Considered as the third installment in the highly popular When They Cry series by 07th Expansion, Umineko no Naku Koro ni takes place on the island of Rokkenjima, owned by the immensely wealthy Ushiromiya family. As customary per year, the entire family is gathering on the island for a conference that discusses the current financial situations of each respective person. Because of the family head's poor health, this year involves the topic of the head of the family's inheritance and how it will be distributed.
However, the family is unaware that the distribution of his wealth is the least of Ushiromiya Kinzou's (family head) concerns for this year's family conference. After being told that his end was approaching by his longtime friend and physician, Kinzou is desperate to meet his life's true love one last time: the Golden Witch, Beatrice. Having immersed himself in black magic for many of the later years in his life, Kinzou instigates a ceremony to revive his beloved upon his family's arrival on Rokkenjima. Soon after, a violent typhoon traps the family on the island and a string of mysterious murders commence, forcing the eighteen people on the island to fight for their lives in a deadly struggle between fantasy and reality.
A few things before reading this review:
-yes, I am one of those who have played the sound novel before watching the anime;
-no, I will not make this an essay of comparison between the two, nor will I praise the novel over the anime; however, it is inevitable that certain comparisons will indeed appear, in order to explain the flaws of the anime;
-this review might seem a bit unfriendly to someone who has no clue what Umineko is about. In fact, it's much more addressed to those who have partially or completely watched the anime/read the manga/played the game.
Let me begin with a simple assertion. Umineko
as an anime is a bad experience. Note that I did not say horrendous nor terrible. The Umineko anime is not at all a complete train-wreck, despite all the hatred it receives from the fandom; it's simply nothing more than mediocre. In other terms, it feels similar to trying to bend a very detailed paper figurine in a jar that's too small and ruining it in the process. Yes, the figurine was remarkable beforehand. But no, it did not remain so afterward.
There are two main reasons why the Umineko anime doesn't work:
-adaptation decay (butchering of the characters and the plot for time's convenience) and
-the very little effort Studio DEEN put into making it (bad graphics, right music at the wrong time, wrong character designs, overall wrong atmosphere).
BUTCHERING OF THE CHARACTERS
One of Umineko's main put-offs is the fact that is has such a large cast of characters. You cannot help but forget who is who, who is related to whom, where someone popped out of, what the purpose of a certain character is and so on and so forth. The adaptation from the novel to the anime meant losing a lot of development for plot's sake, and that really adds to the overall confusion. Except for the very main two characters (Battler and Beatrice), almost all the other characters are uni-dimensional. Name one word that relates to Rosa - abusive. One that defines Maria? Whiny. One for Ronove? Cookies. See the point?
While it becomes (or should become) clear after a while that in the wit game of Umineko, the humans are nothing more that chess pieces and the witches are simply devices to advance the arguments, that isn't an excuse. Why should you watch something where you don't care for any of the characters? Again, this is still the adaptation's fault. The original source material, while still keeping a few members of the cast undeveloped (I'm looking at you, Hideyoshi and Nanjo), at least managed to make all the characters likeable – therefore less likely to suspect. The anime didn't retain that; quite the opposite. You end up feeling exasperated most of the time by almost everybody.
Now onto the main characters: Battler and Beatrice.
-supposed to be the epitome of manliness, logic and determination [novel];
-ended up being the most delusional of them all (ironically), has huge shoujo eyes and most of the times doesn't make any sense at all [anime].
-complex character, acts all cruel, rough and unrefined in the beginning, but manages to melt halfway through and create a friendship/rivalry bond with Battler, to the point of finally being able to transmit to him the purpose of her existence [novel];
-complete bitch who takes a 180 turn in the last episode and goes all helpless moe moe kyun for no reason [anime].
BUTCHERING OF THE PLOT
Like it or not, the original Umineko story is damn complex, a complete, subtle mindfuck, in fact. Perhaps that is why it doesn't work that well in the visual format of the anime. Anime watchers are used to taking something literally as it is. Umineko was not supposed to be like that – hence even the unfriendly red text. Unfortunately, Studio DEEN didn't manage to clear the misconception at all. To get to the point:
One of the main questions that arose while experiencing Umineko (both in the sound novel and the anime form) was this – why the heck would Battler try to deny the existence of the witch when she's obviously sitting in front of him, cackling inelegantly and hitting him in the head with her pipe? It seems utterly ridiculous and pointless. A complete waste of time.
However, that is not the case. The novel, having the advantage of underlining concepts in a textual form, managed to clear this. The anime didn't. To explain further on:
Say Mary (Beatrice) is a multimillionaire and Ben (Battler) is a salary-man. There is a great business plan (the murders) going to unfold. Ben claims that you can manage that business with an amount of experience similar to the one he has (logic). Mary claims that you can only do it with a lot of money (magic). They decide to settle this in a game of monopoly (the anti-fantasy vs. anti-mystery game).
Now obviously, in a game of monopoly there are restrictions. You can only play with monopoly money. Had Mary played with real-life money, Ben would have absolutely no chance of winning. That's why, Mary's moves are restricted as well. It's a completely fair game.
Proving the point, basically Battler doesn't have to deny magic, period. He would never be able to do that, with Beatrice appearing in front of him and whatnot. He has to deny magic on the 4th and 5th of October 1986 in Rokkenjima, based on the fake scenarios created by Beatrice. It's logical, it's fair and with the right ideas, it doesn't contradict itself at all, quite the opposite. That is the whole fun and magic of Umineko.
Of course, some might say, how the heck were the viewers supposed to know this with the anime not explaining it? Unfortunately, by the explanations being cut, they simply could not know it. The novel had a lot of detailed sidelong concepts to help the whole logic battle (chessboard turning, Hempel's raven, Schrödinger's cat box) which the anime only briefly mentioned and never insisted on. In other words, a mystery which seemed barely solvable in the novel isn't solvable at all in the anime. That's why, if you're watching Umineko expecting to get a straightforward, definite answer, you won't get it. Which is sad, considering that the main purpose of Umineko was to make you have a brainstorming session. Besides, when in an anime you have to consult additional sources to realize what the heck is going on, that in itself is a problem. I'd say watch Umineko for some other aspects than the mystery, but honestly, there's nothing more to watch if for. And that is Studio DEEN's fault.
EXCESSIVE FANSERVICE, COMPLETELY UNRELATED HIGURASHI ATMOSPHERE, UNSYMMETRYCAL EARS: I'm looking at you, Studio DEEN
That's exactly as the title says. You could feel that the staff members of Studio DEEN were completely desperate by simply throwing a glance at the DVD covers. Or by the excessive amount of cleavage in all the female character designs (minus Bernkastel, who, funnily enough, did have quite the bust in the original material). It's very likely that DEEN themselves realized the Umineko anime was bad as it is; and that they had no other plans in which to compensate that.
Now I don't have anything against this particular studio; but you as a viewer could definitely sense that they screwed up. There is a famous screenshot in which Eva has a huge ear on one side of her head as opposed to the tiny one on the other side. That goes beyond the excuse of lack of funds. It's simply not caring for. The other main mistake is probably the fact that DEEN tried to promote this as a Higurashi sequel as much as they could to be able to milk money out of the fans. Why should Maria have the Hinamizawa syndrome eyes? They are irrelevant and out of place. Why must there be those weird sideways camera angles? And that emphasis on the gruesome death scenes instead of, say, the reactions of the living (much more important to the plot themselves)?
As for the art, while not being overly-pretentious, it manages to be above barely watchable. In fact, it's a nice change from the shiny shiny artwork nowadays. Still, it doesn't rise above the overall mediocrity of the execution itself.
Let's stop this lament at once, though. For Umineko also has certain redeeming characteristics, though not enough. To name them:
-the music. Yes, used mostly inconsistently, but taken as a whole, very good music. However, that is still thanks to the sound novel tracks remixes;
-OH! DESIRE. A perfect ED theme. Almost as if it was the studio's message of 'You want to get trolled? Well get trolled till the end, then!';
-good, fitting voices for the characters (surprisingly, Shannon's voice actress managed to suit her personality really well).
ENJOYMENT AND OVERALL
Umineko anime can basically be defined as a great story with a horrible execution. And that is not right; for, on an anime market with a lot of mediocre stories with great visual/audio/atmosphere candies, Umineko is exactly the opposite, being hard to digest.
For a sound novel player, it's a complete session of rage, of 'Why the heck was that cut?' and 'Hey, they did that wrong! Bastards!'.
And for an anime-only viewer, it's a 'How do I make head or tail of this thing? Eh, never mind, someone's been killed again' reaction chain.
To conclude with, I would recommend Umineko the anime only to those who are new to anime in general and have only watched around 20-30 series so far. More experimented watchers would definitely be able to sense the plot holes and lack of affective implication. And they will not enjoy that.
(As a small parenthesis, this is quite opposed to my recommendation of the novel/manga; I recommend the novel/manga to absolutely anyone. Read it and you won't regret it.)
One must remember that the Umineko no Naku Koro ni anime is an adaptation. While the anime in itself may not necessarily warrant harsh scores of 2 or 3, in comparison to its source material, it is extremely, extremely lacking. I find it inconceivable that anyone could give this series, even if they never read the sound novel, a 9 or 10 out of 10 rating. While the sound novel may not have been a masterpiece, it was intriguing, exciting, and, at times, moving. In its adaptation into an anime, the entire thing was turned into something disgustingly shallow and one-dimensional.
I doubt that any
studio or director would have been able to cram every single detail of the sound novels into 26 episodes. However, the way it was done was nothing but uncouth.
I was looking forward to Umineko from the moment I heard of it. I wasn't a big fan of Higurashi, but the synopsis made it seem reminiscent of my favorite book, And Then There Were None, and more fitting to my tastes in general. After the first five episodes, I couldn't describe it in any way other than "shallow." I hadn't heard of or read the novels at the time, but from the very beginning it felt as though something was missing. I heard the novel really was amazing, though, and sought it out. While there were flaws, the first four episodes of the novel felt much more complete than the anime. The story is mostly reading and the atmosphere is set more by the music rather than the visuals. Despite this, R07 managed to make the experience very enjoyable. After finishing it, I then continued with the anime, hoping it would at least somewhat meet the level the sound novel did. Of course, it didn't come close.
The anime really has no continuity or flow whatsoever. I found myself asking as the episodes progressed, "Wait, did they cover event X?" and holes simply cannot be left in a mystery story (what Umineko is presented as), other than intentional ones. Small things, such as Battler and Beatrice's reactions to each others' actions were left out or glossed over, making the story incredibly superficial. A lot of fun from the sound novel came from these moments between them.
The meaning behind events happening and secrets slowly unfolding is completely lost. In fact, the fight between Battler and Beatrice, anti-fantasy vs. anti-mystery, might as well not exist in the anime. It's supposed to be a detective/mystery story, albeit a strange one, and not simply that of a fickle witch murdering over a dozen people for fun, which is what the anime turned it into, at least until the very end where it does a rapid, poorly timed 180. Of course, the end was the "same" in the sound novel, but then it was clearly thought out and planned. The anime made it seem as if the producers/director forgot all about the end until the last five minutes of the final episode, then shoved it in.
By the end of the fourth game, one should be able to determine the culprit. By reading the sound novel, I believe this to be possible. I don't see how it could ever be done watching the anime alone.
The art is something that is clearly hit-or-miss. The main reason people seem to be put off from the sound novel is the "horrendous" art. Yes, different heads put on the same body and then turned into different characters. Yes, boxing glove hands. The art of Ryukishi07's works is clearly all about the faces. Whether the art of the anime is better or worse is something I'll let you decide for yourself. However, I think it's unquestionable that the facial expressions of the sound novel are exponentially better than the anime. I won't say that they are drawn well, but something has to be said of bad art that can manage to send chills down spines and make someone not want to read it at night because of frightening expressions. It would be hard for any animator to capture the riveting expressions of the sound novel, however I think they definitely could have tried harder, or at least have done a wider variation.
Of course, the faces weren't the only things animated. Some characters (Rosa) clearly look better than others (Battler), however no one looked totally dreadful, though some people would beg to disagree with that point. In some cases I actually found myself preferring it (Maria actually looks like a nine-year old), but I can't understand why they felt the need change nearly everyone's eye color to blue.
The sound was the most decent thing. The sound of the sound novel was excellent, as to be expected. The music really makes the setting, and even some scenes. The anime remixed some of the songs and used some of the original sound effects. Some fan-favorite songs were left out, but overall they did a decent job in this department.
The song for the opening was very good; I was happy to see they used Akiko Shikata, who did the opening for the sound novel. While, other than "yami o kirisaku OH DESIIIIRE," I disliked the ending song itself. I found it very fitting for Kinzo, however.
While many characters aren't expanded on in the sound novel until Episode 5 and the anime goes up to Episode 4, the anime made it seem as if no one, aside from Battler and Maria, had a personality. Several scenes left out of the anime expand on many of the characters, mainly the adults. Every adult in the anime, aside from Rosa, the cruel, heartless, "mother of the year," might as well have been there to simply add to the body count. For instance, a scene completely left out of the fourth game in the anime, known as the "Krauss Counter," made Krauss (the only adult I actually disliked at the time) likable. While the scene itself was probably the most over-the-top out of them all and not vital to the story (though it actually was part of the group held underground escaping), it made it harder to be suspicious of Krauss, who seemed to care about money more than anything else beforehand. Several scenes that were included were done very poorly, such as Rosa and Maria at the end of the second game and the Sisters of Purgatory, Kyrie, and Rudolf fighting in the third game. It was these many moments centered around the adults that actually made them seem like people rather than warm bodies existing for the sole purpose of dying.
The characterization is so important to the series. A mystery has three parts to answer: the whodunnit, the howdunnit, and the whydunnit. In this series, its easiest to focus on the whydunnit, as opposed to many other mysteries.
Beatrice says that witches exist and that everyone is being killed by magic. Battler refuses to believe in the existence of witches and magic but can't deny that the murders are happening. If it's not magic, then one of the eighteen has to be the killer. One of the reasons the sound novel is so compelling is that every one of the possible culprits is likable in some way. As the it progresses, you don't want to believe it's any of them, but you know someone has to be guilty. Watching the anime alone, I wouldn't mind suspecting nearly anyone; I'd have no attachment to any of the characters, and therefore the story.
The saddest thing about this series is that it ruined what is an, if not great, at least enjoyable, story. Those who hated it are missing out on a story they could have gotten to really like. Those who loved it should definitely start reading the sound novel, if anything to read Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru, which will probably/hopefully never see an anime adaption.
This is the story of a young creator named Ryukishi07 whose hit visual novel series Higurashi no Naku Koro ni became a hit anime and put him in the spotlight for great things. Hoping to capitalize on Higurashi's success, the same director and studio went to work adapting his spinoff visual novel series, Umineko no Naku Koro ni. Surely we could expect great things would come of it.
We were dead f*cking wrong.
This is anime at its most disgustingly deceptive, dragging you through 26 episodes of "mystery" and I cannot stress those quotation marks enough because half the time the mystery doesn't even exist. Hell I
could hardly tell what was the meta-world, the real world, the alternative world, THERE IS NO PERSPECTIVE! None! I don't even know where I am half the f*cking time so how the hell would I be expected to know what's going on?!
The characters are a mess. We're rivaling Geass and Nanoha levels here in characters, and as such signifies, half of them have no personalities. Hell, you see them all die so many times over and over again that you just come to accept that's their purpose in all of this. In fact, there are some characters so f*cking annoying you cheer when its their turn to take the grotesque spill, but it's not even half as enjoyable as it could be because this anime is spammed with so much violence that it makes it seem uninteresting. I have never seen senseless violence become so BORING!
The art is laughable. Studio Deen has clearly learned nothing from Higurashi, kept the same production values and amped up the facial distortions to a saturation point that makes them entirely unremarkable. Fortunately they kept the original music of the games which is quite good in some case if you can hear it over blood splattering and insane laughter. Oh, and another rare prop to this series for Sayaka Oohara's performance. I wonder if she got drunk before coming in on days to voice Umineko. I hope so. She at least made it halfway entertaining.
But the real kicker is we aren't even close to solving any of the mysteries by the end of this and it ends with WAIT FOR SEASON 2 LOL. Now some of you may say "Hey Splitter! You gave Higurashi's first season a 9 and it did the same thing!" Yes it did, but it also got closer to the truth every episode and eventually made the big reveal that puts the whole series into focus while Umineko didn't do anything even remotely close to that. I've heard the games are better (more times than should be heard) but this adaptation does nothing to make me want to invest days on end into playing them and the adaptation certainly doesn't make me want to stick around for 24-26 more episodes as I care nothing about anyone in it and could care less if they all stay trapped in this game for all eternity. In fact, put Chiaki Kon and her staff in this game for all eternity with the characters. That's a suitable punishment for making this grotesque travesty of a "murder mystery". Seriously, all you've got is a good OST, a solid backstory with Maria and Ange (F*CK WHAT THEY DID WITH ANGE), and Beatrice's seiyuu performance. After that you have 22 eps of inane shit and characters you just want to see permanently shut up.
Overall, I give Umineko no Naku Koro ni a 4 out of 10.
In my own perspective, "Umineko no Naku Koro ni" is a very entertaining and enjoyable masterpiece. It's just sad that it has been quite underrated because of its comparison to Higurashi and that the Visual Novel was still a lot better. First of all, don't go thinking it would be close to Higurashi 'coz its plot is a lot different though similar. Higurashi's main point is horror while Umineko is more of a thriller or rather something like a mind battle like "Death Note" and even includes witches and magic. For me, this is one of the most unpredictable anime I've ever watched and does
not deserve being underrated. It's a series that would actually even make you want to rewatch the whole series after completing it.
Now this is what you call an anime with a "really deep" story. Before enjoying this anime, let me tell you that the first 4 episodes were introduction only to the anime's plot. After that, episode 5 finally reveals the plot of the story so I suggest don't go dropping it before that if you think you already know the plot (well, if you really want to know the plot before you can continue, all I can say is this: Human vs Witch). Episode 6 will make you think this is getting boring, but let me tell you after watching Episode 7 you might finally like this anime. The major breakdown of the series is episode 10, as it would probably make you say "WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING HERE!?". Being unable to bear such breakdown might finally make you want to drop this anime, moreover, that the protagonist seems to have no chance (0%) in winning. However, let me tell you that the protagonist was just unprepared in those episodes and will finally show off his true might for the rest of the series. Regarding the breakdown in Episode 10, there'll be an explanation for that too. The last episode was satisfying, though you might think many of the mysteries were left unsolved, they were actually answered but in a way that you can already logically think how and just think of them yourself.
Art & Animation: 6
There's nothing special about the art and animation, but it's actually very good enough since I think it was given quite the budget.
Though I've heard other anime with really good bgms, this has actually good ones. It has a very thrilling background when the protagonist shows off, and I love it. Most of the sounds were taken and remixed from the visual novel it has a good variety of sounds and all...
Aside from the protagonist and antagonist, all the other characters were also given spotlight to know their story and even sometimes see a cool side of them, which is a plus actually. The thing I didn't quite like was the inconsistency of Beatrice's character (the antagonist), you may think of her as one of the most evil creatures but she also sometimes makes a character of a good person and even gets a bit feeling of romance between her and Battler (protagonist). Another one with an inconsistent character would be Maria, she's cute and adorable in normal situations and you might even cry for her when you see her being abused by her mother. However, her character often changes into an annoying evil brat. My favorite character is of course Ushiromiya Battler, he's cool and funny.
I really enjoyed the scenes in Umineko and I was very satisfied. If you enjoy a battle of wits, you'll enjoy this too. The only reason I didn't rate the enjoyment 10 but 9 was because there are also some boring scenes.
I liked it so much. It's a gem that should be appreciated more.
Let’s take a look at some of the best horror anime ever, featuring all the scary elements a horror story should have - death, zombies, ghosts, gore, tragedy, the paranormal, and more! So clear your schedule, call over some friends, switch off the lights, grab the popcorn and prepare to be terrified!