Ushiromiya “Battler” (or Batora if you will) has a problem, to say the least. When he and a group of 17 family members and staff at his grandfather’s estate come together in 1986 for a reunion, one by one those 17 others start suffering violent deaths. Before long it is clear that the original purpose of the reunion, which was to enjoy each other’s company even while paying respects to Battler’s dying grandfather, has instead become a struggle to solve the mystery behind these deaths. And thus are we plunged into the rather frightening world of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the third of three in the “When They Cry” series.
The setting on Rokkenjima, a small island owned entirely by Battler’s grandfather Kinzo, is based on the Kyuu-Furukawa gardens in Tokyo prefecture. The title of the show could be translated “When the Black-Tailed Gulls Cry,” as this may be the best we can do to render the Japanese pun. For the now-famous red “na” hiragana in the title is placed intentionally, rather than using the kanji for 泣く or 鳴く. Both of these verbs are pronounced naku, and mean “to cry/weep” or “to make a sound (as an animal)” respectively.
This installment of the “When They Cry” series (and I have seen only a couple episodes of the first series, and none of the second) gets straight to the murder part of the murder mystery, even as we have barely met Battler, his grandfather, any of his grandfather’s staff, or any of Battler’s aunts or uncles or cousins. Soon it becomes evident that one possible suspect is Beatrice, allegedly a witch who lives on Rokkenjima but who no longer takes a human form. Battler’s creepy little cousin Maria is so delighted with this possibility that she barely seems to mind the death of her mother Rosa — although to be fair, Rosa’s physically and emotionally abusive parenting could also have something to do with Maria’s behavior. From where I sit currently, at the end of episode four, the body count is rising quickly, and Battler and his surviving relatives are trying to find whatever clues they can from the odd inscription near a painting of Beatrice, as she supposedly looked when she inhabited a human body.
I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that odd inscriptions with Hebrew letters are appearing nearly as often as dead bodies in this anime. They turn out to be passages from the Psalms, mostly obscure passages taken in an odd context so far. I have my doubts that these will turn out to be terribly important, but I am writing down the references just in case.
I certainly love a good detective story, animated or otherwise, and have fond memories of watching series such as Tantei Gakuen Q. The violence so far in Umineko no Naku Koro ni, while far from subtle, seems easier to bear than in Higurashi (which is probably why I could stand only two episodes or so). Will Battler and his relatives solve the mystery before they all turn up dead?
I don’t know, but I plan to stay tuned and find out.
7/10 at MAL so far, but movement either upward or downward is still very possible.