Umineko no Naku Koro ni, episode 20 – Zugzwang

Holy cow, did DEEN even look at this episode before airing it? The white highlights and soft glows were unbearably bright. Half the time you couldn’t even make out the lines on the characters’ faces. Budget saving tactic by skimping on details? Whatever the thought, this episode looked awful.

Ange leaves the gameMaria has no nose because of the blinding light

There was very little progress in the game, in fact it hasn’t even begun. However, we got a little more background on Maria’s newfound magical powers, her formerly stuffed, now surprisingly shota buddy, Sakutaro, and Ange’s history with magic. As the game is about to begin, Ange takes off on her own, perhaps into her own meta world to have a talk with Maria. It certainly was a very odd time for Ange to split, and start talking to Maria about her unhappiness. I mean, she’s right in the middle of a game. Where is she going off to? If Battler didn’t completely trust her before, he doesn’t have much reason to trust her any more now. Maria’s story, though, and by extension her explanations for her story should be helpful for Ange when she returns to the game.

Sakutaro tries to cheer up MariaMaria cries about a broken promise

Wow, I thought Rosa was a below average mom before, but I underestimated her. Unfortunately, we don’t have much info on Rosa’s troubles, or what happened to Maria’s dad, but leaving your 9 year old daughter for a weekend, while you go off doing "moms gone wild?" Damn, Rosa is a terrible mom. Maria talking to Sakutaro about her mom’s forgotten promise felt like one of the more "adult" conversations I’ve heard her engage in so far. It also helps give her character some depth. It doesn’t explain the crazy, occult-obsessed freak Maria from earlier in the show. But it makes her into a much more sympathetic character.

Sakutaro getting drunkSakutaro gets a gift

Sakutaro was much cooler (and cuter), before Beatrice inexplicably transformed him into a shota. I mean look at him. Mixing cocktails, getting drunk and getting gifts like it’s nobody’s business. Stuffed Sakutaro is pimp.

Maria's happy fragmentsMaria and Beatrice team up

While Maria focuses on telling Ange about how happy she was. Ange continues to take the more "realistic" view. Calling Rosa abandonment for what it was. Meanwhile, Maria chides Ange for reading things in between the lines that don’t exist, and then selectively picking up the unhappy pieces to deduce her truths. Maria explains that she’s able to do this, because she has a power that Ange doesn’t: the power of magic. The talk between the two was particularly interesting, simply because it’s an allegory for the larger game at play, and started making me think about what possible things I was reading in between the lines from previous games that didn’t exist.

Beatrice and Virgilia welcome SakutaroSakutaro gets shota-fied

The transition to Maria hanging with Beatrice and Virgilia felt a bit abrupt. Apparently, Maria developed a power that goes beyond the powers of even Beatrice and Virgilia: the power of Geass Zero. The ability to create something out of nothing. How exactly did she develop this power? Something that was just passed down the Ushiromiya bloodline? But they congratulate Maria by shotafying Sakutaro, then giving Maria the title of the Apprentice Witch of Origins.

The Seven Stakes kill SakutaroMaria and Sakutaro watch Ange lose her magic

Maria then tells Ange that she was once an apprentice witch as well. Something Ange remembered only after being told. At one point in time, Maria gave Ange the ability to summon the Seven Stakes of Purgatory, specifically Mammon at Ange’s current power level. That is after Mammon and co. went all shotakon on Sakutaro. However, after a particular incident at school she appears to have lost the ability.

Mysterious messages in a bottleCrazy occult guy

Cut next to the "present day" and we see Ange consulting with an occultist and an expert on the Ushiromiya murder mystery. He informs Ange that two bottles were indeed found explaining the murders at Rokkenjima. Both with the same handwriting, but both telling completely differently stories. Although they’re signed by Maria, when compared to Maria’s handwriting the styles don’t match. However, Ange then shows him Maria’s grimoire, at which he’s glaring tell gives away that the handwriting in the grimoire is indeed the same as the handwriting of the notes in the bottles.

A few things to think about here. One is that there seems to be a multitude of realities existing simultaneously:

  • 1986, the multiple realities on Rokkenjima, with 6 year old Angie living on her own.
  • 1998, following the path of the 3rd game, in which Ange grows up with Eva, meets Bernkastel, at which point her existence seems to split:
    • One version is whisked away by Bernkastel and now exists in the meta-world, and is battling Beatrice with Battler
    • The other version jumped from the roof for kicks, but is now on the run from the Sumadara family. This Ange seems to be taking a more conventional route at figuring out what happened.

However, we only meet the Ange that was a result of the 3rd game. But what about the versions of Ange that would have resulted in the 1st and 2nd games?

Meanwhile, we see two versions of the bottles, explaining the accounts from 2 different games – game 1 and game 2. Has the bottle from game 3 not been found yet? Or was the note never written because it was the one game in which Maria was killed early?

Also, if the handwriting wasn’t Maria’s, whose could it have been? Beatrice seems like the most likely suspect, considering she was writing in the book before transforming Sakutaro, but it doesn’t make much sense for her to be sending out notes in bottles.

I keep thinking back to Higurashi, trying to think if there are any parallels between the multiple realities in that show, and the multiple realities in this show. But I haven’t come to any conclusions yet. Opening up the mystery to the outside world though has really put an interesting twist on the Rokkenjima murders.

Versions of AngeLambdadelta trolls Ange

Finally, Beatrice calls Ange back to the game. But before returning, Lambdadelta shows up to troll with Ange, explaining that Bernkastel merely made Ange a pawn in the game. If she wins, Battler returns to her in 1986 not in 1998 (presumably erasing the existence of 1998 and meta-world Anges). But Lambda offers a deal. Play the game forever, so that she can stay with Battler forever.

Zugzwang is a term in chess that basically means "damned if you do and damned if you don’t." Whatever move you make will weaken your position. If Ange decides to "win" the game, current Ange loses herself. If Ange decides to "lose" the game, current Ange gets to play forever with Battler. To be honest, it doesn’t seem like a particularly difficult decision to me. I’d guess it’s not easy to have to erase your current self, no matter how screwed up it is. But considering Ange’s awful childhood, perhaps re-doing her childhood wouldn’t hurt. And the other option of playing the game forever seems like a terrible idea. I hope Ange realizes her goal was to save Battler, not be stuck in a psychotic game with him through eternity (a.k.a. hell).

I don’t know how long this arc was in the VN, but with 6 more episodes it seems like they should be able to take their time… hopefully next episode won’t be as blinding.

15 Replies to “Umineko no Naku Koro ni, episode 20 – Zugzwang”

  1. “Also, if the handwriting wasn’t Maria’s, whose could it have been? Beatrice seems like the most likely suspect, considering she was writing in the book before transforming Sakutaro, but it doesn’t make much sense for her to be sending out notes in bottles.”

    Yeah, it probably wasn’t made clear in the anime, but it was definitely Beatrice’s handwriting. The handwriting from the person who wrote the letters and the one from the person who signed as “Beatrice” in Maria’s grimoire are the same.
    .-= Taiyaki´s last blog ..[otome game] Tsundere *S Otome =-.

  2. “To be honest, it doesn’t seem like a particularly difficult decision to me… perhaps re-doing her childhood wouldn’t hurt.”

    I think there’s a problem here. Isn’t Lambdadelta specifically saying that “no reward is prepared for her if she wins”? That heavily implies that ANGE’s “soul” wouldn’t be sent back to “re-do” her childhood after the game ends (since being with Battler in any way would be the reward for her), but rather she would be rewarded with nonexistence, as a unused piece in a forgotten witch’s game. Only an Ange that isn’t her would get the benefits. To go through so much pain and not even get to be with Battler if she succeeds… are you sure you would call that an easy choice?

    1. I think the big problem is Ange can’t really take what anyone says at face value — including Lambdadelta and Bernkastel. The result Lambdadelta describes is a total unknown; it COULD be true (and probably is), but there is no way to be completely sure unless Ange actually wins the game with Battler. By keeping the game in limbo, though, Ange pretty much knows what she’ll get: Yeah, she’ll be with Battler forever, but it’s at the cost of seeing her family murdered for eternity, and really, she’ll probably see meta-Battler break eventually if she goes that route.

      Personally, I would much rather go for the unknown route than the known route, although I could see Ange legitimately struggle with this choice. It might even be kind of interesting if Ange were to go back and forth on giving her true insight if she were thinking about going along with Lambdadelta.

    2. It’s definitely not an easy choice. In fact, that’s why I said that “it’s not easy to have to erase your curent self” right after that sentence. But if Ange’s able to think about it rationally, it’s not quite the dilemma her initial reaction makes it out to be. Like Shinmaru mentions in his reply, Ange staying with her brother “forever” comes at a very high cost. And Ange’s main goal is to revive her family, not spend time with Battler forever.

      For me, the decision basically comes down to this: do you want to be with your loved one forever in hell, or do you want to give life another chance. Not necessarily the easiest of decisions, but it shines the light on how bad Lambda’s offer actually is.

  3. Studio Deen you owe me a free vision test this episode.

    That’ll teach you to not underestimate Yangire moms and the power of bad parenting in general 😉

    “However, we only meet the Ange that was a result of the 3rd game. But what about the versions of Ange that would have resulted in the 1st and 2nd games?”

    I’d like to know that myself. Do all of them exist in a parallel universe? Are they just kakera they don’t bother showing?

    1. Basically what happens is this: those Ange’s are adopted by Kasumi, as the closest living relative to her family (being Kyrie’s sister). The reason Bern picked up Ange from EP 3 was because that Ange had a COMPLETELY different life from the one regular Ange’s have (since all her family dies) because Eva lived and adopted her, instead of Kasumi.

  4. “1998, following the path of the 3rd game, in which Ange grows up with Eva, meets Bernkastel, at which point her existence seems to split:

    * One version is whisked away by Bernkastel and now exists in the meta-world, and is battling Beatrice with Battler
    * The other version jumped from the roof for kicks, but is now on the run from the Sumadara family. This Ange seems to be taking a more conventional route at figuring out what happened.”

    The two versions you described are the same person. Basically, Ange’s journey in the world of 1998 continues after her Meta-self barged into Beato’s little party at the end of Episode 3, and they share the same consciousness. All the events we see happening before Ange’s jump are flashbacks of this Ange’s past (in the future, naturally >_>), and the stuff she does with Amakusa accompanying her are running parallel to her participation in the Meta-game between Beato and Battler.

    As for Ange’s decisison on wheter or not to try and win the game: The dilemma here is that she is and never will be the Ange that would get her family back if she were to win, but her foremost desire is to spend time with her brother. By playing with him eternally, she could be together with his brother forever, which is exactly what she wants – but at the price of her family being caught in the endlessly repeating events on Rokkenjima in 1986. If she were to win, however, she would not get to spend anymore time with her brother – Her Meta-self would likely cease to exist, as it is just a piece on a game which would then be over, and her real self would life the rest of her life lonely and bitter anyway.

    1. Right, meta-Ange and 1998 Ange are splits of the same Ange. But my impression was that meta-Ange and 1998 on-the-run Ange are operating parallel, but completely disconnected from each other. I could’ve interpreted this wrong, but it was thinking meta-Ange was ignorant of everything on-the-run Ange was doing after jumping off the roof – this would include learning that the bottled letters and the grimoire had the same handwriting.

      Wouldn’t Ange winning the game and returning Battler and her family back to 1986 erase the existence of the current unhappy Ange though (and all the other parallel realities where Ange might be unhappy and alone)?

  5. Not necessarily – We don’t really know how the universe of kakera works, if there is a “true” one or if it would just be a single one among myriads of unhappy ends. However, all the Meta-beings exists outside of the different timelines anyway, so the current Ange would still live on in her kakera, and so would Meta-Ange outside of the timeline. The question here is whether “Gretel” is willing to sacrifice the opportunity of being together with her brother for the happiness of an Ange she stopped being 12 years ago.

    The 2 Anges after the “split” are definitely connected though. You can look at them just as you look at the 2 versions of Battler we see: While his Meta-self can’t influence his real life counterpart, he can experience the events that happen to him. I hope you don’t consider this a spoiler, but certain events that have yet to happen to 1998’s Ange will definitely influence Meta-Ange.

    1. Ok, that makes sense. There hasn’t been any connection between the Anges so far, so I was wondering about that. If meta-Battler can affect his game piece version (and vice versa), it makes sense that Ange would be able to do the same with her 1998 version.

      In thinking about the Umineko realities, I’ve been trying to draw parallels with how the Higurashi realities (trying not to get too spoilery here). Which was why I was thinking that Ange helping to solve the game would lead all roads back to her 1986 version. However, these being two separate stories, perhaps that’s not the best way to think about it.

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