Story by Ryukishi07; Art by Hinase Momoyama. Released in Japan in two separate volumes as “Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Dawn of the Golden Witch” by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine GFantasy. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Stephen Paul.
Two more volumes of the 6th arc in this series, and how’s Battler doing? Not great, it would seem. His game, it is becoming increasingly apparently, is just duplicating what was done last game, simply because that worked. He’s decided to enter the Love Competition that George/Shannon and Jessica/Kanon are having, with Fledgling Beato as his partner, which raises all sort of questions. More to the point, though, Battler is still far too nice to really be good at this sort of thing. (At one point he tries to praise Lambda for the same thing, and she essentially shuts him down cold.) Battler thinks the best of people, and is easily moved by a girl’s tears. This allows Erika and company to get the upper hand, which I’m sure will rebound horribly on him in the final volume of the arc.
Speaking of Erika, this volume also attempts to give her something of a backstory, as Dlanor asks her why she hates magic so much. The backstory rings a bit false – partly as it presents an Erika who sounds to me more college age, whereas the Erika we see here is mid-teens at most. But mostly it’s because it is very obvious from the start that Erika is Bernkastel’s “piece” – it’s Bern self-inserting her way into the story to cause havoc. Thus a “real” tragic backstory for Erika pales in comparison to, say, Bern’s own. That said, the background does show us a major theme of the series. Erika couldn’t bring herself to trust her boyfriend as she found circumstantial evidence that he was cheating on her, and though Dlanor tries to present counter evidence that he loved her, she can’t believe it because it’s not “the red truth”. In other words, love requires having faith in someone, which is something Erika can’t do. (She fares far better with Dlanor, honestly, and the yuri tease that was mildly in the VN is amped up here.)
In the meantime, there’s still the murders of the first Twilight, which are framed as part of the love competition going on. George manages to escape his mother’s clutching grasp (Pink Floyd’s ‘Mother’ resonates through this whole scene), and Jessica is able to kill off Kyrie after seeing a truly terrifying example of envy and hatred in action – Kyrie is scary. (Notably, George is rather sanguine about his murder, while Jessica is in tears after hers.) Rosa and Maria are killed fairly perfunctorily, although Maria’s rage at seeing her mother killed is very well-drawn, some of the best art in the book. Fledgling Beato may be confused as to who the man from 19 years ago is (hint: it’s not Battler), but is able to knock off Natsuhi with the help of her father/lover/mentor. (The incest subtext is icky.) And battler manages to top them all by killing himself – yes, in this game board, Battler dies on the first Twilight.
So what’s next? A lot of pain for Battler, I suspect, as I have a feeling he’ll soon be trapped in a Logic Error. And there’s still the remainder of the love competition, as we try to figure out why Shannon, Kanon and Beatrice can’t all be happy with their partners – only one can prevail! Let’s hope that the next volume ends with a nice, happy wedding.