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Analysis / Umineko: When They Cry

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This is the Analysis entry for Umineko: When They Cry. Spoilers are unmarked ahead.

The Power of Love

Actually, Umineko: When They Cry goes much deeper than the power of love. Repeatedly, readers are told: "Without love, it cannot be seen". What exactly cannot be seen without love? In End of the golden witch, Battler has an epiphany: in a mystery novel, there has to be a trusting relationship between reader and writer; it is exactly the same as being in love. Without a guarantee that the mystery is solvable, the reader won't be interested, and without readers, the writer will not write.

"Without love, the truth cannot be seen." But Erika expounds on that. Because of love, we also see things that shouldn't exist. I quote from Umineko's WMG page:

[Beatrice is love] "Love is the cause of Kinzo's madness. (...) Love is the impetus behind the grisly murders."
Just as love can bring great things, it is also the cause of tragedies. There are things that humans can see because of love, but love also hides things from their eyes.

The Divine Comedy symbolism

Beatrice, in Dante Alighieri's epic, is the symbol of divine love. In a similar vein, we have Beatrice III, the Endless Witch. The WMG that says "Beatrice is love" is valid. Love is fickle and doesn't necessarily follow human reasoning. Because of love, there are things that are hidden from view, and truths that are exposed.

Virgilia is Battler's guide to reason, just as Virgil was Dante's guide. Without Virgilia, the illusions born out of love wouldn't have been dispelled. He would have given up by the third game if it wasn't for her. However, just as reason can guide, it can also mislead.

Clair vauxof Bernard is the reader of the seventh game, and the one who reveals the final pieces of the puzzle to Will and Lion as well as the readers. Like Bernard of Clairvaux, Clair takes over from Beatrice, who has now gone to her eternal rest, as the final guide of the story.

The place where Battler is trapped in is called Purgatorio. Beatrice wanted Battler to remember his sin of six years ago, and this is where "love" will purify the sin within him. Battler must suffer first in order to see the truth, just as Dante had to recognize, and then acknowledge his sins before ascending to Heaven.


Deconstructing and Reconstructing the Mystery Genre

The Question arcs set up Umineko as if it was a fantasy. Come the Core arcs, more characters appear in order to slowly peel off the illusions and show the truth behind it.

End of the golden witch gives us Erika Furudo, a person who uses the mystery genre in order to sneer at people who are "weaker" than her in solving mysteries. On the other hand, in the same Episode, we are shown the reason why the rules of mystery were formulated; they're not there to say that "there's no need to do this or that", instead, those rules are there as a guarantee that the mystery is actually solvable. The Arc Words, "Without love, the truth can't be seen", come into play here. The mystery genre is likened to love: if the author doesn't reciprocate the reader's desire for the novel to be solvable, the reader won't read it, just like how people won't reciprocate love until the other side says that they love them back.

Requiem of the golden witch is a blatant reconstruction of the genre. Instead of a self-proclaimed intellectual rapist, we have a Badass detective who protects the innocent truths and unveils the destructive lies. We are shown how Mystery becomes Fantasy: by removing the last few pages which reveal the answer. And we are shown the importance of the motive in the mystery: by searching for the person who has the heart to commit murder, we find the true culprit.


Escapism, identity, and narcissism: Mariage Sorciere

Maria and Yasu have both lived extremely unhappy lives, which causes both of them to turn to complicated fantasy lives in order to get through the day. Mariage Sorciere is a pact between the two of them, where each recognizes the other's "magic" and "creations," and bestow upon each other the title of "witch." All of the shibboleths about witchhood (it taking two people to create a universe; witchhood being bestowed by the recognition of other witches) are a means of having one's fantasy self and identity confirmed. In their fantasy world, magic is extremely powerful, but can be undone in a flash by the "anti-magic toxin" produced by nonbelievers; in other words, their identities in their fantasy world are firm until they run into someone refusing to play along.

Problems arise when their identities as witches conflict with the real world, and others that have no desire to validate them. Maria first is betrayed by Ange, who sees Mariage Sorciere as little more than fun, and denies magic when she is no longer interested. Integration of Rosa into her fantasy as both mother and the "black witch" only aggravates her abusive situation; when she throws a tantrum, Rosa becomes possessed by the "black witch" and abuses her, which validates Maria's magical universe and leads to more tantrums. When the Sakutarou doll is destroyed, having included him as a "creation," Maria is unable to cope with his loss, and her behavior becomes increasingly problematic. This is textbook narcissistic injury; Rosa has effectively stripped her of her nature as a witch. The Maria at Rokkenjima in 1986 is one who eagerly fantasizes about the death of the "nonbelievers," and sees the murders only as a way to prove to the others that Beatrice exists and that magic is real.

Yasu, on the other hand, has a much less straightforward crisis of identity. Initially establishing herself as a "prankster witch," her tricks serve to enforce her identity on the other servants. With Battler, she makes the same mistake Maria did with Rosa; she includes a real person into her "universe," who has his own interests and motivations and as such, cannot validate her identity. Genji's proddings drive her to solve Kinzo's riddle; which inflicts an even greater narcissistic wound; her identity as a woman is shorn from her. As such, her identity becomes bifurcated. "Witch" Yasu continues to seek validation from Battler; Battler becomes the "detective" of her message bottles, and everyone "in the know" about Beatrice primarily works to encourage Battler to believe in the witch, to validate her identity. "Furniture" Yasu, as seen through the eyes of Shannon and Kanon, generates an identity from what she sees as a bleak, loveless existence; George and Jessica's actions, in trying to reach Yasu's heart, continually inflict narcissistic injury upon this identity. George's courtship and proposal effectively seal Yasu's fate; her marriage with George is seen by all three as exposure of her real emotional and physical self, and the rejection that entails. Only with the death of everyone can her identity crisis be resolved; as there will be no one left to say that Shannon and George couldn't have been happy together, or that Beatrice wasn't a powerful witch. The real "Golden Land" is one in which her identity is absolute. By 1986, Yasu has resigned herself to a grandiose murder-suicide pact (that she barely possesses the will to carry out even with multiple accomplices), and when it is the adults rather than Battler who solve the riddle, the final piece of her identity is stripped away and she is too apathetic for either murder or suicide.

Ange, the final witch of Mariage Sorciere, was thrown out for refusing to believe in magic, for refusing to validate the other two's identities as "real." While she adopts the other two's "creations" after the events of Rokkenjima, her magical identity is again based around real people; if "magic" is real, then the possibility exists that her family may someday return to her. With no one to validate her identity, and too many all too willing to deny it, her belief in "magic" crumbles. With Ange, however, there is the hope for a happy ending; she is able to reconcile her identity with reality, accepting that although there is no hope of (most of) her family returning, she is able to accept that they loved her, and that all of them were far more than the last and worst week of their lives.

The view of truth

On the Higurashi analysis thread there is an analysis on how our sympathy for a murderer changes from person to person. There is a similar point in Umineko but here it is instead how the truth of an event changes from person to person and that there can be no real truth since it varies so much. This point is reinforced time and time again especially in EP 4 with Ange's stubbornness with both Maria and Eva.

But in the end, what is it that Ryukishi wants to tell the readers? What he wants is to show us is that when we have to look at everything from all perspectives. This is even reinforced with Kyrie's chessboard thinking where she looks at a problem not only from her point of view but also the culprits.

But at the same time what he also seems to say is that you can go with any view as long as you think about it and therefore creates your own truth. This is probably the reason for Ryukishi's rather nasty Take That, Audience! in EP8. He did that because those people who demanded the truth didn't understand it. They only wanted to be told which would mean hearing one person's truth instead of creating their own, the opposite of what he wanted to tell us.