We’re back! Unfortunately, I can’t tell the difference between volume 2 and volume 11 on a bookstore shelve, so we’re not quite at regular updates yet. I’m planning to pick up a chunk of the series after Christmas, so hopefully we’ll really start moving then. For now, here’s a taste of Ryukishi mystery manga.
As always with Higurashi Umineko, I’m trying to solve the mystery as I go. Spoilers abound.
When we left off Battler, Jessica, George, and Maria were doing nothing, their parents were discussing inheritance, and there was a ghost story about how the witch Beatrice was gonna kill them all. Now let’s dive into the mystery!
So the first night goes by, and our heroes wake up to find most of their parents are dead, totaling six corpses. Those left alive are the kids, the servants (minus Shannon and Gouda), aunts Natsuhi and Eve, uncle Hideyoshi, patriarch Kinzo, and possibly the witch Beatrice if she exists.
So we’re properly into a Ryukishi mystery now, and the big question is, are these murders the work of humans, or the witch Beatrice? Let’s get into it.
This is a rabbit hole that’s easy to fall into repeatedly while looking at other evidence, so in order to avoid it later, I figured it best to get it over with now. This will cover each person who I think might be linked to the murders.
Eve, Natsuhi, and Hideyoshi. All three are somewhere in line for inheritance, and while that is probably a just a red herring McGuffin (Ryukishi’s characters are usually more complex then to kill for mere money), it’s impossible to avoid. The four children are also technically in line, but I’m not going to suggest they did this (at least, not yet). In this respect, Eve is the prime candidate, because she’s is now next in line, while Natsuhi and Hideyoshi are behind even the kids still.
Kinzo/Beatrice/Maria for supernatural reasons that we don’t understand at this point. From this point on, any time I suggest it was Beatrice, I also mean Kinzo and Maria. In Kinzo’s case, acting knowingly to satisfy Beatrice. In Maria’s case, some kind of possession.
-The bloody scratch marks on Natsuhi’s door. This pretty obviously indicates she was an intended target, which in itself is pretty valuable. It means there was an intentionality to who lived and who died, not just a quota to fill. This is why it’s hard to avoid the issue of inheritance as the motive; it’s the only motive so far where the identity of the sacrifices matter. And it’s worth noting that the only person behind Natsuhi in line for inheritance, and thus who has a reason to go after her, is George’s father, Hideyoshi. He’s also been suspiciously inconspicuous. That said, I still think the inheratence is a weak motive, and is just meant to distract us.
-Blood rune. The one on the shed door. I don’t think much of it. It’s pretty obvious that Beatrice does exist (this is Ryukishi we’re talking about), so there’s your answer to pretty much all the little things. But if a human did do it, and thus a human is responsible for the killings and moving the bodies to the shed, it was to make people think it was the curse.
-Blood in the dining room. Most of the victims were presumably there at the time of the murders. This just seems to confirm it. There is the issue of how the killer took on four people at once, but there’s apparently a gun in the house so I’ll let that go.
-The victim Kyrie. No one seems to have a motive to kill her. She was last in line for the inheritance. But her death was likely because she happened to be in the dining room at the time, with a bunch of other, more consequential victims.
-The key. The key to the shed tells us the killer had to have access to the servants’ room, and know which key they were looking for. This means it could be a servant, it could be Kinzo, or it could be Beatrice. But this doesn’t actually narrow it down, because
-The victim Gouda. He was one of the victims. He was also supposedly the only one in the servant’s room around the time the key went missing, after he passed his work off to Shannon. This was probably why he died. If the killer was one of the family members who wouldn’t know which key was for the shed, they could have asked him for it. He’d obey the order, and latter be killed as a witness. If it was a servant or Kinzo who got the key, he’d still be killed as a witness. If it was Beatrice, he’s once again be killed as a witness. His death is was pretty inevitable, but his presence means the killer still could have been anyone.
Though there is one thing to say about it. If this killer was Beatrice, could she have accessed the shed without the key? Or even have gotten the key without being seen? I’d think probably. In which case, she wouldn’t have to have run into Gouda, and wouldn’t have to kill him. But the still doesn’t mean we can rule out Beatrice, because
-The victim Shannon. So far as we can tell, nobody had a motive to kill Shannon. The choice of her as a sacrifice was one of convenience. She was out in the hall. Six people had to die, either to fulfill Beatrice’s curse or so the human killer could use Beatrice’s curse as a cover up. So she helped fill that quota. That suggests that the identities of the victims didn’t matter; that it was just filling a quota. If that’s the case, Gouda may have been just as convenient a target. If Beatrice is the killer, she may have killed him for that reason.
However, this conflicts with what we found earlier with the scratches on Natsuhi’s door. So were targets deliberate, or convenient?
It is true that all the victims were those conveniently accessible, those out in the open around the house. But it’s also true that most of the victims were those in line for the money, and the scratch marks on the door indicate she was an intended target. I can think of three reasons for this discrepancy.
First, Natsuhi was an intended target, along with those in the dining room, but when the killer failed to get to her, their plan was thwarted and they went after Shannon instead. This is pretty weak. If the killer was a human after the money, Natsuhi is an odd target. The only person behind her in line is Hideyoshi, but if he was trying to kill her for that, why didn’t he go after Eve, or even the kids, when he failed; they are all also in front of him. If the killer is Eve, Natsuhi is not threat to the inheritance; she’s way behind Eve in line. Eve may have gone after her because the two hate each other, but gave up and settled on Shannon instead. It’s weak, but it’s something.
Second, there was more than one person sneaking around last night. One person, either Beatrice, Kinzo, or Maria, was getting the six convenient kills for the curse. Another messed with Natsuhi’s door. Who and why is too speculative, even for this article.
Third, there’s more than one killer. One went after the inheritors, getting the four in the dining room, and trying to get Natsuhi. The other filled the quota with Shannon and Gouda. Under this, it makes the most sense for Eve to have killed the four in the dining room, for the same reason it makes the most sense for her to do anything; the money. The attack on Natsuhi was more personal, and whether she intended to kill or just scare her is uncertain. After that, Beatrice or one of her representatives came in to fill the quota with Shannon and Gouda, and moved the bodies to the shed. This would at least explain why blood was found at one scene (the dining room), but not the others (hall and servants’ room).
As for my leading theory on who did it and what’s next, I’m blissfully in the dark! Despite my disappointment at Higurashi, the first half really got me, and once again I’m entranced by Ryukishi’s mystery.
Of course, Beatrice is an active force in all this, and none of it will be as simple as I’ve laid out here. That’s why I like my third theory on method; it accounts for both dimensions.
Don’t Lose Your Way