Oh man here we go.
Umineko is set up similarly to Higurashi, with four ‘question’ and four ‘answer’ arcs, though if I recall correctly they’re not called Q and A. We begin, obviously, with the very first one, entitled “Legend of the Golden Witch.” All of the arcs end in the phrase “of the Golden Witch,” which ads a nice bit of rhyme to them and also implies, to me, they’re less self-contained than Higurashi’s arcs, which were specifically designated as isolated ‘arcs’ in the titles.
This brings us to an important point:
There are absolutely 100% going to be Higurashi spoilers in this LP. Go read Higurashi first. It’s 100% worth it.
At the time of posting, for the record, I have finished this entire arc. I took notes as I went and then went back after each section break to fill them out with my thoughts, so I’d have some context for what I said but not so much as to ruin the feeling of my reactions being genuine.
The opening of this route is a lot of setup and exposition, so this is a long post, but it’s largely pretty empty until the very end. I wanted to get as much of the preamble out of the way at once as I could, so I kept going until it seemed like all the groundwork was laid.
Anyway, the game.
The title screen has some seacat noises for ambiance.
God just reading this makes me anxious. Horrible things are going to happen and I’m going to have no clue what’s going on or why.
Oooh, neat, apparently you can enter the TIPS at any point during the game, and they keep track of things like character profiles and relationships. Oh shit, can you save whenever you want?! What a time to be alive!
Also, this is neither here nor there, but I can’t figure out how to change things to the old sprites? Fuck that’s a lie I just did it, you can only do it in-game. NEVERMIND I don’t own a delete key so this is staying.
Are you implying there *isn’t* an all-knowing force guiding the universe that looks like Furude Rika?
We open to an old guy who gets a sprite. He’s a doctor conducting an exam on a patient, who he laments is still drinking too much.
The old military-looking guy getting examed also gets character art.
“The bottle is my friend.”
The most reliable friend of all.
Now I want a drink.
The doctor, Nanjo, says he may feel well thanks to the medicine, but if he doesn’t stop drinking, the treatment will be for nothing shortly.
Military Guy, Kinzo, says lol screw you and tells his butler, who is also an old guy sprite, to get him a drink. Butler’s name is Genji.
Genji hesitates, but ultimately follows his master’s orders.
There was a smell filling up the room. That sweet, poisonous aroma that melts the heart, and inexorably, the soul… is the aroma of that venomous green liquor the master couldn’t bring himself to part from.
They banter about how long their friendship has endured, and Dr. Nanjo ultimately says Kinzo doesn’t have long to live, especially considering how much he likes to trip balls.
Nanjo suggests Kinzo write a will.
Kinzo starts flipping out, yelling that he has nothing and will leave nothing behind, especially not to his ingrate children.
He then says while he has nothing to leave behind, there is one more thing that must be done before he dies, before his soul is devoured by demons as per the contract.
“It’s useless, useless, useless!! It must be while I live, because if I die, my soul will be instantly devoured by the demon of the contract, will be erased, will disappear, for all time! I won’t have peace in the world beyond death! That’s why everything must be done while I’m alive!! That’s why I have no need for a will or any such thing!! If I had time to write such things… if I had time!!”
He keeps yelling, begging someone named Beatrice to appear to him one more time, saying he knows she’s there now, watching, waiting.
There’s a sudden crash of lightening, and–!!! OPENING THEME SONG!!!
It’s mostly just the character sprites zooming around the screen dramatically, but good for 7th Expansion for having the resources to comission a song.
Welcome to Rokkenjima!, it ends. A lovely place, I’m sure.
I actually do kind of wonder how and if R07 accounted for how suspicious people would be going into this. I knew nothing about Higurashi entering it, and so was willing to take things more at face value — and even during the answer arcs, when I had an idea, not knowing the solution meant not knowing how R07 plotted, which is a big deal in these types of stories. I would guess that the vast majority of people come to Umineko after Higurashi, and as such come assuming nothing is as it seems… which, if you anticipate it, is a fun expectation to play with. But you have to be ready for it.
The 80s sure do make mysteries better, eh? The invention of cell phones was the killer of a million plots.
Oddly enough, the story proper opens with the narrator marvelling at modern technology, saying having small jets to take him to Niijima is a massive improvement over the half-day on a boat he’s used to.
Someone laughs and says, “Don’t worry, Battler-kun,” which is a weird name.
The someone is George:
George is wearing a banana-yellow suit, apparently.
But he has nothing on Battler-narrator:
…who is apparently Ace Attorney or something?
Banana teases Ace for possibly being scared of the plane, and we learn it’s been six years since they last saw each other. Presumably they’re relatives heading to the island where the old guy died?
Ace says something about George being able to hold his liqour because he’s like his father, so I guess Banana is Kinzo’s kid? Ace is apparently still underage, even though he dresses like a 35-year-old cowboy.
Ace points out that his name is stupid and his parents were weirdos, so at least we agree, and I assume he won’t mind me continuing to call him Ace. George is his cousin, and is 23 years old, 5 years older than Ace, so Ace is 18.
I just looked up Ace Attorney and his hair is pointed in the other direction but I maintain the comparison.
Ace’s dad is apparently one of four children, two boys and two girls. Wow, this is going to be a big cast.
Someone else walks up and comments on how big Battler has gotten.
It’s, um, Gomez? (Okay, I’ll stop.) His real name is Hideyoshi. He’s George’s dad, so maybe Kinzo’s brother? Hmm.
He’s with a redheaded woman:
Battler’s Aunt Eva. She’s Battler’s dad’s older sister. So maybe Kinzo’s sister?
She teases him about dating, and then this woman comes up:
That’s, uh, one way to wear a tie. It’s Battler’s stepmom, Kyrie.
Apparently his mom died six years prior. He gets along with his stepmom, but in more of a friendly way than a family way. They’re both okay with it.
His dad, Rudolph, finally arrives:
Geez, lots of lift in this family.
They banter and fool around for a while.
Apparently Ace also has a younger sister, Ange, who is sick with a stomach bug and unable to make it.
Maria and Rosa arrive, presumably another aunt and cousin. They’re running late because of their train. They get fun piano music.
Maria is apparently 9 even though she looks 16. It’s weird, the Higurashi sprites didn’t have this problem of everyone looking too old.
Aunt Rosa is Rudolph’s younger sister.
Battler apparently hasn’t seen either of them since Maria was 3, which is getting a bit weird, since Maria apparently has seen Rudolph in this time. Ace says that Rosa is the calm, kind sibling, nothing like his energetic father and Aunt Eva. He points out how weird it is they all have Western names, and wonders why his grandfather did that.
They finally board the plane. The family name is ‘Ushiromiya,’ by the by. Including Eva and Rosa’s families. Hm.
We then get a plane-takeoff montage, with the name of all the characters, including those we haven’t met yet. So ends the first scene. No TIPS yet. Or do we not get those at scene breaks like last time?
They land, and everyone teases Ace for being terrified on the plane. They all take taxis to a harbor. When they get there, they meet another cousin, Jessica, the daughter of the oldest brother.
Ace then tries to grope her. And then she tries to grope him. Um, at least it’s egalitarian cousin-on-cousin action?
And the some old lady tries to get Ace to grope her?? What is happening right now.
This is Kumasawa, who’s into 18-year-old boys I guess?
They refer to her as a ‘servant’ so I guess she works at Kinzo’s house. The older generation here are presumably his children, and Ace’s generation his grandchildren.
Anyway, there’s more banter and then they get on a speedboat and head to an island, where presumably their estate is.
This whole setup is very Christie, very And Then There Were None. Heh.
Ah, finally on the boat we get some interesting information. Apparently Rudolph had an affair with Kyrie, and when he found out Battler left to live with his maternal grandparents. They recently passed away, forcing Battler back with his father. He and his father haven’t gotten on quite right since all this happened, although he doesn’t blame Kyrie. That explains why he’s been MIA for 6 years.
I was living a commoner’s life at my grandparents’ home these six years, so I had completely forgotten, but the old bastard’s house sure is awesome, and I think it feels like every single thing there is a gaudy display of wealthy tastes. Come to think of it, George-aniki, Jessica, Maria, and of course I, sorta turn into wealthy, high-class gentlemen and ladies. Needless to say, none of us feel that way at all. I don’t see myself as being rich, and George-aniki, who is quite spartan, doesn’t depend on anyone. Jessica doesn’t need money, so she’s always grumbling about how she wants to move to the city, and Maria’s still a kid who has no interest whatsoever in money.
The whole thing seems to make Ace uncomfortable.
As they get close, Maria points out that the Shinto gate near the boatlaunch is missing. Dun dun dun.
Kumasawa jokes that it’s a sign of great misfortune.
Maria repeats that word feverishly. Apparently, repeating a single word over and over is a habit that Maria’s had for a long time. However, since the word she’s saying is literally ‘misfortune’, it’s kinda creepy.
I was wondering before why Maria wasn’t saying much, but is she autistic, or something similar? This is a pretty common symptom of things like autism and Tourette’s.
“…Misfortune is coming…” she says ominously.
Ace asks just where it’s coming from, and Maria points at the sky. The weather’s started going bad, true to the Christie archetype.
Looking up, the sky was cloudy as usual, but it had gotten a great deal more leaden than in the morning.
I see, she was saying a typhoon’s drawing near… We’re gonna have to spend a night on the island, but if during that time things don’t go well, I’m not gonna be able to go to school on Monday. Well, I guess that’s a perfect excuse to be absent.
Ace points out, somewhat oddly, that children are said to be sensitive to the supernatural.
Everyone tries to comfort Maria, but she just gets more agitated and frustrated that she’s not communicating well.
“…Rumor has it… that long ago, Rokkenjima was–“ Kumasawa starts to say, but Jessica immediately cuts her off and tells her not to bring it up. This obviously just makes Ace really curious, but he doesn’t say anything because he figures it would upset Maria more.
George kneels down next to Maria and assures her that as long as they’re together, it’s going to be okay. This seems to make her feel better, but will obviously not be true for long.
They finally get ready to dock, and with that the scene ends.
This time, a clock appears on the scene-end screen and dings ominously. Looks like it says 10:30, presumably in the morning.
When they arrive, they’re greeted by a man named Gohda, who appears to be the butler.
He notes that he’s been with the family for just under two years.
As the boat disembarks, Battler says it’s super weird there are no seagulls around — he remembers them being really loud. I’m having mental flashbacks the the cicada noises from Higurashi and how oppressive they got.
Battler jokes that Jessica ate them, and he teases her. Maria chimes in, and he thinks she’s having some fun.
George says they probably just are laying low to avoid the storm.
Battler-kun. Maria-chan is a naive girl, so she takes even jokes seriously. You should choose your jokes more carefully.
She really does seem autistic.
Battler apologizes and assures Maria that George is right, they’re just sleeping through the storm. This makes Maria happy, and everyone praises George for how good he is with kids.
Gohda leads everyone to the guest house, where they’ll be staying. As they climb up the steps to the main estate, they see the house’s incredible rose gardens. Eva notes that they don’t look as good as last year, and Gohda attributes it to the heat. Maria notices one rose wilting in a field of blooms, and gets upset by it, so George ties a ribbon around it and suggests they come back later and give it some extra water. This makes Maria feel better. Aw.
As they continue on toward the house, they run into a young servant boy named Kanon.
He’s shy and doesn’t say much to introduce himself. When Gohda probs him to say more, he refuses.
“…No. Because we… are furniture.”
No one seems to notice how weird that is, and instead Jessica hops over and says he’s a great guy who’s been working there for 3 years now.
Kanon basically tries to flee, but as he does tips over a wheelbarrow. Battler helps him clean up, and he seems shocked by this. He finally leaves, miserable and embarrassed.
They all go to their rooms, and we find out the guest house is only a few years old. Battler can’t get over how ostentatious it is, basically a Western-style mansion of its own for people who rarely visit.
Eva asks how the old man is, and Jessica says, well, considering he has a few months to live, not good.
He’s shut himself up in his study again, probably doing nothing but that weird black magic of his. What he does for a hobby is his own damn business, but when he starts stinking up the house, it really gets on my nerves… And I wish he’d never come out of that study again.
Battler says his family is one of rich eccentrics, but even by those standard his grandfather is bizarre and violent.
From the stories Dad told me, the Head of the Family was a violent man who rained blows on his sons with his own fists and even beat his daughters mercilessly with a wooden sword. […] I remember that the room’s atmosphere got so tense whenever he was around, you couldn’t even breathe.
George tries to make nice, but now it’s pretty inappropriate:
“He does look frightening, but he’s not completely terrifying. He’s definitely never unfair. He’s just very direct and not a pretty talker, that’s all.”
Yeah, beating the shit out of your kids: totally fair.
They let that subject drop and find their rooms. Batty is rooming with George, and apparently it’s the biggest room.
The adults head over to the main house while the kids hang back to catch up. We also learn George has a crush on a servant girl named Shannon.
We jump over to the main house, where we meet Natsuhi, Jessica’s mother.
Natsuhi apparently deals with migraines. Rosa gives her some tea that’s supposed to help, but Eva isn’t so kind.
“That reminds me, you were always saying you get those headaches. Pull yourself together. Jessica-chan will have her exams this year, won’t she? Isn’t that a turning point in her life? Are you that unreliable as a mother? Besides, Natsuhi nee-san, you’re three years younger than me. Can’t you pull yourself together?”
Eva sometimes fails to choose her words carefully, but even though she hid it with a smile, her comments aimed at Natsuhi contained shards of obvious malice.
No shit, narration.
Shannon comes in with tea for everyone.
Hideyoshi greets her, but Natsuhi snaps at her to stop socializing and serve them.
She apologized like a small frightened animal, and, bumping against the serving cart, made a jarring racket as she dropped several tea spoons. Her clumsiness made Natsuhi’s expression even harsher, which made Shannon in turn quail even more.
So I guess the middle gen here are all terrible, and the kids have to save the day?
[Eva] “It’s alright, Natsuhi nee-san. It’s just one kind of greeting, no big deal. We’ve already been made to wait for so long, the tea must be cold. Heheheh.”
[Shannon] “It… it’s alright… It’s not cold yet…”
[Natsuhi] “…Shannon, finish setting the table, quickly.”
It’s like being around my relatives.
The ineptitude that delayed the tea, the clumsiness of the servant, everything pointed to the incompetence of Natsuhi’s everyday guidance, making her lose face.
Yep, my family.
Kyrie tries to lighten things by saying the tea smells great and asking what it is, but Shannon is so flustered she doesn’t know. By this point, Eva was audibly giggling.
Shannon is finally able to escape, and as she goes Kyrie quietly apologizes to her. Hideyoshi and Rudolf try to joke about Eva’s attitude to ease the tension, and it kind of works.
Shannon meets Kanon in the hall, and he tells her it wasn’t her fault, and that Eva and Gohda can go to hell. Apparently the tea being late was Gohda’s fault, and when he realized he’d get in trouble, he pawned the task off on Shannon. She insists to Kanon, who may be her little brother, that she’s fine, and then Genji walks up. He asks if everything’s okay, and Shannon just wants it to be done, so she says it is and they all get back to work.
Kumasawa looks on, thinking that she feels bad for them, and for Natsuhi, but that Gohda is an asshole.
With that, the scene ends, and the clock proceeds to noon.
Back with the cousins, they banter, and Shannon comes in. Ace tries to grope her and also threatens to grope Maria one day. I’m just going to move on from that.
That said, and I think the point of all this uncomfortableness, when Ace goes in for Shannon, she doesn’t react, and he pulls away, saying she’s gotta swat a dude away when she gets that close.
“I…I cannot obey your request. Because I’m furniture. But… if it’s an order, I’ll obey you. Because that is my duty.”
Sooo creepy. Purposefully, I think, but still.
Ace tries to make a joke out of it, but he’s kind of freaked out and hopefully that’s the end of this. George chimes in and says, if she has to listen to them, then he orders her not to let guests molest her. She looks relieved and agrees.
Ace wonders about her name. I did too. Maybe the servants are the old dude’s children/grandchildren too somehow?
Shannon asks if Kanon caused them any trouble, and waffles about whether they’re actually related. She apologizes for him being unsociable, which Maria catches:
“Uu-! Maria gets called that all the time too! Gets called unsociable! Like Kanon! Uu-!”
Shannon quickly says Maria isn’t unsociable at all, and she goes from happy to sad, saying she wanted to be like him. I really like her.
They head over to the main house to eat, and Genji greets them.
Genji-san, just like Kumasawa-san, stood in stark contrast to us young people who had grown beyond recognition over the last six years. His figure was exactly the same as in my memories of six years ago. It seemed like time had stopped since the last we met.
He was like Grandfather’s close aide or caregiver… in fact, you could even go so far as to say he was Grandfather’s companion of many years.
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
Incidentally, it looks like one of the releases of that game changed “companion of many years” to “right-hand man.” It makes me wonder if there really was subtext intended one of the translators got weird about, or if the translator of this version just didn’t realize how the phrase would come across. Regardless, they’re now lovers in my head.
Actually, it seems that he was by Grandfather’s side more than my late Grandmother was. According to Jessica, Grandfather trusted him more than any of his blood relatives.
Hoookay, definitely intentional subtext, screw the other translator.
As Ace looks around, he notices something that’s definitely new: an absurdly creepy portrait of a woman he doesn’t know.
I would assume this is Beatrice. Creepy.
Ace asks who the woman is.
Maria pipes up and says it’s Beatrice. George says yes, Beatrice, the witch of the island.
Which reminds me, when I was little and stayed at this mansion, in the eerie nights where the wind and rain struck the windows, I got terrified by a story that the witch of the forest was roaming around searching for a sacrifice…
Ace remarks that he doesn’t recall her having the name ‘Beatrice,’ and Jessica chimes in.
Genji tells her not to say those things in front of her grandfather and she says I know, I know.
…Only a small portion of this island was controlled by the Ushiromiya family. All of the wild remainder… was the witch Beatrice’s domain.
One could say that she was the being who actually ruled over Rokkenjima. That slightly unsettling feeling of misfortune that I had felt when I learned the Tutelary God’s shrine had been struck by lightning on the boat trip revived within me a bit
He wonders if this was the story Jess stopped Kuma from telling.
They go sit down, and Ace explains that the seating is carefully arranged by rank, and it bothers him how misogynistic it is:
Maybe it’s a leftover of male chauvinism. If the system is predicated on the idea that a woman’s womb is just a borrowed thing, then the children of direct descent would have a much higher ranking, and the grandchildren would come next. Meaning that the spouses, with no blood ties, are considered the last in line. It’s terrible, but according to that ranking order, Grandmother, when she was alive, would have been in a position even lower than mine.
In their youth they obey their father; after they get married, their husband; after aging, their children. There’s the old saying, ‘Women have no home in any realm’. Long ago, when I was still incapable of figuring all this out, I’d thought it was so great that we could all chat, with the adult siblings in their group and us cousins in ours. However, now that I can reexamine the seating order after growing up a bit, it stirs up some very complicated feelings in me…
Battler sits next to Natsuhi, who he doesn’t know well and as a result doesn’t particularly like, though he doesn’t exactly dislike her, either. He tries to make a joke and she needs to be prompted into shallow laughter.
Ace notes that even though the head of the table decides when to start, his grandfather was usually very prompt and never made people wait. Jess says he’s been so loopy sometimes he doesn’t even show up now.
It’s also worth noting that Jess’ father, the oldest sibling, is MIA.
We jump up to Kinzo in the study. The clock strikes noon and he doesn’t even seem to notice. Krauss, Jess’ dad, is banging on the door, trying to remind him to come downstairs, but Kinzo just screams at him and tells him to go away. Krauss appeals that the whole family is waiting.
Hey, I was right about it being absinthe! I’m winning at Umineko, guys.
Outside, Krauss thinks, hey, he tried. He also gets a sprite:
Dude looks like a villain from an 80s move that’s going to turn the boardwalk into condos.
Dr. Nanjo is there, and he also tries to appeal to Kinzo through the door. This goes about as well.
Why do you not understand, you foolish sheep!!
He yells about wanting to see Beatrice one more time and Krauss is like fuck this, the food is getting cold. Nanjo thinks Krauss is being a dick, but doesn’t know what else to do.
Genji finally shows up and enters the room as Kinzo screams for him.
Inside the study, the mysterious collection of books that Kinzo had gathered had grown into a mountain. They were bizarre ancient or banned books, all of them either forbidden, cursed, or sealed.
But then, if one were to call them old books, Kinzo would fly into a rage an say something like this: “Call them Grimoires!”
That said, Kinzo’s sprite is crying right now, and I actually feel bad for him. I mean, he’s obviously not insane and Beatrice has cursed him, but he’s certainly acting insane and is so frustrated that no one gets it, and it is pitiful.
He laments that his children are all miserable people, and his grandchildren not much better — Krauss spends money like it’s nothing, Rudolf only cares about womanizing, Eva is obsessed with wealth, and Rosa got pregnant by a stranger. Jess he calls ‘incompetent and illiterate,’ George is unmasculine, Battler disgraced the family by running away, and Maria is ugly. He attributes this all to Beatrice’s curse.
“Therefore… I have decided. I cannot stand spending my dimmed, remaining years procrastinating thus. In this body, if I have a coin to bet in the end, it seems I’ll entrust it to the roulette of the demons. The power of magic is always settled with a gamble.
He devolves into wailing about Beatrice again, and falls to the floor in tears.
Back with the family, Krauss arrives and tells them to just start dinner.
Lunch started with the family head’s seat still empty. …The man who should be sitting there was already old, and the brilliant glory which had rebuilt the Ushiromiya family in a single lifetime was being forgotten. Nobody seemed to feel uncomfortable when the meal began with that seat still empty…
And the clock moves to 1:30.
Ace says that the so-called family conference does really function like a business conference, since the children are all expected to have made money on the money lent by their father, and they basically come together to argue about business ventures.
He doesn’t know Krauss very well either, but has heard he’s spiteful and violent, and the other siblings detest him. Shocker. He also notes that Dr. Nanjo is reputed to be an accomplished and incredibly kind man, and is likely the only person not associated with the household allowed on the island.
Ace takes a moment to talk about his missing grandfather, and says that in the 1920s, an earthquake destroyed the main Ushiromiya family, and that the only living relative left was Kinzo, part of a far-flung branch of the family who previously would never have been considered in any inheritance. Suddenly, he became a very wealthy man. He was also violent toward his children and terrifying to everyone. No one expected much of him.
Even so, with an unbelievable amount of good luck and miracles, with coincidences piling up and every chance taken advantage of, before anyone knew it, he began to make connections with the occupying forces.
Sounds like he traded his soul for some dough, eh?
He says Kinzo was always obsessed with Western culture and everyone knew, but no one is quite sure when his obsession with the occult started.
Did his love of black magic begin way back when he became fascinated with everything western, or, possibly, did his miraculous stretch of good luck which allowed him to revive the family cause him to feel a mysterious power in himself? At some point, Grandfather began to make the research of black magic his life’s work. He filled his study up with suspicious books, chemicals, and magical items as he became increasingly bizarre.
We head back to dinner, and everyone talks about how great the meal is.
After dinner, they head to the sitting room for tea. The kids decide to go down to the beach, and Genji steps in with the adults. The conversation starts about how much the kids have grown, but quickly devolves into everyone taking pot-shots at each other. Rudy refers to all the children as ‘brats,’ and says they should get down to business.
Rudolf basically asks, “When is this guy going to die already?” Nanjo essentially says he has no idea, since this time last year he would have thought mere months. Krauss says he’s still so strong-willed it’s hard to picture him as someone about to die. Rudy says, let’s just hammer out who gets what.
Natushi can’t believe how crass they’re all being, and Hideyoshi is just being quiet.
Incidentally, this all reminds me of that Twilight Zone episode with the masks.
Eva and Natsuhi shout at each other, and Nanjo takes this opportunity to flee.
Then they start drilling into Krauss about his shitty real estate investments, and Natsuhi starts screaming at everyone. Somehow she’s coming off as the most unhinged here — the rest of them, except maybe the other in-laws, are awful people, but they’re awful in a sane, cold, calculating way, while Natsuhi is all over the place.
Krauss talking about how his shitty investments are definitely 100% going to work out also sounds like my family.
The long and short of the whole conversation is that the siblings have pretty legit evidence Krauss has been embezzling funds to finance new projects.
Natsuhi freaks the fuck out and tries to throw Eva out of the house. Eva regards her with cold distaste.
There’s a moment of silence, and then Krauss tells Natsuhi to go somewhere else and cool off.
Natsuhi flies upstairs, screaming in tears in rage, while her husband mocks her to Eva.
Kumasawa hears and pities her. Apparently Natsuhi had a hard time getting pregnant, and Krauss was cruel to her for not being able to produce an heir. Then Eva finagled her way into marrying but making her husband take the family name, thus staying in her position of power in the family, and was able to have a son before Natsuhi could have any children. Because she couldn’t get pregnant, she lost any hold over Eva she might have had.
The clock actually hits 2:00 and then moves back to 1:30, so I guess we’re seeing what happened to the kids during this time.
As they leave the house, Batty catches the portrait again and wonders aloud if she was a real person. Maria is adamant that Battler believe the story and gets quite agitated about it. She starts banging on the name plate hanging below the picture.
The plate did have the title of the portrait written on it, but it was much too big to contain only that. Beneath the title, what looked like an long epitaph was also written. If you just skimmed over it, several unnerving words would jump out at you.
George comes up and says the rumor is the epigraph is a hint to where Kinzo’s secret treasure horde is.
Apparently the lore of the family, from the time their parents were small children, is:
Grandfather then went on and on about how he continued to research alchemy and techniques for summoning demons in order to become a great magician… And the entity summoned as the result of the demon-calling ceremony was the Golden Witch Beatrice. He then said that he made a contract where, in exchange for his own soul, he would receive fortune and honor. The witch then granted Grandfather 10 tons of gold.
Clearly 100% true if genre savviness is any indication.
The kids talk a bit about what an absurd number “10 tons of gold” is. Ace notes that the epitaph is long, creepy, and weird, and it certainly could read like a puzzle. Jessica points out that since he was always a little bonkers, it’s totally possible he’d see any wealthy woman lending him seed-money as a nobody as a ‘generous witch,’ and have a portrait done of her in gratitude — hell, maybe his gratitude felt as thought it was worth 10 tons of gold. Batty agrees the story is most likely symbolic, because he didn’t read Higurashi, either.
Maria is clearly upset that they’ve concluded Bea doesn’t exist, and even starts to cry, insisting she does.
[George] “Come to think of it, Maria-chan, in social studies at your school, when you were asked to write what you wanted to be when you grew up, you wrote ‘a witch’, didn’t you?”
I am like 90% sure Maria’s father is some kind of supernatural entity and she’s actually a witch.
Shannon comes in, and brings up the alternate theory that a woman named Beatrice was Kinzo’s first love who he never got over. Jessica says that apparently their grandmother did believe he was having an affair with a blonde woman. No, he was having an affair with Genji, we covered this.
Anyway, Shannon reminds them they were planning to go to the beach, so they decide to go have a picnic and the scene ends.
We hop over to the adults, who are saying there actually is evidence their father has a horde of gold, though none of them think it’s 10 tons he got from a witch. Krauss is the only one who doesn’t believe any of it.
[Rudolf] “Aniki, the president of Marusoo definitely saw it. 10 tons of it, clearly with his own eyes. Even more, Father let the president take one ingot at random and have it examined. The results of the examination showed that the 10 kilogram ingot was 99.99 percent pure. He said that the Ushiromiya family crest, the One-winged Eagle, was carved into it.”
[Eva] “Almost instantly, the Ushiromiya Legend of the Gold spread amongst the fixers of the business world. Gold from an unknown foundry has a poor rate of conversion into money. Thinking that it was a chance for decisive profits, they accepted it as collateral, and as a result Father was able to receive a giant loan…”
Krauss says they’re all idiots, and Eva points out that if he’s denying the embezzlement, then there’s a huge amount of money he has that’s unaccounted for, and they’re willing to believe he found the stash and kept it all for himself. He insists it came from friends, and they say he should prove it, because if he refuses, they’ll sic lawyers on him when Kinzo croaks anyway, and it will come out that way.
The three younger siblings then essentially attempt to extort him for $7.5 million, framing it as a good-faith payment ensuring he’ll give them their fair share of the estate, in exchange for not going after him when he divides the assets.
However, Krauss can research too, and it turns out all three siblings need lots of money right now, and as he lays out their situations, they lose their negotiating power, though I don’t get why they can’t just still report him to the Japanese SEC for embezzlement of funds.
Krauss laughs maniacally and says, tell you what, we’ll have a few drinks and spend the night solving the riddle of Kinzo’s gold.
Up in Kinzo’s study, Kanon is reporting the entire exchange to Kinzo, who gets a kick out of the idea they’d solve the riddle.
“…Will the miracle be fulfilled first, or will those fools expose the gold first? What a sight. If those fools solve my puzzle, at that time I will be completely defeated. They can suck my corpse down to the last fragment of bone. Great magic can house a miracle from the fools’ greed. And yet!! If the fulfillment of the miracle comes first… If it comes first! Beatrice will be resurrected again!! That smile which I have been chasing half my life will be restored…! […] The sacred night when the miracle is wagered will come, and the devils’ game will begin…! I will definitely win, and will definitely remain alive!! I’ll give up the other people’s lives! I don’t need wealth or honor or assets or gold or anything! I only want to see your smile one more time!! *Coughcoughcough*!!”
Ah, so we’re going to play an evil murdergame. I approve.
Kinzo tells canon that everyone, even he, must attempt the riddle to give his ritual the highest chance of working out. Speaking of which, not that I’m shocked, but the servants are all spies for Kinzo, eh?
Out in the foyer, Nanjo and Genji also discuss the epitaph. Nanjo wonders the true purpose of it, and Genji has no opinion. Nanjo says he’s tried to solve it often, but has never been able to. We finally get to learn what it is:
Behold the sweetfish river running through my beloved hometown.
You who seek the Golden Land, follow its path downstream in search of the key
As you travel down it, you will see a village.
In that village, look for the shore the two will tell you of.
There sleeps the key to the Golden Land.
The one who obtains the key must then travel to the Golden Land in accordance with these rules
On the first twilight, offer the six chosen by the key as sacrifices.
On the second twilight, those who remain shall tear apart the two who are close.
On the third twilight, those who remain shall praise my noble name.
On the fourth twilight, gouge the head and kill.
On the fifth twilight, gouge the chest and kill.
On the sixth twilight, gouge the stomach and kill.
On the seventh twilight, gouge the knee and kill.
On the eighth twilight, gouge the leg and kill.
On the ninth twilight, the witch shall revive, and none shall be left alive.
On the tenth twilight, the journey shall end, and you shall reach the capital where the gold dwells
The witch will praise the wise, and should bestow four treasures.
One shall be, all the gold from the Golden Land.
One shall be, the resurrection of the souls of all the dead.
One shall be, even the resurrection of the lost love.
One shall be, to put the witch to sleep for all time.
Sleep peacefully, my most beloved witch, Beatrice.
Well what it looks like from my perspective is the first two stanzas are a treasure map, and the second describes a ritual that has to be completed once solving the map and getting a ‘key,’ though likely not an actual key, quite literally by killing and maiming everyone in order to summon Beatrice, with the result that at the end, the one left gets the gold, everyone is revived, and Beatrice is gone for good.
Behold the sweetfish river running through my beloved hometown.
You who seek the Golden Land, follow its path downstream in search of the key
I assume the whole story takes place on the island, and so this isn’t referring to Kinzo’s hometown literally, but I don’t think I have enough information to make anything of it yet. I do know what sweetfish are thanks to Animal Crossing.
Incidentally, the epitaph is saved in the TIPS menu for our convenience.
On the beach, the kids also take their shot at the epigraph. They take it more literally than I did, assuming it is actually talking about Kinzo’s hometown and try to work it out from there, but without much success. The read the middle and ending parts similarly to how I did.
Maria gets upset as they talk about how crazy it is, and shows them all her drawings of witches.
It was not the normal sinister image of a crooked-nose hag flying around on a broom, but a dreamlike person with unnatural powers that could do anything and wore a beautiful dress. It was just what you would expect from an imaginative young girl. Dancing in the sky, crossing a rainbow, dancing around all night with a teacup and a teapot that would never get empty no matter how much you poured out of it. With a flourish of her staff, the stars in the sky would become candy and pour down, and flowers that produced sweets would bud by the roadside.
…To Maria, a witch was a unique concept, an embodiment of the magical dream that so captivated her. As she grew up, this was the last thing that gave richness to her dull and plain everyday life.
Aww. I really like Maria. I know I keep saying that, but she’s had so much personality so far.
Shannon pipes up and says she can tell servants’ stories about the witch. They’re all rather typical ghost stories, with things getting lost and people falling down being attributed to Beatrice.
Maria decides to give Batt and Jess charms to protect them from Beatrice, since not believing in her could invoke her wrath. Maria rifles around in her bag and pulls out two cheap-looking souvenir bracelets with scorpions on them, and says that since scorpions are said to have the ability to thwart magic, these should work. Shannon chimes in and says she’s heard that about scorpions, too. I would love if it turns out these actually work and Bat and Jess are the only ones who don’t die.
“Uu-! Wear it on your arm when you want a peaceful heart. If you put it in your wallet, your money won’t decrease! If you hang it from a doorknob, bad things can’t get in! It’s a really convenient charm!”
This is the most talking Maria’s ever done, and it’s super cute. As they eat their food, the older kids keep asking Maria about magic and charms, and she happily chats with them.
It starts to rain, so everyone hastily packs up and starts to head back.
The wind picks up as they head back, and they decide to look at the roses again for a minute, as the typhoon will likely ruin the garden. Maria remembers the sad rose she wanted to take care of, but when they go to look no one can find it. Maria starts to get upset, insisting it’s there and they don’t stop looking, when Rosa comes over.
“How many times do I have to tell you to stop saying ‘uu-uu-‘ before you will understand! Mama will look for it, so stay quiet!!”
Whoa. Batt is shocked about Rosa’s sudden anger as well.
Maria keeps crying, insisting it’s there, and then suddenly Rosa slaps her. Maria is stunned into silence, and no one can say anything. But then her tantrum starts up again.
“Uu-uu-!! Uu-uu-uu-!! Maria’s rose! Maria’s rose!! Uu-uu-uu-uu-uu-uu-uu-!!!”
“Didn’t I tell you to stop that weird habit!! That’s why all of the kids in your class make fun of you!! Cut it out!!”
Once again, her palm slapped Maria’s cheek. This time she didn’t go silent. She choked as she started crying, and began to bawl in an increasingly louder voice… Aunt Rosa was clearly irritated, and lifted her hand once more to try and shut her daughter up…
Battler steps in to try to stop it, saying it’s no big deal, kids just get upset sometimes. Rosa looks at him coldly and tells the older children to leave, as she needs to have a talk with Maria. Shit, it really sounds like she’s going to beat the crap out of her. Rosa keeps shouting at her to stop, which obviously just makes her keep doing it, and hits Maria so hard she falls over. Batt tries to step in, but Rosa grabs him and shoves him away.
My back hit George-aniki.
“…A long time ago, Rosa-san also thought of it as nothing more than one of Maria-chan’s baby words… but she is now midway through elementary school, and the fact that it hasn’t been fixed has bothered her a lot recently…”
“It’s not like it matters what kind of words she uses…”
“You can’t grow up to be like that. Therefore, even though it’s not a pleasant scene to watch… this is a problem between parent and child”
What the actual fuck George. He’s so annoying, he’s like an awful Nice Guy who wants to schmooze everyone but in each situation where someone is getting hurt he justifies not doing anything.
Jessica looks uncomfortable and says they should just leave, and Bat still can’t really believe it. The kids slowly walk away. Finally, Rosa stomps off, telling Maria she can just stay out in the storm if she wants the rose that badly. So Maria stays.
Up with Kinzo, it’s raining.
“…So, shall we start? Let us begin banquet of miracles of ours. Even now this island has been cut off from the world. Now there is no one who can interrupt my ceremony. There are many fitting sacrifices for you. Four of my children. Three of their companions. Four of my grandchildren. Me and my guests and my servants! You may eat up as many as you please. The key of fate will obey the roulette of demons and choose the sacrifices. If that roulette chooses me, even I will become your sacrifice. However, because of that… because I will bet on that madness, I will definitely create a grand miracle.”
“What if we took And Then There Were None and combined it with a magic murdergame” is such an absurdly wonderful premise. Honestly, Ryukishi may be the writer I’ve read that most picks up the mantle of Christie as far as construction, characterization, and storytelling are concerned, even if their actual subject matter is so different. (Do you know how many times I’ve planned out my thesis paper about the influences of mid-century American detective fiction on modern Japanese serial storytelling? So many times.)
Anyway. The scene ends, and the clock strikes 6 PM.
… and with that, I think we’ll cut. It looks like we have all the necessary starting info now, so this seems like a good time.
I think the biggest difference right now between this and Higurashi is the tone, vis a vis the characters. Higurashi was very much about an idyllic setting with something sinister underneath, and part of the tragedy was just how much we liked the main characters and how much we wanted to believe they were good people.
Here, the opening is fraught with tension — Battler hasn’t seen his family in six years, and we quickly find out it’s because his father had an affair. All of the adults are detestable people whose every word is a weapon, and it’s unclear just how bad the kids are; George has a few moments where his goody-two-shoes thing breaks down and he endorses the fucked-up behavior of the family, to Battler’s shock. Jessica has been living on this island under Kinzo’s eye and training to take over the awful family, and there’s clearly something going on with Maria’s obsession with the occult (completely aside from the fact that she seems like she has some developmental issues). None of these people seem like good people, possibly even the ones who bother to put up that facade, and the tension here comes from the fact that the whole place is like a gas leak ready to ignite, rather than the interruption of something wonderful.
All of this is conveyed to us via Battler, who serves as our anchor to what’s normal and moral. When I rail on fiction for not having the reader-expy POV character, this is a prime example of why. Battler’s POV as an outsider is absurdly important, not just as a way to give us exposition, but to serve as someone outside the circular morality of the family as a whole. Without Battler, there’s no way to tell what the game feels is normal or abnormal, right or wrong, because the other characters are so fucked up. That Battler is disturbed by Rosa’s treatment of Maria, freaked out by Kinzo’s Beatrice obsession, hurt and angry over his father’s womanizing, serves to ensure the reader that they’re not supposed to gloss over those things either. The real purpose of this POV character isn’t just to highlight what information is important via exposition, but via their adverse reactions to it. The table scene is one of the most important in this regard — that he goes out of his way to be unsettled by the misogyny of the family’s hierarchy tells us we’re not in a universe where the normalcy of this is to be taken for granted, and it gives us important information going forward.
The most important information we get from Battler by far boils down to: if you feel like something is wrong, it probably is. And in any book, but most importantly a mystery, this is the most important information you can give a reader, because it is the information about how an author was trying to make the reader feel.
It’s also important in something with tinges of the supernatural, because it grounds us, and when shit hits the fan and it’s suddenly not possible to be grounded, not possible to have any frame of reference, it means something to be confused. A problem I see all the time in fiction is that the author doesn’t take care to make the reader feel comfortable before upending them, but if you never having firm footing, loosing your balance is meaningless. Battler’s levelheaded, empathetic readings of situations means that when that starts to waver, our ability to feel safe will waver, too. This is hugely important in horror and thrillers.
What this all boils down to, on a larger scale, is: a lot of conventions are conventions because they work, and before you buck them, you should ask what there is to gain by doing so, because often there’s a lot to lose, and that is why I constantly tell people it’s so important to have a character serve this function: the tradeoff is rarely, rarely worth it. The rewards for winning the Originality Race are just not going to be as grand as the ones for the Effective Communication Race.
tl;dr Ryukishi is a good writer