This was the first episode where I thought they were able to slow the story down, pace it a little better and focus on setting the atmosphere and building out the characters.
The episode opens up with the aftereffects from last week’s gruesome murders. I thought the opening scene where George finds out of Shannon’s death and her decision with the ring was really well done. It built slowly, wasn’t overwrought, and I could empathize with George’s loss. However, I would have liked to have seen a little more focus on Battler’s response to his parents’ deaths. I mean, if you had missed 5 seconds of dialogue last week, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t have known that Battler’s parents died, because there’s so little mention of them, and because Battler seems to be so calm and calculating throughout the episode.
Once back at the house, after telling Maria about her mom (which I’m not sure if she understood or not, judging by her lack of reaction), Hideyoshi and the gang ask Maria about the strange symbol found on the shed door. Maria (or Beatrice) disdainfully chides the group for being so ignorant and explains that symbol gives breaks chains and enables freedom (Beatrice’s presumably). I really liked the insertion of the Higurashi eyes and the dramatic angles, but I do wonder why no one else is questioning why Maria is acting so strangely. The Maria that speaks clearly has a different personality from the Maria we saw in episode 1. It’s possible that the family members don’t know her that well so have less reason to be suspicious, but she’s clearly not acting like a normal child.
One of the benefits of having killed off a 1/3 of the cast, is it allows them to start fleshing out the characters. We learn quite a bit about Eva this episode, and Battler, our protagonist, is starting to shine. I was impressed by his calculating coolness, despite his loss (although the lack of reaction is sort of suspicious), and in his conversation with Eva, we get a window into how he’s learned to think from his stepmother Kyrie. Turn the chessboard around. The last person who’s thinking was built around a chessboard was Lelouch so that’s some pretty good company to be in. Meanwhile, we learn a little more about Eva, and her megalomaniacal desire to succeed the family. She’s clearly unlikeable and an antagonist, but evil? Hmm.
As Battler continues to investigate the mystery, the house’s servants tell him the story about Beatrice the witch. But Battler, unable to accept that things such as witches and magic could exists, rejects the thought. Which is where Maria (or Beatrice) re-enters the scene. The battle of wits, in which Beatrice suggests that Battler was safe because he had the scorpion pendant, and Battler lets her know that couldn’t be possible since he gave it away, was quick but very interesting. The way Battler goes back and forth with Maria gives me the impression that he knows he’s not trading barbs with a little girl. Yet, he claims he doesn’t believe in Beatrice, so I wonder what he thinks is going on with Maria.
Later, Eva continues to instigate Natsuhi suggesting that she lied about talking to Kinzo, and rather, killed him and hid the body, hoping to get the inheritance after Kinzo is declared legally dead. This enrages Natsuhi to where she raises a gun at Eva, who boldly (or stupidly) continues to antagonize her. However, Battler interjects suggesting that Kinzo might not have gone missing, but just have been hiding under a table when Natsuhi and Eva went searching for him. This, in turn, enrages Eva who questions why Kinzo would do anything so bizarre. However, Battler checks her, asking why she’d do anything as odd as placing a piece of paper in between the doorway to try to pin the blame on Natsuhi, and then accuses Eva and Hideyoshi of having flimsy alibis and the most to gain from the murders (as she mentioned earlier).
So here’s where I want to take a moment to say you should check out Klashikari’s analysis on Umineko. They’re wonderfully written and incredibly detailed. Klashikari also compares what happens in the anime and what happened in the VN. Since I haven’t played through the VN I don’t understand everything he refers to, and I don’t necessarily agree with all of it (for example, I liked the Higurashi eyes), but one point which I thought he captured really well was:
The problem with Battler’s behaviour is that he is pushing the burden of proof on Eva without much explanations from his side either.
To begin with, what Battler wanted to prove isn’t that his theory is that one, but that this theory proves that Eva’s receipt isn’t flawless which means it is too early to accuse Natsuhi.
That said, this is the point I wanted Battler to display in the anime: he stopped Eva, saying that he doesn’t want to doubt any of his relatives or the servants. What he said wasn’t to cast suspicions on Eva, but rather, to prove that there are not enough information to accuse anyone for this crime.
This is Battler’s human side that I dearly wanted to see, because it will be relevant quite a lot to his personality and behavior, be it in this Episode or later on.
Thus, him to pressure like a “certain lawyer” doesn’t help, because it is as if Eva was banned as she doesn’t have any proof.
This makes total sense to me. It’s inconsistent that in his earlier conversation with Eva, he considered dismissing the servants as suspects because it was too obvious ("Turning the chessboard over"), but then would accuse Eva for "obvious" reasons. Rather as Klashikari points out, it looks like the anime unfortunately cut out a crucial Battler development scene.
The episode ends with Hideyoshi and Eva back in their room, with Eva wondering if her son, George, would understand why she was doing. It’s a brief moment of humility for Eva. However, that doesn’t last long, because when the servants arrive to call them for dinner, they only find more disaster and death.
I thought the first two episodes were difficult to follow. There were so many characters and so many things happening, it was hard to understand what was happening, and to care why it was happening. However, like I mentioned before, this episode slowed things down and really sucked me in in a way the first two episodes didn’t. I’m starting to figure out what’s going on, and who I want to be rooting for.