Like it or not, Umineko is presenting as the successor of the popular horror-mystery When they cry. I think that can be one the biggest problem for me as When Seagulls cry isn’t fully presenting itself as neither of them right now. For one thing is obvious that the horror factor in the new series was vastly toned down but that isn’t all. Currently, the plot that Umineko is following isn’t exactly what I was expecting from a Higurashi successor. Sure, we have murders, mysteries, and time loops but Umineko is lacking some things that made me love Higurashi. Not that I don’t like Umineko but I think that I’ll like it even more if certain things were better done. Here is a list of five things that Umineko tv lacks or needs to work on in my opinion:
1) Element of surprise:
We all know that the eerie atmosphere that Higurashi had was crucial to the show. It was so creepy at times that T\the most simple things in the show made me feel that there was always someone with a secret agenda in Hinamizawa. This murderously intent that we perceived in every passing moment made Higurashi an intense anime to watch each week. We didn’t know who or when but someone was going to get killed. It may be an underground, in plain sight, at your friend’s house or in front of your eyes but I was sure that someone is going to get brutally murdered. It shocked me. It surprised. It’s like I had this thread in front of us with holes for my eyes. I could see what was happening in front of us but I couldn’t see to the sides. It’s this very state of uncertainty where Higurashi selling point was.We just do not know what is happening or what is going to. I want Umineko to show me a bit more of that Higurashi experience. I don’t want to see the show reduced to just a showdown between Battler and Beatrice where the rest are just there fill the rest of the twenty five minutes. It needs more twists.
In Umineko there is someone in control of everything and even that very someone’s identity is fully revealed to us as Beatrice the golden witch. In Umineko, all the killings are credited to her and her minions who with the help of magic are able to commit the crimes. Regrettably, I found that a great majority of the deaths weren’t as shocking as I thought they were going because most of the victims die rather quick (magic) compared to those in Umineko’s sadistic older brother Higurashi. Lastly, the impact of the deaths were further reduced by how little attached I feel to some characters. See character development.
Without a doubt Umineko’s horror is different than Higurashi too. Unquestionably, the killings in Higurashi were one the biggest highlights of the show. They were cruel, brutal, and sometimes well orchestrated and others just out of rage. It was intriguing and creepy to see that everyone in Hinamizawa could become a deranged criminal under extreme stress or other certain circumstances. No one could predict what was going to happen in the show even after so many arcs. That’s something I really liked about the Higurashi. It managed to always leave me in complete awe. Regrettably, the horror is noticeably toned down in Umineko, in great part because Umineko is more mystery oriented.
This time around there aren’t mentally deranged underage kids running amok butchering people up, instead the killings are committed using “magic”. What I’ve also noticed that a big number of the deaths in Umineko have felt hollow for two reasons. The first reason is that meta-Battler is the only who is able to witness and remembers everything that takes place so for everyone what happens is irrelevant since they aren’t aware of their situation. The second reason is that since Beatrice can do as she wishes she can resurrect everyone as many times as she wants. I think in a way that that god-like position of hers greatly cheapens their deaths since as long as they keep the game going everything will repeat again no matter what. I suppose that must be the real reason why we cannot have more Higurashi seasons. Not only because we have already solved the mystery behind the killings and the time loops but because the show would become too predictable sooner or later. Wasn’t that REI’s main premise? If we mess up this time, there won’t be a next time”? The way I see it as long Beatrice allows it there will always be a next time. They should put some restrictions on the numbers of times that Battler can fail and, of course, a great punishment if he doesn’t like succeed like permanently “removing a character from play” (dead for real).
4) Character development:
That’s one department that Umineko really needs to work on. Let’s take Shannon x George and Kannon x Jessica for example. It maybe just me but I don’t find any of these couples stories interesting. The second arc spent so much time on their stories to have a fairly weak ending in the end. Even in the first game where George and Shannon’s relationship was better explored I never felt that their stories was interesting enough. In a great part I think that this is because I feel that the anime could focus on other more interesting characters seeing that there are just so many in Umineko.
Another example of how the anime lost some impact: Let’s take Gohda, an opportunistic guy who sees the other servants as obstacles to gain the favor of the masters. The sound novel made Gohda to be a detestable character and it did just that. I hated him. The anime on the other hand never bothered to animate any of the parts where he is a jerk to Shannon or the others if they did it was fairly forgettable. In conclusion, he became just another servant without real character who suffered a bad fate at the hands of the witch.
Similarly, I was very saddened to see Natsuhi’s screen time got cut off so badly in the first arc. Natsuhi was my favorite character of Umineko in the first game and it greatly angered me that Studio DEEN did not make her proper justice. In the game, Eva hated Natsuhi with a passion; I could even feel the tension between them. Once again this wasn’t very much explored in the anime.
Although not all of them are crucial main characters (don’t quote me on that), they are a clear example of how little and not so little things in the game can give you a different experience compared to the anime. I know that the cast of Umineko is without a doubt larger than Higurashi’s but it’ll be nice if the anime reachs a fair balance because that is currently proving to be one of the weakest points of the anime version right now.
What I did like to see was that in latest episodes characters such as Battler, Maria and Rosa has undergo a bit of a transformation for the best. Still, I have to wonder how all of this will turn out considering that everything resets and they all forget what happens to them in each arc? How crucial are the character developments going to be to the story when they only have five or so episodes to live?
5) The mystery
As much as I like mysteries and playing detective, sometimes Umineko’s premise isn’t completely as captivating as I wanted it to. Beatrice’s objective is to make Battler accept her existence by rending him unable to explain how the murders were committed. I understand Battler’s point that magic might not exist and that the murders could have been done by someone else. I get his point since in the first arcs we do not see who and how exactly the murders are done. Although, it was hard to explain how Beatrice (or someone else) did it, there was a still a possibility that someone could’ve done them without using magic. Nevertheless, that possibility almost completely disappears in the second arc where we witnessed exactly how the killings are done and who the culprit is so what gives?
Moreover, I’m having even greater problems following Battler’s reasoning. Sometimes he makes sense and sometimes his thinking seems just flawed. How does he explain the meta-world, people coming back to life, Beatrice’s magic, and a bunch of things that are normally impossible otherwise? So far he’s been only denying everything without actually coming up with a real objection. It just seems easier to prove how Battler could be wrong than to how he might be right. How is Battler supposed to prove that something that does exist doesn’t? I mean.. I’m looking right at it with my very two eyes.
The way I’m seeing it right now is that if you deny the existence of something then you must accept the possibility something else. It seems to me that Battler wants to take the easy way out by denying the possibility that magic didn’t do it and that no family member did it either. Who could have done it then? Battler doesn’t know it either. We certainly saw the witch killed the family members with magic and the rest didn’t just committed suicide in both arcs. Yes, I know that’s the idea, but everything seems so absolute that is almost too difficult to imagine that Battler might be actually wright about that. I mean right.
Like I said before, there are many characters and events that haven’t been introduced and events that we haven’t seen yet so everything is subject to change. I know it’s too early to post a real critique on Umineko I have no intentions of doing that right now but I figured that it was time to get some things out of the way right now anyway. Reason why? I decided to write something because it was bothering me is that it is after 11 episodes Umineko is finally starting to really show some of that Higurashi experience that I’ve grown so accustomed to.
I’d also like to see Studio Deen try harder to make the anime version as closer to the original source as possible. I understand that since Umineko might be trickier than Higurashi, the studio might be having troubles animating it right. Still I’m sure it isn’t impossible to make it work. I, for one, would like to see Umineko step up its game. It goes without saying that I’m expecting the next arcs to provide us with new developments as well as memorable scenes that will keep us on the edge of our seats. As stated by Bernaskel, the first two games were too one-sided and there weren’t many risks that Beatrice had to take. Lastly, I’m expecting Umineko TV to reach a balance or a formula that will impress us until the very end. As mentioned before I’d like to them to step up the game and take it to even higher stakes. As a Higurashi fan I expect that Studio Deen will be able to accomplish that in the end.