Episode IV-II of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, “zugzwang”, begins on Rokkenjima during the evening of October 4, 1986, with Rosa drying off Maria after the latter’s excursion into the garden. There are no histrionics from either Rosa or Maria, and in fact it’s a rather heart-warming moment. However, this prompts Ange to leave the meta debate, claiming that it is a “boring” moment. Meta-Battler is confused, since this should be close to the moment where Maria would reveal encountering Beatrice and getting an umbrella and a letter.
Ange was actually annoyed when she witnessed the nice moment between Rosa and Maria. She believes that Maria had an unhappy life, and the scene angered her. Having withdrawn into a black and empty space, Maria appears and disagrees with Ange, claiming that the truth depends on the observer. An example from the diary is brought up, where Rosa had stayed out for a couple of nights, claiming busy work, while forgetting the promise to see a movie with Maria. Instead of spending a couple of lonely nights, Maria dealt with it by having fun with Sakutaro and other imaginary friends.
If Ange had been in the same situation, she would have been pissed off. She also doesn’t think much of Rosa, thinking that Rosa didn’t care much about Maria and was more concerned about herself and reputation, which was why the way Rosa said she loved Maria earlier angered Ange. Continuing the diary entry, we see that Rosa dropped a receipt for a stay at an onsen, which ended up with her hugging Maria, apologizing and crying at the same time. Ange points out this means Rosa had gone on a personal trip without Maria behind, but Maria interprets it charitably.
Ange cannot understand how Maria could give so much leeway in interpreting Rosa’s actions. In turn, Maria pities Ange for only perceiving fragments of unhappiness when there are fragments of happiness all over. Maria understands Ange’s position, though, since she had the same perspective until she found a certain power. And when Ange asks what power that is, Beatrice makes an appearance to answer the question. Together with Maria, they answer that the power which Maria has but Ange lacks is magic. And Beatrice shows Ange a scene from not long after she had first met Maria.
The flashback happens in a garden that looks like the one in the Quadorian. Beatrice is impressed with how Maria brought the doll Sakutaro to life, especially with a soul made from scratch. Beatrice casually mentions that the ability that Kinzo most wants appears to be strong in Maria. Beatrice offers to give Maria a present, with Wergilia joining in as a witness. Beatrice asks for Maria’s “magic book”, and Maria takes out her diary.
Beatrice writes down something on a blank page, which looks like it’s written in Italian or something and ends with “to a dear apprentice witch”. Whatever it is, Beatrice uses it to invoke magic that turns Sakutaro into a much more human-like form, who is to be Maria’s friend according to the rules of the Mariage Sorcière, and Maria also becomes an apprentice Witch of Origins. Incidentally, Wergilia’s signature as a witness begins with “Waru”, which adds yet another confusing data point for the “official” spelling of her pseudonym: maybe it really should be spelled as the transliterated “Warugiria” …
Back to the conversation between Maria and Ange, Maria explains that being happy means bringing out new happiness from ordinary life. She also explains that this is the magic of origins, and that she had also taught it to Ange. At first it seems like Ange doesn’t know what Maria is talking about, but after Maria reminds Ange how she had been an apprentice witch of the Mariage Sorcière, Ange remembers how she had once tried to dabble in magic.
After the break, we apparently are shown a flashback to when Ange was learning magic from Maria, who is accompanied by Sakutaro. After having Ange realize a featureless open space, Maria sets upon Ange the task of summoning friends such as Sakutaro is to Maria. As a witch of the Mariage Sorcière, Ange is allowed to employ beings that a witch in the alliance can employ. Sakutaro himself, for example. The beings that Maria has Ange summon are the Seven Stakes of Purgatory.
In the name of Ange Beatrice, the Seven Stakes of Purgatory are summoned easily enough. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint, they all happen to be rapid fangirls of the cute Sakutaro. Anyways, having all seven sisters around at once would be too much for the novice Ange, so Mammon is the one chosen to stay with her as determined by rock, paper, scissors. It’s time for lights out, so Maria and Sakutaro leave with Mammon staying behind with Ange.
The next thing we see is Ange opening her eyes to see Mammon peeking over the door to a stall in the restroom. It’s the only place in the school dormitory that Ange can be alone. The way that Mammon is translucent shows that Ange has an overactive imagination if one were to disbelieve magic, while Mammon is simply only visible to Ange for those that do believe in magic. Later, we see how strict life in the dormitory is as the dorm mother checks all the girls, with Mammon even pointing out how it’s just like a prison. Ange fires back non-verbally that it’s not prison: at least prison has parole.
Mammon then mentions how cheap-looking Ange’s hair ornaments look. Ange explains that it was something her brother got for her from a crane game at an amusement park. Like Kinzo was trying for Beatrice, the reason that Ange dabbles in magic is because she wants to revive her family. This explanation also explains something else for Mammon: she explains that this must be the reason why there is so much magical power in the hair ornaments. Mammon encourages Ange that by the time she could revive her family, she would be as powerful a witch as Beatrice.
That’s it for Ange’s trip down memory lane: the next thing she recalls is how she lost her magic due to a certain incident. It looks like Ange ended up rejecting the Seven Stakes of Purgatory and Maria, and presumably magic in general, after goading by unaware classmates. It is explained that Ange would only see the Seven Stakes of Purgatory again in 1998 after she graduates from school.
In the real world of 1998, Ange is meeting with a professor of folklore who is most interested in the occult. He also happens to be an authority on the Rokkenjima incident. In October of 1986, a great number of books on the occult, some of them rare and even unique, were auctioned off by Eva, the sole survivor of the Rokkenjima incident. Two message bottles were also found in the sea, which made the incident even more infamous. Within the wine bottles were descriptions of the serial murders on the island, with one bottle being found by the police and the other by a fisherman.
It is thought that the message bottles are unlikely to be forgeries. The handwriting for both message bottles were identical, and the descriptions of the island and mansion were accurate and detailed enough that only someone who had been there could have likely written them. The really odd thing is that the message bottles describe very different sequences of events: during the explanation, we are shown scenes from the first and second arcs.
Another mystery is that the notes in both message bottles were signed as “Ushiromiya Maria”, but investigation revealed that the handwriting was completely different from Maria’s handwriting. With the deepening mystery, there have even been people who have tried to search for other message bottles that might exist, although nothing about others being found is mentioned. This search was called the “Rokkenjima Witch Hunt”, and it was organized by occult manias wishing to explain the incident in supernatural terms.
The professor happens to be one of those manias, and he has seen the contents of the message bottles with his own eyes. So Ange takes out Maria’s diary and opens to a specific page: the same page that Beatrice had written in earlier in the episode. And the professor is shocked to recognize that the salutation on the bottom written in Japanese is in the same handwriting as in the message bottles. Ange thanks the professor for his troubles with a huge wad of money without revealing who she is or anything about the diary.
The large sum of money was also for the professor to keep quiet, as Sumadera Kasumi is still looking for Ange. The next stop for now is a first-rate hotel, not for the luxury but because a high-end hotel would take their guests’ privacy seriously. At least for the short-term, it should be enough to keep Ange hidden from her aunt. Ange may not have wanted to be the head of the Ushiromiya dynasty, but she sure knows when to use the perks when she needs to.
In the black meta-level place, Mammon arrives to summon Ange back to the meta debate, taking care to call Ange “Gretel”. While Mammon is glad for Ange that she gets to see her brother again, Mammon will not be switching sides, and Ange does not expect her to do so. Being in 1986, Mammon is still Beatrice’s furniture, and Ange wouldn’t expect otherwise. This is when time suddenly stops for Mammon but not Ange: Lambdadelta shows up.
Lambdadelta claims that Bernkastel is deceiving Ange. She guesses that Bernkastel told Ange that defeating Beatrice would allow Ange to get her brother back. Lambdadelta explains that this would be a lie: if Battler defeats Beatrice, he would return back to his own world, but this world would not be Ange’s world. He would be returning to the world of 1986 where a six year old Ange is waiting, not the world where Ange had already lost her brother for twelve years.
Ange only now seems to realize what Lambdadelta revealed: obviously she has had very little exposure to science fiction with time travel, otherwise the first thing she would have wondered was whether timelines were immutable, branching, parallel, or overwriting. Lambdadelta proposes an alternative for Ange: prevent Battler from ever winning, and not only would this help Lambdadelta’s mysterious goals, but Ange would also be with her brother forever.
This episode dropped a few bombshells. A small one is that Ange was an apprentice witch, although this might be a reasonable extrapolation of her interaction with Maria from the previous episode. This part gave me a “make it up as we go along” feeling, though. (“Magic? Oh yeah, I tried that once.” “Cheap ornament? It’s from your brother? That’s why it contains great magic.”) The huge bombshell for me were the message bottles: apparently they describe events not from Ange’s timeline but from other timelines. Presumably as magic events rather than mundane murder mysteries, but still … And then there’s the “Mariage Sorcière”, apparently a society of witches with its own bureaucracy as hinted in episode III-IV, but we know almost nothing about.
- Looks like we get to see Ange’s investigations into the Rokkenjima incident in parallel as the incident unfolds. In fact, we might not see much of the events from 1986, perhaps because they will be the same as in the first arc, and the focus might be much more on 1998.
- I don’t think Ange would follow Lambdadelta’s advice, and Lambdadelta probably thinks it’s just a long shot. Bernkastel made it clear that she couldn’t promise that Ange would have her brother back, and as long as the game goes on, Ange’s family would be trapped in a gruesome cycle of murder.
- Lambdadelta stopping time in what appears to be a meta level of existence seems to imply that there can be meta levels above meta levels. Or it could be that she is just that powerful. It is also very interesting that Lambdadelta is openly trying to influence the game, compared to the rather passive or subtle roles she and Bernkastel seemed to play in the previous rounds.
- A character in the anime seems to have the same theory as mine that belief determines character: Maria seems to believe that the way she thinks about her mother determines what Rosa actually did. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that I’m right: even if I’m wrong, Maria can still be right because she makes it that way through magic.
- Maria becoming an apprentice witch must have happened after the events of the second arc, since Wergilia didn’t even know what her pseudonym would be until episode III-III (unless that was part of the charade as well). If Maria was already dead, then who wrote that page in the diary? Where did Ange get the diary, anyways?
- Speaking of Wergilia, the English spelling of her name is a mystery. Apparently the visual novel spells it “Wergilia”, a translation group spells it as “Virgilia” (from “Virgil”, which is not pronounced anything like the witch’s pseudonym is), and I tried spelling it as “Vergilia” (from “Vergilius”, the original Latin name that would sound much more like the witch’s pseudonym is pronounced). And that’s just the ones I’m aware of. Then we see on screen a signature starting with “Waru”, a tantalizing hint that it’s “Warugiria”. It’s almost as if there is no official English spelling …