I really loved watching Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, so it’s no surprise that I’m looking forward to watching Umineko no Naku Koro ni. As far as I know, there is no direct relationship between the stories, even if they are similar in that there is going to be a lot of dead people. However, rumor has it that a couple of archetypes formed during the hundred years of subjective time in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni play an important role in Umineko no Naku Koro ni.
It is unlikely that Umineko no Naku Koro ni will only end with one season, so I’m going to follow the episode numbering convention in the anime to make things easier for myself. And there are a lot of characters introduced in this episode, so I’ll just mention the names of people without introduction, since I will be talking about the them in a separate section. This episode has also made a point of showing a clock at certain points, from which I got the times. Given that mystery will be a major point of the show, I suspect that the times will be important to fit pieces together, so I’ll be trying to write down the times that are shown.
Anyways, episode I-I of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, “opening”, begins with an old man being informed by his doctor that he has only three months to live. His reaction is to bemoan how Beatrice keeps on rejecting him so strongly, and he’s even willing to sacrifice everything if it means he can see her smile once more. Just remember that Beatrice should be pronounced the Italian way … The rest of the episode is accompanied by narration from Battler.
On October 4, 1986, 10:30AM, members of the Ushiromiya dynasty arrive at Rokkenjima, a private island owned by the family, for their annual gathering. This is ostensibly to let each other know their present circumstances, although the adults have their own agenda. At least the initial greetings at the dock are friendly enough. One odd thing that they notice is that the ever-present seagulls around the island were missing that day. This ties into the title of the show, black-tailed gulls being ウミネコ (umineko). Maria also notices that the small shrine that used to be on a large rock cropping near the coast is now gone.
The mansion that the family members will be staying at has a lot of roses in the garden, where Maria notices one of them looks sick, so George marks it with a candy wrapper to let Maria know which rose she wants to take care of during their stay on the island. Everyone settles in at the mansion, while elsewhere in the mansion Klaus is trying to talk to his father Kinzou, the head of the Ushiromiya dynasty who has only three months to live. Kinzou is not in the mood to talk, however.
At 1:00PM while heading for lunch, Battler notices a huge portrait hung on the wall that he hadn’t seen before. Kinzou had it drawn in April the year before last year, and Maria knows that the portrait is that of Beatrice, a witch. While Kinzou firmly believes Beatrice exists, it’s not surprising that others don’t believe in witches, with the exception of children such as Maria.
With the Ushiromiya family eating lunch, Battler as the narrator begins to tell us about his grandfather. The Ushiromiya family used to be a rich family that owned several gem factories during the Meiji-Taisho era (from late 19th century to early 20th century). The Great Kantou Earthquake of 1923 destroyed the wealth and family, however. With what little wealth was left, Kinzou managed to rekindle the Ushiromiya fortunes to even higher levels than before the earthquake within a little over twenty years.
After a brief look at the sick rose with the candy wrapper tied around it, we see the adults talking about possible embezzlement by Klaus, given that he does not seem to have any separate financial backing to have constructed a new resort hotel. Klaus’ wife Natsuhi tries to quell the implied accusations, but she is not a direct descendant of Kinzou, and having little say in Ushiromiya matters, she only ends up being crushed by Eva. Chiyo does feel sorry for Natushi’s position.
Meanwhile, the young ones are standing around the portrait of Beatrice, where Battler is wondering about the inscription next to the portrait. Kinzou had it inscribed, and it talks about Beatrice and gold. Maria cheerfully claims that she knows where the hidden gold is, although this is probably just fanciful imagination. We don’t know what gold they’re talking about, so Battler kindly narrates to us the Ushiromiya legend concerning Kinzou and hidden gold. When asked how Kinzou managed to rebuild the dynasty so quickly, he supposedly answered that he sold his soul to the golden witch Beatrice, who gave him 10 tons of gold in return. Battler doesn’t really take the legend seriously.
The adults seem to take the part about the gold seriously, though, even if not the part about the witch. It’s 2:15PM, and the adults are willing to let Klaus take charge of the inheritance as long as certain conditions about acknowledging the existence of the gold and dividing it up among the siblings are satisfied. It doesn’t work as Klaus brings up their financial problems to rebuff their demands. And it’s not clear if Klaus did find the gold or not as he suggests that they gather forces to find the gold based on the inscription next to the portrait of Beatrice; I’m not sure if he was saying it jokingly or sarcastically.
At the beach while having a picnic, the young ones are impressed with how Maria had copied down the inscription, with Battler and Jessica making fun of how creepy it seems to be. Maria is very serious in her belief in Beatrice, so she gives Battler and Jessica scorpion amulets, based on scorpions supposedly being a charm against evil magic. Later in the garden, the young ones are trying to find the rose marked with the candy wrapper, but there is no sign of it. When Rosa sees them searching for the rose, Maria tries to enlist her mother’s help.
However, Maria’s “ooh, ooh”s and “eh, eh”s while searching for the rose stresses out Rosa, which results in Rosa slapping Maria in an attempt to stop it. It seems that there might be some problems between mother and daughter resulting in anger management issues for Rosa, who notes that the nine year-old Maria is always being bullied by her classmates because of her behavior. Battler, Jessica, and George leave because it’s a matter between mother and daughter, so Maria is left alone after Rosa leaves as well because she was fed up by Maria still insisting on finding her rose.
Maria might be autistic given her behavior, especially with how Maria is focused on finding her rose and crying about it, not even caring about being slapped. If so, it would be no surprise that Rosa and Maria have serious problems, and Rosa seems to be aware that there are problems, not only with Maria but with herself as well. But she seems to be frustrated with her inability to do anything about it. Interestingly, a glowing butterfly seems to emerge from among the roses and starts flying around after Rosa leaves.
Some time later it begins to rain, lightning and thunder included. Kinzou seems to think this means that Beatrice has arrived, that it’s time for the party to start, and he throws the ring representing the Ushiromiya inheritance at the sky. Lightning strikes at that moment, which for all we know might have hit the ring and signaled that Beatrice has accepted the return of her gifts. At 6:00PM, Maria is still searching for her rose in the rain, when we see a lady with an umbrella walking behind her.
With Maria still not having returned to the house, and with Rosa realizing that Maria had not joined up with Battler, Jessica, and George, and vice versa, they go out to find her in the rain. Rosa is wracked with guilt with what she had done, but fortunately, Maria is fine. She even has her own umbrella, although she is still preoccupied about the missing rose. But when Jessica and others are impressed that Maria had prepared an umbrella in case of rain, Maria denies it, and puzzles everyone by claiming that Beatrice had lent her the umbrella. Rosa might be worried that Maria is being delusional, though I bet she’ll have much bigger things to worry about soon enough.
This first episode of Umineko no Naku Koro ni has mainly introduced the characters and the general background. While the events mainly focused around the squabbling over a huge inheritance by the adults and a lack of interest in the matter by the young ones, it was nothing out of the ordinary for a real world family. But this is only the opening: we’ll be seeing the real events soon enough, with the next episode titled “first move”. Given how there appears to be a chess motif, it seems that higher powers are going to start playing with the Ushiromiya family to their detriment.
This first episode introduces most of the characters that will be showing up in the show, given how Rokkenjima is a private island that is now in the middle of a thunderstorm. That does not mean that new characters might not be showing up, given how Beatrice is supposed to be a witch. Most of the characters are introduced along with their name, and obviously most of them are members of the Ushiromiya dynasty.
Many of the Ushiromiya family members have European-sounding names. However, they are not European names: they are Japanese names with the kanji carefully chosen so that they sound like European names. This seems to be a tradition started by Kinzou with his children.
Another thing to note is that those of the Ushiromiya bloodline all have a butterfly wing symbol next to their names. Those not of the Ushiromiya bloodline, such as those related by marriage or some of the employees, do not have the symbol next to their names. Interestingly, three of the employees have the symbol. Kanon, Shannon, and Genji are associated with the symbol, and yet they do not appear to be treated as part of the Ushiromiya dynasty proper.
Son of Ushiromiya Rudolph and Kirie, Battler is the narrator for this first episode. We might be hearing him narrate in future episodes as well. He has a perhaps unhealthy appreciation for female breasts.
Son of Ushiromiya Hideyoshi and Eva.
Daughter of Ushiromiya Rosa. She firmly believes in the existence of witches and Beatrice in particular. She is nine years old.
Daughter of Ushiromiya Kinzou and mother of Maria. She did not arrive with a husband, and it is possible she might be a single mother. Seems to receive an inordinate amount of stress trying to raise her child.
Ushiromiya Eva and Hideyoshi
Ushiromiya Rudolph and Kirie
Head of the Ushiromiya dynasty. Rebuilt the family fortunes after it collapsed in the Great Kantou Earthquake of 1923, and supposedly claims that it was thanks to 10 tons of golds he had received from Beatrice in exchange for his soul. Seems to have an obsession with Beatrice. Medically diagnosed as having only three months left to live.
An employee working for the Ushiromiya family.
An employee working for the Ushiromiya family. Was once a chef at a hotel.
An employee working for the Ushiromiya family. A person of very few words.
An employee working for the Ushiromiya family. Battler knew her when they were younger.
An employee working for the Ushiromiya family.
Beatrice is a witch who supposedly provided the resources for Ushiromiya Kinzou to rebuild the family fortune. This was not out of the good of her heart, since the price was Kinzou’s soul. Beyond this, it’s hard to say much about her yet.
Being a witch, it would be hard to take her existence seriously. Battler obviously didn’t, or at least not until the end of the episode with the otherwise unexplainable appearance of the umbrella. Of course, she definitely does exist with us having seen a glimpse of her, and the opening sequence makes it clear that she is going to be a huge presence in the show. On the other hand, it would be funny if she were real and everything else we saw was a figment of the imagination …
The inscription next to the portrait of Beatrice has some sordid stuff as Battler and Jessica mentioned. We were only shown a short glimpse of it, and it’s hard to read what is written even with freezing the frame, but fortunately the Umineko no Naku Koro ni website has the full text of the inscription available.
I suspect that the inscription is going to be extremely important for figuring out what is going on in future episodes. While Maria has written it down in her notebook so that the text could be available even if the characters were to wander the island away from the inscription, we might as well have our own copy of the text. Which is why I went to the trouble to translate the entire thing:
To whom is aiming for the golden land, descend this and find the key.
Descend the river, there will presently be a hamlet.
At the hamlet, search for the bank mentioned by two people.
It is there that the key to the golden land sleeps.
The one to obtain the key, should start a travel while obeying the following.
On the first twilight, offer the six people chosen by the key as sacrifice.
On the second twilight, the one left behind should split apart the two people close together.
On the third twilight, the one left behind should praise our highly honorable name.
On the fourth twilight, kill by gouging the head.
On the fifth twilight, kill by gouging the chest.
On the sixth twilight, kill by gouging the belly.
On the seventh twilight, kill by gouging the knee.
On the eighth twilight, kill by gouging the leg.
On the ninth twilight, the witch revives, and no one is left alive.
On the tenth twilight, the travel ends, and should arrive at the golden land.
The witch would praise the wise person, granting four treasures.
One of them, will be all the gold from the golden land.
One of them, will revive all the souls of those who died.
One of them, will revive even lost love.
One of them, will direct the witch into an eternal sleep.
Rest in peace, our beloved witch Beatrice.
Some of the kanji have alternative meanings and I don’t quite have the context to figure out the correct one, so the translation above is subject to change as more episodes are broadcast. It is also more poetic in the original text, but I just suck at poetry. For those fluent in Japanese, here is the original text:
Like Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Umineko no Naku Koro ni should be all about the mystery, where the fun is in trying to figure out what the heck is going on. So for this show, I’m going to have a separate section with various speculations for each episode, with both well-reasoned and baseless theories mixed together. On the other hand, some people might find the fun to be in the body count …
I did encounter some spoilers about Umineko no Naku Koro ni, but that was a long time ago, and it wasn’t much in the first place, so hopefully I’ve forgotten anything that would be too much of a spoiler. There is not much to base speculations on with only the first episode, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to go out on a limb, and I’m not even bothering to try to be consistent:
- In an original timeline, the Ushiromiya dynasty never recovered from the 1923 earthquake. Beatrice was only available after a hundred years of subjective time passed in Hinamizawa.
- Maria’s rose disappeared between 1:00PM and 6:00PM. Beatrice might have appeared during this time.
- A Frederica might drop by to play interference. (Say Furude Rika out loud real fast.)
- Battler gets killed in the next episode, and we get a new narrator every episode.
- Battler is the opponent of Beatrice in the chess game, and he will be trying to win till the end of the show.
- People are going to be killed according to the inscription over and over again, but since it’s vague, very different things will be happening in each iteration.
- Kanon and Shannon are siblings descended from Kinzou through an illegitimate relationship. This would explain their European-sounding Japanese names.
- Chiyo had illegitimate children by Kinzou. One of them happens to be Genji, who is the father of Kanon and Shannon. Chiyo would personally know what Natsuhi must be going through if this were the case.
- Another Ushiromiya member survived the 1923 earthquake, whose descendants are now working as employees for the family.
- Rosa is a single mother having a very difficult time trying to raise an autistic child, and she is near the breaking point where she would go insane and kill everyone.
- Maria really does know where the gold is because she is going to be the one who kills everyone.
- The gold mentioned in the inscription does not refer to gold metal.
- Beatrice is a red herring: it will be the doctor responsible for all the murders. Odd how the doctor is the only one whose name is not shown …