Umineko No Naku Koro Ni Episode 2

July 8, 2009

Okay, so this is about half impressions on Umineko’s latest episode, and half a wrap up of the first episodes of the summer season. Overall I have to say that this is a very successful season, and the second-best Summer Season I have ever seen based on first impressions. The best was in 2006, but that one is nearly impossible to beat anyway: it had something of everything and about half of the series were ground-breaking, did something new and/or were just plain awesome.

This seasons stands out in its surprisingly large amount of great, nice and enjoyable series: only a small fraction of them was dull or uninteresting. This season actually shows an interesting effect of the economic recession that hit Japan so hard: you can see that the quantity of series is slowly decreasing (although it’s not even by that much; this season only has one or two shows fewer than last year). You can see that there has been a great increase of moe, because it’s been clear by now that moe sells. And yet on the other side of the coin, the amount of bad series has decreased dramatically as well.

This season only has four series that I’d classify as below average (Element Hunters, Princess Lover, Kanamemo and Juuden-Chan; okay, five if you consider Weiss Survive as a series, but I don’t). Compare that to previous years, in which those numbers are twice as large, even 2006 had more mediocre series the current season and this trend even continues in years as 2003 and 2004, where the amount of series that debuted in total was even smaller. So yes, I’m really happy with this season.

As for the shows I’m going to blog (I can only blog 4 new shows this season), I decided to go with the four shows with the most ambitious setting. That obviously includes Umineko no Naku Koro ni, and I’m also going to cover Bakemonogatari and Canaan (and yeah, Umi Monogatari is also dropped now). As for the fourth show, it’s all going to depend on whether Tokyo Magnitude (Noitamina) turns out to be good or not. If not, then I’m going to be covering Aoi Hana.

As for this episode: it was awesome. I’m now starting to see why people are liking the story so much. It was a real improvement over the first episode in terms of acting, not to mention the shocking plot twist at the end.

I was expecting people to die, but to see six people already killed off within the second episode… that definitely was something I didn’t see coming. So, we basically have twelve people left now:

– Battler, the red-headed protagonist of the series (or at least, that’s how he’s being portrayed). He indeed was much less annoying than in the first episode, although the boob-jokes remained.
– Kinzou, the grandfather, whose intentions still are a rather big puzzle in the way that he seems to be inviting his entire family in some morbid battle of wits. It’s a bit of a weird dying wish, if you ask me.
– George, the blue-haired guy who just lost the one he proposed to in the death frenzy.
– Maria, the annoying little girl who seems to function as either Beatrice’s medium or spokesperson, depending on whether Beatrice is a ghost or an actual person. I just do wish that the creators would handle her foreshadowing a bit more subtle. I mean, with those close-ups anyone can see coming that she’s going to turn evil at some point.
– Jessica, the yellow-haired girl. We still don’t know much about her either but she seems like she’s going to be an important character.
– Eva, the woman with Takano’s voice. She’s obviously meant to be the red herring for the first part of the story. I mean, she’s acting so obviously evil that there has to be more behind her.
– Hideyoshi, Eva’s husband, though we haven’t seen much of him yet.
– Chiyo Kumasawa, the older woman maid of the house. Did we see her in this episode at all?
– Kanon, the servant who feels himself to be just an object and likes to repeat this to everyone who wants and doesn’t want to listen.
– Genji Ronoue, the white-haired servant. Not much has been shown about him either.
– Natsuhi, Jessica’s mother and the one who kept freaking out and seems to be the most emotionally unstable of the main cast.
– That doctor whose name I can’t seem to find.

Meanwhile, Maria’s mother Rosa, Battler’s mother Kyrie (who SO doesn’t look her age), Battler’s father Rudolf, the butler Gouda, the maid Sharon and Jessica’s father Krauss seem to be killed off, not including the possibility that someone used a fake body somewhere. There are all just simple first impressions of course. While a lot of the characters seem innocent at this point, I’m positive that all of them have something to hide.

But yeah, this is really fun do to, and the exact reason why I love mystery. This episode really reminded me why I originally became a huge fan of the first season of Higurashi: there’s so much that’s going on, but at the same time the creators know how to make the viewers keep guessing and formulate theories. It feels like it’s Higurashi all over again and Ryuukishi07 has really proven himself to be an incredible writer: not only is he a master of keeping these mystery-stories entertaining, but when the mystery stops being the main focus he still manages to write intelligent and meaningful dialogue, like what happened in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai and Rei.

The only downside to this series so far are the character-designs. Studio Deen’s series usually look very good and they’ve got an array of unique looking series, but this just feels like a combination of their average styles. That was a bit of a disappointment, but this series is indeed one that shouldn’t be watched because of its graphics.

On a side-note: a small thing I liked in this episode were the small shots of seeing how all of the different characters like to spend their time while waiting (crosswords, puzzles, card games. Nice addition). I especially liked how Grandfather was playing chess with himself. That may give a hint that Beatrice indeed is something supernatural. Either that, or he’s just an incredibly boring guy.


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