Hello first post here. After reading the whole thread yesterday I wanted to share some of my ideas/thoughts on the Umineko mystery. I apologize in advance for the wall of text!
I read the question arcs back in 2016 and at the time was utterly confused by the mysteries. Sure, I had some theories about the murders or thought I grasped some of the concepts, like the metaworld, but in total I just enjoyed the story and never formulated a conclusion to who the real culprit was.
At the end of 2016 I read the Higurashi Question arcs and the last episode, Himatsubushi, was kind of an eye opener.
After mulling over theories for Higurashi and discovering this forum, I tried to remember the Umineko mystery which lead me to this thread. Lots of very interesting ideas and now I wanted to add my own ideas and musings on the subject.
The greatest mystery for me is the motivation of the culprit. In the beginning I thought the murders all happened because of the gold. All the Ushiromyas from the older generation have money troubles and therefore would profit from the murders. But in this last episode Beatrice tells us that Battlers sin from 6 years ago is part of the reason for the murders and why everyone dies!
I do think that different culprits can exist. For example in Episode 3 (fragment, kakeru), Eva seizes the opportunity to gain the gold and eliminates the rest of the family. Therefore I think different murderers can exist on the island but only given the opportunity! Without the very special setting of the family reunion in ’86 they wouldn’t act on their impulses. So without the true culprit, who sets the murders in motion, nothing would happen (at least nothing violent).
According to Beatrice, Battlers sin consists of not remembering what happened 6 years ago. She confirms in red, that the sin is not between Beatrice and Battler despite Battler remarking that her eyes tell him otherwise. She also confirms that Beatrice didn’t exist 6 years ago (I think also in red)! I assume as someone (I think it was @mimsy) upthread already mentioned, that this red can be circumvented by the assumption that Beatrice is not her real name (as in Beatrice is the golden witch and her name in reality would be for e.g. Beato).
So I think that Battler met the real Beato 6 years ago and is responsible for the creation of the “idea” of Beatrice!
What do I mean by this? I think @Seraphitic mentioned Shannon remembering some of Battlers antics from 6 years ago (about him being a prince on a white horse and rescuing someone). He seems to be really embarrassed by this and claims to not remember the occasion (not sure if he doesn’t remember but it would fit, more on that later).
His embarrassment about him pretending to be a prince and also the special way the witch battles happen (and someone mentioning a character from danganronpa 2 (the guy with the hamster), I think it was in this thread) made me think of the term “Chunibyo” (translated it means something like 8-grader-syndrome) and Battler actually being afflicted by it. Teenager with this syndrome have a very active imagination and think their delusions to be real. They have magic battles with their friends, which sound very similar to the witch battles in Umineko (there is also an anime series which illustrates this idea very well: Chūnibyō demo Koi ga Shitai) and tend to interpret what is happening around them in their own special terms (e.g. an umbrella is a mighty magic sword etc.). Normally the teenager in question after growing up feels very embarrassed about his actions and actively tries to forget about his behavior.
So to recapitulate: I think the children, being Battler, Maria and Beato were together the last time 6 years ago and played witches at the time (8-grader-syndrome), probably being influenced by the legend of the witch Beatrice which was supposed to reside on Rokkenjima. I assume that Battler was the leader of the group and assigning different characters to the players (Maria being the witch of origins etc.). In that moment he created the persona of Beatrice (which is cruel and begets all this atrocities and is the villain) and gave the role to Beato. The games they played in the past are the script for the different scenarios (episodes) in the present. Each day they had different scenarios which they also wrote down (this is the source of the letters from the aftermath). Further the scenarios are the reason why there is room for a mystery character! The scenarios are based on the number of people on the island six years ago. Someone proposed the theory of Shannon and Kanon being the same person and Battler actually never meeting Kanon (was this just for episode 1 or in general?). Therefore Kanon does only exist in the scenario and his spot is taken by Beato.
After their meeting Battler had the fallout with his father and didn’t return for the following years. During that time he matured and actively tried to forget about his embarrassing delusions. During that time Beato on Rokkenjima went mad and assumed the Beatrice persona (similar to how Maria is escaping into her own fantasies) and is the true culprit during the last reunion (she’s orchestrating the murders according to the scenarios they invented six years ago). Therefore Battler being partially responsible for the murders because he created the Beatrice persona! He doesn’t remember the fact because he suppresses the “shameful” memories.
So who is Beato/Beatrice in the reality? We know that Asumu and/or Kirye had a miscarriage. I believe that both children survived one being Battler and the other Beato. Kinzo somehow abducted Beato, in his own delusion believing her being the reincarnation of the original mistress which he imprisoned in Kuwamadori. Therefore in my theory Beato Nr. 1 (whose death was witnessed by Rosa) is not blood related with the new Beato (she’s probably the daughter of Asumu) but lived in very similar circumstances (imprisoned in Kuwamadori and discovered by Battler by chance) as her namesake. Further I think that Kinzos abuse of Beato is what drove her crazy in the end. Battler had the chance to rescue Beato but in his delusions didn’t realize the circumstances she was in (being imprisoned by her grandfather). His sin is that he forgot about her existence and not helping her.
She waits 6 years for her revenge because she needs the whole Ushiromya family present to exact her revenge.
As mentioned at the top of the post I last read the series some months ago. So most of my ramblings are just speculation (without actual proof) and focus on the “why” everything happens and ignoring the details of the unique murders. I definitely have to re-read all the episodes (in formulating this ideas I only reviewed the last confrontation between real Beatrice/Beatrice and Battler at the end of episode 4). I bought the steam version of the game and just downloaded the voice/ps3-graphics patch and looking forward to a somewhat different experience!
Looking back on what I just wrote I seem to be somewhat delusional myself (haha). At least it will be fun looking back on my theory after reading the answer arcs.
Thanks a lot for all the posts and good ideas which got me thinking in the first place. Feel free to rip it apart or maybe(?) add or expand on my theory.
EDIT: Added double post to my original post:
I would like to add some more to my thoughts from the post before because the proposition of the existence of a “real life” Beatrice would obviously trivialize the murder cases. If the main culprit is never introduced in the real world we obviously would never suspect her! The main culprit being a mystery murderer which is never seen on screen would be the easy cop-out for any other mystery novel and probably not well received.
I still think this works very well in Umineko because the character of “Beatrice” is well introduced and central to the story even if it’s only in the meta world. Besides the “who did it” (and why did she do it) the existence of magic is the other main mystery of the story. Ironically by trying to establish proof that magic and in extension Beatrice do not exist Battler is robbing himself of the solution for the murder cases (she does exist in reality).
This does coincide with my reading experience (this could obviously be very different for other readers).
In my reading of the question arc I soon gave up on trying to solve the unique murder cases. The conditions under which the murders could be carried out become more and more ridiculous from episode 1 – 4 (because Beatrice tries to convince Battler that magic exists). During the first episode I still tried to collect clues and formulate a solution but soon I was as confused as Battler.
We as readers of course still try to find a non-magic solution for the case and suspect that there is some kind of trick (because the game tries to make us believe otherwise!). In the end the in-game presented solutions proposed by Battler (with the rules introduced during episode 2-4) are about denying the actual existence of magic instead of explaining how the murder was conducted.
In conclusion: the introduction of an unknown culprit (Beatrice) in the real world still works from a story-crafting standpoint because the main mystery is about the Beatrice/Battler relation and the existence of magic, not about how the murders were conducted (though I still believe that they can be explained in detail!).
I just feel like I dug myself into a deeper hole.