Amaterasu Blog


Umineko no Naku Koro ni Review

This review is only for the first four episodes. See my Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru review for my opinion of the last four episodes.

So eighteen people gather on a remote island for a family reunion (and to argue over inheritance), only for every single one of them to be killed within forty-eight hours under truly bizarre circumstances, many of which are seemingly impossible for a human to construct. Instead of trying to figure out who did it, like any ordinary novel might do, dozens of hours are spent arguing in bright red and blue text over whether it's even logically possible for any ordinary human to commit the murders in question (as opposed to a "witch" who could've done it with magic). It's also far awesomer than any ordinary novel.

The main reason it works as amazingly well as it does is this: the mysteries are not easy, they demand the reader be actively paying attention and trying to work things out, and you are frequently rewarded for this effort in the form of new hints (some explicitly pointed out, others left for the lazy reader to miss). Much of this is thanks to the characters being smart enough to address any "obvious" solution sooner or later. And the difficulty of individual puzzles within the mystery is quite varied, so no matter how familiar or unfamiliar you are with solving fictional murder mysteries (or how much better you get as you read this one), there will be a conundrum at just the right level to drive you nuts because you know you should be able to solve it.

But it takes a long time in order to put together a mystery that difficult and complicated, so normally you'd expect some severe pacing problems. Umineko almost completely avoids this, because it presents the mystery through four entirely different plot structures--one per episode. In fact, each of the four episodes has at least one new character, new method of argument, new backstory, new subplot, new theme, new form of magic (allegedly), and new order/causes/locations/times of death. Usually more than one for most of those categories. Practically the only thing all episodes have in common is that a lot of people die every time.

Throw in the godly soundtrack and excellent direction on top of that, and the result is unbelievably addictive and immersive. If you put any effort into reading this VN carefully, you will be spending hours obsessively trying to figure out how to solve it, and the characters' own arguments will get progressively more epic until you're craving every last letter of red text.

My only real complaint is that every episode had a slower start than it should've.

Score: 9.5/10

Polarization: (+0.5/-2)

Significant portions of each episode are spent on characterization and world-building that doesn't always directly contribute to the core mystery, so some people might find that infuriating. And of course, if you aren't the type who enjoys thinking very hard about a story as you read it, you're going to miss out on a massive part of what makes this VN exceptional.

Routes/Endings Played: Linear

P.S.: Beatrice's trollface is the best sprite in any VN ever. Period.

See this post for my opinions of the official fandiscs.

Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Nice to see you finally got around to it and that it was worth it. I don’t think I’ve been so in tune with one of your reviews before; you said everything I was thinking.
    Also, I agree about the trollface. One of the many reasons I didn’t like the anime. So little expression… :(

  2. I have to agree, every version of Beatrice’s trollface I’ve seen from the various adaptations looks vastly inferior to the original.

  3. Umineko’s brilliance is indeed in trying to solve it. The bits where you manage to figure something out and the ones where you slam your head against a wall trying to make something fit while screaming Battler’s catchphrase. The only sad thing is that the series ended, bringing part of the intense debate to an inevitable end.

    On the other hand, the characterisations (except Battler and Beatrice) suffer due to the number of characters.

    Also, I’d say that the superlative soundtrack is better than the story itself. Clearly one of, if not the best game (if you can call it a game) soundtrack ever made and most definately the best VN soundtrack.

    If you enjoy discussing Umineko, this thread about solving the mystery is a fun place to start (it’s about 1500 pages long, which is insane).

    TL:DR If you like mindscrews, Umineko is one of the best kinds, sadly my interest is steadily waning since having finished EP8, a shame, since I’d like to one day solve it, sorry for long ass post.

  4. The only reason why I never read Umineko is its character design. I know how awesome the story is, but I don’t think I could handle reading it if I must see (sorry) horrible drawings when I’m reading it.

    Seriously, my desire to read Umineko is conflicting with my eyes that refuse to see the graphics on it. I know I shouldn’t be picky about the graphics, but…

    Gah, this is so stressful. It feels like I want to eat something that most people say its very delicious, but my nose smells it like a rotten corpse so I can’t even take a bite of it.

  5. I thought the graphics were just fine. They were low fidelity of course, but at no point did that lack of fidelity hurt my eyes or cause confusion regarding what it was trying to depict. If anything the fact that it has a unique style (that isn’t ugly imo) was a slight plus for me.

    But that’s just me.

  6. Annoyingly that thread seems kinda useless, as many of the posters suggest things that are very obviously wrong and some of the others feel the ending of ep8 was objectively terrible and no one seems to be discussing individual murder tricks at all.

  7. @The Stupid Genius
    I also had the same problem, and then I saw this.
    Voices, sprites, cgs, backgrounds of the PS3 version ported to PC.
    The Question arcs are fully tweaked, with some minor flaws, and they’re polishing it.
    I think Chiru is going to be releases on August.

  8. You should read Higurashi next!

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