I definitely think Episode 1 has done a very good job introducing everything, its characters, the setting, the history, and the Game, all at once without any problems. It spends a lot of time preparing for the actual events to kick-off, but everything gets established extremely well so by the time the Game was on, I was incredibly invested. Some of my favourite characters die as part of the first six, yet I still know so much about them that the time they weren’t in the story didn’t detract from their potential development.
The various arguments and mysteries were very fun to participate in, I liked the various different versions of the same “Closed Room” mystery (despite how often it’s used nowadays, I still find it a very clever and cool trick in mysteries) as each new killing was behind an even more incomprehensible version of a Closed Room, getting eventually to the Second Twilight killings in which its incredibly doubtful it could of been done by a human.
Maria’s character in particular is interesting, with all the potential inspiration for what causes her supposed “other personality” to take place. She’s one of very few child characters that fits very well into a cast of adults, and I think it is mainly because of how she stands out from the rest of the cast. Kind of sad she never found her rose though, I totally expected it to show up.
Anyway, the final moments are very strong, and close the episode with a fascinating end. It’s a string of events that near undoubtedly “show a 19th person”. I’m very interested to see how it all plays out now that the rules are established and the world is set. It was a really good end, and I loved the narration of the epilogue.
And then there’s the Tea Party. [spoiler]Since I’ve been playing Higurashi, I had an idea of what to expect, and was very familiar with the ‘post-story meeting’ and having all the cast stand outside of the story and address the events. But then they’re not referring to a “story”, they seem to be referring to “reality”. And at this point it becomes incredible, as I realize I’m supposedly looking into the Golden Land. Beatrice herself appears to take on Battler’s direct challenge, and we see a battle of wits in a world beyond the story. And Battler’s doubts seem to tear the Golden Land apart? Having to take this short segment not as a reflection of the tale, but a surprise appearance of a short after-story sequel, is a great twist on the convention the Higurashi games are running.
And to throw me for another loop… the second Tea Party, “for non-humans”, is opened. The context of the world shown in this short story is interesting; both Tea Parties existing at all seem to reinforce the idea that “Magic is definitely real”. I’m thrown into a look at Beatrice meeting an old friend, another witch called Bernkastel, who seems to be powerful in her own right. Without even really setting the scene they slide into a conversation of witches battling others, seemingly to overwhelm me with this idea that the world of magic is in full swing and most definitely exists. I also find what she called Beatrice a point of interest; throughout the story, Beatrice is known as the ‘Golden Witch’, and is referred to by that at every point. I assume the name is directly related to the supposed physical gold. But Bernkastel uses, multiple times, the title of ‘Endless Witch’. It’s unclear what this means, but then the second point of interest; Beatrice and Bernkastel seem to directly mention the ‘cycle’ the When They Cry games take on. They implicitly know that the game on Rokkenjima will happen again, Beatrice going as far as to mention she’s setting it up. Is Beatrice the Endless Witch because of some power that relates to this apparent time loop? It could be that the title refers to her ages, and her thousand-year legacy, but then again its not shocking to see witches in fiction with unusual, great ages.
And then the last point of note. Bernkastel takes on a role as an observer, becoming a supposed ‘20th’ player in the story, though she seems uninterested in meddling directly. And after Beatrice leaves to prepare the next Game, she addresses the potential ‘21st’ player. Me.
Bernkastel has no intention of interfering with the 18 players, but she’s proactive enough to give Me hints. She seems to imply that I will have some strong part to play in resolving the game and seeing the true conclusion. I’ve played games before where I as a player become a major part in the story (the examples I’m thinking of I can’t actually list, because spoilers) but it’s not the kind of idea I expect to come from a visual novel; a linear one at that.
I think they’d been hinting at the idea that I’m part of the story the entire time, reflecting on it. The post-death character profiles are almost direct messages to me, telling me not to worry and that believing in Beatrice will make it all work out. But the most damning evidence of this comes after the meeting with Bernkastel, and that’s being given control over the main version of the TIPS menu. You can switch through the different methods with the ‘Execute’ and ‘Resurrect’ buttons to select their state in the story and the profile that matches it. If you try to Execute Beatrice (which honestly, who wouldn’t after seeing this) you seem to be directly challenged. I supposedly hold the sole method to kill her? What could I possibly do to directly effect the story.
Fascinated to find out and see what comes next.[/spoiler]
So, in summary, my general thoughts on the main mystery of the game. Does Beatrice Exist?
[spoiler]Right now, my answer is Yes. There is extremely likely an entity called Beatrice directly influencing and participating in the story. Is she a ‘Witch’? I don’t know. But every death from Kanon onwards is near impossible to blame on anyone else. Maybe my thought process on this will change as we go along, but that’s what I think for now.
Rejecting magic, however, does throw the Tea Parties into question. Maybe they don’t happen at all. The game could be lying to me, showing me this narrative as a way to clue me in on more knowledge, to prepare me for the next Game. Is Bernkastel real? She definitely sits outside the scope of the story, and I don’t expect to see her in the main scenario of Episode 2. Even if she is real, she’s declared herself an observer, so regardless of whether Bernkastel exists or not, she won’t show up either way. It keeps the illusion alive.
tl;dr Magic is Bullshit… Maybe!!!