Book Review: Umineko When They Cry Episode 1

art, book review, manga, Umineko When They Cry, reading, illustration, comics, Japanese, older teen, episode 1
Copyright Kei Natsumi and Ryukishio7

In 1986, Battler-san rejoins his extended family after six years of being apart at a reunion on a private island. Rokkenjima Island is not as it appears, however, and their trip begins with the ominous story of a witch named Beatrice that lurks in the forest. While Battler doesn’t believe in witches, he can’t shake the feeling that something is off upon their arrival. While his father and stepmother bicker with his aunts and uncles about his wealthy grandfather’s inheritance, Battler renews his familial bonds with his cousins. But there is an evil overshadowing everything. More and more evidence begins to point to the fact that Beatrice is real and that the portrait of her hanging in the mansion is not a figurative representation. That’s when the witch’s messenger delivers a letter and the real mystery, and horror, begins.

Umineko When They Cry, written by Ryukishio7 and illustrated by Kei Natsumi, is the first episode of a supernatural mystery manga series. It’s rated as OT (older teen). The book’s pace is slow but satisfying (it added to the suspense) and the art is dramatic and beautiful. I also thought the power dynamics, which showed the unfairness and emotional torture of subjugation, were well done.

While this is another book whose main character I am not particularly fond of (for personal reasons rather than writing issues), I found the overall story to be intriguing. The mystery is confusing enough to be satisfying and suspenseful enough to make me want to keep reading. I will admit, however, that there were times where gratuitous hypersexualization of some of the female characters severely detracted from the story. I understand that there may be some cultural difference here and yet I’ve also read other manga that didn’t need this as a supplement to keep their audience’s attention, but I digress.

What worked well in episode one of the series was the inability for the main character, and subsequently the reader, to settle on any one explanation as to why certain events were happening. Admittedly there were times such as a rose garden scene and a scene with the wife of the firstborn heir that didn’t quite come off as believable for me, but these issues were minor and necessary for the story progression. There are also unexplained mysteries about the grandfather and his servants, which keeps the reader guessing and in suspense.

I would recommend this book for a more mature audience. I would also recommend completely skipping the scenes in the book that hypersexualize women, as they add nothing.

Rykishio7 is also the author of Higurashi When They Cry, the sister series of Umineko When They Cry.

Kei Natsumi is also an artist for Ousama no Mimi wa Okonomimi.

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