Several episodes ago, I wondered if Umineko would ever be able to develop their characters as richly as Higurashi had. I was very skeptical then, simply because of the much larger cast they had to work with. And while I feel safe in saying that Umineko will never do as good a job (although to be fair, Higurashi also had a 2nd season to work with), it’s definitely made some leaps and bounds in filling out its characters over the last few episodes.
The game begins with Rudolf finding the dead bodies of Maria and Rosa. Cut to the tea room, and we see Battler continuing to take the hard line with Moetrice, blaming her for their brutal deaths. While Moetrice tries to deny her involvement in the most recent murder, Battler cuts her off and calls her a monster, telling her that he’d hated her and her sick love for such grotesque killing methods from the beginning. He then refuses to acknowledge her as his opponent. Moetrice unable to understand Battler’s hatred, and at a loss for words, acquiesces to Battler and turns the game over to Ronove. With Moetrice gone, Battler conjectures that Rosa killed Maria inadvertently, and then killed herself accidentally. Ronove clears that up by stating in red that both Rosa and Maria were killed by others.
So much kudos for Sayaka Ohara. I gave her much praise for her performance as the wonderfully cackling and evil Moetrice, but she does a great job turning things around and giving Moetrice a pitiful, even sympathetic air. If you told me earlier in the season that I would’ve felt sympathy for Moetrice at any point, I would’ve stabbed you in the head with a purgatory stake. DEEN also did a nice job in animating Moetrice’s expressions appropriately. There have been plenty of moments this season where the visuals didn’t sync with the vocal performance, but they hit a homerun here. Interestingly, Virgilia thanks Battler for not abandoning the game. I didn’t realize this was even an option. What would happen if he did?
On the game board, EvaBeatrice taunts Eva about killing Rosa and Maria, and being the only ones to know about the gold now. Which Eva forcefully rebukes, saying she never wanted anyone to die since she already had the gold and the family headship. The discussion goes nowhere, because Eva suffers another migraine, and Hideyoshi takes her away. Later, Kyrie and Rudolf decide to try to scrounge up some food for everyone, while Hideyoshi joyfully agrees to come along for the ride. We haven’t seen a whole lot of development for Hideyoshi, but he seems like a mild-mannered, jolly, very likeable guy. Pretty much the opposite of Eva. I guess George takes after his dad.
As Rudolf, Kyrie and Hideyoshi are packing up some goods, Kyrie feels a chill and an ambush coming. The three split up (is that ever a good idea). Rudolf comes across Belphegor, while Kyrie runs into Leviathan. Hideyoshi, meanwhile, free to run on his own, since EvaBeatrice had promised to Eva to not kill him. In about two minutes of action we get more development and background on Rudolf and Kyrie than we’d gotten in the 15 episodes prior. Rudolf shows his skill with the rifle and kills Belphegor, while Kyrie shows Leviathan the real meaning of Envy. I was shocked by Kyrie’s backstory, simply because it wasn’t something I’d expected from her character. I’ve always seen her as a cool, calm, collecting character, and it was interesting to see her so intensely emotional. Leviathan’s story of her envious nature was pretty damn pathetic though. 7 days and 7 nights? Psh. Grow up.
When both of the purgatory stakes hit the dirt (As Moetrice becomes more unsure of herself, her furniture seems to be becoming progressively weaker, I wonder if their powers are intertwined), EvaBeatrice creates new furniture of her own. This time girls in bunny suits (you can tell this was an upgrade, since the previous girls were just skimpily dressed). Both of the new furniture aren’t bad, but I like Siesta 410’s "nihihi" laughter more. And what the heck is with the model numbers? EvaBeatrice needs to be more creative with her naming conventions. Kyrie and Rudolf seem to recognize that they’re overmatch and make a break for it, but are easily killed by the Siestas gattai attack.
When Hideyoshi sees EvaBeatrice hanging around the dead bodies of Rudolf and Kyrie, he slaps her and then gives her what Aroduc describes perfectly as witch noogies, lol. The slap was legitimate, but the little witch noogies were indeed hardly a fitting punishment. However, EvaBeatrice’s quick temper strikes and she kills off Hideyoshi, breaking her promise to Eva. The inconsistencies with how the characters seem to be reacting to EvaBeatrice is interesting. Maria didn’t recognize her at first, until she introduced herself as Beatrice, at which point Maria didn’t blink at considering her as Beatrice. Meanwhile, everyone else, Rosa, Rudolf, Hideyoshi instantly recognize her as Eva. Not teenager Eva, but Eva. I’m very skeptical about Witch EvaBeatrice’s existence. Rather, I’m more apt to see her as Eva’s split personality instead.
After killing Hideyoshi, Moetrice arrives to pick a bone with EvaBeatrice, but EvaBeatrice has no interest in listening to Moetrice. Instead, picking at Moetrice’s scab by pointing out that Moetrice is simply playing a different game to get Battler to recognize her. Back in the meta-world, Battler asks Ronove to confirm the deaths in red, but Ronove declines, saying he can’t take responsibility and asks Battler to accept Moetrice as his opponent again (if this is the case, why would Ronove have revealed red text behind Moetrice’s back in episodes earlier). Battler initially refuses, but at Virgilia’s behest, he relents and allows Moetrice to re-enter the game, although he still refuses to forgive Moetrice. What would have happened if Battler had refused Moetrice’s re-entry? Stalemate?
With Battler’s permission, Virgilia seeks out Moetrice, taking on what would be considered a more mentoring role again.
It’s clear the game has changed for both Moetrice and Battler. Moetrice, previously so hellbent on making Battler surrender to her, realizes that her method was flawed from the beginning. She also seems to realize that her goal has changed: to be acknowledged as a witch beyond the game board – a more loftier goal than simply making Battler surrender and admit in witches (for what reason though?). Meanwhile, Battler, who began the game simply refusing to acknowledge witches, then wanting to break his family out from this cruel cycle, has seemingly switched places with Moetrice, and has taken a more forceful role to try to "win" the game – evidenced by his willingness to accuse Rosa as a killer without hesitation. Something he was never willing to do before.
This episode was one of the best, IMO. The story has seemingly turned the chessboard over on the leads, by putting Battler on the offensive and making Moetrice more vulnerable. I’m also starting to get a better idea of why Moetrice started playing this game from the beginning. Was it simply boredom and cruelty? Or was it more than that? When Hideyoshi was chiding EvaBeatrice for being cruel when she was actually a coward and a weakling, I couldn’t help but think that he was referring to Moetrice as well. There’s plenty of time for more twists and turns, but suddenly black and white are not so black and white anymore.