Art: Kei Natsumi
Translation/Adaptation: Stephen Paul
What They Say
Determined to secure a place of respect within the Ushiromiya family, Eva stretches her wits to their limit and successfully solves Beatrice’s riddle! There is more than enough gold in the family fortune to ease everyone’s financial woes, but Eva has no intention of sharing her findings with her siblings. Eva has claimed more than Beatrice’s gold – she has claimed also the role of “Beatrice the Golden Witch” for herself! And there are still nine nights that each demand a sacrifice be carried out…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The former Golden Witch Beatrice (Beato) finds herself in a most untenable position as Battler has had more than enough of the Witch’s displays of cruelty and no longer wants Beato in front of him despite the seeming mercy she bestowed on the latest victims by granting them a quick death when they were going to be toys of the new Golden Witch- the repressed feelings of Eva from childhood turned manifest who has inherited that title of Golden Witch and the name Beatrice. And things aren’t any better for her when dealing with the new Beatrice either as this Beatrice feels she has no need for any insight from her predecessor leaving Beato standing all but alone, almost like a version of the island Rokkenjima itself that she has spent so many years trapped on.
But perhaps this seemingly crushing fate may finally be the key to Beato discovering something else she never saw before as her role of spectator to the horrors unleashed puts her in a position to empathize as she watches the actions of those on the island that she formerly toyed with as they fight for their lives against the new Beatrice. As she watches their struggles Beato looks to take an interest in the power each of these individuals seems to have within them and she becomes enamored enough with their plight to even risk her own existence helping them out. Given that the current Beatrice seems to have powers that extend beyond what Beato and her mentor possessed, will Beato find herself on the losing end of events or will she discover a power greater than she knew before? And will the turn of events also have her find assistance from a most unlikely ally when Battler challenges the new Beatrice and as a result finds himself extending a helping hand to the floundering Beato?
And Battler is going to find himself needing to have that assistance returned when his attempt to challenge the new Beatrice stumbles once she starts to understand the rules of this game being played and she operates with a verbal and intellectual ruthlessness equal to the physical ruthlessness that the members of the Ushiromiya family face physically in a way that the former Beatrice never did. As Battler’s early victories start being wiped out and turn around on him he is going to need help on the game field from someone who truly understands how it works and it may be that his former opponent has the key to his being able to survive this new assault and still have a chance to save his family as well as allowing Beato to earn his trust?
Will the mystery of Rokkenjima island finally be solved and the Ushiromiya family and servants find peace or are their further layers to the game playing out which will complicate the seeming wrapping up of events with the appearance of a young woman with an unspoken tie to the Ushiromiya family steps onto the board- a young woman who isn’t about to let things end with this seeming happy ever after. And in the aftermath as witches talk it may turn out that even the seeming game master may not be the one truly in charge. With everything spinning it may be that rather than an ending events may really just be setting out pieces that signal a true beginning to a solution to this macabre game being played out.
There are times when I worry that my level of cynicism is so great that I am incapable of buying into many stories or being surprised by them anymore. Now obviously that isn’t true but at times when I see or read things I wonder if the fault might not lie with me rather than a writer and that certainly was true in the case of the previous arc of Umineko as I just never connected with the arc and I wondered if it wasn’t me that was the problem with getting into the story and perhaps it was. Or perhaps the second arc was simply part of a trap to make me lower my expectations as this current arc (and in particular this volume) had me riding on edge on almost every page as the character turns and revels were presented in a way that provided an amazing amount of wonder and joy (even at the darkest and morbid parts) and left me feeling like I couldn’t read through the volume fast enough to keep up with my desire to find out what happened next. Ryukishi07 appears to be at the top of his game here as he takes the reader on a series of loops and twists as characters act in brand new ways that bring more depth to them while at the same time weaving a masterful yarn.
He does this while showcasing an ability to disarm a reader (or at least me) and then spring his plan to bring all that development and emotion created along the way rushing forward all at once makes for an incredibly powerful and connecting story as each twist and reaction seemed to work almost as well on me as on Battler as he looks to be on the very verge of finally helping to save his family to feeling far, far out of his depth and connecting in a way with Beato I never would have believed before this while bringing me along for the ride. Having played through the original Higurashi game and then experiencing some of what was lost when the story moved to the manga medium I can only wonder how many other marvels might exist in the story’s original format because what is here is spellbinding.
There really isn’t anything I can think of that this volume missed with (other than the series usual questionable use of ‘logic’) as it moved at a pace that allowed for events to build and bring power to not just this volume but which also brings a spectacular sense of danger and intrigue to a series that was already far from in short supply of either but which now somehow feels like that is deeper and richer in foreboding potential. If anything the volume might have overplayed its hand by revealing too many twists in this collection and not ending a chapter or two sooner to give the full effect of these events time to sink in before setting the stage for the next arc but given how rich the following material is and how it enables the next arc it is difficult to see how this is a negative that will be a determent in the long run. With this arc, Umineko is clearly firing on all cylinders and frankly be those who love a mystery and don’t mind gore along the way are going to be the poorer for missing. Highest Recommendation.
With the mystery of the Golden Witch’s treasure having been solved and that title as well as the name Beatrice having been handed off to the sleuth who cracked it, the former Beatrice is now relegated both to her previous name Beato as well as stuck in the middle as the new Beatrice takes a seat opposite Battler in the fight for the ultimate fate of the souls on Rokkenjima Island. Will her new position cause Beato to start to understand Battler better and bring her closer to humanity and oppose the new Golden Witch or is there a deeper game going on? With the wrap up of the Banquet of the Golden Witch arc it may be the readers who find that they are now seated at the game board and facing off against the cunning of the Golden Witch.
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 22nd, 2014