Review

by Rebecca Silverman,

Umineko When They Cry Episode 6: Dawn of the Golden Witch Volume 1

GN 13

Synopsis:
Umineko When They Cry Episode 6: Dawn of the Golden Witch Volume 1 GN 13
Battler has utterly defeated Beatrice and now the game is his to control. He came to an important realization that granted him this power, but what was it, and why has it rendered him so bleak? Meanwhile, his sister Ange meets up with Featherine, the Witch of Theater, who has been masquerading as several bestselling mystery authors and writing up the other games Battler played as novels. Now she grants Ange both status as her miko and access to the latest game, giving her the chance to put together the mystery herself. With a new innocent Beatrice on the board, and the game beginning again on Rokkenjima, the stage is set for Battler's truth to slowly come to light.
Review:

And here we are again. This omnibus begins the sixth cycle of Ryukishi07's Umineko: When They Cry manga, which is the second of four “answer” arcs. This is the first time Battler's been in charge of the story, having defeated Beatrice in the fifth arc, The End of the Golden Witch, although that doesn't mean that Beatrice is gone. Instead, this book introduces a new Beatrice to fill her place. New Beatrice bears a much greater resemblance to the human version we met when Eva was the point-of-view character, because she lacks the original Beatrice's millennium of experience, making it clear that this is an arc about redoing previous events and mistakes. If Beatrice has been reset to start, what else might be back in its untouched state?

The theme of starting over is given physical form in Ange and Featherine, the newest witch to grace the story. Featherine is the Witch of Theater and has been hiding in plain sight in the human world of 1998 as various bestselling mystery authors, writing down “theories” about the Rokkenjima murders of 1986, making her the author of all of the books we have read thus far. This suddenly turns the series into a work of mis-en-abyme, a style of writing where the author of the story is writing it as it occurs, creating an intertextual narrative. This allows us to question each version of the story more easily, making Featherine a more unreliable narrator than we perhaps had been expecting. If Battler (and Beatrice) is the gamemaster, she's the loremaster, keeping a stock of variations of the tale in her library, which no one has access to without her permission. This makes Ange, as Featherine's “miko,” the stand-in for the reader in this arc. Erika may be the detective character in the actual story, but Ange is like us, the armchair detective reading along and trying to piece together the clues. Erika, as the stereotypical amateur detective character, is bound by Knox's Commandments, but she also has a mind attuned to all of the clues; Ange does not, and therefore becomes our avatar in Umineko's world.

Since this arc is taking things back to their base states, its main themes could be seen as “love” and “belief.” Rather than jumping right in to the usual murders, this volume ends without anyone having die at all, instead focusing on the forbidden romances of George & Shannon and Jessica & Kanon. The largest obstacle to these relationships is the servants' belief that they are not human but animated furniture, existing only to serve and forbidden to have human emotions. Apart from the obvious fact that if they have real names they were obviously real people before the Ushiromiyas brainwashed them, the siblings honestly believe that they are subhuman and must rely on magic and charms in order to fulfill their relationships. George, who has always come off as insecure, is absolutely willing to go along with this theory, but Jessica thinks it's ridiculous. This makes her the Battler in this scenario, fighting the belief in magic that the other characters harbor, while our usual skeptic wallows in whatever he learned previously. The implication is that his truth has something to do with both belief and love; we already know from previous arcs that despite being an Ushiromiya, he is not his father's son. There's also the possibility of a forbidden love angle, given his highly conflicted feelings towards Beatrice – and the new Beatrice's for him.

Mostly, this omnibus seems to traffic in theory rather than solid fact, although the red, blue, and golden truths are all used at various points. Rather than giving us answers or even firm clues, Ryukishi07 prefers to encourage us to piece together the puzzles of the characters' emotions, such as who believes in magic and what makes them need to believe. Arguably, belief in something is the most powerful force in the story, particularly in this arc, so understanding who believes what and why feels central to arriving at the final answer. While this can all get over-ambitious in its philosophy, the author has at least stopped talking down to us, and with the old Beatrice gone, the annoyance factor has gone down significantly. Erika remains an irritant, but even she is not infallible – she comments that the mystery novel is “less than a century old” in 1986, which is patently untrue: the genre originated in 1841, Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White was published in 1860, and even Sherlock Holmes came onto the scene in 1887, all of which Ryukishi07 doubtless knows. This is perhaps a bit nit-picky, but I believe it shows that Erika isn't infallible, which could be important.

The art this time is provided by Hinase Momoyama, who also did the art for Higurashi: When They Cry's Massacre arc. Momoyama seems to exclusively do work for VN manga adaptations, one of the few artists to capture the sense that the story takes place in the 1980s. Mostly, this is done through the fit of the clothes (tightness and width of pants) and the way that hairstyles are drawn. I may be the only person this lack of period fidelity has bothered, but it is nice to see it look more like 1986. Momoyama also makes the youthful characters look younger; new Beatrice looks especially good.

Umineko: When They Cry is definitely starting to lead us toward the keys to its mysteries. With the increasing emphasis on emotion as the potential source of magic, it becomes easier to see beyond both author's and characters' posturing, and the truth starts to feel attainable. Things might get a little philosophically tangled, but Umineko seems to be back on track and the plot is starting to become clear.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B

+ The introduction of Featherine adds some interesting angles to the story, emphasis on emotions and belief offers new possible solutions, art rings more of 1986 setting
Some anatomical issues, particularly the breasts and thighs, gets a little philosophically messy, Erika's still a pain

Original creator: Ryukishi07
Art:
Akitaka
Sōichirō
Eita Mizuno
Hinase Momoyama
Kei Natsumi
Jiro Suzuki

Full encyclopedia details about
Umineko no Naku Koro ni (manga)

Release information about
Umineko When They Cry Episode 6: Dawn of the Golden Witch Volume 1 (GN 13)

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