"...a story should be like a roller coaster. That is to say before writing a really cruel scene, I have to lift the people's spirits, for example, with a fun scene... Before writing a scene of pure despair, we must go through scenes of hope. And indeed, when I write, all of this amuses me very much."
Some series are particularly difficult to complete simply because of the promise of impending tragedy. Having finished a story which I allowed to drift in limbo for too long, this hollow sensation is both intoxicating and debilitating.
Umineko is a remarkable catbox.
The previous episodes explained that the difference between
reality and fantasy might only be paper-thin. A witch is born when human reasoning is incapable of explaining a mystery. A witch is born out of the need for escape. Having learned part of the truth, it turns out that I was thoroughly tricked - and throughout both this episode and the last, filled with anti-magic toxins which made everything seem rather bleak.
As it happens, Ryukishi07 never ceased to toy with us. He exploited the desire for a fantasy and made us see something which wasn't really there. Just as with Higurashi, only after reaching the ending did it become possible to appreciate the scale and intricacy of his work.
At first glance, it seems that Umineko is 90% fiction and 10% fact. The best comparison would probably be to a jigsaw puzzle where most of the tiles don't fit anywhere. As the full story of 1986 was finally pieced together from the fragments of previous episodes, it seemed inevitable that the completed jigsaw would depict a tragedy.
The lesson gleaned from the previous episodes was that love is a source of madness which paints over an ugly truth. Though you might want to live in a fantasy forever... isn't it eventually time to grow up? Ange's single-minded desire to dig up the truth seems incompatible with everybody's happiness, including her own - but it makes sense. As much as Battler might want to keep Ange from growing up, that's something he shouldn't prevent.
At its core, that's what this episode is really about - growing up without losing your magic. More than finding the truth, there existed the need to overcome and accept the truth.
Can the ghosts of the past give courage to the witch of the future? Beyond probability and fantasy, beyond delusions and forgeries, surely there exists a golden land which isn't painted on the jigsaw tiles. The last game isn't just a sibling dispute between Ange and Battler - it's an intense war between 1986 and 1998.
And it's thrilling.
Coming fresh out of the other episodes, the difference in art style is a little jarring... but that's something which I quickly became accustomed to, considering that some earlier episodes had the same artist. Character designs are still on-point (i.e. seriously adorable, the hell is this), backgrounds are comfortable as usual (i.e. so much class, let's live here), and the highlight of this episode might well be one of the most satisfying punches to exist in any medium.
Crazy frog eyes. The art is as cutesy as it is psychotic, but doesn't that just add appeal?
The hallmark of a strong main cast is certainly the potential for a thirty-page essay to be written about the characters alone. I'll just stick to the main character of this episode, though.
Finally, the spotlight returns to our favourite shredded meat girl. There's a comparison to a child soldier who marches in single-minded pursuit of an obsession, eventually left with nothing but themselves - and I think that sums up Ange nicely. Hers is the simple story of someone who sets out for revenge and finds meaning beyond it, though executed in a way which is wholly unique.
Completing the jigsaw means rejecting all inharmonious, fictitious fragments. This episode might well be a reconciliation between the witch of the future and the girl trapped in the past, because though the jigsaw presents a tapestry of hell -- that isn't the whole truth. Or rather, though it's one unchanging and absolute truth, it isn't the only truth.
So, at the end of the day, Umineko really isn't 90% fiction and 10% truth - in a sense, everything is real. An emotion which is never conveyed can be as much a truth as any, whatever the reality may be... and every character's story spectacularly communicates a certain central message.
"Without love, [the truth] cannot be seen."
Needless to say, I consider Umineko to be a must-read. It's a series which makes the reader spend their time thinking for far too long, not just in relation to the detective mystery. Eva, Maria, Shannon; though their stories seem to be unrelated at first, in the end it's evident that they were wrapped in layers of allegory.
Something that I was particularly interested in was the idea that it takes two to complete a universe - much like the concept of a catbox and an observer. A story can't be completed if the writer is the only observer, in the same way that somebody who never shows anybody their work isn't an author.
To create a story, you only need a writer. To complete it, you need somebody else to act as a reader. Otherwise, who knows whether or not the story actually exists? Like Schrodinger's cat, the truth only exists within your incomplete universe, and not outside it.
There are innumerable stories which can be told by inference and deduction, but they should never be a replacement for reality. The truth may be ugly, and it may be reprehensible. However, if it isn't shared, then it remains forever locked within the catbox... and the infinite possibilities which arise?
Emotions are filling me up. Yet again I was able to experience the void of finishing something great. Due to ongoing of the manga, I had to read the original visual novel. It was long but worth reading.
Everything comes to the conclusion. Battler sets up the last game for Ange in order to show her other side of Ushiromiya family: kind, solicitous and loving. Why would he do that? Before answer is revealed, Bernkastel appears with something in mind. Knowing that she is the main antagonist, we can suspect that her intentions will not be good and nice. What is
she up to? "Find that out" will be my answer.
Just as always, art is very good. Emotions were passed through pages splendidly.
There are a lot of characters in the series. Everyone can find favorites. As for development, readers will witness Lambdadelta's progression as a 'real' witch (a witch that is meant to bring happiness). Her actions were a turning point in the story, which make readers respect her.
Rating the enjoyment of this part of the story as a stand alone episode made me put an 8/10. There are more action scenes than mind games, so my expectations were not met in full way. Still, I was reading this episode with big interest.
Overall score for this episode is 9, but I want to put 10 for the whole series. This was on of the greatest experience since Higurashi. If anime adaptation were not bad, I wouldn't wait for a year to get acquainted with the manga adaptation. Umineko is the great story with elements of comedy, drama and mystery. If you want to read something intellectual and not cliche, I strongly recommend to give this manga a try. You will not regret it.