Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Umineko When They Cry
Episode 8: Twilight of the Golden Witch
Series GN 20
Ange Ushiromiya unequivocally rejects her brother Battler's attempts to show her a sugary version of what might have happened on Rokkenjima twelve years ago, screaming that her life has been dictated by not knowing the truth and that she deserves it, not matter how good his intentions. To that end she makes a deal with Bernkastel: for the chance to read Eva's diary of what really occurred, she will forfeit her life. Is the truth really worth so much?
Well played, Ryukishi07, well played. If there's one thing in a mystery as satisfying as having been able to solve the puzzle(s) on your own, it's realizing how the author out-witted you, and while there's a certain amount of the former in this penultimate volume of Twilight of the Golden Witch, the latter is one of the best features. Previous to this point, there's been a sensation that the author was actively trolling his readers, teasing them in the most obnoxious of ways primarily through the supernatural witch characters. This book reveals why: the witches and their henchmen are representatives of internet theories on the Rokkenjima Murders, which in the twelve years between 1986 and 1998 have become a true crime cold case for armchair detectives the world over. Therefore, the so-called “fragments” are simply different theories of how things could have played out – posts to a forum or ideas bandied about during discussions rather than actual honest-to-goodness solutions. With no evidence or record of what really happened, all of the arcs are merely possibilities, and because they seem to originate online or in small groups, there's no saying that there couldn't have been some sort of magic involved, because in real life the rules of mystery fiction laid out by Knox and Van Dine do not apply.
That doesn't mean that all of the armchair detectives and internet theorists are going to ignore the sixty-odd years of precedent that encompasses the Golden Age of Mystery and the novels it spawned, however. Hence Dlanor and Will, and even Erika; they represent the readers of classic mystery fiction who are trying to make the real-world crime fit within the parameters of what Christie, Queen, and Saylor wrote. The battle between the two representatives of the Rules and Commandments for writers of mystery novels is representative of this, and the two direct name drops of Agatha Christie's 1939 novel And Then There Were None also plays into this idea.
For those who aren't familiar with the book, it features ten people gathered on a remote island, brought under false pretenses, and then killed off one by one by an unknown murderer following the nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians/Soldiers”. (The rhyme has been rewritten to be less and less politically incorrect; the original involved the n-word.) The mystery remains unsolved by the police, who eventually make it out, until a confession in a bottle washes ashore some months later. As has been mentioned in reviews of previous volumes, the connection is simply too strong to be ignored, and here that theory pays off: the murderer was at least in part inspired by a love of Golden Age mystery novels and mentions having read the complete works of Agatha Christie. This is behind the messages in bottles mentioned in other arcs – they were a deliberate decision made by the killer in order to further conceal the truth, although the real story was sent out among the others.
This is not the only distinct link to Christie's locked-island mystery within the reveal; among the others are the use of a doctor to obscure the truth and more interestingly a small reference to the alternate ending Christie gave the story when she rewrote it as a stage play in 1943. This ties in very clearly with the Ange storyline that we've been following during this arc, as Christie's reworking of the finale (done both as a sop to war-weary audiences and to make the ending easier to perform onstage) allows two characters to survive the slaughter. We already know that Eva made it out – it's her diary that Ange claims to be looking for, although we can see that it may better be phrased as a diary Eva had – so who would the second person be? This is where all of the nattering on about love from earlier arcs, which came off as annoying at the time, comes into play. We have seen a variety of different forms love can take over the course of the series, from romantic to obsessive to familial to platonic, and now it is the idea of love in one or more of these forms that will contribute to the question of who exactly made it off the island. (It's easy to make an educated guess based on the end of the omnibus.) Because Ange has felt so alone for most of her life, having lost the family she loved, this becomes more important than it might at first seem; Ange's decision to cast her lot in with the witches directly stems from that lack, and the reveal that the witches are not, perhaps, individual entities but instead manifestations of mental illness caused by trauma plays directly into the idea.
That some of the so-called magic can be classified as symptoms of, specifically in one character's case, Dissociative Identity Disorder is a little troubling, especially if we look at the theory of chuunibyou as a manifestation of immaturity when that often also involves similar manifestations. Ryushiki07 does take care to make it clear that the characters in question – whether they suffer from DID or depression – do have an actual illness or at least reason for behaving as they do, so this may simply be a more modern issue that wasn't present when the original games were written. In either case, the incorporation of the internet as a way to foster those issues is an interesting one where Ange is concerned, because there is an implication that she would not have suffered quite as much if she'd been allowed to find some sort of closure, which due to the case's infamy, she never could. She's lived with constant reminders of her family tragedy, which is a point made by other books that incorporate true crime into their mystery (such as Sadie by Courtney Summer) and a good piece of the overall puzzle here.
There's one more omnibus to this arc. We already know a lot of what happened and why, and looking back, the clues really were there, making this a fair play mystery like the ones mentioned in the text. How it all wraps up remains to be seen – will we get something like Christie's original ending to And Then There Were None or like the rewrite?
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Reveals feel like rewarding payoff and show the author's motives behind previous arcs. Some content not present in the original game.
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