Umineko no Naku Koro ni I-III


George's grief

Episode I-III of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, “dubious move”, begins at the murder scene with its six victims. Hideyoshi seems to know about his son’s feelings for Shannon as he prevents George from seeing her dead body, thinking it better that George remember Shannon’s happy face rather than a half-destroyed face filled with fright. The fact that Shannon accepted George’s proposal isn’t much of a comfort, and while Eva is unhappy that George had proposed to Shannon, Hideyoshi is wise enough to make it a non-issue given the circumstances.

The time is now 8:45AM. Nanjo, the doctor, tells Maria about the death of her mother and the others. Maria does not show much of a reaction, however. After Natsuhi and Eva head to Kinzou’s study to inform him about the murders, Chiyo arrives in panic about blood in the dining room. Battler thinks that it is the scene of the murders, and Hideyoshi believes it must have been after midnight, since that is when he and his wife retired to their room. Jessica feels faint about the whole thing, but Maria seems to be enjoying things a bit too much. She might be smiling mockingly about how wrong Battler and Hideyoshi are.

Fury and a thirst for vengeance is what Battler mostly feels right now, while George is feeling mostly numb. Nearby, Nanjo draws a rather poor reproduction of the magic seal seen on the door of the storehouse, and Hideyoshi asks the occult-loving Maria whether she knows anything about it. This has Maria responding sardonically that they don’t even know what it is. It’s creepy how she suddenly changes her expressions like a schizophrenic. I’ve speculated that she might be autistic, and now I’m calling her a schizophrenic: will I end up attributing to her every mental disorder under the sun before the show ends? (And being wrong every step of the way.)

Maria the schizophrenic?

While Maria quickly fills in the missing pieces of the drawing, she reveals that it is the Seventh Magic Seal of the Sun. It supposedly gives the power to break free of bounds and obtain freedom. She mentions that this refers to Psalm 116:16-17 from the Old Testament. When Natsuhi and Eva return, Hideyoshi asks if the police have been contacted, but Genji reports that the radio has also been broken and that there’s no way to contact the outside world until the boat comes for them tomorrow.

Natsuhi and Eva

Battler realizes that this implies the killer must still be on the island, but he then hears Maria murmur that the killer is not human, followed by other words that he can’t make out (the only things I can make out are what sounds like “selected by” and “only”). Natushi and Eva then report that they didn’t find Kinzou in his study, so Natsuhi suggests that they search for him all together, given that it would be dangerous for anyone to be alone with a killer on the loose.

They don’t find him anywhere, however, even in the employee room. Seeing the key cabinet, Battler asks Genji to confirm that there is no key to the storehouse other than the one in the cabinet. This is indeed the case, and this means that the killer took the keys, moved the bodies to the storehouse, and returned the key to the key cabinet. It’s the last part that bothers Battler. It also means that the killer knows a lot about the mansion and the surrounding grounds, which strengthens the possibility that the killer is among them and not an outsider.

Battler and Eva

The time is 10:30AM, and Kinzou still cannot be found. Eva talks to Battler about her speculations that the employees might be all in the murders, since they would have no problem going in and out of the employee room and it would have likely taken more than one person to kill six people. Not that she intends to accuse them anytime soon: it’s far too speculative, and even if it’s true, or rather especially if it’s true, accusing them might prompt the employees to kill everyone else to cover things up.

Taking a cue from chess game thinking that he learned from Kirie, Battler believes that this means the employees would be unlikely to have committed the murders, since if it were them, they would have tried to make it it so that suspicion wouldn’t fall onto them. He thinks it more likely that the killer tried to make it look like the employees were responsible. Eva is impressed by how composed Battler is with his objective thinking, noting that it’s just like his father. She also points out that his reasoning would imply that she herself would unlikely be the killer, since she benefited the most with the loss of her siblings, making her the sole recipient of the inheritance.

After lunch in the living room (the dining room being a crime scene), the employees are in the kitchen cleaning up. Their conversations make it clear that they seriously believe that Beatrice was responsible, and Kanon wonders if Shannon was a replacement sacrifice for Natsuhi given the bloody door. Battler overheard or eavesdropped on them, and he barges in, wanting to hear more of their stories about Beatrice. The time is 1:00PM.

Battler: "Tell me more"

They talk about Beatrice being a witch living in the forests of Rokkenjima who gave Kinzou the gold and served him. They also firmly believe that she exists. Battler is bewildered when they start claiming that she has no corporeal form, that the portrait of her is from when she had human form. She only appears occasionally in the form of a golden butterfly. Battler gets creeped out when they seem to firmly believe in the supernatural and Beatrice like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

Firm believers of Beatrice

It only gets worse when Maria shows up, talking about how Battler can’t see Beatrice because his vibe is too different from hers, but she is certainly around and he will eventually be able to see her when she revives. Maria points out that Battler could have ended up among the dead if the scorpion amulet she gave him didn’t protect him. Maria is obviously enjoying the witch thing far too much, and her little speech gives Battler the shivers and makes him look around to make sure Beatrice isn’t around.

Battler regains his composure, pointing out that he had lost the scorpion amulet sometime last night, so it was not some magical trinket that protected him. He then makes the logical leap that there is no witch’s curse, conveniently ignoring that he may not have been selected as a sacrifice in the first place. It’s a sane premise, not a conclusion that logically follows. Pedantry aside, Battler firmly declares that he cannot believe something so superstitious as the existence of the witch Beatrice, which does not sit well with Maria.

A discussion

Later while Maria is watching our other favorite bloody anime show, Natsuhi had retrieved Kinzou’s gun for protection. Battler talks to Jessica and George about his conversation with the employees. Jessica and George don’t believe in witches, either, but they were aware that Beatrice was like an urban legend among the employees. This only strengthens Battler’s suspicions, the same ones Kirie aired the previous night, that someone is trying to take advantage of the tendency to attribute odd happenings to Beatrice, trying to make it look like an outsider is responsible.

George expresses his own thoughts on the matter on how the descendants and employees of Kinzou could also be considered as riches to be retrieved as interest by Beatrice. This would fit the killings, but Jessica points out that the letter promised that no interest would be retrieved if the mystery of the gold were to be solved. This has Battler raising the possibility that the murders were an implicit threat for everyone to cooperate and find the gold, or else …

Everyone joins the discussion

This sounds very plausible to everyone with how it also explains the very suspicious letter from last night. But Nanjo points out that the killer could have just gotten the information about the gold from Kinzou directly. This also raises another possibility: Kinzou is imprisoned somewhere being threatened by the deaths of his descendants and employees if he were not to reveal the location of the gold. And the murders the previous night is the perpetuator making good on this threat.

Eva then raises the question of just when Kinzou disappeared. Natsuhi is the last one known to have seen Kinzou, where she now returns to Genji the key to Kinzou’s study. Eva confirms with Genji that there is no other key to the study and there is only one way in and out. She also reveals she had fit a piece of paper in the door gap on a whim when she had encountered Natsuhi outside the study at 7 o’clock in the morning, and that the paper was still there when she and Natsuhi went to find Kinzoue, meaning that the door was never opened between 7 o’clock and 9 o’clock.

This obviously raises suspicions against Natsuhi, with Eva speculating that she had killed Kinzou and perhaps threw him out the window. Tensions were already high because of the inheritance dispute, and the murders and suspicions are making things much more ugly, as is apparent when Natsuhi points a gun at Eva for daring to accuse her, which denies Kinzou’s statement that he was proud of her, and Eva provoking Natsuhi in turn.

Tense situation between Natsuhi and Eva

Battler defuses the situation by proposing an alternative hypothesis: Kinzou hid when Natsuhi and Eva were looking for him, and exited the study after they left. Eva considers the hypothesis ridiculous: why would Kinzou do something weird like that? Battler counters by pointing out Eva fitting a receipt in a door gap is no less weird, and Eva has a stronger motive to have killed than anyone else, not to mention her having a rather weak alibi. This is enough to make the point that it’s too early to conclude anything.

A vulnerable Eva

The time is now 7:00PM. As Hideyoshi sets the door chain in their room, he points out to his wife that she shouldn’t obsess over Natsuhi so much. Eva confesses that it’s hard to restrain herself because she had always disliked her older brother Klaus, wanting to escape his shadow and be the one who inherits her father’s legacy. She feels guilty about being so much of a bitch and worries if she would be despised by George, but Hideyoshi cheers her up that their son would understand and that he himself has never been sorry that he got together with Eva.

Later, Genji and Kanon try to inform Eva and Hideyoshi that breakfast is ready. However, there is no response, and they’re alarmed when Kanon notices another letter slipped under the door. Further attempts to solicit a response from the room, where a television is turned on, remains futile, and Genji unlocks the door to enter. However, he can’t open the door fully because of the door chain.

Genji tells Kanon to cut the door chain with Chiyo, while he himself intends to report the emergency to Natsuhi. When Kanon returns with Chiyo and a chain cutter in hand, they are shocked by another apparent magic seal on the door drawn in blood. They are shocked even more to find Eva dead on the bed impaled in the forehead, while Hideyoshi naked is in the bathtub filled with water and the shower turned on, likewise impaled in the forehead. Looks like someone had just fulfilled the fourth instruction of the inscription.

Eva and Hideyoshi murdered

This episode focused on the characters constructing theories about the murders, trying to figure out what happened just like we are. So far, my impression of everyone is that they are all decent people who would normally not even consider killing anybody (except for Maria, who’s enjoying the whole thing far too much). Not that this means someone might not have snapped. With the boat coming back to the island the next day, will the killer have time to fulfill the rest of the instructions in the inscription and find the gold?

Speculations

As usual, here are my speculations from this episode. Still not enough material for a less than brilliant wannabe detective to really figure things out, but maybe if I keep on throwing out tons of these, some of them might stick.

  • None of the theories thrown out in this episode were correct.
  • Beatrice was not directly responsible for the murders. Not that she may have been an influence, but someone else did the dirty work.
  • Eva and Hideyoshi did kill the six other victims, and Battler killed them in revenge after concluding that they were responsible. Especially with his suspicions aroused with Rudolph possibly talking about the possibility the previous night.
  • Battler killed everyone just because he could and inspired by the inscription. He’s taking advantage of the fact that there is no apparent motive for himself, and deliberately acting like he doesn’t believe the gold exists.
  • Genji is responsible, using a trick where he pretends he can’t open the door because of the door chain, and Kanon has just unwittingly destroyed the evidence he did so with the chain cutter. Although the door chain sounded like it was still firmly intact …
  • Natsuhi killed everyone once something triggered within her after seeing the gold bar the previous episode. She had left Eva and Hideyoshi alive to divert suspicion from herself, but changed her mind after Eva began accusing her. She could have disguised herself as Beatrice in the first episode.
  • The little hat on Maria’s head: does it somehow imply that she’s a queen in a chess game?
  • Maria is like Furude Rika. She is trying to get Battler to believe in the existence of Beatrice so he can take steps to stop everything, but it never works. Straightforward explanations haven’t worked, and the creepy approach in this iteration hasn’t worked, either. Not that I’m sure if there would even be multiple iterations in this show …

Maria: "You really should believe me, Battler."

  1. #1 by Veldril on July 19, 2009 - 5:23 pm

    Maria’s headband actually represent a black king in chess. Chess motifs are very important in this anime, so it would be great to pay attention to them.

    • #2 by Shounen A on July 20, 2009 - 12:58 am

      This is what I get for not being a chess aficionado: it’s hard for me to tell the difference between a king and a queen if it’s not in the form of an actual chess piece, unless someone points it out to me. ^_^;;

  2. #3 by RP on July 19, 2009 - 8:38 pm

    Interesting speculation re: Maria ~ Rika. I have to believe that Beatrice chose Maria for a specific reason and I’ve read that there are ties within the Umineko and Higurashi universes so I wonder if Maria is one of those bridges.

    • #4 by Shounen A on July 20, 2009 - 1:05 am

      On the other hand, I need to restrain myself from making too many parallels since Umineko is not Higurashi. I still need to stop myself of thinking of Takano every time Eva talks. On yet the other hand, I might be trying to restrain myself too much. :D

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