In Umineko When They Cry: Legend of the Golden Witch, a rich family squabbling over an inheritance goes to an island in the middle of nowhere. The grandfather, the patriarch of the family, likes to lock himself up in his room and study the occult. There’s a legend of a “golden witch” named Beatrice, who is said to come out of her portrait and wander the halls. There’s talk of human sacrifice. There’s a typhoon going on, making it impossible to get off the island. What could possibly go wrong?
Battler isn’t much of a fan of this side of his family, so this is the first time in six years that he’s gone to the family get-together. The witch Beatrice, while never seen, is spoken of throughout the pages, with characters either denying her existence or insisting she’s very real. And, apparently, very dangerous.
Umineko When They Cry is a sort of a spinoff of Higurashi, and there are similarities and differences. While Legend of the Golden Witch has horror elements (and some real stomach-turning gruesome images toward the end), it feels more like a mystery. Even though there’s talk of sorcery and all that, everything could have a very logical explanation. There’s a body count by the end of the book, and this could be Beatrice, but then again, it might not be. It’s the whole We’re-all-stuck-in-this-little-area-so-one-of-us-must-be-the-killer scenario.
Yen Press has chosen to publish this in omnibus format, and I think that was a good call because the second half of this book was much stronger and more engaging than the first. The first half introduces us to the characters, shows their foibles, and gets in a few too many uncomfortable breast jokes. (It’s difficult to really like Battler as a main character considering some of his antics toward women.) Then, partway through the book, Battler’s dad announces he thinks he’s going to be murdered. And—bam!—things start happening. While it doesn’t have Higurashi’s same entertaining creepiness and spookiness, it feels more like Higurashi in the second half. Instead of introducing us to characters, the action is happening, and some things are occurring quite fast.
The thick volume ends with some real mystery, so while it doesn’t feel as strong as Higurashi so far, it holds some promise to keep readers wanting to see more.
Publisher: Yen Press
Art: Kei Natsumi