Gintama. Porori-hen Episode 8

Do you really want to know what happened in this episode? Gintoki managed to land a blow on Sougo but Kusanagi’s blade wasn’t able to support him. I am not going to explain why Kusanagi looks like a giant piece of macaroni in the below image.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 8 (1)

Also, Sougo wasn’t pretending to be consumed. Maganagi actually managed to consume him but he managed to regain control of his body pretty fast.

Their battle ended with a draw. That makes sense. None of us wanted to watch Sougo lose. We also didn’t want to watch Gintoki lose. Gintoki managing to defeat Hijikata so easily at the beginning of the story is just a plot convenience. We know Hijikata. He is strong. There is a good reason why people call him the Demon Vice-Captain. If Hijikata fought Gintoki seriously, I am sure Gintoki will not be able to walk away unscathed. He will lose a limb or two. I understand that battle was necessary and that battle was the starting point of the good old rivalry between Hijikata and Gintoki. I still feel a bit let down when I rewatch that episode. Gintoki making fun of Hijikata for losing against him doesn’t make it any better.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 8 (4)

I just wanted to put this picture here. I love Sougo’s evil faces

Otsuu will be making an appearance in the next episode. I have never been a big fan of her character and Shinpachi’s obsession with being her fanboy. I am more interested in knowing who this scary looking monster in the opening is.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 8 (9)

He/she might be a god too. You can never tell

The staff also made a short announcement about the upcoming final arc. It looks like the production is going smoothly. It is sad that this long running show is nearing the final arc. We won’t be able to see Gintama’s randomness for long. There is nothing like a good Gintama episode at the end of the day.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 8 (8)

Kagura’s expression perfectly explains how the staff feel about the final arc XD

See you next time ^^/

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Gintama. Porori-hen Episode 7

The long-awaited duel between Gintoki and Sougo finally occured. Gintoki had no choice but to fight with Sougo with a broken sword. What will Gintoki do when he is in a real pinch? He cheats of course.

Gintama Season 6 EP 7 (8)

He talked his way into using two swords in the battle

He even copied Beserk and Final Fantasy to get his way.

Luckily Sougo managed to find a cursed sword. So he agreed to using two swords in the fight. The cursed sword Maganagi is famous for consuming his masters and making them his puppets. He begged Sougo to make him his sword after Sougo defeated Maganagi’s previous master.

A cursed sword and a sadist. They make a perfect pair. Maybe now Sougo can finally drive the Amanto out of earth or defeat Utsuro. Now that will be a perfect ending for Gintama.

Gintama Season 6 EP 7 (2)We didn’t get to see a serious Gintoki versus Sougo fight after all. They fooled around quite a bit and even had a riverbed cleaning competition. On the other hand, I don’t really want Gintoki and Sougo to fight for real. Gintoki is one of the few people Sougo actually trusts and watching these two trying to kill each other for real would have been pretty sad.

Gintama Season 6 EP 7 (3)

Who do you think won the battle? Gintoki? Sougo? Wrong. They didn’t get to complete their battle. Maganagi consumed Sougo’s soul and made him his puppet. We already know that being consumed by a cursed sword is bad news, thanks to Hijikata. Not to mention that the guy who got consumed is Sougo. He might end up destroying the planet.

Gintama Season 6 EP 7 (4)

On the other hand, I won’t be surprised if Sougo is just pretending to be under control. This is Sougo we are talking about. I doubt there is a sword out there that can actually make this guy submit to its power. He might just be plotting to use this as an excuse to kill Hijikata and get rid of him for good. If he said that he was consumed by a cursed sword, Kondo will forgive him. Hijikata on the other hand will probably claw his way out of his grave in order to get his revenge.

The sword arc will end with the next episode. Let us see what fate has in store for Sougo.

See you next time ^^/

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Gintama. Porori-hen Episode 6

It finally happened! After 333 episodes, something that has been long overdue finally happened. Gintoki is arrested for public indecency.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 6 (9)
Gintoki doesn’t look happy about it though

Gintoki should have been arrested for public indecency a long time ago. In Kagura’s words ‘He is a walking obscenity.’ He goes on live TV with his zipper open, walks around the town half-naked, uses a hex socket screw driver to mess around with a spaceship  and does a lot of other things that are better off not being mentioned here. A shounen protagonist being arrested for public indecency, that has got to be some kind of record. Way to go Gintoki!

Coming to the story, a sword shaped Amanto was looking for his wife. The wife happens to be a scabbard. He was abandoned by his master and he went from place to place searching for his wife. He wanted to borrow Gintoki as a temporary scabbard. Kagura, Shinpachi and Testsuko didn’t mind lending Gintoki. They finally managed to find the wife but she refused to get back with her husband. Guess who is currently using that scabbard?

Gintama Season 6 Ep 6 (14)

The Shinsengumi’s super sadist – Sougo

The scabbard fell in love with Sougo and doesn’t want to leave him. Gintoki challenged Sougo to a fight to get the scabbard back.

If this story made perfect sense to you, it means that you are already used to Gintama’s insanity.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 6 (12)

I always wanted to watch these two fight

Sougo is the Shinsengumi’s genius and Gintoki is the Shiroyasha. A fight between these two super skilled swordsmen is bound to be interesting. I assumed that we will never get to see them fight, since Gintoki is on good terms with Sougo. A serious fight between them seemed impossible. If Gintoki is putting his life on the line to pull a sword out of his body, then it becomes a different story. He is going to take his kid gloves off. Sougo is not an opponent he can go easy on. You can be sure this fight is going to be interesting. Sure, you can’t expect a fast-paced action-filled fight but I am sure these two geniuses will show something amusing.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 6 (2)

There is one problem – Testsuko broke Gintoki’s sword

I take it back. We might just end up watching Gintoki being torn to shreds by Sougo. I am sure Sougo doesn’t even know what kid gloves are. He won’t go easy on Gintoki even if Gintoki’s sword is broken.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 6 (3)

Let us tune in to watch Shinsengumi Chronicles or Zuratama after next week

This episode had a lot of good random comedy moments. Like this one for example.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 6 (5)

Gintama Season 6 Ep 6 (6)

I am sure Gintoki is the only Samurai who would be greedy enough to melt a good sword and turn it into a frying pan. I am also sure he is the only Samurai who can get attacked by a random sword.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 6 (7)

We will get to see a very interesting fight in the next episode.

See you next time ^^/

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Gintama. Porori-hen Episode 5

If you already saw the featured image, you know that Hasegawa didn’t manage to die. Yay!

Just kidding. Even if you hadn’t seen the featured image, I am sure you knew that there is no way Hasegawa was going to die. He is cursed to live his entire life curled up in a cardboard box. There is no way Sorachi is going to let him kill himself and take the easy way out. Remember how many times he tried to die only to have fate play a prank on him and let him live?

GIntama Season 6 Ep 5 (1)

GIntama Season 6 Ep 5 (2)

Let us be honest. Hasegawa doesn’t want to die. He only wants a job, some food and a roof over his head. He can’t have any of them. He has nothing to do. I know his being homeless is a joke and Gintoki will throw a fit if Hasegawa actually got to live a decent life. I still want the guy to find a job. He is honest, kind and hard-working. There is no real reason for Hasegawa to continue being a madao.

Coming back to the story, Hasegawa wanted to jump off a building and was afraid of dying. He asked the assassin if he would be kind enough to kill him. The assassin didn’t want to waste a bullet on Hasegawa. So he came up with a brilliant plan. He wants Hasegawa to jump after his signal. He will shoot at the perfect time and kill Hasegawa and his target with the same bullet.

GIntama Season 6 Ep 5 (3)

He would have been better off using two bullets 

Hasegawa ended up being dragged into a fight and saving a person. At the end of the day, he was still complaining and crying about not being able to die. You knew this story wasn’t going to have a happy end, didn’t you?

The second story is even more interesting. Shinsengumi and Mimawarigumi had to attend a crash course and they had to solve a crime as part of their training.

GIntama Season 6 Ep 5 (6)

It has been a long time since we last saw this sadist. He really does look like a nice innocent kid when he isn’t trying to kill people

Let me now show you the crime scene. You are welcome to take as much time as you would like to solve this mystery.

GIntama Season 6 Ep 5 (10)

I am sure you have at least heard a variation of this story. An old couple finds a fruit floating in a river. They cut it open and find a little boy in it. They take care of the baby and raise him as their own son. The son grows up, defeats a demon and comes back with lots of treasure.

Of course Gintama wanted to turn this nice folktale into a horror story. What would have happened if they sliced the baby into two along with the fruit?

GIntama Season 6 Ep 5 (11)

This was Hijikata’s theory. The old couple killed the guy in the peach by accident and then left him by the river. That is a rather amusing story if you think about it. The couple cut open the peach and saw a dead baby inside. They realized that they just killed a baby. They got scared and didn’t want to get punished. So they abandoned the dead body by the river. Sorachi is really awesome.

You want to know what actually happened to Momotaro (the guy in the peach)? Watch the episode. You know Gintama. Trying to play detective is a complete waste of your time. Just sit back and enjoy the insane twists.

GIntama Season 6 Ep 5 (18)

In the next episode, we will get to see Gintoki getting attacked by a sword. I am not going to elaborate on it :P

See you next time ^^/

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Naruto Gaiden, Sasuke and Sakura

Way before Naruto manga has ended I was planning to write a review for it once it does. I wanted to cover Kishimoto’s strange obsession with childhood as the only meaningful part of person’s life, his take on fate, family, free will, give him his due for making a few very memorable characters, etc. When the manga actually ended though I had another topic added to this list, and it is what I want to discuss here. So, let us go to the chapter 699 for a brief moment.

The chapter 699 finishes the main story. We see the aftermath of Naruto’s fight with Sasuke, see Sasuke apologizing to Sakura for causing trouble all this time, we see that Sasuke was eventually pardoned, thanks to Kakashi and Naruto. Now, I want you to read a page from that chapter, it is pretty interesting:

Sasuke and Sakura 1

Road to redemption, huh. What do you think that should mean? What exactly did Sasuke do to have to redeem himself? What is going on in his head at the moment? Let me make a guess.

The whole story about Sasuke was centered on revenge, from the time he was introduced till Itachi’s death. Revenge wasn’t his only thing though, he was also a normal hot-headed school boy, also a lonely orphan confused in his feelings, same as Naruto. When Itachi died, Sasuke suddenly lost the main purpose of his life and acted confused for quite a while, until he finally made the only obviously right choice returning to Konoha. His quest for revenge as well as his confused wanderings made a good deal of harm, undeniably. Still, nobody important to the story died in the process (and this manga does not care too much about nameless characters, as per usual). So, what is weighing down on Sasuke’s conscience?

I think nothing does. Sasuke doesn’t strike me as a guy who cares about the bad things he did, we’ve never seen him show that emotion. One thing that he does care about though is keeping cool appearances. And I think this is the real reason why Sasuke choses to travel for a while. After loosing his life’s purpose, returning to Konoha he so gloriously abandoned and threatend to destroy, and also after acknowledging Naruto’s leadership he needs time to collect himself, to rebuild his own identity in a new manner that would allow him to stay cool in these new circumstances. Spoiler alert, that is exactly what he does, he ends up being a “shadow hokage”, never being in the village and going to super-important missions; that is exactly the position that allows him to keep face. So my point is, if you take his words at the face value, then Sasuke is lying here, it is not a road to redemption, it is just him being in need to spend more time alone.

Don’t take me wrong by the way, I am not hating on Sasuke. In fact, that weak self he is showing is my favorite part of his entire character. “I am an avenger” and other pompous nonsense he was saying is cool, I guess, but it is when this image breaks that he becomes actually interesting to me. Sasuke being insecure about loosing to Naruto, Sasuke feeling the burden of living alone, Sasuke taking great risks for the sake of his comrades, these are the moments when his pretty normal human side starts to show, and I like them the best. So, don’t take me seriously when I make fun of him, I only do it cause he is such an easy target ^^’/

Now, let’s read the next page:

Sasuke and Sakura 2

This is the moment when Sasuke promises to tie his life with Sakura. So, what is going on here? Why does he do it?

You think it is love, right? Sasuke totally loves Sakura, and that is why he is making the gesture Itachi used when he wanted to say “don’t bother me for now, okay?”. And that is why Sasuke is going to leave Sakura behind for a few months or years even, right after he returned from 3 years of absence, right? I might have a poor comprehension of how love works for cool boys like him, but that has got to be the most tepid passion I’ve seen. Also, remember that the only interactions they had in the last few years before the war were a couple incidents where Sasuke attacked Sakura and Naruto. So, when did his feelings even grow? I hope no one is going to tell me that Sasuke loved Sakura from the time he left Konoha (fine for a fanfic, but hardly realistic).

Just to clarify though, I am not saying that Sasuke doesn’t have any feelings for Sakura in general, but I don’t think he could have had any real feelings at that moment.

But if it isn’t love, what was it then?  Here is what I think. At that moment there were only two people in the village who genuinely cared about Sasuke, namely Naruto and Sakura. Sasuke didn’t have any other options, if he wanted to be with someone, it had to be one of them. Guess, being with Naruto wasn’t going to happen (also fine for a fanfic, but Kishimoto wouldn’t write it :P ), so Sakura was the only one left. If Sasuke was going to “be with someone”, it would have to be Sakura. That doesn’t mean Sasuke had no choice though. He is a loner, he could keep it that way. He actually did go on a lone trip right after the scene we are reading, so. Then why did he made this promise, why make Sakura wait for him?

I think the answer is given to us in the first page I posted. Sasuke said to Sakura “It is my road to redemption. You have nothing to do with my sins”. This implies that by the end of the road he will be “redeemed”. But the one and only event that we know will happen to him is that he and Sakura will be reunited. I think in Sasuke’s head, apologizing to Sakura, accepting her love and granting her wish to be with him is a part of his “redemption”. He already sacrificed his arm in a meaningless fight with Naruto, granting his best friend’s wish, and later accepting his lead, I am sure that was part of his redemption as well. Maybe the trip itself only serves as a separator between these two “sacrifices” Sasuke was planning to make, first one was for Naruto, and the second for Sakura.

I like this idea because it makes so much sense in terms of Sasuke’s character. Unlike Naruro, he never showed the ability to care deeply about others, he had always been cold when it came to feelings and intimate relations. It makes sense that his family would be based on reasons, and not on an actual passion. I also find it interesting  because it turns Sakura’s story in a completely different direction, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

Okay, let’s say you agree with my take on Sasuke’s motivations. Now we can move to the events of Naruto Gaiden, and see how the two pages we just saw could shed some light on the events of that series.

Uchiha family photo

This series gives us a continuation of Sasuke and Sakura story. Apparently Sasuke did spend a ton of time traveling and eventually Sakura joined him, giving birth to his daughter Sarada (named after someone’s favorite food, as it seems) in one of the team Taka’s hideouts. Surely Sasuke couldn’t be bothered to bring his wife to a proper clinic.

If you forgot who team Taka are, here you go.

Sarada grew up without seeing her father, to the point that she couldn’t even remember him. The events of Naruto Gaiden start at the time when Sasuke is about to meet Naruto to discuss his findings. By that time Sarada discovers that her family photo is a fake composed of team Taka photo and Sakura’s photograph laid on top of it. She starts to doubt that Sakura is actually her mother, and that Sasuke has any feelings for her.

She has good reasons for these doubts, thanks to Sasuke. Arguing that Sasuke didn’t have time to visit his family is pretty ridiculous, he just didn’t want to. Later when Sarada meets Sasuke for the first time and asks him about her mother, he refuses to talk (wouldn’t be cool enough to explain himself to a kid, right?). In the end Naruto has to do the talking, trying his darnedest to stop Sarada from running away and giving up on her family.

Finally, though a series of events Sarada realizes that she loves her mom regardless. She asks her father about his feelings:
Here is Sasuke’s answer. Give it a moment of thought.

You heard it. The only reason Sasuke is feeling a connection to his wife is because they have a kid. Damn that guy is brutal.

That is enough exposition, now let me give you my thoughts. What we see here is an almost perfect example of a broken family. Dad is always away, doesn’t care about mom, the daughter is lost and doesn’t know what to do. Now, it is easy to just blame Sasuke and be done with it, but I think there is something way more interesting than that going on.

Let us remember the other families we see in Naruto. Remember Shikamaru’s family? At the very least you remember his dad, the hero who died defending Konoha. What about Choji’s family? His father was as fat as he was, also played a role during the last war. Same with Ino, Neji, Hinata, Might Guy, Kakashi and Asuma. You remember their dads. Their mothers probably existed, I guess. Shikamaru used to joke about his mom being violent, that is all I remember. In fact, the only family where the mother played a role was Naruto’s family. I also remember Sasuke’s mom and Gaara’s mother too. Incidentally, all of these women were dead from the beginning of the series. People are often joking that mothers always die in One Piece, but in Naruto they are simply washed away from the story.

This trend had to change when Naruto’s generation began creating their own families. You can’t make Hinata, Sakura, Temari and others disappear. But what Kishimoto did instead is also pretty interesting. Notice how every single pair in the anime has a leader husband and a wife that takes a more passive role. Shikamaru is really tough mentally, so his wife (Temari) is also pretty willful, but not enough to dominate him. Naruto, on the other hand, is rather weak, so his wife (Hinata) is extra submissive, with almost no personality of her own. Obviously, Kishimoto only cares about one family structure that he writes again and again.

Now, one problem with this (besides it being a case of blindly following gender stereotypes) is that Sakura would be ill fit for this template. From the beginning of the series she was willful and prone to make independent actions. There aren’t many characters who should be able to stand up to her, in particular I wouldn’t count Sasuke as one. So, instead of making a family where wife plays the lead, Kishimoto gave us a broken family where the husband is never home and his only connection to the family is through the child. This is such an ironic end for Sakura, who was the only one female character who was actively trying to catch her loved one.

But then, if Sasuke never loved Sakura and only stayed with her because he felt he owed that to her, then the whole mess makes more sense. It becomes even more ironic though, it is as if Sakura’s passion and patience had bitten her in the back.

This guy, what an ass.

I am not very happy with the fact that this hugely popular manga sticks to stereotypes and disrespects its female characters, but I have to give it to Kishimoto, at least he was consistent in his questionable ways of writing families. By the way, want another fun fact? To the best of my knowledge Sarada is the second girl in this series to get a meaningful iteration with her family on camera. Ino was the first one, if that even counts. The people who spent a lot of time with their parents in the original series were Naruto, Sasuke, Shikamaru, Gaara, Neji, Konohamaru and other guys.

On the up side, in the Boruto manga where Sarada is one of the protagonists, she keeps breaking the rules of the old manga. Aiming to become the next hokage, taking leading role in her team and being a very capable ninja; all that, together with the fact that we have a new writer, gives me hopes.

Hope you didn’t find this topic too boring. I tend to like characters like Sakura in shonen shows, so I am interested in the ways stories treat them. See you next time ^^/

Gintama. Porori-hen Episode 4

Who do you think Ikumatsu’s father turned out to be? It is the guy wearing the weird outfit and calling himself a god. Apparently, he forgot all about his past because of an accident and ended up being a homeless person.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 4 (3)

Anybody who had spent enough time with Katsura would have known enough to refuse such a request

Katsura fought against the armed cardboard gang and he didn’t have any weapon with him. What will Gintama characters do when they don’t have any weapons on them? Use a person as a weapon of course!

It has been a while since we last saw these human-swords. At least I am glad that Gintoki found his own weapon and didn’t insist on breaking Nishiki into two and sharing the weapon. Ikumatsu would have killed Gintoki and Katsura if they had dared to do that.

There isn’t really much to talk about this episode. Ikumatsu and Nishiki had a nice reunion and we got to see a normal Gintama feel-good episode along with some wacky humor.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 4 (8)

Gintama Season 6 Ep 4 (2)

Hasegawa even had a couple of cool moments

The next episode looks more fun and exciting. Shinsengumi members along with Isaburo and Nobume will be making an appearance. While I want to see how the Shinsengumi members are currently doing, a nice comedy episode about the good old rivalry between Shinsengumi and Mimawarigumi is just as exciting.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 4 (1)

Also, Hasegawa will be trying to kill himself once again, only to be interrupted by an assassin.

Gintama Season 6 Ep 4 (9)

If there is a world’s most unlucky guy award, I am sure Hasegawa will win it and then lose the prize money

See you next time ^^/

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Umineko no Naku Koro ni, manga

Umineko no Naku Koro ni (When the Seagulls Cry in English), a bit of a long title, eh? One of the inconveniences with such titles is that once you put them in a post’s title it already becomes a tad too long, so you have no room left to clarify what you are going to write about. So, let me explain it here. So far I have read two Umineko manga series (also called episodes), Legend of the Golden Witch and Turn of the Golden Witch, and 5 chapters of the series following them, Banquet of the Golden Witch. Haven’t seen the anime, don’t know the plot for the rest of the series. In a way, I am in the middle of the story, since each manga series I named is a part of the whole Umineko no Naku Koro ni thing, same as, say, all Harry Potter novels are part of the same story. But this suits the topic I want to talk about.

I’ll start introducing the characters. This is Battler, the protagonist of the story. He is a part of the third generation of his family, who are all cousins.

What I want to talk about is why one would want to read Umineko series. And I would have to explain why one would want to ask this question as well. As I go on, I hope you’ll see why I think it is alright for me to talk about something like this without having read the whole series.

Before we start though, I want to give a shout-out to all people who have seen the anime but haven’t read the manga. As I have not seen the anime I can’t judge it, but my impression is that it is a completely different experience from the manga, so when you read this post, please try to set aside your previous experiences with this story. To be clear, I have this impression for the following reasons. First, according to MAL, the 26 episodes-long anime adapts an equivalent of 4 manga series, which have 102 chapters total, and each Umineko chapter is 25-50 pages long, packed with material. So, there were likely pacing issues. Second, from what little I saw, the character animation looks nothing to write home about, where as the manga’s art is top-quality. Third, the anime has only covered half the story, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the ending wasn’t great. Forth, and most importantly, I think the story itself isn’t very suited for anime adaptation. So, please don’t judge the manga by whatever you experienced with the anime.

This is Natsuhi. She is part of the second generation, which comprises of siblings and their spouses.

Now we can finally start (spoilers ahead). So, why do I think it is a good question as to why one would want to read Umineko? At its heart, the story is a mix of a supernatural mystery and a detective novel. There are all sorts of reasons to read both, right? Well, here is the thing. Umineko repeats its plot every episode (meaning, every series). So a lot of the normal enjoyment of a mystery novel goes away after a while. You know the sequence of events, the characters at play, you can predict what will happen with a high probability. For example, in the first episode Natsuhi was the adult who survived and guarded the youngsters and in the second episode this role was given to Rosa. From the way first 5 chapters are laid out I can confidently predict that Eva will take this role for in the 3rd episode. So, I am not reading the story for sudden unpredictable turns of events, which is part of the thrill of a mystery novel.

That is Eva, whom I just mentioned. She also a part of the second generation.

Supernatural mysteries, especially the ones with murder, tend to serve as horror or torture-porn. To give examples, Mermaid’s Scar tries to be a horror, while Corpse Party is a splatter show. Well, Umineko is neither. It does give you a lot of bloody scenes, but it doesn’t chew on them. It does not like to show you how the characters get hurt, it doesn’t try to exploit violence in a sadistic way (I can’t back up this claim, by the way, but I think I am correct to say it). And Umineko isn’t scary, since you pretty much know what is going on.

Unless you are going to be scared by Maria’s face. She isn’t that scary though, right?

Right?..

So, what is so good about it then? The “detective story” part, maybe? Well yeah, that is rather close to the truth, I’d say. Umineko is all about finding the criminal who committed the murders that look very much like a work of a demon or some other supernatural entity. The story presents us with a barrage of puzzles that seem impossible to solve. People get murdered in a closed room that no one could enter or leave, corpses disappear and reappear without any logical explanations, etc. And the whole point of the series is to prove that it was all an act of men. So, sounds like a good detective mystery, many of such had already been written.

Here is Beatrice, the antagonist of the series. Yes, the one with the frying pan. What? Not satisfied? Don’t believe me? Okay, here you go, have a gallery of her:

The only problem is that we, the readers, also see again and again how supernatural forces do act and perform their deeds within the story. People fight bull-headed demons using blades of light, evil spirits are summoned and morphed into weapons that fly towards their victim, etc. If one takes this at the face value, the whole thing becomes meaningless, there is no need to solve the mystery in the first place.

Here is an example. By the way, notice how well the scene looks

On the other hand, as with any supernatural mystery, you need to think about which part of the story is a metaphor, which is an illusion and which is the reality. As you read Umineko, you start to realize that supernatural phenomena occur mostly to people who are about to die, and only when it would have been perfectly possible to achieve the same end result without these magic tricks. So you start to wonder, if maybe the whole deal with the magic is just an illusion and you can ignore it.

This is Shannon, one of the family servants. Her (and other’s) character design are pretty different between first 3 Umineko episodes. That is probably due to the fact that different episodes were drawn by different mangaka.

But then, the protagonist of the story, Battler Ushiromiya, the guy who is solving the mystery, exists in a magical limbo created by a witch Beatrice. She kills him and revives him, shows him all sorts of magical tricks that seem beyond any human capacity. It is one thing for us, the readers, to brush aside the all that magic nonsense, but how could Battler do it? Why does he denies the existence of magic while being engulfed by it? Makes no sense, right?

One more picture of Shannon. She deserves it, okay? :P

So I hope it makes sense now why I think it is strange that a story like Umineko would attract readers. But it does! It attracted me, for one. Let me ask you this, why do people like to play chess? It is not just about the sense of victory, right? A game is somehow enjoyable in itself, no? I can spend an hour talking about everything Umineko lacks, but then so does chess and other simple board games. They don’t even have characters or story, they only give you a problem that usually can be solved. In a way, Umineko is exactly that. It is written in such a way as to be a fair game for the reader. Of course, the reader get relevant information bit by bit, and there are tons of distractions, but ultimately you could figure out a lot of what is going on by yourself. Or so it feels.

This is Kanon, Shannon’s brother. He is also one of the servants.

As I said, I haven’t finished reading the story. So, why do I claim that it is a fair game for the reader who wants to solve the mystery before Battler does (if he does at all)? Well, because at the moment I am not interested in whether or not it actually is a fair game. Instead, I am talking about what keeps the reader going. It feels like a fair game, therefore I keep playing. And it is an interesting play too. As the time passes you get more and more relevant information, the kind that often is lacking even in good detective mysteries. Logic is one of the main tools the characters use in their struggles, which puts the reader in an equal position with them. I personally love to guess what is going to happen next in any story I read, and there are very few that go to the same lengths as Umineko to enable me to do so.

Just read what is on this page, it will give you an idea of what I am talking about in the passage above

But to get back on track, why does Umineko feel like a fair game for the reader? That is probably the most interesting question I can ask here. To start with, for a manga to feel “fair” it needs to respect its own logic. For example, once a rule is introduced it should avoid breaking it, or giving exceptions. And if there are exceptions, they should be given in advance. To give example, Bleach is the kind of manga that would introduce an event and the mechanics that allowed it to happen both at the same time, rendering any guesses (or “theories”, as community likes to call them) made in advance meaningless. Hunter x Hunter, on the other hand, tries to follow its own rules, therefore it is generally possible, although very hard, to construct a theory that predicts future events. Why is it hard though? Because Hunter x Hunter is not trying to provide the reader with enough information. Even though the events follow the rules of the world the necessary information you would require to predict them often comes together with the event. That is the second step to fairness. There are stories that try to be more theorist-friendly than this, One Piece for example. There, the relevant info is often given in advance, so a way better ground for manga theorist is provided.

Here are Jessica and George, both are members of the third generation. George is Eva’s son and Jessica is Natsuhi’s daughter.

Umineko has it all and more. For example, it is being painfully meticulous with the relevant details. If we discuss a murder in a closed room, the manga will explain to you that there were no secret doors, that only so many keys existed, that doors could only be opened and closed with the keys, that the doors and the widows were indeed closed, that there is no trick that would allow you to pass through a closed door, that only so many people had been present in the room, etc. You can discard a ton of theories based on that alone. Normally in manga you have to use your feel for the story to guess where it is going to and choose between equally likely theories. Here you are put in a position where you struggle to come up with any theory and you definitely don’t have to decide between them, as any theory that works is your victory in the game against Umineko.

So my point is, even though the readers have a valid reason to give up on the mystery solving after they see the first demon appear, even though Battler’s motives are highly strange, Umineko still is an interesting puzzle, just because it is constructed that way.

This is Kyrie, member of the second generation, Battler’s step mother.

Besides offering a fair game, another reason Umineko is appealing is its repetitive and meticulous nature, I think. This may not be true for everyone, but something in our minds enjoys repetitive and careful work being shown to us. A lot of people like watching game speedrun attempts, that usually have <1% success rate (the success being a new achievement; a personal best time for example), which is exactly that, a repetitive and careful process. Umineko might be playing with that part of our mind as well.

Also, even so I was focusing this post entirely on the “detective mystery” part of Umineko, it is not just that. The characters are fairly interesting as well, and the way they are introduced, with new details given to us at each episode, it is pretty good. The story usually focuses on a couple people at a time, making them “main characters” of the episode. Natsuhi and Battler were the main characters of the first episode, Shannon, Kanon and Rosa played that role in the second one, and the third episode seems to belong to Eva and maybe Beatrice. Some characters are just nice to watch, like Shannon who is a too-good-to-be-true girl, or Battler who is a very charismatic guy. Some are sort of interesting as people, like Kyrie or Jessica, who has more to her than she lets out, which is always intriguing. And some are wonderfully suspicious, like George who seems to be a manipulator, making Shannon and others do exactly what he wants, never showing anything that would allow to distinguish between his intended appearances and his real self.

Did I already mention that I like Umineko romantic and comedy moments? They are very fun to read. Like, look at George here, he is adorable.

Also, each episode gives you themes or motives. The theme with the older generation (like Natsuhi, Eva and Rosa) seems to be different forms of oppression. Natsuhi oppresses herself, her daughter and her servants for no reason other than being a huge snob. Eva oppresses people only as much as she needs to achieve her goals, one of which is to provide a great future for George. Rosa only oppresses her daughter as she is worried of the other people’s opinions about her. It is softly implied that some of these oppression tendencies have lead to the tragedies that we see in the Umineko episodes.

Servants have their own themes. Shannon and Kanon share a theme of doubting themselves as being humans. Although at first it seems too abstract and even silly, his is mostly a question of social status. A lot of their problems stem from the way they are treated by people around them, which leaves marks on their personalities. Older servants could probably tell their own stories, but I haven’t seen that yet. I would go as far as to say that social inequality is one of two big topics in Umineko.  Although this theme sort of finds a conclusion in the second episode, it may go on in the others, I don’t know.

More comedy!

The second big topic that goes though the whole series is gender inequality. This is something that made especially clear in the third episode, where Eva confronts her brother and father trying to prove her worth while they are limiting her role to being a wife and a mother. This manga doesn’t just try to state the problem, it also does a fair job going outside of the gender stereotypes the anime/manga stories seem to have. One of the most physically powerful character within the story seems to be Eva, the smartest person seems to be Kyrie, the ones with most agency are Battler, Beatrice, Natsuhi, Eva and Rosa. This is a supernatural murder mystery, yet it doesn’t employ a damsel in distress stereotype, the girls are not just victims. Even though the individual characters are pretty usual, their actions are done right. I wonder if the story manages to get anywhere with there two topics, it would be interesting.

To close this off, just a quick mention of the art. Apparently, Umineko is drawn by a whole lot of different people. The first and third episodes are drawn by Kei Natsumi and the second one is done by Jirou Suzuki. They have a clear difference in the art style, and they even use different character designs. I think both are really good, though they have different strengths and weaknesses. There are lots of really good panels, and character acting is nicely done. You can notice that Suzuki tends to deform human limbs in weird ways and she seems to like giving her characters bushy light-colored eyelids. Natsumi’s scary faces are more reminiscent of Higurashi series. On the other hand, if you read Umineko online, the scans quality is all over the place (especially for Natsumi’s volumes I’ve read) so there is that.

^.^

As my pictures hopefully showed, the manga isn’t hundred percent dark and serious, there are silly jokes and romantic subplots. I find these pretty enjoyable as well.

P.S. Just to let you laugh at me, I’ll tell you a few of the guesses I had about the murderer’s identity. When I read the first episode my favorite theory was that George was the killer. The first six victims were exactly all the adult members of the family, aside from his parents, so it makes sense to suspect them. Next, his parents attacked the only other survivor of the second generation, Natsuhi, though Battler stopped that. Then George’s parents died, which left George to be almost the closest one to be the new head of the family. And their death happened in a closed room. The murder seemed impossible, but it kinda-sorta made sense if they invited George in (they would trust their own son, right?). He did survive the episode too.

My favorite theory for the second episode, where everything was revolving around the fact that only servants had master keys, was that Beatrice counted herself as a servant, so she had a master key too. This would mostly explain all the closed door mysteries, I think.

Alright, sorry for a huge post, congrats if you made it all the way to the end ^^b If you did, be so good and tell me what you think about the series and what I’ve written about it in the comments. See you next time!