umineko is a mix between fantasy, mystery and horror. Each subsequent arc throws at you more and more mysteries to solve while subtly (or not-so-subtly) providing you with more hints (or Red Herrings) which will drive you to solve the riddles presented. This makes for an engaging story which will keep you thinking until you're at wit's end. The "sound novel" format works to its advantage. The terribly-drawn art can be easily overlooked after a while; the draw to this novel isn't the art, but the music and sounds. The music is absolutely fantastic, ranging from soothing, classical musiques, to lonely piano pieces, to intense murder-rave music. The sound effects are also very effective in conveying the atmosphere of the story, particularly the endless rain on the island. What I like about the narrative is the Unreliable Narrator aspect. Because of this, you are driven to look for clues from the limited amount of things you can trust about the plot. The narrative, however, occasionally suffers from being so lengthy that the pacing slows down considerably. Finally, the antagonists are simply incredible. You will be trolled to hell and back by them, and you will love them for it. The characters overall range from trolls that you love to hate, to being incredibly badass that you inevitably end up cheering for them. As a whole, I consider Umineko no Naku Koro ni to be a flawed masterpiece. While the ending is surely controversial, the journey is incredibly worth it. Truly, without love, it cannot be seen.