Umineko no Naku Koro Ni, Episode 1-1: Opening

The time has finally come for Umineko. Pretty much like the other series I have blogged in the past, the summary will be in black while my comments will be colored in blue. As a VN player and leader of the translation group of the said VN, you can certainly expect few comparisons and the like: I will not deny the fact that few things will rub me the wrong way, but I definitely know that an adaptation cannot be totally faithful.

Of course, my summaries and comments will be void of spoilers, though they can have several information regarding the cut scenes. Please look forward my usual analysis/extra articles!

That being said, I hope you will all enjoy the journey to the golden land in this animated media!

Ushiromiya Kinzo is seen asking to his attending Physician, Nanjo Terumasa, how much time left he has before passing away. Upon hearing he has only 3 months left, Kinzo unleash his rage, clearly not yielding his life until he manages to have the smile of “Beatrice” once again…

That intro was weirdly misplaced: I believe that it almost looks like its time frame is set just before everyone arrive which is actually false. Not exactly anything important, and I liked how Kinzo was insane here, though he didn’t have much time to show his composed side.

Rokkenjima, 4th october 1986.  The members of the Ushiromiya family has arrived to Rokkenjima, the private island owned by the head of the family, Kinzo. After being absent for 6 years, Battler visits once again Rokkenjima with all of his cousins, George, Maria and finally Jessica. Speaking of which, her growth impressed Battler to the point he becomes mesmerized by her chest. As he is trying to grope her, Jessica beats him down.
The rest of the group (Maria’s mother, Rosa; Battler’s parents, Rudolf and Kyrie; and George’s parents, Eva and Hideyoshi) are joined by Kumasawa Chiyo, an old servant.

Then, George notice the absence of the Seagulls which were usually greeting them with their cries. Before moving out, Maria notices there is something missing nearby the harbor: a shrine. Unknown to everyone, Maria starts mumbling about bad luck…

Now that is a lot of things they changed, and ultimately cut. They simply removed altogether the airport scene. Well, although I was a big fan of it, because it managed to give a quick overview “who is who”, it can’t be helped considering how they have to condense the story as much as they can. However, they simply didn’t use a possible characterization period for any characters aside of Battler.
Actually, I’m more concerned about the lack of informations regarding the characters: about Battler and the tense relationship he has with Rudolf. Same goes the complete lack of dynamic between Battler and George (there is almost no “admiration” here). I really think they could have extended this scene for 1 minute and use some same antics of the original airport scene: I really don’t think they could have done the lenghty intro, but right now, only the cousins minus George could have a proper screentime. And even so, they really severed a lot the “interactions” between the characters: Battler is only shown as a pervert, they skipped completely the rivalry and “brawl” aspect between him and Jessica. That is unfortunate I believe, as it simply diminish the possible antics between the characters.

As a side note, I don’t get why they made Maria thinking about “bad luck” alone, let alone George finding out about the seagulls, as it was Battler who was really concerned about it (and “umineko no naku koro ni” line has a lot of symbolism later on).

As the group makes their way to the mansion, they are welcomed by the beautiful rose garden nearby. Maria’s attention is however attracted by a single rose, which looks less healthy than the rest. As she looks concerned by it, George uses a candy paper to embelish it, which indeed relieved Maria’s mood.

Battler soon meets another servant, Kanon. However, the later doesn’t exactly keep it up in the discussion and Jessica tries to cover him, telling Battler that Kanon is just a bit silent.
Upon seeing such situation, another servant, Gohda, asks Kanon to greet the guests properly but the later states they are just furniture, leaving the place.

Once in the guesthouse, the cousins are greeted by Shannon.  Her gifted body attracts Battler’s pervert side which is again calling down Jessica’s wrath.

That is a… “healthy” unhealthy rose we have here. Of course, it is a not so important element, but I must say I’ve seen roses in a much worse shape than this.
Again, the garden scene kept its essence, though I’m again saddened to see they have shortened Kanon and Gohda screentime: it really lessens/removes the incompatibility impression from Kanon, who is really introvert and silent, while Gohda is actually a show off, borderline bossy.

Now, what didn’t exactly work right with me was Shannon scene. Not only I wonder why they made such a zoom on her chest when she was about enter in the room, but they really defined Battler as a stupid pervert without much thought: his inner thoughts and “gratitude” towards Jessica were comedy gold, especially if you have listened to this part of the drama CD.

On another category, I must admit that Kugimiya Rie pleasantly surprised me with her soft voice: it was certainly refreshing to see her NOT voicing a silly loli tsundere, pulling a high pitching tantrum every 5 seconds (yes, I’m looking at YOU, Louise).

Meanwhile, Ushiromiya Krauss, the elder sibling of Kinzo’s offspring is trying to make the later attend the family conference. However, this attempt fails, making Kinzo more enraged than anything else.

A little while later, the cousins and Shannon enter to the mansion and as they are going for lunch, Battler notices something that wasn’t there before: a portrait of a young woman. Shannon explains Kinzo ordered an artist to paint it, 2 years ago and Maria adds that this person is Beatrice.

During lunch, Battler thinks again how Kinzo managed to gains such assets during the great earthquake of kanto.

That scene was really cut short for unknown reason: why did they sever Kinzo’s lines that much? Unless the anime only watchers are very sensitive or noticing the elements in Kinzo’s study, one would wonder: why this gramps is simply yelling like a nutty?
I’m definitely disappointed that, even if they could have shortened it into mere seconds, they should have made Kinzo yell about how today is very important to him and how he doesn’t care about his children.

To be faire, I really think they could have cut short by a lot Kinzo’s backstory.

After lunch breaks, the adults are together in the parlor, discussing about the assets of the Ushiromiya family. Since Kinzo was declared to be dead with 4 months to live, last year, it is reasonable to think he can die at any moment. However, Eva, Hideyoshi and Rudolf are all wondering about Krauss’ financial situation despite being able to build such a resort on Rokkenjima.

Few roundabout comments later, the trio implies that Krauss is actually using their father’s money for his own personal use, branded as embezzlement.
Infuriated by such accusations towards her husband, Natsuhi orders Eva to leave immediately. However Eva bluntly states Natsuhi isn’t in position to issue such order, being unable to bear the crest of the family. Being hurt as being treated like a borrowed womb, Natsuhi is speechless. Because of this predicament, Krauss asks her to leave which makes her run away, in tears.

Probably the best rendered scene, the discussion between the siblings was good albeit lacking of contrast: it is a pity that we didn’t see the adults being overly “friendly” first and having a very gloom and sneaky tone when the MONEY discussion topic finally emerged.
Aside of the missing setup, the essence of the discussion remained fine. However, because of the lack of the setup, the whole catfight between Natsuhi and Eva was watered down by a lot: there was a growing tension over the time the two were jabbing at each other previously, but here, they went on high heels without much after thoughts. To make things blunt: they really have shown this scene, just because it is a mandatory, but as a unfortunate result, I would say that discussion and argument turned much less impressive due to the compressed aspect of it.

Aside of the mood being not so well conveyed, I must also say that few details changed completely the personality of few characters: What I didn’t exactly like was Kyrie and Rosa drinking in their corners as if it wasn’t their problem. This was even more noticeable with Natsuhi being bullied by Eva, despite that originally, Rosa wasn’t easy when Eva was about to viciously attacking personally Natsuhi with such speech.

On a completely different note, as much as I liked the seiyuu performance here (though still need time to get accustomed to Rudolf’s voice, and Rosa sounding way too young), I’m however concerned by the quality already: the proportions of the characters here were really off at times. Worse, it seems the animators have a problem with Natsuhi’s chest and decides to change it like clothes in mere seconds (the third screenshot shows pretty much that her… assets are almost as big as her head…).

Checking closely the portrait, Battle notice a weird text alongside: an epitaph. Battler has no clue what is its purpose, but Maria states it is where the gold is hidden. This is actually referring to the legendary gold that Kinzo used as a collateral to gain business partners and the like. It is said to be 10 tons, which is 20 billions of yen (at that given time of course). Kinzo always had claimed that he made a contract with Beatrice, the witch and was granted that gold. Of course, Battler doesn’t believe this tale about, which upsets quite a lot Maria as result. Trying to make up with her, Battler pretends he believe in Beatrice and Jessica suggest they should all go to the beach for a picnic.

A very good shorteneing process I would say, and I must say that I liked a lot how they characterized Maria here: she really looks innocent and enthusiast here, which matches very well her design and voice.
My “only” complain here would be Battler reaction towards the gold: it is certain that he already thought 10 tons is a tad ridiculous, but he was supposed to be helluva surprised upon hearing the whooping sum of 20 billions yen. Here, he shrugs it off as he knew it already (which doesn’t exactly help the interactions Battler and George supposedly had).

One question though: why didn’t they put the whole epitaph? I’m sure anime watchers would be curious what it is about here.

The siblings are still discussing regarding the inheritance and due to the suspicions regarding a possible embezzlement, Rudolf, Eva and Hideyoshi are giving few conditions so that Krauss can “earn” back their trust. Thinking Krauss managed to find the gold of the legend, they shall share it among the 4 siblings, with a favorable portion to Krauss as the head of the family: 12.5 billion for the former, while the other 3 get 2.5 billion. However, they ask Krauss to pay them 10% of their share in advance before march.

Krauss is thinking for a little while, but flip the tables: he reveals that he actually knows all of their financial situation as well and points out that Eva, Rudolf and Rosa need money badly. However, he “can’t” help them since they claim it was impossible for him to raise such amount of money without sponsors. Therefore, he invites them to resolve the riddle of the gold together.

Another good shortening process may I say, though it is a bit too bad they couldn’t really insist on how Krauss basically overwhelmed them. What actually worries me is the fact that Rosa was only shown yelling (she didn’t have any lines before this point) which might give a lot of wrong impressions to her normal behaviour.
Another weird point is: they didn’t play any “surprise” expression for Kyrie when Rudolf’s money issue was revealed by Krauss. So much little details that can change dramatically a character’s stance or personality…

A minor but annoying point though: do they really need to use such cheap “horror movie”-like SFX when each siblings get their turn in the discussion? It really looks like the animators are overdramatizing some elements of this episode.

The cousins are trying to solve the riddle, though it doesn’t seem to be possible to figure about the cryptic lines. However, Battler and Jessica are poking fun at the epitaph after reading such creepy lines, which obviously doesn’t please Maria.
Maria is pulling a tantrum, but she is still concerned that her cousins might make Beatrice angry after such claims: therefore, she is giving them some scorpion charms that should protect them from evil magic.

As I’m repeating myself: I’m pretty sure they are focusing a lot on Maria, which isn’t bad by itself.
A detail I noted: they didn’t forget her little fang in her design, which helps in her characterization as a little playful girl, and not a blunt “moe moe” child.
But again, it seems George is favored to be a plain background character when the cousins are all together huh…?

The time allocated for this scene is nice, though again: why didn’t they show the whole epitaph? Since it is a prime piece of the mystery, it should at least shown to the watchers already (and no, I believe the very short screentime of the epitaph doesn’t exactly allow most people to read it properly).

As they are going back to the Mansion, Maria is however unable to find her rose. Completely flustered, she calls her mother, Rosa to help them. However, Maria’s habit of saying “uu” is taking its toll on Rosa’s patience. Unable to bear it after so many orders, Rosa has a fit and slaps Maria.
Maria is crying and doesn’t stop with her “uu-uu” which multiplies Rosa’s abuses. Battler tries to intervene but Rosa states that Maria is already 9 years old but still keep this very childish habit, which doesn’t help her to make friends at school.
Battler is still concerned but George tells him it is a problem between parent and child so they should leave them alone.

Maria is still claiming her rose should be there and doesn’t stop her tantrum. Fed up, Rosa leaves her looking for the rose alone.

Here comes the second scene that gives a lot of contrast to the whole “family” situation in Umineko. As I said before, the anime did cut a lot of setup, which is actually removing a certain shock factor: Rosa was shown as a very kind and composed mother as a facade, but suddenly turns mad when it is about Maria’s habit. This is actually the reason why Battler “is surprised” after such violence.
The other little nitpick I would point out is the lack of discussion between Maria and Rosa regarding the location of the rose: Rosa becomes fed up not only because of the “Uu Uu” thing, but also because Maria stays stubborn about the rose. Rosa was originally shown as saying “the rose isn’t there or someone took it. that’s all!”. Here, she basically jumped on the “Uu Uu” which certainly missed a step in the process.

Rokkenjima is engulfed by the typhoon. Kinzo is “waiting” for Beatrice, ready to start their game.
Meanwhile, Maria is still looking for her rose despite the heavy rain. However, a shadow with an umbrella is approaching…

As I said it several times on Animesuki, I really like how they are portraying Kinzo’s madness, but as result, they also dampened a lot his “charisma”: sure enough, he does yell like a nutto for that little game with Beatrice, but before that exact moment, he was calmly forming his “defense” and explaining his magic of miracle”. That is why I think they changed a bit too much Kinzo, because before being a completely twisted old man, chasing after a witch myth, Kinzo is a very strong man who gives people an awed respect (hence why I was expecting Wakamoto for his voicing XD).

Again, the way they animated Maria pleases me more and more, and I’m surprised they actually have shown.. THAT silhouette! That will certainly be interesting how certain people will consider this.

The rest of the cousins are called by Kanon for dinner. However, the young servant wonders where is Maria. The cousins thought she came back with Rosa at the mansion, but it isn’t the case.

At the rose garden, Rosa is trying to find Maria and is soon joined by Battler, George, Jessica and Kanon. After a few moments, they managed to find her, still looking for her rose, but with an umbrella.
Rosa being worried and sorry about her behaviour, embraces her daughter tightly. Jessica praises Maria for being toughtful about the umbrella, but the later reveals that she borrowed it from someone. As Battler asks her from whom, Maria happily tells them it was Beatrice.

No nitpicking at all here: it was certainly a good place to end the episode.


Overal Thoughts:

As you probably figured out with several of my comments, I must admit that the first episode of Umineko no Naku Koro ni didn’t impress me at all. I can only see it as “average”, 6/10.
For starters, this rating is rather geared how much I enjoyed the episode. If you were about to ask its rating as an adaptation, you might expect something MUCH harsher in that regard (I’m pretty sure desy and sky would be much more merciless than I would be).

As I explained, this first episode (not the series, we are far from a whole impression) didn’t go that well because they have cut so many things without keeping a proper cohesion and transitions between the scenes. Due to this, the events felt really disjointed and using a “on your face” type of introduction didn’t help I believe.
I understand they wanted to introduce quickly the mysterious aspect of the franchise with Beatrice, but it certainly was to the detriment to the character developments of any character that are within the first 3 cousins.
Even George himself didn’t do much during the whole episode.
Whilst I was expecting cut scene and that most of them were indeed a good choice (beach scene etc), they didn’t make efforts into giving a certain cohesion between the characters, and therefore their interactions. The result of this is that the pacing became poor and the execution was rather bland.

This could have been prevented, I believe, with the original airport scene: with a mere 2 minutes, we could have seen Eva poking fun on Battler and Rudolf, Rudolf bullying Battler, Kyrie’s “interactions” with Battler and how they jab to each other with wisecrack. In its essence, it could have been very effective to build a “mood” between the characters. That could have given the illusion of “family” that suddenly got twisted with that ugly money affair.

This is because of this lack of characterization and details that I believe being a VN player is ACTUALLY an advantage: although it is very likely that it would make us more annoyed by some “cut scenes”, it is on the contrary not so confusing for us to understand what happened in X or Y case.
The biggest example would be how Eva is biking against Natsuhi: it looks like Eva only brushes Natsuhi because the later is in her way to milk money from Krauss. However, the thing becomes much more complex and subtle when we add a thorough series of sly comments regarding Jessica”s “future” and how Natsuhi is trying to educate her. So far, it doesn’t look like both have a personal grudge against each other and they just biked against each other because:
1) Eva is accusing Krauss for being a traitor to the family
2) Natsuhi is ordering Eva to leave, despite the former is an “outsider”.
Few details do lessen several scenes, and you really don’t need the very line from the VN to convey it.

I strongly believe that they could have ended with the money affair or when Beatrice appears with the umbrella  instead of removing another scene instead: having put the tea time between the adults would have been good for several reasons: how the parents are looking after their children, how certain bonds are already former (Rosa with natsuhi and Kyrie), the whole furniture issue (Shannon being “bullied”, Kanon being rebellous and pissed at Gohda, etc).
I wouldn’t complain that much if it was possible to keep the touch of it, but unless Chiaki Kon (the director) manages to do a good stunt, I will remain a bit skeptic regarding this.

This is unfortunate because I think Higurashi managed to be much better in conveying the quirks and personality of all character in the same time frame (I will admit Umineko has a much larger cast, but the game itself also require more episodes so it isn’t like they didn’t have the time for evaluate). Higurashi had so many atrocious cut, yet they managed to keep the mood and characters “intact” to some extent. Over here, with a VN player or neutral point of view, I must say that there isn’t much atmosphere as result. Family? Hard to say so with a complete lack of interactions except the greedy topic.

This is the main reason (not actually the cut) that I gave that soso rating. Of course, introducing a series like this is difficult and the first episode is often a “do or die”, so I think it is safe to say that the next episodes will be smoother in storytelling.
But for episode 1-1, I must say it looks like this episode is a blunt recap of 2 episodes that “weren’t aired”. Like someone said, it almost look like a “last week in Umineko…”.

As for the production value, few animations were really off, and the proportions of the design were kinda inconsistent. The budget seems on par with Higurashi kai which is fair, but certainly nothing to write home about.
It seems the budget was invested more on the large cast of seiyuu who are doing a very good job (still, I have a very big issue with George, Rudolf and Rosa…).
Meanwhile, the BGM are fine by themselves and we can recognize some familiar tunes aside of the remixes of “witch in gold (cembalo)” and “stupefaction” from zts. A far cry from the mediocre OST of Higurashi and Higurashi kai composed by kawai.


10 Responses to “Umineko no Naku Koro Ni, Episode 1-1: Opening”

  1. 1 sterling01 July 2, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    “One question though: why didn’t they put the whole epitaph? I’m sure anime watchers would be curious what it is about here.”

    They showed the whole epitaph while Battler was looking at it.

  2. 2 klashikari July 2, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Like I said before: (and no, I believe the very short screentime of the epitaph doesn’t exactly allow most people to read it properly).

    Perhaps it is because I’m not so good at reading Japanese, but I don’t think japanese anime only watchers would be able to read all kanji properly considering how the text is.

  3. 3 deathkillz July 2, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Damn right I would have been harsher :p
    This is one of those cases where it is hard to keep neutrality so it is best for Klash here to take things over (plus he wouldn’t allow me to touch this anyway…kowaii).
    Comparing this with the VN really isn’t an issue when even as a standalone, the episode lack on so many levels.

  4. 4 Kaioshin Sama July 2, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    AHA! Told you Rie Kugimiya would rock her roll. 8)

  5. 5 Myssa Rei July 3, 2009 at 5:52 am

    I was actually half-expecting NORIO WAKAMOTO for Kinzo as well. Rie Kugumiya was a pleasant surprise though.

  6. 6 Kaioshin Sama July 3, 2009 at 10:22 am

    After seeing the subbed episode I can totally see what Skyfall was talking about with regard to a lack of budget. This show really likes it pans and not having to show anything moving to much and that includes mouths as well apparently where if we’re lucky enough to even see people talking on camera it’s just a generic jaw movement. This is especially apparent with Kinzo whose jaw movement isn’t even close to matching the lines that he’s shouting.

    As for the way the story unravelled, the word that comes to mind is uneven. The first half felt like a pastiche where we were thrown into the mix with a whole bunch of character names getting attached to faces in a manner that makes Legend of The Galactic Heroes first episode seem almost underwhelming by comparison. Luckily it felt like the scenes got a bit more than the Jerry Bruckheimer treatment (i.e 30 seconds tops and then regardless of anything sudden camera angle switch and then cut to next scene) during the second half as well as more focus and fleshing out, and there was less jumpiness between them so that we could see and get a feel for what was going on. Still a hell of a lot going on all at once though and not much of a lead in to it all, which as everyone of my fellow bloggers have already stated really would have helped a ton. Thing is that even if Legend of The Galactic Heroes threw a good dozen or so characters at us all in one episode it felt like we at least got a feel for the main ones and what they were all about by the end of it all. Not quite the case here as we are just starting to get a finally get a deeper look at some of the characters personalities, relationships and family issues when the episode up and ends.

    If I have any predictions to make now, the next episode will be more even, but the series will retain a Cliff’s Notes like feel compared to the VN.

  7. 7 Diss July 5, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    “Again, the way they animated Maria pleases me more and more, and I’m surprised they actually have shown.. THAT silhouette! That will certainly be interesting how certain people will consider this.”

    What silhouette?

    I missed it.

  8. 8 avisch July 6, 2009 at 3:01 am

    Im also blogging Umineko is a similar fashion (though not as in-depth). This looks like a fun season to blog.

    I think it’s worth pointing out that that the manga version also had the silhouette in a similar fashion, so seeing it here was fun.

    “What actually worries me is the fact that Rosa was only shown yelling (she didn’t have any lines before this point) which might give a lot of wrong impressions to her normal behaviour.”

    I am incredibly happy that someone else noticed this as well. The contrast was definitely an important aspect to the VN and it kind of saddens me that Rosa is being somewhat mis-portrayed.

    “On another category, I must admit that Kugimiya Rie pleasantly surprised me with her soft voice: it was certainly refreshing to see her NOT voicing a silly loli tsundere, pulling a high pitching tantrum every 5 seconds (yes, I’m looking at YOU, Louise).”

    No one can disagree with this.

    Diss: Look at the 2nd of the last 6 screenshots

  1. 1 Summer 2009 First Impressions: Umineko no Naku Koro ni « Blogging about Anime | Rabbit Poets Trackback on December 31, 2009 at 11:22 am
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