Episode IV-V of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, “breakthrough”, begins in 1998 on the island of Niijima, where Ange is investigating certain aspects of the Rokkenjima incident. Her first stop is the Nanjo Clinic, operated by the son of Nanjo Terumasa. Of particular interest is a letter with the Ushiromiya seal, which was supposedly sent to Nanjo Terumasa by the son Nanjo Masayuki on October 3, 1986, right before the Rokkenjima incident. The receiving address was fake and the letter was returned to the son about a week later: it was a roundabout way of sending the letter to the son.
The letter contained a key, a card, and a note. The key and card opens a safe deposit box (apparently numbered A112), while the note has the authorization code written down on it. The authorization code is 07151129: you might remember the same number from episode III-VI. When the son had went to the bank to check out the safe deposit box, he learned that it was a very exclusive type only allowed to special customers from the way the bank staff behaved. The safe deposit box contained stacks of money, which the son put back right where it was, instinctively realizing that it would be dangerous to touch.
Ever since then, he has hardly told anyone about the letter until Ange came along (and Ange might be the only one to whom he told it about). Before she leaves, she gets an idea and compares the writing on the envelope with the anomalous page in Maria’s diary. I think her reaction shows that the handwriting matches; maybe if I was familiar with handwritten Japanese, I could have seen the similarity myself … By the way, the letter was addressed to the fake address Hokkaido Rebun-tou Rebun-gun Rebun-chou 1-2-34-5678 (åŒ—æµ·é“ ç¤¼æ–‡å³¶ ç¤¼æ–‡éƒ¡ ç¤¼æ–‡ç”º 1-2-34-5678).
The next stop is the son of Kumasawa Chiyo, Kumasawa Sabakichi, who also received a similar letter that was returned to sender after failing to reach a fake address. This one was sent to the fake address Okinawa-ken Yaeyama-gun Yonaguni-chou 1-2-34-5678 (æ²–ç¸„çœŒ å…«é‡å±±éƒ¡ ä¸Žé‚£å›½ç”º 1-2-34-5678). This son didn’t even go as far as checking out what the contents were for and had forgotten about it for years. The contents for this letter appears to open a safe deposit box numbered A113.
As Ange thinks to herself, we learn what must have put her on this line of investigation: she had also received a similar letter, although she never got to learn what was in it as it was lost in the confusion while she was being adopted by Eva. Given the roundabout way that the letters were sent, and not with a more reliable fixed date delivery, Ange believes that the mysterious sender may have been deliberately enjoying the unreliability of the delivery, not really caring too much if the letters arrive properly.
It is then that Ange notices an odd plaque on the wall reminiscent of the now famous inscription of Rokkenjima. It’s not the inscription, though, and is a picture of a door that Ange has never seen before. The door has an inscription in English, with a Japanese translation engraved in the plaque:
This door is opened only at probability of a quadrillion to one.
You will be blessed only at a probability of a quadrillion to one.
And that’s an American quadrillion, not the old British quadrillion … (Of course, someone might have just screwed up the translation. Not that I think it matters: the important thing is obviously that the probability is really, really small.) Sabakichi mentions that there were a lot of other pictures and notes from his mother’s possessions that appear to be related to an effort to solve the Rokkenjima inscription. The son just thinks that Chiyo just enjoyed those kind of mysteries despite appearances, although it looks like Ange might have a difference in opinion.
Now it’s time to find a way to Rokkenjima itself. With no regular transportation to the island, she visits Captain Kawabata, who used to operate the boat to Rokkenjima but now manages the bedding store Marufuku. Other boat captains are much more reluctant to go there: people have even started to call it by its old name Akujikijima instead of Rokkenjima. Captain Kawabata has lent his boat to someone else, but he will have no problem with getting it back for use the next day.
While going downstairs to leave, Ange sees something in the bedding store that shocks her. She can’t believe what she’s seeing and wonders if it’s magic, although Kawabata doesn’t have a clue what’s bothering her. Ange thinks to herself that it’s destiny, that she finally understands that this was the sort of thing called magic that Maria and Beatrice must have been talking about. Annoyingly, we don’t get a clear look at what Ange is paying attention to, but given that this is a bedding store, we should be able to make a pretty good guess …
The time is now 11:00PM, and we are back at the Rokkenjima of 1986. Over the phone, Krauss is forced to tell the grandchildren that they must undergo a test, but before that they must lock the couple of servants in the storehouse. While they pretend to lock them up because they are supposedly being watched, they discretely throw the keys to the storehouse through the windows. At least they think they were being discrete, although the three Siesta sisters are out in plain sight watching them.
Within the underground of the Quadorian, the prisoners are compliant for fear of making things worse otherwise, while Vergilia summons three goat servants of Beatrice. Gaap mentions that Beatrice’s goat servants aren’t particularly capable, but that they are reliable. Vergilia also summons a dressing table mirror to show the prisoners what is happening with the grandchildren. Kinzo is just giddy to see which grandchild will come out ahead of whatever twisted test he has in mind.
The next phone call that the grandchildren gets is from Kyrie, which is received by Battler. Kyrie informs them that the test is to be administered in the order of Jessica, George, Battler, and Maria. As the first one to be tested, Jessica is told to head to her room. The time is now 11:03PM: they must be moving pretty quickly, since it only took three minutes to get umbrellas, head to the storeroom, lock up Gohda and Kumasawa, get back to their room, and receive instructions over the phone. And we saw two and a half minutes of that time on screen, where nobody seemed to be in any particular hurry …
When Jessica reaches her room, she finds Ronove waiting for her. When the unfamiliar man introduces himself as Ronove, Jessica wonders if he’s Rounoue Genji, to which Ronove explains that Genji is more like a little brother, or the correct form of himself in this world, or his vessel. Jessica is understandably confused by this explanation, so he apologizes that it’s something difficult for humans to understand. (When a fictional character gives this excuse, I usually consider this code for “it’s a simple concept that is just unfamiliar, but I’m too lazy to properly explain it”.)
Ronove summons a letter from thin air that will explain what the test is (and Jessica doesn’t blink an eye at the something from nothing trick). But Jessica is outraged when she reads the contents. Outside at the garden gazebo, George is having the same reaction to the letter he received from Gaap. (Apparently they didn’t wait for Jessica to finish before sending out George.) With three choices given, the test demands that they must sacrifice one choice to obtain the two other choices. For George, the choices are:
- His own life.
- Shannon’s life.
- Everyone else’s life.
while for Jessica, the choices are:
- Her own life.
- Kanon’s life.
- Everyone else’s life.
(When hearing the choice about sacrificing everyone else’s life, my first thought was this: Wouldn’t Kinzo and the other captors be included in this “everyone else”?)
If Jessica and George were to refuse to choose anything to sacrifice, the test declares they would lose all choices. The test obviously being completely outrageous but not in a position to refuse, they don’t immediately come up with answers, which has Kinzo belittling them as he watches through a crystal ball. But they come up with their answers soon enough.
Jessica chooses to sacrifice her life. The point of the test is not the answers themselves, but how the subjects come up with their answers, so Ronove asks Jessica for her reasons. Jessica explains that she would have to live with her choice if she were to have Kanon die, while if she let everyone else die, Kanon could never love her. Ronove considers Jessica’s use of the process of elimination as acceptable but not very highly, to which Jessica replies that she needs to show how a proud life is lived since she had told Kanon that he needed to live his own life.
When Ronove asks if she thought about Kanon suffering because of her death, Jessica asks Ronove to pass on to Kanon a message: Kanon should live a life that is truly his own. Kanon gets to see this through Vergilia’s mirror. Upon seeing this, he pleas to Verigilia to kill him to prevent Jessica’s choice, but Vergilia refuses, saying that it was Jessica’s choice to make. With this, she heads upstairs to rest, leaving behind the three goat servants to watch over the prisoners.
In the garden, George choose the third option to sacrifice everyone else. His reasoning is that since he had just proposed to Shannon that night (apparently he did manage to propose this time as well), and that marriage means always being on the side of their spouse, which means he is quite ready to protect Shannon even if it means turning the whole world against him. Back in the Quadorian dungeon, the prisoners are impressed with George’s will, but oddly says nothing negative about his decision. Gaap is impressed with George with how he thinks like Goldsmith, a.k.a. Kinzo.
George declares that he made his decision as the head of the family, in other words, he is right now the head of the Ushiromiya family. Gaap is skeptical that George could kill the others with his own hands, but George is quite firm that he can. With this, Gaap declares him the new demon king of Rokkenjima. But little does she know that George had the same thought I had: the first life to be snuffed out is Gaap’s. With the rain suddenly stopping, he explains that since the family is part of the Ushiromiya wealth, and since Gaap helped hurt some of them, she is going to pay.
Something similar happens with Jessica and Ronove. When Ronove is about to take away Jessica’s life, she stops him. Her choice was based on her viewpoint as a maiden, but she has an entirely different choice as the next head of the family. Putting on brass knuckles, Jessica punches Ronove on the nose. It doesn’t knock him back the least, but at least it causes a nosebleed. Jessica’s justification for being the next head of the family is that if her father lost the right, then the right properly falls on to her. And she’s not going to let Ronove and his cohorts do as they please.
In the garden, a martial arts fight ensues between George and Gaap. Gaap is quite confident at first, but it turns out that George is far superior in hand-to-hand combat, having the will from his love for Shannon, the strong body he got from his father, and the martial arts skills taught by his mother. In fact, he’s so much better that he can afford to play around with her without landing a hit: he wants Gaap unharmed so that she can guide him for a rescue of the others.
Gaap decides to summon the help of the three goat servants, but she is shocked when George exhibits a magic barrier, the same kind that had been exhibited by Shannon and meta-Battler. George has no idea what she’s talking about concerning a magic barrier, so Gaap realizes that George’s absolute resolve must be manifesting as magic. And George is quite ready to serve a can of whoopass.
Meanwhile, Jessica is throwing punches at Ronove, who blocks them quite handily with his own magic barrier. Ronove points out how futile her punches are, but Jessica is completely unwilling to give up, and she believes that there’s no such thing as an impenetrable barrier. And I think we’ve been hammered on how powerful belief can be with magic … Ronove notices that Jessica’s fists are beginning to glow red and strengthens his shield. The episode ends when an unstoppable fist meets an impenetrable shield, and the time is now 11:30PM.
I found the first half of the episode intriguing, with Ange’s investigations into the mysterious letters hinting at something, although I’m not quite sure what it’s hinting at. As for the second half of the episode, I suspect meta-Battler must be having the same reaction I’m having: not only are witches too enamored of quantum mumbo-jumbo, but they must be watching way too many martial arts flicks. I don’t doubt that Jessica and George would have the physical training to do what they do, but the combat scenes really do feel pretty cheesy. Maybe Beatrice needs more practice making up combat scenes …
- 07151129 being the authorization code for the safe deposit boxes, its appearance in episode III-VI takes on a whole new meaning. Now if I can just figure out what this new meaning is …
- The fake addresses that the letters were sent to might have some meaning, given that they appear to be all different. I can’t guess what they might mean, but at least they do point to real towns.
- I think what Ange saw in the Marufuku was a large Sakutaro doll or a large huggable Sakutaro pillow. I’m not sure why it wasn’t shown clearly, though, given how this would be an obvious guess. It would be quite shocking if what Ange saw was actually a Bernkastel dakimakura …
- Jessica and George received no indication that any sort of magic was involved, but they showed more surprise at the strange people showing up rather than any magic displayed. In fact, they gave no notice at all to any magic. This is a pretty strong indication that magic really is just a facade over what is actually happening. Same thing with the Siesta sisters watching them: I’m sure I would never have missed seeing them watching me. Unless the scenes have absolutely no bearing on reality at all …
- With Gaap summoning the three goat servants, there is no one watching over the prisoners. I thought this arc would focus exclusively on the grandchildren as they flail around, but the others might be escaping in the next episode.
- I can’t be the only one who found Ronove’s nosebleed amusing …