A new arc begins for episode II-I of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, “middle game”. One thing stands out immediately from the beginning of the opening sequence: the portrait of Beatrice is different from before, where she is now wearing modern clothes instead. What is this supposed to mean? Is Beatrice going to appear in person in front of everybody as a normal human being? That would make it rather hard for Battler to deny her existence in the real world, since he would have to be making denials to her face. (The appearance in the previous episode apparently does not count because it was not in the real world).
The episode begins in the past before October 4, 1986. George and Shannon are having a date at an aquarium in Okinawa, and they are all lovey-dovey, with George calling Shannon by her real name Sayo. Normally, Shannon talking about how if the fish in the aquarium believed they were in the ocean then they may as well really be in the ocean, or George talking about how their thoughts were like magic that helped bring their relationship to fruition, would just be sappy talk. However, I have a feeling that they apply to the setting of Umineko Naku Koro ni as well: Rokkenjima is a stage not part of the real world and the beliefs of characters would make certain things come true.
Further in the past on a rainy day in December of 1985, Shannon is at the small shrine on top of the rock outcropping near the dock, the same shrine that no longer exists in October the next year. The shrine contains a mirror, and Shannon believes that she can smash her own fate by breaking the mirror. Once she does so, Shannon mentions that she has fulfilled her end of a promise and shouts at the sky to Beatrice that it is now the witch’s turn to fulfill the other end of the promise.
In October of 1985, Eva and Hideyoshi are visiting Rokkenjima along with their son George, and they are talking with Klaus, Natsuhi, and Jessica. The topic is about how upstanding George is, and with the inheritance not being an issue, we see them being on friendly terms just like any normal group of relatives not fighting over an inheritance. When Shannon arrives to serve tea, she gets clumsy and screws up, prompting strict words from Natsuhi, but George saves Shannon from the spotlight by deftly changing the subject.
Outside, Shannon and Jessica talk about George. Relationships are for Jessica like big nubile breasts are for Battler, and Jessica points out how George is such a nice guy and that he likes girls just like Shannon. Jessica enjoys it even more when George shows up and talks with Shannon. When Eva sees how George and Shannon act with each other, the potential relationship does not sit well with her, and she squashes all hope from Shannon for such a relationship by emphasizing the difference in social standing and even declaring that George needs to join the discussions about a formal meeting with a marriage candidate.
Later, Shannon is standing in front of Beatrice’s portrait and talks about her sadness. Shannon has an understanding that she does not deserve being George’s love because she is furniture, but it is still an anguish for her and she wishes that she couldn’t feel love in the first place. Here Shannon refers to herself as furniture, just like Kanon does, which makes me think that it is not a reference to servants being unnoticed but rather means something else significant, although I do not think it means that they literally are or used to be furniture. Incidentally, I thought Beatrice’s portrait was put up in April of 1986 from episode I-I and wondered why the portrait is up already, but it turns out that I had missed the “year before last year” part. I need better listening skills …
It is in this situation that golden butterflies start to appear and Shannon hears a woman’s voice saying: “Humans inquired into the element that forms the world since ancient times. And one day, a man appeared, led by the stars, who finally managed to explain the one element that forms the world.” And Beatrice appears in front of Shannon. She was referring to love with her words, and having heard Shannon’s lament about unfulfilled love, Beatrice had appeared to lend her power. However, she requires Shannon to break the mirror that would be broken in a couple of months in order to exercise her power.
Shannon refuses, since life on Rokkenjima has been peaceful so far, but there would be no telling what would happen if the witch were to regain her power. Beatrice tells Shannon to think carefully whether to maintain the status quo or cause change, which is when Kanon appears to stop the strange woman from harassing Shannon. Unsurprisingly, Kanon is extremely surprised when he recognizes who the strange woman is. Beatrice approaches Kanon to presumably do something horrible to him because she does not like people like him, but Beatrice honors Shannon’s request to stop because she likes Shannon. Before disappearing, Beatrice leaves Shannon a butterfly brooch, which would help fulfill her wish, but only if the mirror at the shrine were to be broken.
Going ahead in time to August of 1986, Shannon has returned to Rokkenjima from Okinawa and is talking to Jessica about the date, who is disappointed that the date was so pure. Jessica is energetically envious about Shannon getting a boyfriend first, but the overexcitement causes an asthma attack. Having calmed down after using the inhaler, Jessica worries if she is not particularly attractive, and Shannon realizes that Jessica must have someone she likes and reassures her that she is just fine.
Later, Shannon is having tea with Beatrice at the beach, serving snacks she had brought from her trip to Okinawa. For a witch who had supposedly lived for a thousand years, Beatrice is surprisingly like a normal woman who enjoys delicious desserts, and is even quite embarrassed when Shannon notices. Shannon wants to return the butterfly brooch, since while it may have helped start the love between George and herself, she wants the love to grow by their own efforts from now on. However, Beatrice tells Shannon to keep it as a sign of friendship: Shannon is one of the rare people who still feel grateful after receiving help from Beatrice, and she is also the only person on the island besides Kanon who can see the witch.
Shannon is puzzled, since according to the stories Kinzou had received gold from Beatrice. According to Beatrice, Kinzou had no talent but worked so hard to summon her, so she showed up just to tease him. This was unfortunate for her since she ended up being stuck on the island for decades. Part of the reason was the mirror that Shannon had broken the previous year. According to Beatrice, the mirror was a bad distortion on the island that a magician or something had sealed in the shrine. The mirror is also the reason why Beatrice has yet to recover her powers.
As Beatrice notices the clouds, she mentions that the ocean is merely a collection of grey water droplets. But Shannon sees it differently as a beautiful deep blue thing, and Beatrice points out that this is evidence that Shannon is no longer furniture and is now human. This is another instance of Shannon and Kanon being referred as furniture as somehow distinct from being human. But I very much doubt that they were literally not human, although it is quite plausible that it was their self-image, perhaps due to a psychological trauma.
Later in the evening, Shannon gives Kanon the butterfly brooch, presumably in the hope that it would do the same thing for him as it may have done for her. This just prompts Kanon to question how she could be friendly with the evil witch, to which Shannon replies it could just be a matter of perspective, but he accepts the brooch anyways. In fact, Shannon manages to rope Kanon into acting as Jessica’s boyfriend during the school festival at her school.
Jessica is really happy about Kanon showing up to accompany her at the school festival. Note to self: do not tease Jessica too much, for she knows how to make slapstick punishment much more painful. Being the president of the school council, Jessica is busy overseeing the school festival, but somehow she had the time to be the main vocal for a music band. Her school is way far ahead of its time, with the maid cafe and lolita fashion. Kanon hates the crowds, but he is surprised to discover a side of Jessica that she does not show at home.
Back at Rokkenjima (Jessica must be commuting to school everyday by boat), Kanon expresses how he was impressed by Jessica’s singing, in contrast to himself who cannot sing supposedly because he is furniture. Jessica is tired of Kanon referring to himself in this way, but he won’t have any of it. He even reveals that he had heard about Jessica’s feelings for himself from Shannon, and attempts to crush all hope by saying that furniture like himself cannot feel love, even saying that the relationship between George and Shannon will inevitably collapse. Unlike Shannon, Kanon does not even remember his real name.
One might think from the way that Kanon insists on referring to himself as furniture might mean he would enjoy forniphilia, but it is clear that he does not consider being furniture as being anything good. As Kanon is walking back to the mansion, Beatrice shows up expressing her disappointment that another loving couple is not working out. Kanon replies by crushing the butterfly brooch, saying that Beatrice is hardly a cupid but rather cruelly gives hope to people for love that cannot be fulfilled. One might think that he protests too much. Beatrice disappears as she says that she will surely revive and regain her position as the true ruler of Rokkenjima, at which point the door to the golden land will open.
As we are shown Kinzou crying out for an unanswering Beatrice, Shannon fondly thinking of her date with George, Jessica angsting about her unrequited love for Kanon, and Kanon looking out at the ocean angrily, we hear Beatrice looking for the coming harvest and feast, obviously referring to the events of October 4 and the following day.
- Now that they have grabbed our attention with the first arc, the second arc of Umineko no Naku Koro ni will focus on the character backgrounds and relationships.
- Shannon and Kanon seem to have very different approaches to life. They also have very different relationships with Beatrice. In fact, Beatrice seems to be almost a different person for each of them. Perhaps the characters’ beliefs determines not only whether she exists, but also what sort of person she is.
- Beatrice’s little game will only end if everyone converges to a consistent impression of her, even if it is her not existing.
- Kanon seems to have encountered Beatrice at the end when he was still not far from Jessica, but there is no indication that Jessica even noticed his shouting. Maybe the appearances of Beatrice in this episode may have been all in the mind. On the other hand, Shannon and Kanon saw Beatrice together …
- Kanon and Shannon were long lost relatives of the Ushiromiya clan who were found in an orphanage that followed the same fine principles of the one that produced Takano Miyo.