Summer 2009 First Impressions: Umineko no Naku Koro ni

The summer’s most anticipated series kicks off with a bang, or at least a vicious slap (~uu~). Have the tables been set for another thriller, mystery masterpiece from 07th Expansion and Studio DEEN? Or are we in for an underwhelming experience like the latest Higurashi OVA? I have no clue. That was just a rhetorical question. It is just the first episode. Thus, this is a pretty spoiler-free writeup. Normal format will follow in the subsequent weeks.

Rosa slaps Maria
Mother of the Year.

Fansub group: Coalguys/gg

Things I liked:

  • Rie Kugimiya as Shannon. I didn’t recognize her at first. Man, I love her non-screechy loli voice. There was a noobier time in my life where I couldn’t get enough of Kugimiya’s tsundere-loli voice and wondered how others didn’t love it. Now I have grown and matured and stepped across that proverbial line into anime umm, manhood, or whatever it is.
  • So the ~uu~ turned out not to anywhere near as cute a catchphrase as ~uguu~ or ~hauu~ or whatever else Hocchan has done. But the scene in which Rosa smacked Maria was pretty intense. I liked Battler’s reaction, stepping in without trying to pry too much into family business, it probably would’ve mirrored my own. I don’t think Maria deserved the slapping, but it was a very annoying sound. I don’t know if it was intentional, but she sounded like a seagull. Regardless, I think this is a good sign for the future. It’s only episode one and people are already flipping the $&%# out.
  • I know the whole cousin love is ok in Japan, but I sort of cracked up at the Battler’s awkward ogling of cousin Jessica.

Things I didn’t like:

  • I suppose my only criticism is that the characters so far seem like cardboard cutouts, and there was such an overload of them, it’s hard to tell who I’m supposed to care about and who I’m not (right now I only care about Battler and Jessica). From what I’ve read from some others is that several scenes from the VN have been cut out, which led to the rushed pacing and some missed opportunities to fill out all the characters. Unfortunately, that probably comes with the territory, because there’s such a huge cast and I’m guessing a bunch of them will start dying off soon. Some background info would’ve been nice, but I trust 07/DEEN.

Random other thoughts:

I haven’t read the VN, so I don’t know what I’m missing out on, but I thought the first episode was solid enough. It introduced all the characters, it filled us in on the background, it established the dying grandpa as batshit insane, and teased us with some hints of supernatural activity. Like I mentioned above, it felt a bit rushed, but not to the extent where I thought I was missing really important information. On the contrary, I feel like I’ve just sat through a 00 OVA, and am now looking forward to watching them get deeper into the actual story and the characters.

Interestingly, Daisuke Ono went with his higher-pitch Koizumi-type voice, versus going with his deeper Sebastian-type voice. I suppose that’s a sign that Battler’s a relatively normal guy? Regardless, every time I see images of him pointing at someone I think of Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney! I hope that finger has powers, like Keiichi’s bat or Rena and Mion’s needles.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes. Whether it’s a by-the-book murder mystery with supernatural elements, or whether we’ll also see the familiar Higurashi mind-warping moments along the way.

Decision? My decision has been predestined by Oyashiro-sama. Umineko will lead, and I will follow.

6 Replies to “Summer 2009 First Impressions: Umineko no Naku Koro ni”

  1. I think I share most of your sentiments, especially since I haven’t read the VN either. I didn’t particularly feel as if the first episode was rushed since it did manage to establish all the characters and give an indication as to what each of the adults’ motivations are. I don’t really care about any of them yet, but I don’t hate anyone either, including Maria. I also think of Phoenix Wright every time Battler points though, lol.

    Unrelated: Am I the only one who fell for the Kanon trap?
    .-= Kiri´s last blog ..AX09 Commentary on OEL Manga =-.

  2. Umineko’s is a pretty good VN. While at first there seems to be too many characters, pretty much all of them will get development and a chance to shine. Maria and her mom in particular… Maria went from being the most annoying crappy character (Cheering when she got hit) to one I sympathized with and cried for. Although there is one thing you’ll have to look out for. After a certain point the VN loses all semblance of a serious mystery/horror and becomes more of a LULZ comedy with tons of LULZ MAGIC and weird things that you can’t take seriously at all. If you are looking for a horror/mystery stop watching after the “First Arc” or you’ll be very dissapointed.

    1. I’m glad to hear that most of the characters will get developed. For a while I was afraid that except for a few characters (Jessica, Maria, Battler), the rest were just there for the body count. If the character development is handled as good as it was in Higurashi I’ll be thrilled (one of the under appreciated highlights IMO). Although thumbs down to the LULZ comedy. I suppose I can tolerate as long as the characters are great. Any guesses on how long the series will be? Or how many eps you think are needed to cover the VN without rushing too much?

  3. As a experienced VN player I would ask that you not take FlameStrike’s word for it. He’s right about the cast getting developed. But while the story does go through a significant genre shift after the first arc, I would hardly call it “LULZ Comedy”. In fact, that description is so far off the mark, I’d wonder if we were even reading the same book, or if he actually read it at all. Comedy is never a big focus in this show, and if anything, the mystery only gets more complicated after the change.

    I guess what I’m trying to say, is that Flamestrike appears to have completely missed the point of this series and stopped trying to take it seriously after the first arc. He is not representative of the fandom as a whole and his description of the later arcs is inaccurate at best.

    Moving on, there is no set episode count as of yet. Deen has announced 13 blue-ray disks, meaning the series is most likely to go for 24-26 episodes. Two episodes per disk seems like a rip off to me, but I guess we’ll see. The first story arc is confirmed for 5 episodes. A bit fast, but it will do. Other then that, there’s no way to know how they are going to pace the rest of the season at this point. The novels are quite long and involved, so if they plan to include all four of the released volumes, even 26 episodes would be fairly cramped.

    I hope that answered some of your questions.

    1. Hmm, yes. That is helpful, thanks for all the info. It sounds like the mystery never disappears. So when you say genre shift, what does it shift to? From mystery horror to…? Does each VN volume cliffhang into each other? Or is it more Higurashi-esque where there’s a resolution for each volume (whether it’s the “good” ending or not)? I should probably stop asking so many questions and just see how it turns out. 😀

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