[Visual Novel Review]: Umineko no Naku Koro ni (+Chiru)

Umineko Developer – 07th Expansion (Ryukishi07)

Translator – Witch Hunt

Length – Chapters 1-4 – 50+ Hours

Chapters 5-8 – 50+ Hours

Version Played – PS3 Sprites & Voices Patch

 I am torn. In many ways Umineko no Naku Koro ni is a great visual novel…and yet in many ways it falls short of being one. At times while reading I felt that it would surely become one of my favourite tales. Its sheer energy and uniqueness made it a wonderful experience. However, there were more times I was bitterly disappointed by the way events were portrayed and the direction of the story itself. Ryukishi07, having also written Higurashi, has some kind of odd talent for producing stories with excellent ideas and writing quality that still manage to claw their way back down to mediocrity, and I find it thoroughly frustrating.

 The isolated island of Rokkenjima, the illustrious Ushiromiya family, the Golden Witch Beatrice, and a series of horrific and unexplainable murders. On the day of his family’s annual conference Ushiromiya Battler is drawn into a world of madness in which Mystery and Fantasy vie for control as his loved ones fall dead at his feet. With magic-hurling witches and their demonic familiars on one hand, and hidden rooms with deadly traps on the other, it is up to Battler to find the truth surrounding the crimes plaguing his family home. If his sanity survives the ordeal, he will yet have to decide if the truth is worth knowing.


 Much like its predecessor Higurashi (review here), Umineko just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Predominantly of the mystery genre it constantly challenges its readers to solve the puzzles it presents, with closed-room murders and other unexplainable circumstances being its bread and butter. However, the entire story is more or less presented from a fantastical point of view which is both a wonderful and terrible thing. The inclusion of the witch Beatrice and her various minions allows for a lot of character to make its way into the story, providing a source of brilliant antagonism for Battler as well as a contrast to the ordinary, everyday confrontations and emotions of the story that can be really quite remarkable. On the flip-side, however, that aspect absolutely cripples the reader’s ability to respond to the “challenge” Ryukishi07 poses, as there is almost no way to tell which scenes are factual and which have no truth in them whatsoever. In addition to this there are times that the descriptions of events border on the absurd, completely jarring you out of any feeling of immersion you might have had. Someone launched 10 spears which each broke into 3 rose petals followed by 8 horses resulting in 673.5 lightning bolts…what?!

 Moments of odd writing aside, the most enjoyable and exciting portions of the novel stem from the interface between fantasy and reality. Battler’s arguments with the near-omnipotent witch Beatrice for the existence of mundane explanations for various murders and occurrences are absolute gold and will often run parallel to your own thoughts on how things might have been done. In fact, I would go so far as to say that those interactions are what make the first four episodes of Umineko so much fun to read and be involved in. It is unfortunate, then, that they are mostly dropped for the remaining 50+ hours of reading you would have to do to finish the story. Ignoring for a moment the character changes that I will discuss later, what used to be two charismatic rivals attempting to out-argue each other with entertaining back-and-forth and presented evidence devolves into wild claims with nothing to back them up that readers are forced to accept as truth because of how the story works. At the same time, as mentioned earlier, the scenes you are shown become less and less reliable as evidence as the story progresses. This denies the reader a lot of the enjoyment that may have been expected of the rest of the series and furthermore, for the reader who is trying to keep up with the reasoning being used, it’s a game breaker.


 And here’s where we get to the crux of my issue with Umineko. At the end of the fourth episode there is a turning point where the story starts to shift away from its mystery aspect. While that in itself is not a problem, it was the mixture of the two genres that made the earlier experience what it was and the fantasy simply doesn’t stand up on its own. When the final episode of a huge eight episode story contains next to no references to its earlier mysteries there is something wrong. Setting aside the fact that the plot rapidly declines in quality once you reach Umineko’s second half, it is an absolutely undeniable truth that part of any mystery tale is the reveal. The immense feeling of satisfaction you feel if your theories were correct or the bedazzled wonderment you feel if they were wrong is crucial to a story like Umineko no Naku Koro ni. Let me tell you right now that there is no explanation, no closure, no resolution and no gratification in Umineko’s mysteries. If I were to be completely honest I would admit that there are glances backwards and hints every now and then but when the entire foundation of what makes a story great lies within the inherent mystery there needs to be explicit review and revelation of what has occurred, and Umineko’s greatest sin is that it does not have this. As a side note, when a writing decision (such as not to include an explanation in your ending) needs justification within the text itself, it indicates to me that the writer is aware that it is not a good idea and is copping out of their duty to properly conclude their story.

 Unfortunately, Umineko also inherits some of the bad habits of the earlier When They Cry titles. Higurashi’s chapter format makes a return, slowing down the pace of the story whenever a new chapter begins, though in this case it’s not quite as jarring and makes a lot of sense when you consider the plot. In addition, though it’s not as noticeable, thought processes are repeated over and over again as though we’re expected to have forgotten them almost immediately. Strangely enough, neither of those issues make as much of a negative impact as this third new one. I can appreciate bringing in new characters to keep things fresh; it’s just something that makes sense. Umineko’s cast, however, grows so large it becomes impossible to give a damn about many of the characters. Adding to this is the fact that many of them only show up for an episode or two, making it incredibly difficult to develop a connection with them. Still, side characters being unremarkable is nothing new, right? As long as the main characters remain the focu-

Wait. So you’re telling me (or I’m telling you, I guess), that the main characters of the earlier episodes, the ones the audience has developed connections with and cares about, fade into the background for entire episodes at a time? And that the new characters that mean next to nothing to them take centre-stage for much of the latter half of the story? But that’s crazy!

Yes, but that’s also Umineko.


If you’ve read my Higurashi review you won’t be surprised when I say that Umineko’s original sprites are not good, period. Without meaning to offend Ryukishi07, I would not have made it through any of his games without the graphics patches. Sorry. Having said that, the PS3 sprites are wonderful and fit the original designs of the characters perfectly. In addition, the voice patch features some of my favourite voice acting of all time. Beatrice’s VA in particular deserves mounds of praise; I swear I can still hear some of her lines when I close my eyes at night. Carrying on something good from Higurashi, finally, Umineko’s BGM is absolutely wonderful, though oddly enough I didn’t particularly enjoy many of the tracks that were introduced in the later episodes. As a final note, and I’m fairly sure this is the fault of the patching job, but the BGM is often so loud it covers up the voices and the sound effects (which can’t have their volume changed, by the way) do the same. You would think I could just change the settings and continue without complaint…well, you don’t yet know that the volumes change back to default with every new scene.

 Summary – “While Umineko’s ups and downs may have come together to achieve a lower score than I had hoped to give it, I eagerly recommend it be read because, if you can find entertainment in what I perceived to be low points, you will discover a thoroughly enjoyable experience.” – Is what I really want to say here, and what I would have said if the story had finished after the first four episodes, or perhaps continued with the same level of quality. In truth the latter episodes depart so much from what made the former ones great that it’s practically not worth reading them. The Bottom Line is that Umineko no Naku Koro ni has a lot of potential to begin with. I really loved a lot of what it had to offer, so much that I would almost recommend reading the first 4 episodes and then looking up fan theories online. Heck, i’m genuinely angry at Umineko because i’m so glad I started reading it and yet can’t actually recommend it to anyone. The final 4 episodes? Well, let’s just say I want 50 hours of my life back.

 Episodes 1-4 Score: 8.5 – Good

Episodes 5-8 Score: 4.5 – Bad

 Overall Score: 6 – Average

 Projected Score If Original Quality Was Maintained And The Story Handled Itself Like An Actual Mystery God Dammit: 9.5/10 – Great


About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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28 Responses to [Visual Novel Review]: Umineko no Naku Koro ni (+Chiru)

  1. Lambda says:

    Ryukishi’s love letter to mystery novels.
    I stopped Umineko after Episode 6, admittedly… I really liked the couples, though. Good ships. Reading the fan theories was fun, too (I joined the fandom before episode 6 even came out in English, so people still debated what Beatrice was, the ShaKanontrice and Rosatrice theories butting heads… while I hated them both. Well. Still fun.). I have to admit, it started becoming weird. I felt like it started insulting me because I wasn’t trying to actively solve the mysteries… That was the biggest impression that I got, but I read it years ago so I don’t remember exactly why. Also Beato x Battler dropped off the face of the Earth for some reason and I was sad. Yeah, so I ended up liking 1-4 a lot better than 6 on (I dropped in the middle of 7). I really liked Episode 5, admittedly. Well, the final tea party at least.

    PS3 sprites definitely look so much cooler. I didn’t find the originals bad necessarily, but they take some getting used to. There aren’t any CGs or anything either so those look awesome. Some music tracks are great. I really like Thank You for Being Born and Far, as well as dreamenddischarger.

    • Silvachief says:

      I should probably add a disclaimer that I didn’t really discuss the mysteries with others and actively try to solve them. The people I -have- talked to really enjoy talking about the various theories so perhaps I missed out on that front. I still really enjoyed the first episodes and the mysteries that went along with them, even if I did get that same feeling you’ve described (which I felt was unfair, considering the degree of misdirection XD). Beato x Battler was definitely my ship for the story, which made it that much more frustration when, as you say, they more or less disappeared from the visual novel. I’ll also admit that I didn’t mind episode 5 so much; it’s just easier to lump the second half together and I really didn’t enjoy the final episodes.

      Maybe i’m being unfair to the original sprites though i’m genuinely unsure if I would have kept up with the VN as long as I did without the PS3 ones. The CGs look amazing and fit the entire production wonderfull in my opinion, so I agree with you there. I had to run off and check the BGM tracks I kept so I could come back and let you know which ones were my favorites…and there were just too many to pick from. Special mentions go to Dread of the Grave, Happiness of Marionette, Dance of the Moon Rabbits, Happy Maria (because https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sKv0LqgoXU) and Dir get special mentions. Umineko’s soundtrack is just wonderful and I cannot praise it enough. Just listening to those songs again tells me that I will without a doubt play through Umineko’s first four episodes again some time in the future. It’s far too much to ask, but if Ryukishi returned to Umineko and wrote out an alternative Chiru I would be ecstatic.

  2. fire says:

    Umineko is one of those novels that I’m torn about reading.

    On the one hand, it’s what I like to think of as a “candidate-10” – a visual novel that could reasonably be nominated as a candidate for a 10/10 peerless masterpiece. You look at VNs like G-Senjou, Muv-Luv and even Rewrite; and you can almost always get a “feel” for whether it has in it, that epicness to really soar to the fucking heights of glory. Reasonable people can always disagree about whether a VN is actually a masterpiece; I happen to think that there are serious flaws with Rewrite (in particular, the almost non-existent characterization for the main and final heroine), but I can see why others think it’s a masterpiece – because these aforementioned flaws can (subjectively) be overlooked in favour of the other aspects (the sheer ambition of the story that Romeo is telling) that make Rewrite good.

    Thus I’ve always been slightly annoyed with people, especially those on Fuwanovel, who hype Grisaia up to the extent of calling it the best VN ever. This is truly astounding to me – because aside from parts of Amane’s route (i.e. Angelic Howl), I don’t see how the VN taken as a whole can even remotely be considered a masterpiece. It doesn’t have the thematic depth of a Comyu, or the mind-boggling plot of a Steins;Gate, it doesn’t even really appeal to emotions the same way Narcissu or Clannad would. Whether VNs are masterpieces are ultimately subjective; but whether they objectively have what it takes to be a contender isn’t, I feel.

    And therein lies the problem with Umineko. It’s hugely polarizing – a lot of the opinion I’ve read about seem to go along the lines of:

    Umineko: “Holy shit, this is mind-blowingly awesome. The answers can’t be that obvious, though. I’m shitting my pants in anticipation for the answers Ryuukishi will give in Chiru.”

    Chiru: “What the fuck Ryuukishi? How can the answers be so stupid?”

    Umineko is ultimately a lot of text to go through, and I don’t have much time to spare. I’m worried that I’ll be utterly disappointing, especially since I have a really low tolerance for fucking around with logic and with lazy authorial resort to supernatural deus-ex-machina explanations – since that utterly defeats the anticipation being built up, and undercuts all the suspense.

    All in all, would you recommend reading Umineko + Chiru? How about just reading the former? I’ve not actually read anything since Comyu, busy as I’ve been with IRL stuff and just learning Japanese. I would hate for the first VN I return to, to turn out like Grisaia – promising the world, but failing to live up to expectations.

    • Silvachief says:

      I do get what you mean with the “candidate-10” idea. Often you can get some sort of inkling as to the quality of a visual novel just by looking at the synopsis and sample CGs. It’s not perfect, of course, though I would go so far as to say it can be more reliable than the internet’s “general opinion”. I didn’t like Rewrite myself but I can also see what you mean there.

      Having now finished Grisaia and decided it is not even in view of my recommendations list (not to say it’s bad, however), i’m looking back on all of the wonderful opinions of it i’ve read and wondering where they came from. The only conclusion I can come to on that front is that those people either haven’t played the “masterpiece” titles we identify or aren’t interested enough in those genres to give them a chance. Subjectivity only goes so far and Grisaia does not have the objective quality of storytelling that you -need- to make it into those top ranks. I would say more, but i’ve got a review coming up XD

      Alright. Umineko. Here’s the thing: even after having hated Chiru i’m so glad I played those first four episodes. I went back to listen to some of the BGM so I could answer the comment above this one and was transported back to the feelings that series of stories evoked. I -cannot- recommend Umineko because there is absolutely no closure to be had and that’s a game-breaker for me, but if it’s something you think you can handle then by all means go for it. I’ve been told there’s a manga series that -does- actually go through the “answers” for those first episodes. It doesn’t make a difference to the score I give Umineko (I mean…if it’s not in the visual novel it can’t count) and I haven’t read them myself but they’re there if that sways your decision at all.

      Having said all that, I would lean toward a more satisfying VN for your triumphant return =P

    • Zach says:

      Umineko is fine, but the problem is that the male anime nerd audience who makes up a large portion of its readers is often kinda dumb and fundamentally misunderstood the “truth/solution”. Many readers treated Umineko as if it was, at its core, some sort of giant logic puzzle of red text, and this is objectively the wrong way to read it (Erika even exists to parody these readers). If you ignore the white text and fantasy scenes, the solution isn’t going to make sense to you (because that’s where most of the information about the culprit and motive is revealed). In particular, learning the solution absent a deeper understanding of what’s going on leads to some major misconceptions about the culprit (I don’t want to mention what because of spoilers). Also, Chiru doesn’t shift more towards fantasy and I’m not really sure where people got the idea it did. The game board solutions are still entirely mysteries, and the meta already existed in Episodes 1-4.

      One interesting thing I saw Ryuukishi mention in an interview is that apparently his female reader-base had a much easier time understanding the solution. This doesn’t really surprise me; male readers often pride themselves as being really ~rational~ and ended up confused because the motive isn’t straight-forward and doesn’t involve clear material gain. I think that many male readers were also very upset with a particular aspect of the solution which I won’t mention because spoilers.

      My net take-away after reading Umineko and reading fan reactions to it is that it’s just too much for many anime fans to understand. People who spend a lot of time with “nerd fiction” (anime, video games, scifi/fantasy, etc) often end up having difficulties understanding stories that don’t adhere to the tropes they’re familiar with, and this lead to many people wrongly interpreting Episodes 1-4 of Umineko as a Phoenix Wright-ish story and being disappointed when it didn’t go in that direction. (If this comes off as a little insulting, it’s kinda intended to; I feel no hesitation towards saying that it’s the reader’s fault if they don’t understand the solution after having it properly explained. Not understanding it after playing the game is actually completely understandable, and I don’t fault anyone for that, but many people jumped to conclusions and decided they hated the answer without even really understanding it.)

      ALL OF THIS BEING SAID, Episode 8 was pretty heavily flawed (the manga improved upon it greatly), but I don’t get the impression that’s what most people are complaining about when they discuss their dissatisfaction with Chiru and the solution.

  3. Kai says:

    I thought Umineko would had a better reception than this, lol. If I were to start this, at the very least, I guess I would stop at the first four episodes, and reconsider if I want to continue, lol. Certainly come as a surprise though, since everywhere I looked, everyone had been praising it as “one of the best VN”, and anywhere else I look, they are discussing about “theories” (I just skip them though since I haven’t read it and had no idea what they are talking about), but just nothing negative about the VN.

    Really, kinda makes me wonder if I want to waste 50-100 hours on such a massive series.

    • Silvachief says:

      Some people are absolutely fanatical about it and those are the people that love discussing theories, but as a visual novel experience it’s just not that good on an individual basis. I had a lot of fun with the start of it though so I wouldn’t try to put you off of it. Even just 50 hours is a lot to put into anything that might not be any good, unfortunately >.<

  4. averyhue says:

    The issue with Umineko is it has to be read from a fantasy and a mystery novel point of view. I personally loved trying to solve the riddle in amongst the magic, but I suppose it is a lot to invest in when the plotline is convoluted and the mystery aspect is stifled by all the fantasy scenes. I’m sad you didn’t like the last 4 games since I personally thought they were amazing *u*.

    • Silvachief says:

      Thanks for the comment! I always say that it’s fantastic when people like things that I didn’t. When it comes down to it I guess i’m a little bitter because I was really into the mystery and really into the characters of the first episodes…and the last four took that away from me. I would call that poor writing but if you enjoyed it anyway then that’s awesome because you didn’t have to feel the frustration that I did.

      I’m a little jealous of everyone that really became invested in the mystery despite the fantasy. From what a friend of mine has told me it sounds like people had a lot of fun comparing theories and the like.

  5. Maya says:

    I read your review, and I want to say I understand your viewpoint, you were expecting the same mystery-fantasy and all in EP1-4 for Chiru, and that’s the problem, I guess.
    First part of Umineko was more mystery-like oriented, but the important part of Umineko, its message and philosophy, are in Chiru. Chiru isn’t inferior at all, just very different. By the end of Alliance, the resolution of the mystery is possible, so the story begin to focus more in other aspects that are really important while still giving you hints about the mystery part of the story.

    Ryukishi claimed himself he wanted us readers to reach the truth orselves, to think about it. When you see no clear answers for the mystery, you felt deceived or dissapinted, but have you tred to solve it in the first place? If the answer is ‘no’, that’s the problem, if the answer is ‘yes’ maybe you disliked the answer when it’s revealed, because it’s clearly there without question.
    Maybe the last Episode seemed totally dull and out of the blue, but it has a deep meaning (mini-games aside, that were just for the fun of it), and it gives a clousure to all the characters. Like mystery sucks, yep, but allow me to remember the mystery part of Umineko was ended in EP7.
    Umineko is not a mystery, not only at least, it’s much more than that. If you missed the fun of Chiru, it’s a shame, because (and with its flaws) it was a good job, with a very human point of view and characters (and an interesting metaphorical sense).
    PD: If you’re interested in DIRECT answers, try to check he manga.

    • Silvachief says:

      Hey there, thanks for the comment!

      I’ll agree that a lot of the enjoyment you can get out of Umineko stems from the expectations you have of it. Going into it hoping for a well-rounded, complete experience leaves you where I wound up: disappointed and annoyed. I wanted a continuation and resolution of both the story and character relationships of the first four episodes, when the final four episodes are another beast entirely. From what fans of the series have told me, however, what I was after was not what Ryukishi07 was aiming for. I can accept that, though i’m still not particularly happy about it XD I’ve said it a few times in various places, but for me overall entertainment comes first and then themes/messages form the icing on the cake to take a story that much further.

      I did try to follow the puzzles and make my own theories, and even enjoyed that part while each puzzle was still being covered by Battler and Beatrice’s conversations. I kept going even after that, since I figured it would all be covered later on. I think that at that point, if the novel had said “alright, let’s take a look at how all that mystery resolved and then move onto the second part of the story, the fantasy”, I would have been okay and maybe even enjoyed it. But as the story dropped the characters I was interested in, introduced new characters I wasn’t as interested in, and it became clearer and clearer that things weren’t really going to resolve, I started to lose interest and that made enjoying the conclusion lot harder. The messages that may have been there weren’t enough to make up for the deficits of the story itself.

      But, of course, that’s just opinion and it’s fine for opinions to differ. Heck, you had a better experience with Umineko that I did and that makes me kind of jealous. As for the manga, i’m aware that it’s available to look at and i’ll get around to it at some point, but I feel that those answers really should have been integrated into the original production.

  6. littleshogun says:

    Hmmmmm…………………we meet again I’m suppose

    Well like all of the VN I think it is of course very subjective you like it or not. But maybe you don’t have enough love to love Chiru though.(Just kidding)

    Okay serious stuff. Apparently the direction of this VN is very different from what our ‘dear’ trolling creator expected. First it is in regard of the third episode Banquet which Ryukishi had the difficulty nerfed because complain from all of the reader that the mystery is too hard to solve (And if you finish the game and reading manga you can probably seeing Beatrice facepalm in the end of EP 2 regarding Battler surrender to her. Not literary of course). Originally EP3 would be launched as land and the difficulty is apparently will be MUCH harder than first 2 Episode. Second it is according to many source his best friend who in charge of advice of how the game would be running is apparently dead by EP 6 is in writing and maybe by the time of EP 8 he is not fully recovered yet so it is kinda messed up to many fans. By the time EP8 Manga was written maybe he already recovered from his friend death and so he add the answer that he supposed to be in VN. You may believe it or not though.

    It’s okay if you don’t want to read manga, but the manga may make your eyes open (I was talked about EP8 of course since EP1-7 manga probably the same as Visual novel) in regard of the answer of the mystery and probably make you agree a little to certain blue haired cruel troll. About the music it is as impressive as it can get, having around HUNDREDS of tracks compared to many VN which around 30-40 tracks. By the way do you had interest to add some of Umineko music to VN Music of the Week? If I may suggest best one would be Goldenslaughterer which is theme when all corpse were found and from EP 1.

    That’s all from me

    • Silvachief says:

      Welcome back!

      I had heard before that Umineko underwent a pretty massive change somewhere around that third episode, with readers reacting negatively to Ryukishi07’s initial script. Apparently there’s a lot of setup and foreshadowing from the first episodes that goes unused because of that. I’ve also heard that the manga is worth reading and I may just do that; if it wraps everything up properly it could be the conclusion to the VN that I was looking for. As for difficulty and its appropriateness in this kind of production…I guess it has to balance out with good overall storytelling. These things can be as difficult as you want to make them as long as the way in which they are delivered is satisfying, which was a department I found Umineko lacking in.

      I may consider doing a BGM spotlight for certain visual novels that I feel deserve it (and Umineko would definitely be one of them) with three or four of my favorite tracks, in place of my normal weekly Music Spotlight. Thanks for the suggestion!

  7. Rika says:

    Huh, this was an interesting read, and I’m impressed that you’re still responding to comments on it so long after it was published. I’m a little confused by the idea that the mystery disappears in the second half, though? I mean, EP5 is the first episode to start really explicitly tearing apart some of the fantasy narrative (by revealing the truth about Kinzo’s death and the like). EP7 provides a ton of answers for things like the truth behind the legend of the witch, Kinzo’s backstory, and such – and the second half of it goes into huge detail on the culprit’s upbringing and their ways of looking at the world and processing the things that happened to them (the most fascinating thing about the series to me, actually). This is all hugely important information on mysteries that have been present from the start of the series; I don’t see how you could say it was a departure into something completely unrelated. I’d say that EP7 basically contains everything you should need to make sense of the series in retrospect; the answers aren’t spoonfed to you, but they’re heavily implied and you should be able to grasp at least the main core of the truth by the time you’re done with the episode. The manga’s explicit answers were really basically unnecessary and detract from the subtle presentation of the original for me; it was all there already, really, and the delicate way the culprit’s heart was handled in the original touched me and stayed with me much more than the blunt, relentless hammering of the point that the manga employs.

    I respect that you might be frustrated with the way the series went, and I’ll admit Chiru was a drastic change in tone that may not have been welcome; personally, I love EP5 and EP7 to death but EP6 and EP8 are both pretty sloppily handled to me. But I don’t understand how you could think that it totally abandoned the story and the characters that were emphasised in the first half. Battler, Beatrice, and Ange’s character arcs all got basically perfect closure through Chiru in the end, and all the main issues around the peripheral characters like Maria, Kinzo, Natsuhi and the rest were explored more than satisfactorily to me. There can be no true resolution for them because they died in 1986 (or before in Kinzo’s case), but Ange can understand their stories, learn from them and move on. EP8 is a bumpy ride in many respects, but the note it ended on was a perfect conclusion as far as I was concerned.

    • Silvachief says:

      Thanks for the comment =) I try to reply to everyone who takes the time to leave one as a matter of good practice. As you say, however, it’s been a while since I played Umineko, which means my recollection of its events isn’t the best.

      I am forced to admit that some of my issues with the story stem from the expectations I had based on the earlier episodes, and that some others are born from my attempt to treat Umineko as a normal, linear story. When I talk about the second half, I make a huge generalization because it’s easier to write a review without pointing to specific episodes (I feel like that’s okay to do here, because this is aimed at people who haven’t read the visual novel). The second half -does- have important revelations that contribute to the story positively (except for episode 8, which is what I write in the review), but the number of mysteries that are left behind – the howdunnit, if you will – that could have been explored for the audience’s gratification or illumination, was horrendously large. While it was probably Ryukishi07’s intention all along to leave people wondering if they really have the right idea of what happened, which he accomplished, I personally don’t think that makes for good storytelling. It’s a subjective view, admittedly, though I would argue that that’s what reviews are all about.

      The other issue I had with the latter episodes was the character switching. This is partially stubbornness on my part but I think many people would agree that dramatically changing main characters part-way through a story damages the reader’s ability to feel a connection to them. Furude Erica and the other witches couldn’t live up to Beatrice’s performance, and the guy from EP7 (at least I think it was that episode) was not a suitable stand-in for Battler (heck, I don’t even remember his name). By the time the last episode came along, I had more or less stopped caring and was reading by inertia alone.

      So some of my evaluation is a result of my personal preferences and expectations, which i’m happy to admit. At the same time I would argue that Ryukishi07 made some terrible decisions on how to move forward with the story. Just about everyone agrees that Chiru felt different; while many people were able to move on with that and enjoy themselves, it simply didn’t work for me, which was disappointing considering how much I enjoyed Umineko’s first half.

      I hope that’s a decent response to what you’ve written (i’m bashing this out quickly before rushing off). Just let me know if you think i’ve missed out on addressing anything, and thanks again for commenting!

      • Rika says:

        Thank you for responding! Of course you are entitled to your opinion, but I do feel obligated to at least defend Ryukishi on some things. I didn’t personally feel like there was a major shift in terms of suddenly dumping old characters for newer ones in the second half, or at least not any more than there was in the first half – I don’t think Will being suddenly introduced as the main viewpoint for half of EP7 was really fundamentally different to Ange being suddenly introduced as the main viewpoint for half of EP4, for example. Granted, I’m biased in this respect since I consider Will to be a really interesting character and found him to be a perfect fit for his role in the story without ever feeling like he was taking the spotlight for himself, but naturally you can’t help it if he didn’t work for you. Still, I would argue that the new characters were mainly introduced to further the existing characters’ development in ways that were generally successful for me. Erika’s attitude toward mysteries, for example, is a large part of what really gave Battler the wake-up call he needed to seriously re-evaluate his perspective and figure out what he really needed to be fighting against; she isn’t a replacement for Beatrice, she has a fundamentally different antagonistic role as someone whose perspective Battler is genuinely horrified and repelled by (even though he does feel sympathy for her in the end), whereas Beatrice was someone who he actually fell in love with very quickly for all he tried to deny it to himself. And Will and Lion are both hugely important to Beatrice, and say so much about her and the things that she wished for (the person she wished to understand her, and the person she wished she had been). I never felt that the new characters did anything but deepen my understanding and appreciation of the existing cast.

        As for the ‘how dunnit’, I’d argue that enough information was given in EP7 that you could probably deduce the basic idea of what happened in most cases with a little thought. I can understand wanting a more detailed breakdown of exactly what happened with each murder, but for me that would have detracted from Beatrice’s emotional arc and the tone of EP7 in general. Like Will says when Bern asks if he’s going to put Beatrice to rest with a big flashy fight of red and blue – “that’s not what they want any more”. What matters, I think, from a storytelling perspective, was that Will had fully understood her, and put her heart at rest; the details of the murders are hinted at adequately, for the die-hard fans to analyse to their heart’s content, but they weren’t the focus of the story and I don’t believe they should have been. You are free to disagree, but it’s unfair to say it wasn’t even touched on, I think. It just wasn’t what ultimately mattered about Umineko – the ‘why dunnit’ was. If you weren’t interested in that, then it’s understandable that the second half of the series didn’t work for you. But I feel that the series was consistent from beginning to end in its focus on the questions of “Who is Beatrice?” and “What is magic and why do people need it?” It’s not so much that the series wasn’t really a mystery, it’s just that it was maybe not the particular kind of mystery that people were expecting.

        You don’t have to feel obligated to respond to this or anything – ultimately, you couldn’t enjoy the second half, and of course anything I say isn’t going to change that, so you’re certainly not obligated to justify your perspective any more than you have – but I just wanted to offer a different opinion on Umineko’s integrity as a story, at least.

        • Silvachief says:

          Of everything that others have said to me about Umineko, I would say that your well-developed thoughts have contributed the most towards making me consider playing it again (when that will happen…we’ll see =P). I find it difficult to respond to them because of the year or so it’s been since my first playthrough, but i’ll say what I can (because I enjoy the discussion rather than because this is the internet and how dare you not share my opinion XD).

          I actually thought Ange’s inclusion was somewhat jarring as well, though it was the later episodes that stood out at me more because I felt like the characters that were more important to me had been replaced rather than simply set to the side temporarily. I don’t think that Will or his companion were bad characters per se, just that they weren’t what I wanted from Umineko; they were only one of the factors that made me feel that the storyline (or perhaps the storytelling) had gone off the rails. I’d get annoyed at any plot that replaced the main character 3/4 of the way through. I’ll fold and admit that Erica’s inclusion did have some positive effects on the experience. The contrast to Beatrice’s way of doing things was a good one that contributed significantly to Battler’s development. The other witches didn’t contribute much, in my opinion.

          The next two points are ones that are difficult for me. Some of that is because I turned off a little in episode 7 and 8, meaning that it’s not impossible that I was too annoyed to experience the story properly. The rest of that is, of course, because it’s hard to say that I couldn’t be bothered taking the time to sit back and really think about the mysteries. I’ve said before that, for me at least, the level to which I enjoy any story comes before whatever messages or themes that story tries to convey. Consequently, if I don’t have fun reading I lose a whole layer of further potential enjoyment, which in turn means that the vast majority of commentary I make focuses on features that I think were detrimental to enjoyment rather than in-depth literary quality. I hope you can understand what i’m trying to say with this, because I’ve come up with it on the fly =P

          Anyway, that’s all the result of some reflection i’ve tried to do on why my thought processes regarding Umineko take such a different direction to the people that loved it to bits. In the end, I still feel that many of the features others consider justified by their themes and deeper contribution to the narrative are, on the surface, detrimental to the quality of the base experience. I think that an explicit coverage of the howdunnit and a story that remained consistent with its characters (that is, one that temporarily set its characters aside rather than effectively replacing them – perhaps this has something to do with how long a story spends being told from the perspective of different characters) would have allowed for even better exploration of those central themes and ideas/goals that would have allowed them to reach a wider audience. There are other features that would be important for that, but those are the ones we’ve discussed in the comments.

          Of course, either way of evaluating Umineko or other stories is valid; I just happen to have been unfortunate and ended up with the mindset that precluded my enjoyment >.<

        • gugmt15 says:

          You are completely right, that is the whole point of Umineko, you got the heart of it, no need to add anything more. Thanks for defending its honor :’)

        • Zach says:

          I mostly agree with your post, though there is one element to the culprit’s motive that I felt the game was a bit too vague about (if you’ve read the manga, basically some of the stuff mentions in Confession of the Golden Witch). There are plenty of hints in the game (particularly in Episode 2), but it’s difficult to really pin anything down, much less to fully understanding what’s going on. Without knowledge of this motive, you’re just left with the stuff you learn in Episode 7, which – by itself – is an insufficient motive for their (planned) crimes. As you mentioned, solving the howdunnit isn’t too hard with just the game itself, but there are many elements to the whydunnit and some could have been better elaborated upon within the game itself.

          Ultimately what I defend about Umineko is its core story/characters/solution (which I consider to undeniably be the best in any anime/VN/video game), but there are definitely some elements to the execution that are questionable and I feel like some things should have been made a little clearer. I think it’s good that he made things explicit in the manga, just so people can at least understand the full truth and then “unlock” a lot of the hints that exist throughout the game.

  8. NukeTheDestroyer says:

    Let’s just leave this here.
    EP7 > EP6 > EP4 > EP3 > EP5 > EP2 > EP1 > EP8

    • Silvachief says:

      Urk, here’s where I realize I can’t remember what happened in each individual episode…but I don’t think I totally disagree with this. While EP8 was definitely the worst in my opinion as well I would say I enjoyed myself the most from EP 2-4. As far as I can remember my 1-4/5-8 split was mostly arbitrary because 5 and 6 weren’t necessarily bad though 7 definitely wasn’t high on my list.

  9. Pingback: [Visual Novel Review]: Ayakashibito | The Geek Clinic

  10. So I just found this, I’m partway through a re read of the story now, and I can definitely say that if you go into the story knowing the whodunnit, the howdunnit reveals itself very quickly.

    If you want, check out the goldsmith on YouTube, he does edits of the manga with music from umineko, specifically look at the funeral of the witch (this explicitly outlines how each twilight was carried out in Ep 1-4) and a section known as confession of the golden witch (a manga only chapter in Ep 8) which explicitly shows who the culprit is, and why they are the way they are, and how they became recognised as a witch by lambdadelta and outlines everything leading up to the day battler arrived on the island

    • Silvachief says:

      I’ve just recently decided that I’ll be replaying the first 4 episodes of Umineko at some point because of how much I adore the interactions between Beatrice and Battler. When I do so I’ll probably look up Goldsmith’s stuff so that I can finally have an opinion of the manga and how it relates to the VN.

      May even rope a few friends into reading at the same time so we can discuss as we go.

      With those two plans in place I might have a better opinion of Umineko in the future, though i’m not sure the second half could ever been redeemed for me.

      • Zach says:

        I highly recommend playing close attention to Battler/Beato’s interactions on your second playthrough, because it’s very easy to misunderstand what’s going on your first time through (primarily in terms of understanding Beato’s perspective and motivations). You also realize that Beato really wasn’t kidding with her “You are incompetent!” red text, haha.

        By the way, sorry for a reply I made to another comment being kind of mean. I would have edited it but couldn’t figure out how. I stand by my negative feelings towards people who dismiss/reject the solution after understanding it, but I think it’s reasonable for someone to play through the game and not understand things without having it explained to them first. A big point of the game is the idea of having trust in the author, and many people jumped to conclusions about what they perceived to be flaws (like the whole “becoming too much of a fantasy” complaint) without really understanding things to begin with.

        • Silvachief says:

          No worries about your comments potentially seeming mean. It’s easy to misinterpret tone when communicating via text, so I try to focus on content most of the time.

          I’m definitely going to give Umineko another shot, probably at the same time as a friend so we can have the discussions a lot of the original fans say they really enjoyed. I also plan to read through the manga as I go.

          I’ll even play the second half again and try to be open to what it’s trying to do, though I don’t think it’s quite fair to say disliking the second half for its change in focus is related to jumping to conclusions (I realise you said in an earlier comment that you don’t agree with there being more fantasy content, and i’ll re-evaluate that on my second read-through as well). It may well be that the second half furthers an agenda I didn’t pick up on in the first half, though it may also simply be that I don’t enjoy the second half as much, regardless of what the author intended to accomplish with it.

          Perhaps I should write a series of posts to accompany my playthrough…

  11. Matteste says:

    I have to say, thanks for writing this.

    I decided to give Umineko a read after the praise I heard for it. And while the first half was rather decent, the second half left such a sour and bitter taste in my mouth.

    Though my main problems ended up being a little different from what you mentioned (though not entirely) But my main ones where Battlers bizarre 180 in personality that is never properly explained why it happened. A fault of the narrative being so dead set on being vague and using the unreliable narrator that it ends up hurting it’s core narrative. Making things worse is that it erodes any trust in the narrative to the point that you can’t go through any scene without questioning it, killing any sort of character drama. Even the supposed emotional ones are destroyed thanks to it.

    And then the complete 180 in themes where it completely contradicts what was set up earlier. In episode 8 it basically tries to shoehorn in some new theme that doesn’t make any sense (and actually have some rather disturbing subtext if you think about it for too long). Get’s especially bad where the story practically attacks and belittles the reader for thinking other than what it is telling. It’s like it is trying to be contrarian towards the readers simply for the sake of it. To say all this killed the ending to me is putting it lightly.

    Honestly, everything just fell apart in Chiru. The lack of answers I think wouldn’t have been as bad if there wasn’t dozens of other problems piling up dragging everything down.

    Well that’s some of my take anyways. Nice review. Nice to see someone who had a slightly similar experience with it to me.

    • Silvachief says:

      And thank you for reading! I’m not writing any more but it’s still nice to know that people have enjoyed the reviews.

      It’s always an odd position to be in when you haven’t enjoyed something that so many other people have. I agree with all of the points you’ve made; so many aspects of Umineko lose focus in the second half that i’m not surprised I didn’t cover all of them. I’ve been considering a second read-through of the first half at least when the latest blend of game versions and translations is complete, but something tells me i’ll never get around to it.

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