This is another one of those series that i only found my way back to after running out of what i would term as ‘good’ anime. By ‘good’ anime i am referring to the kind of anime that provides instant gratification, whereas Umineko falls into the category of anime such as Chaos head that i discarded after an episode of pure weirdness but swore to return to due to some quality and hence potential for awesomeness that i gleaned.
Of course Umineko is a little different from Chaos head because i was actually really into the mystery aspect in the first five episodes, until things went wrong and became a little too complex. I gave into impatience and as with alot anime i have been watching as of late, dropped it, swore to return to it and finally did. Umineko stands out because even shiki didn’t stand out to me the way this series did. I damped shiki after one episode. I thoroughly enjoyed this anime till the sixth episode.
so it was technically inevitable that i would return to it and i thoroughly expected to enjoy it once i finally got the courage to sit down and do what i usually prefer not to do, put serious brain power into what i am watching and try to solve the mystery.
Umineko did better than most anime that i shrugged off. I at least made it to episode 15 before giving in. This should have been a great mystery thriller, but things became strange after a while. I heard the visual novel it is based on was superb and this anime pales in comparison to the source material. I will never know.THE PLOT:>
It has become a long standing tradition for the immensely wealthy Ushiromiya family to congregate at Rokkenjima island for a private family conference during which those that bear the name Ushiromiya discuss the social and economic status of the family and all business that relates to it.
On this particular conference, the family is congregating to deal with a weighty matter, the family’ head’s ill health and the touchy subject of inheritance, a topic that is bound to incite disquiet among the direct and indirect family.
However Kinzo Ushiromiya, the family head, is, unbeknownst to the family, struggling under a number of hefty matters, none of which includes the family’s wealth and its inheritance question.
Kinzo, having learnt from his dear friend and long time physician of his impending demise, seeks to reunite with his true love, the golden witch, Beatrice, before departing from this world.
Well versed in the matters of black magic, Kinzo sets about executing a ceremony that will revive the soul that he longs to reunite with before death. Not long after, the island is struck by a powerful storm that strands the family on the island for the weekend, both physically and in terms of access to communication.
What began as a commercially driven weekend to determine the sole heir of the family’s wealth is punctuated by the call of magic; the witch Beatrice has awakened, her soul cries out to the lost paradise from which she was cast and to which she wishes to return. Only the sacrifice of the unbelieving will quench her thirst, and nothing, not family, not friends, will stop Kinzo from seeing her beloved’s will done and finding her warm embrace one last time before he bids the world good bye.
What ensures is a furious contention of wills, between the supernatural and the natural, between belief and disbelief, the victor of which will claim their life.MY REVIEW:>
Here is what first drew me to this anime, the intellectual manner in which the plot was unveiled. The murders were gruesome, ridiculously so, yet not shown in any detail that would put this in the PG16 area. So fairly tame with regards to violence. But that aside, the murders were gruesome, but strangely impossible. The mystery was set up so that whoever committed the murders had to have used supernatural means i.e. magic.
Maria, the irritating kid had seen Beatrice, she kept singing the witch’s lullaby. The family doctor had revealed his fears to the family with regards to Kinzo’s mental state and his indulgence in what he said was magic. Clearly there was no way he believed in some golden witch who would take him to some golden paradise. A ridiculous assumption as far as the doctor’s scientific sensibilities were concerned.
But we know the murders couldn’t have been committed by a human being, not with the locked door scenario created and the number of bodies involved. It had to have been Beatrice. Yet no one believes that such a person exist and thus choose to ignore her challenge and the monetary rewards she offers. But the family doctor admits that there was indeed a girl named Beatrice that Kinzo had an affair with, years ago, a real life flesh girl, not a witch.
So a person named Beatrice existed, so Kinzo could be confused. More importantly there is mention somewhere of a money lender named Beatrice with whom Kinzo did business. There might be some truth to the challenge and the reward of gold mentioned. But if there was indeed a young girl named Beatrice that Kinzo slept with, that sets up the possibility for another heir coming to claim the inheritance, an heir whose mother Kinzo loved dearly above their own mother(s) and whom he would quickly relinquish the inheritance to, choosing to mask his decisions behind farcical magical claims.
Then their is the challenge set by Beatrice. On Kinzo’s death, the hundreds of bars of gold she had lent to Kinzo to allow him to finance his business 20 years ago were to return to her along with the entire fortune he had amassed with her money. But if someone solved the mystery of the epitaph on her, Beatrice’s, portrait which hangs in the living room and finds the gold, they can keep it and the whole inheritance, which sets the question of who holds authority over the wealth, kinzo or this money lender who might or might not be Beatrice, or some unknown heir and so on.
And the existence of a portrait of Beatrice proves her existence, otherwise who is the young beautiful blonde woman in the picture and why did Kinzo choose to call her Beatrice if that was not her?
This is the madness that is the mystery that is set at the start of the series and i do not think i explained it right. In the center of it all is Battler, one of Kinzo’s red haired grand children, a pragmatist
with a sharp wit and strong will. It is his determination that starts and ends the story. HE will not believe in magic, even when it is sitting right in front of him. As far as he is concerned, even if Beatrice walked up to him, never mind the fact that no one is sure about who has seen or not seen her, there is a way to explain the magic element out of the picture. And that is where we the viewers sit, in between the magic and non magic believers, each making their case about an occurrence to convince the other that it was indeed magic or some man made event.
So the game under which the series unfold boils down to a battle of wits; Battler stands as the indomitable champion of intellect and even if he were to believe the existence of a a golden witch, he understands that it is the belief in magic and it’s existence among each of the 16 or so members of the family that fuels her power and slowly allows her to resurrect and act more freely within the physical world. He stands with his intellect as his only weapon, to break the mysteries set before him, while the storm rages on, intent on protecting his remaining family members from a culprit that might exist as a magical entity or an unknown 17th party on the island, or an angry heir, a servant with a grudge, a figment of his grand father’s imagination or a member of his own family, hiding and inconspicuously making a move for the gold.
There are so many ways in which this could have turned out to be a brilliant series. Sufficing to say, it shouldn’t be hard to see how and why i made it through the first five episodes, with a mystery that simply keeps on giving; every time you think you have figured it out, a new piece of information is discovered, warping your predetermined answers; the idea of magic and whether or not it exists is more often than not left up to you, based on the information displayed and the proof given. Every word said might hold a new clue if you pay enough attention. For instance, everyone at the start is so quick to ignore Maria, till they realize that she has been protecting her self from the rain using an Umbrella, a fact they had initially ignored until they realize that none of them, not even the 4-5 servants gave it to her, this making her claims of having received it from Beatrice that much more believable; especially when she hadn’t left her mother’s side since they arrived.
To reveal to you why this show fails would require revealing some spoilers. I believe that someone out there will be blown away by this story. I of course wasn’t. There was a point where everything seemed to repeat. Battler’s assertions began to sound rather silly when several events in each episode involving Beatrice
Up to now, i am not completely sure who/what these girls are
occurred (again i will not spoil them). There was a point in time where Battler sounded more stupid than intellectual, and the villain of the story was, at one point, trying way too hard to be liked and sympathized with.
The characters were admittedly interesting. No one was always what they seemed at the start, and watching each family member unfold and break as time wet on was…intriguing. For instance, Maria’s mother, she plays the part of soft, honest and piteous single parent; but the truth about her and her actions and attitude with regards to Maria are shocking in later episodes.
The darker seemingly greedy characters had the more interesting plots to follow. None of them really instigated the sorts of emotions you felt towards them at the start that allowed you to judge them so quickly. Sure it was always all about the money, about whose husband or wife was a direct blood relative and whose child deserved the bigger trust fund and all that, but there was always a deeper story beneath.
That much i enjoyed about the series. You know little to nothing about the characters when the story starts, and it is through tragedy that you come to learn who they are.Animation:
Okay, the story didn’t exactly require the most complex animation sequences. So 4/5;The story:
Judged on potential, i say 5/5;
but judged on execution then 2/5
, they messed the structure up.The Music:
I rarely mention music because it is rarely worth mentioning; in this case i loved the haunting and somewhat exaggerated musical scores, even though they were always placed in the wrong scenes and would evoke the completely wrong emotion, so 2/5.Characters:
the best thing about the story. the series had more than a dozen characters to play with, and each managed to have a modecum of distinction, in that they were meant to play the part of very complex characters in a puzzle; they turned out to be would-be complex characters that just didn’t go far enough. I would describe it like this, they were trying too hard to be complex that they were instead too simple, kind of like an actor trying too hard to be dramatic that they end up evoking the opposite emotion. None the less 3/5.
Admittedly, i liked Beatrice’s character, as well as that other blue haired witchOverall- 2/5;Verdict:
I would actually recommend this series, if you are looking to indulge in something different, that might challenge you mentally (though only at the start). The story had great potential, it was executed terribly, and it seemed to mix things up along the way. And at one point the mystery simply didn’t matter any more. There was a repetitiveness to it, but i think someone out there might actually enjoy it. It depends on your tastes. Sometime when an anime requires you to look at it closely, you end up looking too closely to ignore the faults. Someone else might be entertained by Battler and Beatrice’s crazy games of who is the smartest person in the room, which is what this series felt like after a while.