by Whitney Grace
Every year the Ushiromiya family holds a family reunion at a secluded island mansion. The reunion comes at the bequest of Kinzo Ushiromiya, head of the clan and dabbler in black magic. For the first time in six years, prodigal son Battler joins his family along with rumors that this may be Kinzo’s final year. While his children feud over the inheritance, Kinzo obsesses over Beatrice the Golden Witch said to be responsible for the family’s immense fortune. The fortune has an attached curse to it: Beatrice will take back the gold along with accrued interest, unless someone can solve her riddle. Nobody pays attention to the curse, except for the youngest family member Maria, then the murders start. One by one people are killed and Beatrice is blamed, but Battler doesn’t believe in superstition and is out to prove that someone else committed the murders.
Umineko is the brainchild of Ryukishio7, known for his visual novels-arguably the most famous being Higurashi: When They Cry. The series was originally written as a murder mystery game, where players figure out if the murder is caused by a human or paranormal circumstances. The manga attempts to recreate the game’s storyline minus the player’s interaction and at first it succeeds, then the mystery gets drawn out into over two thousand pages. The series is divided into different story arcs, each with a part one and two. The first arc “Legend of the Golden Witch” is by far the most absorbing, because you get to know the characters and are intrigued by who the murderer is, then everyone dies. In the second arc “Turn of the Golden Witch,” we learn that Beatrice has omniscient control over all of the events. Battler challenges her power, saying he will solve the murders, so Beatrice reboots the entire story and everyone gets killed again. Are you beginning to notice a pattern here?
Ryukishio7 used the same idea for Higurashi and it worked well, but mostly due to him telling the story from different characters’ perspectives so clues are revealed as the story progresses. In Umineko readers are given the same omniscient as Beatrice and the lack of secrets is boring. Battler and Beatrice spend pages debating over strategy and different scenarios that when the narrative switches to back story it comes as a blessing. Two different artists are used for the different story arcs, but there isn’t any noticeable differences.
If the rest of the series continues on this path, it might murder itself.