Umineko: When They Cry, Vol. 4

Story by Ryukishi07; Art by Jiro Suzuki. Released in Japan in two and 1/2 separate volumes as “Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Turn of the Golden Witch” by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine GFantasy. Released in North America by Yen Press.

The Turn of the Golden Witch concludes, and takes a turn for the grotesque and humiliating. The cover chosen (at the last minute, if advance solicits are to judge) by Yen for the omnibus features Rosa, the last remaining Ushiromiya sibling, glaring suspiciously at the reader with her Winchester at the ready. Open the cover flap, however, and you’ll get a far more appropriate image: Beatrice leering in triumph at a naked Battler, bound in chains and with his naughty bits covered by golden butterflies. Until the very last minute, what happens here is nothing less than Battler’s complete defeat by the magic of the Witch and the power of fantasy.


The choice of Rosa as the adult viewpoint character, which was uncomfortable enough in the first omnibus, gets even more tortuous here. At least with Natsuhi in Vol. 1 we had someone we could root for and sympathize with, even if her haughty pride was all too visible at times. Rosa may be trying to protect Maria and the children, but it’s not nearly as noble. (Indeed, one has to be suspicious of why she alone survived, given all seven siblings and spouses were seen in the chapel the night before the “Happy Halloween For Maria”.) Her use of the ‘wolves and sheep’ puzzle is more or less an excuse to scapegoat the servants. It’s actually oddly surreal at the very end when she finally starts attacking the fantasy “goat butlers” who arrive to destroy everything in order to save her daughter – the scenes of her and Maria reaffirming their love for each other as everything goes to hell seems even more unrealistic than the flying stakes and light swords bandied about earlier.

As for the ‘meta world’ battler and Beatrice, Battler sometimes seems to gain an advantage – the Red Truth is rolled out in this volume (which Yen, like the Japanese tankobons before it, uses a different font on – colored inks cost money), and he’s very quick to figure out how to make it work for him. But the trouble is that his ‘proof’ is simply denial. There are no witches because I say so. Whereas the answer he’s avoiding is “There are no witches because someone I know and care about is guilty instead.” If you choose to treat Umineko as a mystery and not a fantasy, you have to assume that someone is killing everyone, and try to figure out why they’re doing it. Battler, who won’t even bother to find Who, certainly is nowhere near Why. This is why Beatrice subjects him to the ‘naked furniture footstool’ punishment, and parades him past an array of butlers (and a disgusted Bernkastel). It’s his low ebb.

This brings us to this arc’s Tea Party, which this time involves Rosa waking up and not realizing what’s going on. It has to be said, this is easily the most grotesque scene in the series to date – yes, it’s even worse than the Happy Halloween candy corpses – and reminded me a bit of the horror splatter films of Mario Bava. It’s easy to see why Rosa may say she hates her siblings and her daughter – she was physically, mentally, and emotionally abused as a child, and Maria is quite the handful. But much as she’s an abusive mother, and a spiteful sibling, deep down she really does love her family. This is why Beatrice’s waving their fates in her face is so grotesque – and why Battler is able to find the gumption to stop it. (Though I could do without his asking Maria to say ‘eat me’ to him in 10 years time – why does he always fall back on being a pervert?) Indeed, you’d almost think she did this on purpose just so that they could play another game…

Like Battler, the reader, to a certain extent, is rooting for the fantasy. The scenes with Kanon and Shannon battling the stakes (even if the stakes are, sigh, moe teenage girls) are really cool, and the entire sequence plays out in various ways as dramatic, tragic, and heartwarming. Reaffirming love and choosing to go out with a smile… there are some of our very best story cliches come to life here. That said, if the reader wants to continue to say ‘there is a realistic explanation for what happened’, this arc drops the most obvious way of figuring out what that is: don’t believe everything you see or read. Clearly, if this is realistic, some of what we saw here has to be imaginary. It didn’t really happen. So, what did happen? Did Rosa murder her siblings? I doubt she could kill all six of them without a fight. Perhaps the servants, who are highly suspicious throughout this? Aw, but they’re so nice! I don’t want Shannon or Kumasawa to be a killer!

This feeling of pleasure, intrigue and discomfort is what drives the Umineko series, and it drives Battler (and us) to play another game, so we can get closer to the truth. Even if that truth involves a witch. (Also, I want to read further to find out where the hell the Battler/Beatrice fans all came from… is it all hateship? Certainly Beatrice is at her most loathsome here…) Yen are taking a break until January, but then we’ll have two more omnibuses, and focus on a new family member – get ready to get inside Eva Ushiromiya’s head.

Oh yes, about the hidden tea party: 1) Lambdadelta seems to have the body of little Miyoko Tanashi (aka Miyo Takano) and her personality of Satoko Houjou. What a horrible combination. 2) Bernkastel basically doing Rika’s “mew” line further makes the listener raise an eyebrow at Ryukishi07 when he insists she’s not Rika. Certainly SOMETHING in her is Rika…

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  1. Having read all the visual novels and knowing the “truth” of Umineko, it’s so fun to see people speculating like this. Don’t worry, it all makes sense in the end : ) Battler x Beatrice too, though not fully until Episode 5 (“End of the Golden Witch”), and not *fully* fully until Episode 7 (“Requiem of the Golden Witch”).

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