Story by Ryukishi07; Art by Kei Natsumi. Released in Japan in three separate volumes as “Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Twilight of the Golden Witch” by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine Gangan Joker. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Stephen Paul.
I have made no secret on Twitter and in my previous review that there are aspects of this omnibus (and the original VN) that I dislike intensely. Basically, I’m not sure how much the reader (i.e. you and I, not Ange-as-Reader) is meant to side with Battler here. I get what Battler is trying to do. Ange at the start of this book is desperate to reunite with her family, to be there in 1986 when everything happened. Ange is suicidal. As such, Battler’s game is there for a very specific reason: he wants to show her that she’s been poisoned, to an extent, by what everyone now says about the “real story” in 1986. He wants to show her that the Ushiromiyas were not the most toxic family ever, that there were times they were happy and even (gasp!) got along. Which is fine. Happy Halloween Kinzo, though, really really makes me angry. We’re not Ange. We’re a reader who has just seen it shown that this is a man who abused his children, raped his daughter, and everything else. I don’t want Battler to be saying “no, Ange, he really loved his grandkids and you’re just remembering it wrong”, because that’s gaslighting, as he readily admits later. I hate it.
This is not to say that the omnibus is overall terrible – it’s actually overall very good. I just dislike that choice A LOT. But – Battler is up against Bernkastel, who presents her own game. Her own game is designed to be “what would make Ange suffer as much as possible”, so, leaving aside all the red truths and purple truths (yes, there’s purple now), readers who read Umineko for the character beats are not going to be fooled. Battler, of course, is. Even as a Game Master who knows the truth, he’s shockingly naive when it comes to Bernkastel, and Beatrice should know better as well. Of course, we now have even morre witches being added to the games willy nilly. There’s Erika Furudo, returned from being in Bern’s doghouse to be Ange’s guiding light. And there Eva-Beatrice, who we hadn’t seen in forever, there to protect Ange from those badmouthing her family. Which is what the real Eva did too. She just sort of also abused Ange while doing it.
Other good things. After all of the “yay, we’re all sweet and nice and no one fights ever!” crap, the party is a lot of fun. The visual novel had a quiz game, which could be somewhat tedious, and winning unlocked various scenes. Here we don’t need to unlock things, so it becomes a game of hide and seek. Unlike Kinzo’s frivolity, I felt these were well-handled, particularly Natsuhi’s torment over Beatrice and Beatrice’s acceptance of it, and Rudolf finally – FINALLY – telling Kyrie the truth about Battler’s parentage. The second “party”, which allows for all the fantasy characters to attend, is riotous, and also lets Lion and Will return, having been rescued from certain death by Lambdadelta, who wanted to see the look on Bern’s face when she found out. (Note Lambda is once again happy to hang out with Battler and Beatrice, but also happy to be on Bern’s side during the game. She’ll need to make a real choice sooner or later.)
As a manga, this is very good, making the visual novel more interesting and adding things that weren’t there originally for greater depth (Rosa’s recollection of her own doll being destroyed – though I note even in the happiest, most idealized of worlds Rosa is still hitting her daughter). The issues I have are with Ryukishi07’s choices to present this to Ange as “this is true, you just remembered it wrong”, which leaves a foul taste in the mouth. In any case, next time, can Battler and the rest stop Ange from finding Eva’s diary? Will Ange learn the truth in the game world or from Hachijo? And will Erika ever stop being smug? (OK, we know the answer to that last one.) Tune in next time to see.