Ryukishi07 has done it again!
Or I should say, Ryukishi07 is doing it again. Very different conjecture those two have. Like a mother scolding a child.
But I’ve finally gotten around to reading Umineko: When They Cry, a manga adaptation of a visual novel by 07th Expansion. If you’ve be following this site for a while, the name When They Cry should set off alarm bells in your head, as I spend a god damned year covering Ryukishi07’s previous Higurashi: When They Cry. I’m not looking for a repeat of that (though, que sera, sera), but I also don’t plan to let it go by without being talked about here.
To say I’m a fan of Ryukishi07’s work would be a lie, but I have taken a keen interest in it, and still believe he can excite me, like the early parts of Higurashi once did. So, with that, my thoughts on volume 1 of Umuneko: When They Cry.
We open on our main characters, Battler, Jessica, Maria, and George Ushiromiya on their way to a big family event. We soon learn that the Ushiromiya family is very wealthy, thanks to mysterious circumstances that brought the patriarch, Kinzo Ushiromiya, ten tons of gold. Supposedly, the money was given to him by a witch, Beatrice, whose portrait now hangs in one of the estate halls, with a cryptic and gruesome epitaph.
The adults of the family are planning to discuss the inheritance of their aging father, however, it seems he, or Beatrice, has other plans for the hidden fortune. And everyone lured to the family may just be a sacrifice to the mysterious witch, who may or may not exist.
So the mystery is only starting to come out by the end of the first volume. It’s not something I can comment on, and it’s not the focus of the first volume. What is the focus is introducing the characters.
Battler: Starting on a bad note. Battler doesn’t have much character, yet. I expect, in time, he’ll have an opportunity to reveal his courage and honest values, but so far he hasn’t been impressive. He’s the young adult. Eighteen years old, and not taken seriously enough to be involved in heritance discussion, he’s happy to babysit and play around with his childish nine year old cousin, Maria.
The main issue I take with him is his only-acceptable-in-crap-anime obsession with girl’s breasts. He attempts to molest one of his cousins, as well as a family made. He jokes about rubbing the nine-year-old’s breasts when she’s older. He says to his dad and step mother, “I’m not rubbing anything unless it’s the breasts of a cute girl.” I don’t believe this character exists! What young man would say to his parents? And to what extent I do take him seriously, he’s pretty damn creepy.
I can see myself liking him down the line, but for now his mammary mania, his hooter hang-up, his cleavage compulsion is just a weird, unnecessary reminder that anime can have no shame.
Jessica: If it wasn’t for the fact that she’s surrounded by relatives, she’d be a tsundere. Hell, she still kinda is towards her mom. She’s a little stuck up, and has an air of poor little rich girl, complaining about having to take a boat to school because she lives on a private island, but she’s genuinely kind hearted, and unlike most tsundere she doesn’t hide it. She wishes the family wouldn’t squabble over money, but doesn’t hold it against them either.
George: The boring one, at least for now. He’s smart, calm, nice, and just generally the reliable adult among the kids. And so far he’s been background dressing, so let’s move on.
Maria: She’s the big something in this whole mess. The one who’s, supposedly, been approached by Beatrice. She’s Ryukishi’s new Rika Furude, the cuet, lovable little girl who prophesises all the big scary omens. She’s also like Satako, in that she gets pretty abused by her mother, who wants to act more normal and stop saying “Uuuuu” all the time.
Which brings us to the adults, who are less interesting, harder to remember, and too numerous. There are seven family members (besides Kinzo), and five servants, who’ll each serve their purpose in time, and get their attention then. But for now, I think the stage is set. The current question is, Who is Beatrice?
Battler’s stepmother suggested she’s one of the eighteen people on the island, trying to throw a wrench into the inheritance problem and hoping to get something out of it. It’s an interesting theory, with the key support for it being that, if Beatrice was a real person, why would she only show herself to Maria? Of course, Kinzo seems to think she’s real, and he would be the guy that knows what’s going on.
But, since we don’t have a lot to go off of right now, let’s go with the theory that she’s a myth; a wrench in the inheritance. Who is she?
We can assume she’s not Jessica’s parents, because they’re next in line for the money anyway.
George’s parents, are second in line, but obviously eager to be the new heads of the family. George was born early specifically so that he would be the oldest grandchild. The problem is, to trick Maria they would need a woman to have posed as Beatrice, but George’s mother, not his father, is the born Ushiromiya. And Beatrice approached while all the adults were having a “friendly” discussion about the inheritance. It would have been difficult for one of Kinzo’s children to slip out of that meeting.
We don’t know much about Battler’s branch of the family. His stepmom, not being one of Kinzo’s children, could have snuck out.
There are the servants, the typical, “The butler did it,” but again, we don’t know enough to say much yet.
The, finally, there’s Maria’s mother. Last in line, and with the youngest grandchild. While she is a daughter of Kinzo, we know she got out of the meeting anyway, because she beat the crap out of her daughter just before she saw Beatrice.
It could easily be any of them, and I’m sure we’ll look at each one, next time on Umineko: When They Cry.
Don’t Lose Your Way