Umineko: When They Cry, Vol. 16

Story by Ryukishi07; Art by Eita Mizuno. Released in Japan in three separate volumes as “Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Requiem of the Golden Witch” by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine Shonen Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Stephen Paul.

It’s been nearly a year since we last checked in on Rokkenjima. We have two arcs left, and they’re both packed to the gills – each is nine volumes total. And they’re sometimes big volumes. That means this first omnibus of three by Yen is 826 pages long, but fortunately it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a lot. By now we’re familiar with everyone in the story, and since Requiem is, for the most part, devoted to explaining the mysteries from the previous six arcs, everything glides along very smoothly. Well, we’re familiar with almost everyone in the story. This volume is noticeably short on Battler, who only shows up at the very start. Instead we get Willard D. Wright, who is to S. S. Van Dine what Dlanor is to Ronald Knox. Battler was a teenager who liked mysteries, Willard is an actual detective. And he’s here to get answers, along with his Watson, the heir to the Ushiromiya family, Lion.

That’s Lion on the front cover there, and you might be forgiven for a certain lack of recognition. And also wonder, as Will does, what Lion’s gender is. Ryukishi07 has deliberately hidden this from us, and explicitly told the manga artist (best known for Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning) to do the same, so I will try not to use gender pronouns. That said, if you understand Kinzo’s monstrous sexism from previous arcs, you can easily hazard a guess as to what gender his beloved grandchild and heir is. Lion is a lot of fun (and yes, the name completes the horrible Eva – Ange – Lion pun), pinching Will’s ass whenever he acts callous, which is a lot of the time. Will is retired, and doesn’t want to be here, but Bernkastel is basically forcing him to solve everything for her master. So we see him ask Rosa about what happened that day in 1967, talk to Jessica about her own experiences with being rude to Beatrice (or more accurately, Maria), and find out how Kinzo really got all that gold and who Beatrice was originally. (Admittedly, Kinzo’s story seems very romantic and idealized – you’re left wondering if that’s really all that happened.)

The ugliest part of this volume is, hands down, the section where everyone talks about the fact that Kinzo raped his own daughter, and all the servants basically say “well, yeah, that happened, but he really loved her mother, see?”. It’s infuriating, and at least Genji had the good sense to hide the next generation down until he was sure it wouldn’t happen AGAIN. Speaking of which, as rapidly becomes clear, Lion’s existence here ties into the 5th arc, where Natsuhi shoved the baby she’d been given by Kinzo to raise as her own off a cliff. Lion is what happens when she DOESN’T do that, something that Bern says is an incredibly rare thing. It’s to Lion’s credit that the first thing that comes to mind is defending Natsuhi, who really is a loving mother here. Honestly, Lion holds up pretty well with everything that’s going on, especially when we find out that in all the worlds where Natsuhi shoved the baby off the cliff, we get Beatrice, not Lion.

Towards the end of this omnibus, Will reveals the culprit to Lion and Bernkastel – but not to us, as we’re still supposed to make guesses. That said, many of the hints are laid out in front of us this volume as well. The fact that Shannon and Kanon are the only ones besides Will to not know who Lion is. The fact that when Will asks Shannon to go get Kanon so he can talk to them together, Shannon has possibly the scariest mental breakdown in the entire series. And the fact that when we get the “culprit” POV at the end, we see her, in 1976, working with a Shannon who looks exactly the same age as she does in 1986. Speaking of the word culprit, if you weren’t already horrified by the Evangelion pun, the fact that the nickname for the culprit is “Yasu” will surely have you rolling your eyes and grinding your teeth – that is, if you know Japanese mystery games.

This is, incest apologia aside, one of my favorite arcs, and the manga artist does a great job bringing it to life. Next time around we’ll get more flashbacks, as “Yasu” grows up, falls in love, and becomes a witch. If you’ve been reading Umineko all along, this is an essential volume.

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