Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

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Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby Impossible » Tue Nov 03, 2009 6:20 pm

Okay, so we all know this place is utterly dead. It's pathetic. Well, of course it is. We were all here to talk about The Way, its ridiculously complex and foreshadowing-infested plot, its fantastic characters, great atmosphere... And then it kind of ended out of the blue, with no news so far on any ways in which the story/world might be further explored. So there hasn't been anything to talk about.

And so I present to you, the first game/story/thingy since The Way that has actually created the same kind of response in me. An episodic epic, keeping a fanbase across the world rabid with discussion, theorising, speculation and anticipation for months at a time. Deep, sprawling mysteries, with foreshadowing everywhere. Lots of death, and bizarre unexplained stuff going on. A large cast of characters, none of whom seem to be entirely innocent, with complex motives, personalities and backstories. Sound familiar?

Also, the main character is basically Phoenix Wright on a regular basis. Complete with finger pointing and dramatic music.

It's called Umineko no Naku Koro ni, or translated, "When the Seagulls Cry". It's a Japanese visual novel (VN), without any gameplay other than scrolling text. Or to be more accurate, it's a sound novel (as the creator calls it), as much of the focus (compared to a regular book) is on using sound effects and absolutely incredible music to create an atmosphere. This is coming from the video game music freak over here, Umineko has one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard. I might elaborate on this later.

The story sets itself up as a traditional mystery, but destroys those expectations in ways I won't spoil. On October 4, 1986, 18 people gather in a mansion on a remote island for the yearly Ushiromiya family conference - mostly family members and servants. The head of the family, Ushiromiya Kinzo, doesn't have long to live, and his four kids are trying to claim their stake to the family fortune and its headship. Legend has it that Kinzo's wealth became possible when a witch, Beatrice, granted him 10 tons of gold which he used as collateral to make large investments and build a business empire, though nobody is completely sure if the gold exists somewhere on the island. Kinzo has become rather obsessed with this Beatrice, though, wishing desperately to "revive" her and meet her again. He placed a huge portrait of her in the mansion, and under it, the following epitaph is inscribed:

My beloved hometown, the sweetfish river running through it.
You who seek the Golden Land, foollow its path downstream and seek the key.

If you follow the river downstream, you will find a village.
In the village, look for the shore the two will tell you of.
There sleeps the key to the Golden Land.

He who lays hand upon the key shall travel under the rules below.
At the first twilight, you shall lift up as sacrifice the six chosen by the key.
At the second twilight, those who remain shall tear apart the two who are close.
At the third twilight, those who remain shall praise my honorable name on high.
At the fourth twilight, gouge the head and kill.
At the fifth twilight, gouge the chest and kill.
At the sixth twilight, gouge the stomach and kill.
At the seventh twilight, gouge the knee and kill.
At the eighth twilight, gouge the leg and kill.
At the ninth twilight, the witch shall be revived and none shall be left alive.
At the tenth twilight, the journey shall end and you should reach the village of gold.
The witch will praise the wise, and should bestow four treasures.

One shall be, all the gold from the Golden Land.
One shall be, the resurrection of the souls of all the dead.
One shall be, even the resurrection of the lost love.
One shall be, to put the Witch to sleep for all time.

Sleep peacefully, my most beloved witch, Beatrice.


On the eve of the conference, a mysterious letter appears from "Beatrice", claiming that Kinzo has ended his contract with her, and that until someone can find the gold, she is going to begin collecting "interest" on everything in the family that has come out of that gold... Which includes everyone on the island. And soon, the sacrifices predicted by the epitaph begin to come true, and seemingly impossible events begin to occur...

The official background story for the series, which pretty much tells you what you should know going in, is here. Without spoiling too much, I can say that this is no ordinary mystery. It especially focuses on the question of whether the events in the story are possible for a human, or if they were done by a 19th person, a witch.

Now, you're probably wondering (or don't give a shit) where you might begin with regard to enjoying this masterpiece. Currently, there are 5 episodes, released twice per year, 4 of which have been translated into English (and the 5th is in progress). Episode 4 includes all of Episodes 1-4 (but 5 does not). So, links:

Episode 4
The Witch Hunt's English translation patch


There's also some stuff there explaining how to install it, as those foolish Windows users may need to change their locale to Japanese to do so.

Now, some of the more knowledgeable in this area may be asking, "Isn't there an anime version of this?" And there is, but well, it sucks. It basically spoils the story with a ridiculously abridged version, so that you won't enjoy any of the really epic moments if you do then go and read them in the VN... But the anime fails at them as well, often cutting out half or more of the best and most anticipated scenes. They basically had to rush a ridiculous amount to fit the story into a small episode limit, the result being that the characters become one dimensional, the story makes no sense, and most of the great moments lose a lot of their impact.

Plus, many scenes don't use the music from the VN, or if they do, they use the wrong music entirely. A recent episode (covering the end of Episode 3, often considered the fan favourite out of 1-4) covered a portion of the VN with around 5 incredible new pieces of music, but didn't use ANY of them. Umineko is an emotional, powerful story, and the anime basically lacks that, due to cutting down major scenes, leaving out most of the development and depth of the characters, as well as the music. It's like playing The Way without foreshadowing, and with a fraction of the dialogue and character development.

I should also probably add that Umineko is technically a sort of sequel to Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When the Cicadas Cry) and its continuation, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai. The story is basically unrelated, so it's not really important, but there are a couple of connections and references, especially relating to a certain character and inferences you might make if you read Umineko first. Higurashi hasn't been translated yet, though it is getting a commercial release in December (and hopefully Kai, which finishes the same story, will follow some time next year). The best you can do for that one is the anime adaptation, which is subbed and all over the place. (There's a dub, but it's terrible and only covers the first season, not Kai.) This anime is also pretty butchered from what I've heard (especially as they tried to cram 6 of the 8 arcs into the first season), but it's actually entertaining, atmospheric and great on its own merits, and is also the reason why the series is even known outside of Japan.

Also, if you are interested, be aware that spoilers are EVERYWHERE. You can't even look at the Wikipedia page without spoiling things, especially a major premise of the story that isn't actually introduced until Episode 2. YouTube comments and videos are also dangerous. So just be careful where you look. It's also probably worse now because the anime has gotten further into the story, though the VN is well ahead of it.

Just remember, I wouldn't post about this out of the blue if it weren't RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME. I've seen, read and played plenty of great things these past few years, but I never felt an urgent need to come back here to hype them. I'm posting this because I think it appeals to the same audience as The Way - people who like epic stories that are also mature and make them think a lot. I had never read a visual novel prior to this, so don't be scared off if the medium is unfamiliar, either, as Umineko is a great way to get into it. So keep in mind that while the beginning is slow, uneventful and in need of editing... There is a massive payoff. Though it doesn't get to insane, unprecedented levels of greatness until Episode 3, and the Phoenix Wright moments don't become prominent until Episode 2. (Kind of like how The Way didn't get good until Ep 2. >_>) Once the pacing picks up in a given Episode, though, it doesn't stop, and can remain amazing for a long time.
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby Sage Of The Wise » Tue Nov 03, 2009 11:32 pm

Sounds interesting, I'll definitely look into it sometime this week.
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby tridon777 » Fri Nov 06, 2009 11:44 am

Sounds very much like And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Book I read for school.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_Then_There_Were_None
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby Impossible » Fri Nov 06, 2009 6:57 pm

Uh... you know that's an entire genre, not just one book that it sounds like, right? Umineko is basically a deconstruction of mystery novels. But you'll find as you get further in that the story itself is nothing like one, despite containing a mystery on the surface.
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby tridon777 » Mon Nov 09, 2009 8:25 pm

I don't doubt its a good story I would like to try it out myself. It just has many similarities to the book as it takes place on an island, theres only a certain number of people on the island, theres a mysterious killer, and theres a treasure to be gained. I think that they may have directly borrowed from book Japan artists like to take English literature and put their own spin on it. They usually in my opinion make it better so I think Ill check this out! lol
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby Impossible » Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:50 am

Yeah, but... I'm telling you that this is not an accurate description of the actual nature of the story. It's more like the premise for the first Episode, which is not quite the same as the premise for the entire series (which is a big awesome spoiler). And it's not just an homage or work inspired by other mystery novels... It actually directly refers to them. Again, it's more of a deconstruction of a genre than a traditional mystery. And in that sense, it's more inspired by Knox and Van Dine. Though Agatha Christie is a good example as well, Umineko is not as unoriginal as it sounds. Especially due to the "Mystery vs Fantasy" idea, and how it's used... Placing it in a genre at all is kind of hard as a result.
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby MusashiEX » Sun Nov 15, 2009 6:01 pm

I second the fact that the anime version sucks. It spoils major plot twists.
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby Sage Of The Wise » Fri Nov 20, 2009 3:53 pm

Well I tried. It just doesn't want to run on my computer. Probably my fault for having Windows 7.
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby Impossible » Sat Nov 21, 2009 1:04 am

It should still work, from what I've heard... Do you know how to get Japanese things working on Windows 7? Were you following the instructions on how to use the translation from Witch Hunt's site?
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby Sage Of The Wise » Sat Nov 21, 2009 6:13 pm

Ok, finally got it working. Long story short, what I thought was the change local option wasn't. Also I was using the instruction in the readme in the english patch instead of the one on the site which pointed out my mistake seconds after finding that page.
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby Impossible » Sun Nov 22, 2009 7:22 am

Okay, the one thing you have to make sure of is that the music installed correctly. I think there should be 112 files in the BGM folder, assuming all the tracks with Japanese filenames copied over. You can check that they're working in-game near the start - if there's music playing in the airport scene, you should be good, otherwise you may still have a language problem. This is important due to the music being mind-blowingly awesome. Most of the good music is in the later episodes, though, so don't expect to be blown away in Ep 1 (though there are several great tracks).

I thought the anime was stupid before, but the newest episode filled me with an incredible amount of rage. They basically spoiled a major tearjerker revelation that occurs towards the end of an arc, and the arc isn't even halfway over. The anime is devoid of emotion, so you can imagine this didn't go well.
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby saturnineherbivore » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:17 pm

Glad to see another Umineko fanatic. You into VNs in general? I would love talking about such and such a game. I'm somewhat obsessed.
Last edited by saturnineherbivore on Thu Apr 15, 2010 11:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby MusashiEX » Sat Apr 10, 2010 8:12 pm

Did you just call Seacats an eroge?
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby saturnineherbivore » Thu Apr 15, 2010 11:11 am

By strict definition it isn't; I use "eroge" as more of an umbrella term, although I'm aware it implies the VN has sexual content. As a VN genre, eroges are so prevalent in Japan many people don't bother differentiating between the two, unless they intend to point out the presence (or lack thereof) of sexual content.

But to please the crowd, I changed my wording.
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Re: Umineko no Naku Koro ni - wherein Impossible actually posts

Postby Impossible » Wed May 05, 2010 3:50 am

Now matter how general a term it is, nobody calls Umineko an eroge, that's stupid. If not a visual novel, it's a sound novel.

I'm glad to see there are at least a couple of other fans around. Since I posted, the translation for Ep 5 was released, though Ep 6's translation is taking its damn time.

I haven't had time to get into many other VNs yet, though Umineko got me interested. Ever17 is pretty amazing at times, though there are boring stretches of nothing happening despite the situation the characters are in. Tsukihime is okay. I really need to finish Fate/stay night, don't know how I got stalled on that. In UBW, the best route, no less.
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