When Seagulls Cry, blood is spilt, faces are distorted and emo-rage is in full swing!
Three years ago, on a warm Spring night, after I had just finished a heavy assignment for my Uni, I started up a new anime which had created quite a buzz in otakusphere. I was really tired that night, and just after having dinner I settled down into my bed, left the window open a little for some fresh air, looking at the Jasmines bloom in yellow hue of the street light. Quite a wonderful night, I thought to myself, let’s see what this Higurashi that everyone seems to be clamouring is all about.
Shock and awe are the only words that can describe my feelings back then. To date, I have never seen an anime whose first episode made that much of an impact on me. I truly felt right then, that anime had transcended into something totally awesome, and left behind the image of immaturity and fanservice that people generally associate it with. The OP and ED were just icing on top. My naive views were , of course, completely changed back to normal after a few weeks. Still, one certainly cannot deny the cult impact Higurashi had.
Fast forward to last week (from three years ago) and I watched the first episode of Umineko no Naku Koro Ni. The premise being that a wealthy family has gathered on a remote island to discuss the distribution of assets once their father passes away. The twist being that before the head of the family actually dies, his heirs start to die one by one. LOL!
Far from being incredulous, like it’s predecessor had been, Umineko’s first episode came off as rather bland. The animation style is typically lacklustre, and the plethora of characters themselves seem one-diemensional. From the crazy and mysterious head of the family to the spiteful siblings, to the outsider who was married into the family (and is genuinely goodhearted) to the aloof servants, to the happy-go-lucky children to the extremely annoying loli. This anime introduced 19 characters in the first episode!
The second episode gets much better, not least because the number is now down to 13 only. Less people to keep a track of means that I can pay that much more attention to the little details. This is a murder mystery after all.
So the story is set in 1986, and old man Kinzo Ushiromiya has one foot in the grave. Dude is a power hungry maniac, and way back in the day, he made a deal with a Witch called Beahtreech! Beatrice. She gave him shit loads of gold in agreement that once the contract is terminated, she will get back the original gold plus interest of everything Kinzo owns at such time as when the contract ends (ie Kinzo is 6 feet under). There was an escape clause though, that whoever finds the gold Beatrice gave Kinzo will have it all and that Beatrice will have no claim on anything, including the interest. Why there would be any gold left assuming that Kinzo spent most of it in order to build his family empire is a plot hole not be paid much attention to.
His entire family holds an annual meeting, with ’86 being no exception. While the main agenda in this year’s meeting is to decide how to split up Kinzo’s assets between his sons and daughters, the family is thrown into turmoil when it is discovered that the legend of Beatrice the Golden Witch is actually true. I say a witch, but the anime specifies her as an alchemist who had a simple contract between herself and Kinzo. Perhaps the fact that she’s still young after all those years since making the contract with Kinzo makes her a witch.
Whatever the case, this post is getting much longer than I wanted, so I’m not gonna bother introducing all the characters. Know that 6 people died very gruesome deaths by the end of the second episode. Others will soon die, no doubt, and the plot will only thicken. I hope that the execution of each of the 4 arcs will be better than Higurashi, because the latter fell apart towards the end. If Wikipedia is to be believed, then there are 4 story arcs that raise questions and the final arc which reveals the answers. Again, I hope that Umineko doesn’t go the way of Higurashi where we had to wait for an entire second season to get the answers we wanted, instead everything gets wrapped up in one season.
Based on these evaluations, I will be reviewing Umineko after each of the 5 arcs, instead of episodic reviews. And with that…
PS: Umineko also has one of the most mesmerising EDs I’ve heard in a very long time! La Divina Tragedia!