Heh, it’s kinda weird seing one of the people that once theorized now being in the role of the observer. And yet, it’s basically going to be the rite of passage of this topic (and the other ones by extension) so to speak.
Now, before I get into any theorizing, I’ll get into my background with When They Cry in general. I have none. However, the one thing I knew about Umineko in particular is that it is inspired by “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, and even if I wouldn’t have gotten that confirmed by someone, I would have suspected it because there are too many parallels between the stories for a mere coincidence. So first off, I’d like to talk a bit about those parallels and even where there are differences. As such, the next paragraph contains both minor and major spoilers to “And Then There Were None” (abbreviated as ATTWN at points). You have been warned.
Now first, probably the most obvious similarity. Both stories are murder mysteries taking place on an island cut off by the rest of the world, thereby creating a giant closed room. But then we already get into differences. In Christie’s book the people on the island don’t know each other, whereas on Rokkenjima we have members of a family and their servants, so they obviously aren’t strangers to each other. Then we have a minor difference in that the number is different, 10 in ATTWN and 18 in Umineko. Now, where this difference in number gets interesting is the piece of text that is murdered after. In Agatha’s story that’s a nursery rhyme called “Ten Little Niggers” (also please don’t take this word as offense, it is merely how the nursery rhyme is called in the book), in Ryukishi’s one it’s the Epitaph under Beatrice’s portrait. However, if we look at the numbers, we have ten in the text and ten on the island in ATTWN, but we have a minimum of 13 required to die on Rokkenjima when 18 are on the island. Next, we get to another similarity, namely that the murderer proclaims to be an additional person, U.N. Owen in Christie’s novel, Beatrice in Umineko. From there we go to another difference: ATTWN is hammering the fact in that there is no 11th person by having the people on the island search the entire island to confirm that there is no possible hiding spot. That way, the island in that story feels small. In Umineko though, the story tries its damnest to make the reader believe in a 19th person and makes the island itself feel way larger by having the forest as this taboo place. Now last but not least we get to the motive of the culprit, and this is the only thing that we don’t know yet in Umineko, so I’m basically going to superimpose another parallel by seeing how it is in ATTWN. In that story, the culprit was basically playing Judge, Jury and Executioner (if you remember, all ten had committed a crime that they were prosecuted for, found innocent, but actually had committed it except maybe for the culprit) and was just fascinated of murder mysteries and had it as a knack to murder after the nursery rhyme. So what is the motive in Umineko? If the culprit is Kinzo, then it could be reasoned that it is literally trying to resurrect Beatrice, someone that exists at least in Kinzo’s mind. And since she’s still not back when thirteen have been killed, he’s continuing to kill the rest, ending with himself. In that case, his supposed death earlier would then be faked of course,as others pointed out, it’s one of the less believable identifications, and burning yourself, while painful, is something you can do later on to preserve the illusion. If it’s anyone else than Kinzo, then the motive is most likely stated in the Letter of the Witch. This is going from the similar plot object of the tape in ATTWN where the killer announced why he is going to kill everyone. So that letter states that she is collecting interest. In a metaphorical sense, this most likely means that the culprit holds a grudge against the entire family and possibly themselves as well, because why would they otherwise kill themselves afterwards? So yeah, that’s my two cents on motive. I’m actually not saying that anyone specific has done the deed here though.
So now to something else I noticed. The entire conflict of “Does magic exist?” and the arguing for both sides, especially in the first Tea Party (the human one) eerily reminded me of arguing between a religious person, doesn’t matter which religion, and an atheist. And just like that discussion is more or less a fruitless one but has points for both sides, we have the same situation between Battler and those that have accepted Beatrice. And this might actually be an underlying theme for this episode, possibly the entire novel, I stumbled across here. As for me, which side I fall on?
I’m… undecided myself, to be honest. The reason for that actually lies in a meta perspective. From a meta perspective, the answer “A witch did it, it’s magic” is a lame one, because then there isn’t much of a mystery. That answer just seems like a copout to me. And yet, if we look at it from another perspective (although I think not really turning the chessboard, because I’m not looking from the opponent’s point of view, it’s more akin to the phrase “Thinking outside the box”, you’re free to point out if the famous phrase from this episode actually does apply), if the answer is indeed magic, then the actual mystery we are supposed to figure out would be where the hidden gold is, so even with magic as the answer there could be a mystery to solve.
Now, there’s a reason why I didn’t go over most questions that were asked in the thread, and I’ll go about that in my closing points now. You see, in the epilogue, because the plea of Maria to find out the truth utterly contradicted her portrayal in the story, I assumed for myself that the entire thing is actually told by an unreliable narrator, basically that the thing I read is the story that’s passed down as legend now and therefore went through several changes as folktales use to do. That means however that there’s too little to discern fact from legend, so I didn’t really have anything to go off of, and couldn’t possibly form any theories on my own. To form theories on my own, except for the one that the first episode is entirely uncredible, I’ll now need several permutations of the same story, to be able to find out what the core truth is that this legend was born from.