Umineko no Naku Koro ni takes place in the year 1986 during the time frame of October 4 and 5 on a secluded island named Rokkenjima. The head of a wealthy family named Kinzou Ushiromiya, who lives on and owns Rokkenjima, is near death, and eleven of his family members arrive on the island to discuss how Kinzou's assets will be divided once he is dead. Also on the island are five of Kinzou's servants, and his personal physician. After the eleven family members arrive, a typhoon traps them on the island and shortly after people start to get mysteriously murdered.
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.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni, or "When the Seagulls Cry", is a manga adaptation of of a visual novel by 07th Expansion, written by the same author, Ryuukishi07, whose work include Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, another horror, mystery story in a similar vein. However, I urge fans of the latter to come into Umineko with little expectations, not because I don't think the story will live up to it, but because Umineko is such an odd beast that it is very unlikely to fit to anything the viewer could expect. Umineko is a cluster of genres, ideas and deconstructions that it is difficult to
recommend at times due to how dense and obtuse it can be. However, those who give it a fair shot may find something entirely original with bold ideas and bizarre premise.
Despite the bizarreness of the series as a whole, the first episode is comparatively very traditional. It starts with a simple premise: "A cast of character is trapped in a relatively small area and people begin dying." Legend of the Golden Witch is the most traditionally horror story in the series, and is almost a (very long) prologue in retrospect. The characters are introduced but (mostly) undeveloped, the questions the story poses remain unanswered, and it ends without a clear resolution. That isn't to say the plot is bad however, far from it. Its simple premise allows for excellent execution. The tone and atmosphere are consistent and effective. And, due to its brevity, the horror aspects remain oppressive throughout. I will say that Umineko is a series that does not like giving answers, so readers who want to stay for the long run better start taking notes if they want their questions resolved. Of course, finding an answer is a lost cause in a fantasy setting, and there lies the central question of the early arcs: "Is Umineko a fantasy or mystery story?"
The cast of characters are varied and unique, if rather mostly undeveloped at this point. The protagonist, Ushiromiya Battler is, at this point, the somewhat traditional male teenager protagonist: He's passionate, perverted, stubborn and clever when the situation calls for it. Battler does go through some development during this episode, being torn between suspecting his relatives and denying the existence of a witch. This makes for an interesting dilemma and sets up his position for later arcs nicely. His siblings, at this point, are the traditional mature big brother and hotheaded tomboy trope. The adults, however, show hints of greater complexity, and while getting deeper may hints at spoilers, suffice to say it becomes more difficult to label them with any single trope. Of course, in these sorts of setting, the morality and nobility of the characters are tested, and I believe that they react in believable and sometimes sympathetic ways. Paranoia and guilt plagues the cast and how they adapt to the horrors around them is a joy to see.
Adaptation (7) :
(for those familiar with the source material, no spoilers here however)
I will say this: those of you who have played through the original materials and have found all the answers will have little reason to read the manga adaptation of the first episode unless you want to see certain scenes in a more visual format (because obviously the anime is a mess and isn't worth your time). However, if, like me, you have played through the visual novel once without finding all the answers but isn't too keen on going through the exact same thing again, the manga is a great place to go through the story again in a different format. It is still a pity that the adaptation of the first episode has so little that the source material does not, but at least it is a faithful adaptation (unlike the anime), if not an ambitious one. I personally find the art at the beginning rather off-putting but either the artist got better or I got used to it because I found little to complain about in the latter part. It is also a plus that the manga has no obligation to censor the more disturbing scenes, which is one thing it has over the source material. That said, some scenes are just not the same without the visual novel's stellar soundtrack accompanying them, but really there is noway around that. Even so, the horror aspects are diminished somewhat by the lack of sound, arguably the strongest contributor to atmosphere, or the iconic sound effects used throughout the source material.
As a long prologue to the overall story, Legend of the Golden Witch may not be as strong as the other arcs, comparatively lacking in both character development and resolution. However, it makes up for it with a concise and effective horror story and setting up the characters nicely. As a prologue, the first arc does a very find job of setting up the scene, allowing for later arcs to take off. Judging Legend by its own merits, it is a simple yet effective and atmospheric story filled with creepy moments and surprises.
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.