Umineko When They Cry is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of NIS America and before I can even start this review I must mention that Both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 Premium Editions (Part 2 will be reviewed tomorrow) each come with their own premium hardcover slipcase and a full-color 28-page hardcover art book. I have been reviewing material for years now and this ranks as one of the nivest packages we have ever received. Together, they feature all 26 episodes of Umineko WHEN THEY CRY on three Blu-ray discs. It was a spiritual successor to one of my personally favorite cartoons Higurashi When They Cry.In the story, an elderly man named Kinzo is dying, and his children go to the island to discuss his burial. However, a tsunami later strikes, and they are trapped on the island. As discussions take place, a mysterious letter arrives claiming to be from a witch named Beatrice. At first, the letter is not taken seriously, but soon as dead bodies turn up one by one in depraved and seemingly impossible situations, the survivors begin to believe that Beatrice is real.
The story here is pretty cool: it’s a locked room murder mystery with a bit of a twist. Everyone is on an island where presumably no one can get on or off of it. You have a mysterious witch that has the household staff somewhat terrified and a series of brutal bloody murders that happen unseen during the night. One of the things I want to stress is that this is not Higurashi. It’s a similar dynamic in that the murders will eventually repeat with slight variations, but the reasons why will be stated in the next volume or two. (I don’t want to spoil things for you!) The other big difference here is that while Higurashi started off rather lighthearted, Umineko jumps directly into the action and it’s rather fast-paced in comparison. It’s also more reading intensive, with the pages seeming to be more dialogue laden than its predecessor. I imagine that most people coming into this series will be willing and ready for that, but I know that some people like their manga to be less time consuming to read, if that makes any sense. There’s no shame in that, but I know that some will probably find themselves getting a little fatigued while reading this first episode since it is time consuming and in order to really process everything and the clues, you’ll want to do so slowly despite the urge to do otherwise.
It’s a smartly written series, and if you like mysteries and such, you’ll like this. It’s less…jumpy scary (like this series predecessor, Higurashi) and more problem solve-y. The art style choice, the Japanese manga look that we all know and love, seems not as fitting since this story is so different from the previous title. Umineko is categorized by the anime community as a Contemporary Fantasy, Detective, Horror, Seinen, Thriller, and Violence. So naturally, there is a bit of something for everyone. If you are ever feeling like you are somehow lost or can’t possibly follow the context of the story, read below:
The customary hard-bound text which accompanies each of the publisher’s premium editions offer a bit of assistive substantiation. Stranded on an isolated island with a killer among them, it’s up to the surviving family members and servants to find the culprit. There lots of neat side texts, pictures and portfolios within. Going into this anime I had no idea what to expect at all. I had not read a description about it, I had not read what it was about, all I knew was they had a video game based on it that seemed like it was pretty good. This companion piece not only looks beautiful, and feels sturdy, it also aided me in exploring this universe with a greater sense of understanding.
We’ve touched on everything except the sound. How does it fare? Setting the tone for the dark Umineko, the opening track is beautiful composed and set the mood fine. Although character developments in this series is uneven, the soundtrack shows strong effort throughout. Voice acting in this is good overall. The two main protagonists are outstanding, and so are Eva and Maria Ushiromiya. Also a positive point for this anime. Through the confusion (granted if you didn’t dig through the great companion pieces) it’s still a great anime and I recommend anyone who likes things involving riddles, gore, and horror genre shows.