Every year, the Ushiromiya family attends a gathering held by the eccentric family head, Kinzou, on the island of Rokkenjima. As his health is failing, most of the family believe he doesn't have much time left. So as a typhoon rages on outside, so too does the storm in their hearts as they squabble amongst themselves over the inheritance and the claim of being Kinzou's rightful heir.
Battler, Kinzou's grandson, has returned to Rokkenjima after a six year absence, expecting the gathering to go smoothly. However, his eccentric grandfather has other plans; he enacts a bizarre game, challenging everyone to find his hidden gold. The one who finds it also receives the most coveted reward of all: the leadership of the family. However, their game is beset with violence and murder when the participants are used as "sacrifices" to revive the Millennial Witch of Rokkenjima, Beatrice.
Ever the skeptic, Battler doesn't believe in the occult. But when so many around him turn up dead, he is forced to question whether it was the work of magic or the machinations of someone among them.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni - Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch was published in English as in two omnibus volumes by Yen Press on November 20, 2012 and February 26, 2013, respectively, as well as in eBook format on April 22, 2014.
When They Cry 3, dubbed Umienko no Naku Koro Ni is considered the spiritual sequel to Higurashi (direct in my opinion). Like Higurashi, its a mystery/thriller but with more emphasis on the mystery aspect. The state of affairs for the adaptions of the Umineko Visual Novel are pretty damn messy at the moment. There's the anime, which is a godawful piece of crap that's worth no one's time. Than there are the manga adaptions which are still being published. Simultaneously no less. Needless to say, it can get pretty confusing but that's what this review is for.
The premise is typical stuff for a murder mystery.
The Ushiromiya family has an annual get together on the island of Rokkenjima. Of course while they're staying there, a storm comes a long and the next thing you know, half the people on the island are dead. Than its adopts the classic whodunit angle and we've got ourselves a run of the mill mystery. Except Umineko is anything but run of the mill, but I'll get to that later. The protagonist is none other than good ol' Battler, who's fairly silly, perverted and has a pretty good sense of humor. He's also very level headed and has a knack for thinking in a logical manner. All of this is integral to the story but it might not be so obvious as to why at first. Now an important detail to know is that Episode 1: Legend of The Golden Witch, is fairly different from the other 3 episodes. It has a completely different mood and tone from the others because the point of it is to establish characters and pose some initial questions to the readers. You can look at it as a long prologue of sorts, as the real story begins in Episode 2.
That's not to say that its bad by any means, on the contrary, episode 1 is a very good stand alone story that sells its mystery quite well. The suspense is excellent and a lot of the murders will leave the readers scratching their heads. Of course its all presented in a textbook fashion but considering what it has to work with at first, it does a splendid job.The pacing is great, if a bit on the slow side. Unlike the anime, the manga includes a lot of the details that the VN had in regards to the characters and story. It also has a very interesting spin on the more ambiguous events that in my opinion, add a lot to the elements of the story. It presents a whole load of interesting characters, like the abusive mother Rosa, the atypical loli Maria, the overcompensating grandfather Kinzo, and of course, the Endless Witch Beatrice. Although Umineko does have a tendency to take your impressions of characters and twist them hundreds of times over. In that sense, it has great characters who are certainly not what they seem at first.
The art is great, definitely better than the generic designs that DEEN did, and leagues above the VN's "art". Although the proportions on both the male characters and females can look kinda weird at times, its got a distinct style that suits the overall mood of the story well. Some of the details are exquisite, its definitely a pleasure just to stop and admire some of the spreads. The only problem I can think of about the presentation is that it doesn't have one of the VN's strong points: the BGM. Of course, this is the limit of the medium, but the VN's BGM went a long way in adding to the atmosphere. Some scenes in the manga are not as poignant without the appropriate tracks playing in the background but I guess its fair trade for the art.
As a mystery, Episode 1 is great if a bit familiar. I said before that Umineko isn't typical at all but the story only really takes off in the later episodes. Unfortunately EP1 is the only one that's been completely published so far, so you're looking at 3 other episodes that are still incomplete. There's continuity between each episodes, so this publishing method isn't exactly the best, seeing how the whole thing is fragmented right now. I wouldn't ever recommend watching the anime, so if you want to pick this up, I'd say do it sometime in the future unless you don't mind the wait. The only other option is to read the VN which I also wholeheartedly recommend if you really want to know what happens next.
Like it's spiritual predecessor Higurashi, Umineko no Naku Koro ni is split into eight arcs, with the first four being question ones and the last four answer. This is a review of the first arc, Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch, often refered to simply by the series name, like on here, due to it being the first arc.
As a forewarning, I may end up comparing this to Higurashi a lot due to them being very similar, but I'll try to do so as little as possible.
Ah, the story. In this we get Ryukishi07's usual style of telling you as little as
possible for the question arcs so you have to try to fit it all together. The plot here is fairly typical of a horror/mystery with a group of people being stranded somewhere as they all start to get killed until there are none left ala Ten Little Indians. What Umineko adds though, is magic, possible insanity and some of the most gruesome murders I'm seen in any media.
In fact the main problem the plot seems to have is just how in the dark in leaves it's readers. Of course I can't fault it on this though as it's a mystery series with this being only the first arc.
Sadly though, it being the first arc is also probably the main fault the arc has overall as due to that we don't get a lot of the wonderful elements and banter between characters that we do in later arcs. It's still we'll done though and manages to maintain a disturbing tone from the first murder to the last.
As I seem to be noticing with a lot of manga I've reviewing as of late, the art is one of the worst things the series has going for it. Thankfully, it does get better as the series progresses. The backgrounds are all fine and dandy, but the way the characters are drawn by this artist looks off a lot of the time, though it's good when it needs to be.
Disturbingly, the best drawn things in this arc are the corpses... I'll say this: I remember watching the anime several months ago and complaining about all the censoring that was done on the corpses. I am now GLAD they did that. Honestly, I think if I'd seen some of those pictures with detailed colouring, I may have lost my lunch. Just... Look for yourself, but you have been forewarned all you squeemish people out there!
Charcter wise, this series is a little lacking. I don't mean that there's too few of them, oh no, we get nineteen in this arc alone. Where it's lacking is the actual development of the characters and this is a problem that we had back in Higurashi too. The characters are all fun from the adorable ones to the ones you just want to punch in the face at times, but they're all brutally underdeveloped little things, doomed to forever maintain one character trait.
They are luckily all memorable thoug, something to be thankful for in a series with so many who often end up dying before we even can remember their names.
Despite my griping, I am happy to report that this series is very enjoyable. The beginning is a bit slow and deductions can drag on once in a while, but when the shit hits the fan it gets good.
I'm really hoping that this becomes more popular as right now it's only really known by Higurashi fans for the most part, so I'm really hoping it can break away from that and become a story unto itself.
I am happy to give this frighteningly gruesome ride a 7 out of 10, leaning on an 8.
There are lot of longer series that are dull and uniteresting at the start, but with a huge fanbase spamming "Bro you gotta keep reading/watching bro I promise it gets better after 200 chapters/episodes bro trust me please don't drop it". Fortunately, Umineko is not one of those. And I don't mean that it starts great only to get weaker later. It starts great and keeps getting even greater. And it goes even beyond that, the later parts are so great they make the already good start even better. But more about that later.
Umineko is a detective mystery made to transcend the concept of detective
mysteries. It pits logic, deduction and detective works of mere humans against the magic of great witch. Or does it? It is a fight between mystery genre and fantasy genre. And Episode 1 serves as a great introduction to this conflict.
The great saga starts with more or less regular crime scene. Group of people gets trapped on a secluded island and mysterious murder happens. Well, mysterious murders. The protagonist has to catch the culprint so there aren't any more victims. The conclusion, which I won't spoil, sets of a conflict of even greater scale. Now this is where the true genius of this work comes to play. The hints are there from the starts and they alway were there. Hints to conclusion both to this episode and to the whole Umineko story. Hidden in plain sight, carefully chosen to not be given away while still allowed to be spotted. But I would bow to anyone who puts them together, as the mystery is constructed so well it looks unsolvable yet once you get to the solution, you see that it was your fault for not getting it. There is no BBC Sherlock-tier bullshit asspull, the author cleanly won the intellectual battle with the reader without cheating. Admittedly, yes, the grand conclusion comes later after this episode, so it technically isn't part of rating of Episode 1, but Legend of the Golden Witch pulls out such well done set-up to the finale that it deserves some of the credit. Set-up that is enjoyable not only after the finale, but right from the start.
The art is great and a perfect fit for the atmosphere of Umineko. It shifts from cute, daily life style to horrifying scenes and terrifying grimaces, creating a great contrast. The violence and gore is well balanced, it's enough to bring out the mordbid curiosity humans tend to have, but at the same time not overdone in a way that would be seen as edgy and pretentious.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni also known as When the Seagulls Cry is a story about a closed circle mass murder mystery. 18 people on the Rokkenjima Island, which includes the Ushiromiya family, servants and a doctor are slaughtered one by one through gruesome methods. There are an amount of locked room murders that seems impossible to be done by humans, which brings up the question: “Is the Golden Witch Beatrice responsible for the murders?”
First of all, the pacing of the story is done pretty well. The author spent the first six chapters to mainly focus on the characters. As I
mentioned, episode 1 consists a huge cast of 18 people, these six chapters gives a brief description on the characters background and personality, which helps the readers to become familiar with the cast. Not to mention the six chapters are not merely character introductions, strange events also takes place, such as the appearance of the witch’s letter and umbrella.
After the first set of tragedies occur, the story becomes fast paced and intense. More and more questions are raised while mysterious murders take place. However, don’t expect all the questions to be answered in EP1. As you may have noticed, this is the first episode to the Umineko series, which serves as a prologue to the story and an introduction of the Umineko world. As the episodes continue, more tips and parts of the story will be revealed.
The author took his time and the story was never rushed. I am impressed by the details they put in this manga adaptation. Most of the tips are included from the original Visual Novel, this is particularly important for Umineko, as tips are essential for solving the complicated challenges and understanding the truth of the story. Sadly this was not the case for the anime adaptation.
Our protagonist, Ushiromiya Battler serves as the detective of the series. The story is unraveled through his perspective most of the time. He gets the greatest amount of character development in EP1, he is determined to seek out the witch and bring the tragedy to an end. He is a likable character to me. Although he is one of the casualties in the mass murder, he still manages to pull himself together and tries to end other family member’s conflicts with his theories.
Other characters did not receive the amount of character development that Battler got. It would be really difficult to put a large number of times on the characters individually while balancing the murder parts of the story at the same time. Also, EP1 act as the prologue of the story, we get to know more about their pasts and personalities in depth in future episodes.
The most impressive part of EP1’s artwork is the character’s expressions. They are drawn filled with emotions, such as how twisted the grown up’s facial expressions are when then plan to scheme against each other.
There are also some impactful moments nicely drawn. The scene when Battler has his first encounter with the witch’s portrait gave me a strong impression. The artist used two pages to illustrate that scene, which is really memorable.
I have to point out that the gory corpses are drawn pretty detailed. I have no problem reading those scenes but others might feel uncomfortable, be warned. One might argue it is excessive gore though I treat it as tips. Why would the culprit put in so much effort to damage the corpse’s faces brutally? That is the question.
I had a lot of fun reading Legend of the Golden Witch. Not only does the locked room murders, bizarre deaths got me attached to the story, trying to hunt down the culprit myself is also enjoyable. From time to time, when I suspect a certain character is the culprit, they get murdered suddenly. One might even ask themselves if the Golden Witch Beatrice exists and involved with the murders, making the story even more mysterious.
The enjoyment of EP1 does not end when you finish the last chapter. There are tons of challenges left by the author unanswered, such as who is the culprit and the methods of murder. Readers could also challenge the witch’s epitaph, which is the greatest challenge of Umineko in my opinion.
As a mystery lover, Legend of the Golden Witch is a must read. It is packed with locked roomed murders and challenging puzzles one after another. One must bear in mind that EP1 is only the prologue to the Umineko series, an amount of questions would not be answered immediately and readers must come up with their own theories. Episode 1 is merely the beginning of your eternal struggle with the Golden Witch Beatrice.