This post is a reflection, an introspection, a freeform rambling, and a conclusion.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that knows me that I LOVE Umineko no Naku Koro ni. I’m a fan of all Otaku culture, but my love for Umineko isn’t the same as my love for the others. It’s almost a different kind of love, like an affinity. My love for Umineko isn’t because I’m a fan of Anime and Visual Novels, it’s only through that medium that I came to know of Umineko. Umineko, in my eyes, transcends the medium of Otaku culture and exists in a dimension of its own. It isn’t just another story to me – it might just be THE story. The story I was always destined to read. People say that some people are destined for each other, that their encounter is fated to happen, like they’re meant to be together. This is almost how I feel toward Umineko, a work of fiction by visual novel writer and creator Ryukishi07. It’s gotten to the point where I find it difficult to imagine my life having never read it. It’s that important to me. You see, Umineko quite literally changed my life. There’s no particular incident I can think of that might have ended differently had I never read Umineko, but it’s changed the way I perceive the world, how I live. I can’t say that for many things in my life, but when I do, I mean it. Umineko is less comparable to a story to me, and more like a bible. The characters and themes are an inseparable part of me. Whenever I see things in the world, I am reminded of themes in Umineko, and what Umineko had to teach me about the world.
My experiences with Umineko began shortly after I finished watching the then amazing Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Anime series, and wanted to look into more of his works. Introducing Umineko no Naku Koro ni: a newly created series of Visual Novels that, as it turned out, would soon be getting an Anime adaptation. Well, we all know how that turned out, but even so, I really got into it. It was a cool story with a very unique premise, it was just poorly presented and left a lot of unanswered questions. So, interested to see the true story that everyone told me to read, I took a glance at the Umineko no Naku Koro ni Visual Novels. What lead was an unmatched fascination that got to the point that I was watching Rosa protecting her daughter from hoards of carnivorous goat-men the night before my final biology exam. Yeah, probably not the best choice, but it really exemplifies how hard I had fallen for this series of extraordinary stories.
Umineko is a mystery story. Like all great mysteries, it portrays a scene of perfectly ordinary people, people who each holds deep burdens in their life, burdens which could potentially drive any one of them to commit a mass murder. It is a story of how friends and family are murdered in front of you, by someone you still believe you can trust. It’s a story of people questioning the foundations of their relationships with others, to survive, and hurting others in the process. And, it is a story about fear, the type of restricting fear that can cause you to abandon the foundations of your very reality, and start believing in the impossible. It’s a story where the boundaries between possible and impossible begin to twist and blur, and even the most impossible things can become possible. A cut-off world where a life of loving trust can be destroyed by one twisted truth, and also a world where an impossible and inconceivable love can be born in a world of inescapable horror and tragedy. It’s this twisted world, painted with an incomprehensible web of conflicting truths, where the true beauty of life remains hidden under its cold, menacing appearance.
It’s something only those who have read and understood the story can possibly understand. Each of the characters has been perfectly imprinted into my mind. I lived with these characters and their stories for a few years, with the release of each successive episode adding more layers of depth and complexity to the story, and the characters themselves. When it gets to the point that you’re reading a story about someone reading a story to someone about someone playing a game about a series of murders which were communicated through a series of letters in bottles and brought to the attention of the world, and mixed up with forgeries written by the woman who was having the story of the game read to her, you know you’ve hit something amazing. It’s an endlessly recursive ladder of fictional layers, mysteries within grander mysteries. And with each layer, it’s own characters and stories to tell of. Unravelling this endless spiral of mysteries is the fun part of Umineko for me, something I’ve engaged in endless debate over with my different contacts across the internet. Trying to unravel the mysteries of a fictional universe, while trying to understand the characters within it, to better understand the true meaning of the story. It’s all such a delight, and something I never get tired of.
As I keep mentioning, it all keeps coming back to the characters. The characters, even though the story has ended, have remained immortalised in my mind. Every time I see a child try their best to create happiness with their imagination, I am reminded of Maria. Every time I see those with great financial ambitions, I am reminded of the siblings. I see George in every rebellious lover, I see Jessica in every teen pressured by their parents to be something they’re not, I see Kinzo’s madness in the hearts of everyone with a deep passion, I see Natushi’s dedication reflected in strong mothers and housewives. I see Kanon in the self-questioning youths, I see Gohda’s love for cooking in every meal lovingly made by my family, Kumasawa’s caring nature in every loving grandparent, and Battler’s foolhardy yet well-wishing demeanor in every class clown.
And then there’s entities of illusion, the demons and witches that bleed into the closed island of Rokkenjima through an unseen world. The beings which embody concepts and ideas of our world, the creatures of imagination, permitted to exist in this world where anything is impossible. Were these beings to exist in the real world, they would perish under the toxin that is human rationality. When all the basic paradigms that make up our existence are shattered in the dark of night, these beings will come, and take over our world. Even these characters have left their imprint on my mind, where I allow them to exist. Ronove’s peerless fortitude in the face of any adversity, Virgilia’s compassionate guidance, the goats, Ange, and Erika, which all reflect the cold, uncompassionate individuals we can become out of our relentless hunger for truth. I think of Gaap every time something disappears from my room, I think of eiserne jungfrau whenever I see people remaining dutifully loyal to a cause they may have trouble accepting, Lion whenever I see someone coping with a misaligned gender, and also whenever I see someone who is truly thankful for their incredible fortune.
Will’s peerless chivalry and unrivaled desire to never stop fighting for the sake of love, and his compassionate attention to the hearts of others inspires me deeply, and continue to motivate me to this day. He represents my ideal, the kind of person I aspire to be like. Lambdadelta’s flippant attitude after living for an eternity intrigues me, and her interest and curiosity in the lives of humans reminds me just how special humanity can be. Contrasting that, Bernkastel is no less than a rapist who takes the utmost pleasure in ripping apart everything she encounters, including toying with humans and disgracing them for her amusement. She, who may have once been a human full of hopes and dreams like us, represents the most terrifying potential in every one of us. And I see Beatrice, the golden witch, in every poor person who is unable to understand her own feelings, and desperately tries expresses them in the most erratic and incomprehensible ways.
Beatrice’s tale, and the tales of many others in the world of Umineko, are the tales of the people we meet in our daily lives, brought to life. Sometimes these tales reflect the darkest parts of ourselves, but they also reflect what makes humanity and the world so beautiful. Seeing Battler surrender to the witch in Episode 2 may highlight his weakness, but it also shows how much he cares for and trusts others. Rosa’s relationship with Maria may highlight the cruelest of parent-child relationships, but before the end, we see that even she can wake up to her own madness and truly love her child. Eva herself is capable of killing everyone, and becomes an enemy to Ange, but she could have been putting on that act all those years just to protect her. Without love, it cannot be seen. Umineko illuminates that, by having love, and by trying to understand the hearts of others, we can lead better lives and be better people. It may end in tragedy, or it may end with no answers at all, but leading that kind of life can’t be a bad thing. That’s just one of the many answers I’ve come to as a reader of Umineko.
Through the other door, is the side of those who pursue the truth. One fundamental trait of humanity is our endless curiosity. We want to know everything there is to know. It doesn’t feel natural for things to be left unknown, for questions to be unanswered. Only when questions are answered do we feel satisfied, or so we believe. Many people are unable to contain their curiosity, the types that will skip to the end of the story just to find out who the culprit is. Umineko was not written for those people; Umineko is a story where you can only come to an answer yourself. But there are many, many people who play the role of detective themself, and try to reach the truth through their own hands. While this pursuit is noble, and to engage in the game of truth-hunting is fun, I believe Ryukishi meant to tell us that we cannot let our curiosity get in the way of more important things. The truth of what really happened on Rokkenjima will never be closed, and so infinite possibilities continue to exist. But trying to solve that mystery is not the point of Umineko. People are free to construct their own realities for as long as they wish, but I believe coming to an answer will only leave the detective with a sense of dread. Because, to form an idea of the culprit, one must incriminate one of the people we’ve come to know and love. We are free to theorize, but it’s not necessary. The game boards of Umineko are the frosting on the cake, and the extra layers of the story are perhaps the cake itself. The reality of Rokkenjima is the plate the cake is served on. We are not invited to eat any more than the cake, and to do so will probably only hurt your teeth.
At least, this is the conclusion I have reached.
Exploring the ocean of fragments has broadened my perception of the universe. Not only have I gained such a deeper understanding and appreciation of human nature, but I’ve come to some conclusions about the nature of existence and reality. If anything, Umineko’s depiction of worlds beyond our human existence is more believable than most religions I’ve heard of. The cat box of Rokkenjima has further opened my eyes to the concept of infinite universes, endless possibilities, both within our world and even possibly beyond. The idea that when I die, I depart from the game board of life, is more believable to me than a concept of heaven or hell. I was quite literal when I said Umineko is like a bible to me. It’s further opened my mind to the idea that our consciousness can transcend our physical bodies, and exist in a realm of thought. These are all pretty new-age pseudo-spiritual ideas, but they’re a big part of my belief system, which has only been further reshaped and reinforced by Umineko. Even if witches and magic doesn’t exist in this world, who’s to say it doesn’t exist outside of our world? Anything is possible – there is no such thing as red truth in our world. And of course, these kinds of fantastical philosophical concepts are things I’m free to imagine. The canvas is my mind, I can paint whatever I want in it, and I trust that others won’t play Bernkastel and try to trample on the golden truths I’ve constructed for my own self.
Umineko has taught me so much. It’s taught me valuable life lessons, it’s taught me philosophy, ethics, how to solve a mystery, how to expand my fantasies, it’s taught me how to treat different kinds of people, to respect their heart, to view the world with love, to seek the truth, but not too zealously. It’s taught me the value of never giving up, taught me the horrible unforeseen consequences our actions can hold, and how to avoid them. It’s taught me that there may be many things that exist beyond our limited human experience, it’s taught me not to believe everything I see, and it’s taught me a whole new way of utilizing logic and reasoning as incredibly powerful tools. Umineko has helped me understand exactly what is important to me, and what I should fight for. There’s just so much you can get from Umineko, and I’m sure everyone who reads it will get something different. It would take me an eternity to list all the things that Umineko has given me, but I think I’m able to give everyone a glimpse of just why it means so much to me – why it’s more to me than just a book, why it’s the story that I’ll likely hold dear to my heart for many, many years.
Even though the story is over, and the characters put to rest, Umineko will continue to remain a part of who I am. It’s helped me find myself and my place in the world in so many ways – it’s almost shocking how much of an influence it’s had on me. Ryukishi is an unrecognized modern-day genius, and I am so thankful that he was able to impart so much of his precious wisdom onto me, and to all the people who have had the pleasure of experiencing Umineko no Naku Koro ni. It’s by far one of the most entertaining reads I’ve ever had, and being a part of the fandom has been truly rewarding. I’ve even made a lot of friends through people who love Umineko as much as I do! Trying to unravel the plot with everyone has been an amazing experience, and even now I still get in the occasional truth battle with a friend over some of Umineko’s unanswered questions. And every time I listen to its INCREDIBLE soundtrack, I think back to all the amazing memories I’ve had with this game. It’s not just a story… It’s an experience that sticks with you wherever you go.
My last wish, before putting this game board to rest, is that more people take the time to experience Umineko no Naku Koro ni. I want to introduce as many people as I can to Umineko, in the hopes that they’ll get even a fragment as much out of it as I did. I will continue to make it my mission to induct people into the world of Umineko. This will be my continued effort, as a fan of this work. This is something that can’t remain unread – it’s something that people everywhere should give a chance. Escape from the medium of the Visual Novel, you’re a literary masterpiece Umineko, and I want everyone to be able to realize it too.
Thank you, Umineko. Thank you for everything.