The story so far

Various branches of a rich family, the Ushiromiyas, have gathered at the home of the head of the family, a man named Kinzo, for their annual gathering.

There are two generations present:

The remaining characters various servants, two of whom - Kanon and Shannon - are young adults who seem to very obviously be in a situation of abuse to the point that they’re expected to behave like furniture while being viciously scapegoated and harassed.

The remaining servants include:

Finally there is Nanjo Terumasa, a doctor who has given Kinzo a poor prognosis, and Beatrice, apparently some kind of witch.

At the end of the last post, Battler - prone to sexually harassing ‘jokes’ on his cousins - almost sexually assaulted Shannon, but played it off as a joke/misunderstanding. Now the cousins are going to join the parents for dinner.

Murder count: 0.

Comments!

One thing I rather neglected in the Kingdom Hearts playthrough was to respond to the various lovely and informative comments people left during the run. So let’s do it now.

On part 1, @red-zora commented: “to get an indication of lenght, umineko (core arc and chiru)’s englishh translation is jus tunder 1,000,000 words, so it is VERY long. about a long as homestuck actually, and the two have… a lot fo similarities otherwise, too"

Yeah, damn. We’re going to be here a while!

On part 2, @mellifluouslutrinan commented: “european noble houses had cadet branches, formed usually from the non-heirs being granted lesser titles (wp informs me this was also a thing during China’s Western Zhou dynasty but i know nothnig abt that)“

interesting! I guess it makes sense for houses with an excess of children to have noble options other than ‘heir’, ‘married away’, as an alternative to roles such as becoming a priest, joining the army etc. that don’t necessarily give them more power? idk.

also many thanks for a friend who would prefer to remain unnamed filling in some Japanese culture aspects I wasn’t familiar with, and @alchymistryandcoldsteel​ for your lovely encouragement.

friend’s notes:

Snippet from the game. “Her name is written 真里亞. …That one’s not so difficult to read. Of course, it says ‘Maria’. The third character looks like a cross, which is pretty cool.”

Lunchtime

Battler encounters a big portrait of someone that wasn’t there six years ago I’m guessing this is Beatrice.

Large portrait of a seated woman in a fancy dark red dress with gold trim, with ‘golden’ blonde hair and a red bow in her hair.”

We learn Kinzo had this painting hung two years prior, and commissioned it some time before that. The narration makes it clear that she’s not supposed to read as Japanese.

Sure enough, it’s Beatrice. Battler gives us a quick lecture on the dangers and mythological significance of forests as the origins of the Beatrice tale.

Jessica explains that Kinzo believes strongly in the story, and hung this painting to convey it to his grandchildren. The children aren’t impressed.

Next we get a lecture on status as expressed in seating positions at the dinner table. The main point to observe is that direct descendants of the family get precedence over spouses, which the narration highlights as unusual.

Battler gives us another lecture on misogyny, which, considering who’s talking, is pretty fucking rich.

We learn that Kinzo is now regularly late for meals, a major change from six years prior. And because of formal dining rules, nobody eats until he shows up.

He’s reading. What a nerd. We find Krauss has gone to fetch him. Kinzo is not pleased.

Kinzo in his study saying “Silence!! Will you not stop that noise, fool!!! Who taught you that doors shall be opened unto you if you knock?! They crified that imbecile!! Do you wish the same upon yourself?!!”

At least he’s witty?

Kinzo saying “Then kill them all! Chop them up, make them into firewood, feed them to the witch’s hearth!! put a pot in that hearth and boil wormwood! And if still there remain imbeciles foolish enough to dare try to lure me out of here, force them to drink that broth of the Apocalypse! Preserve the remainder in liquor!”

Kinzo is, we can say, not particularly excited for a family reunion.

We get our first look at Krauss…

First view of Ushiromiya Krauss, a large man with a big chin who looks perpetually smug, wearing a red suit and blue shirt both with the One Winged Eagle, as well as a black waistcoat and yellow tie. He is saying “Hmph… looks like he hates me to his core. My voice doesn’t reach him anymore.”

He is literally the human personification of smugness.

For all his great wealth, it seems there is one thing Kinzo lacks…

Kinzo on a black background, crying, saying “Ohh, Beatrice, if I could see yoru smile but one more time, I would plunder the smiles of the Earth and offer them all up to you!! Oooh, commanders of the locust legions, reap the smile of the Earth, *coughcough*, *haack* *kofkof*!!!”

…an indoor voice.

Kinzo’s books consist of ‘forbidden, cursed or sealed’ books, which he insists on calling grimoires. It’s a proper wizard’s study - no doubt somewhere he has a skull with a candle on top.

Kinzo and Genji have a drink and reminisce. Kinzo trash-talks his kids and grandkids, and has another rant about Beatrice being ‘his entire life’ and belonging to him. He comes to a decision on the basis that the power of magic depends on the risk.

Dialogue from Kinzo saying “That is because Moses managed to spectacularly draw out the single miracle carved in the roulette of those in power, which has more pockets than asougi(10^56) and nayuta (10^60) multiplied together.

At dinner, Battler meets Nanjo, and we can fill in the character screen at last.

Screenshot of the character screen, showing the faces of all the Ushiromiya family (arranged as a tree), all the servants and Nanjo.

With all the faces together like this, it becomes especially obvious that the female characters suffer a lot of sameface syndrome. Cut out the hair and it would be very difficult to tell any two of these female characters apart, with the exception of Kumasawa. Lose the eyes and it would be impossible. The same is not remotely true of the male characters, whose faces are varied and expressive.

So now Battler offers us a huge exposition dump to explain Kinzo’s story…

We start before the Showa era (which the translators helpfully note as 1926-1989). The Ushiromiyas were prosperous mill-owners until the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) eras. Kinzo was a member of a branch family, not in line to inherit. But the family mansion in Odawara was wiped out during the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, and all their spinning mills burned down. Kinzo inherited what was left, used it as collateral to take out a huge loan, and then experienced a lot of incredible luck in business which he used to forge connections with the Allied forces in post-WWII Japan and get stinking rich. Through his connections, he was ready in advance to supply the Korean War.

Battler comments that only the ‘super-rich’ made a lot of money off America’s ‘emergency demands’ for the Korean War, and most citizens remained poor. Battler says this happened in 1950 (which would indeed correspond to the start of the Korean War) so it took Kinzo 23 years to revive the family.

After the war he did some economic finagling to obtain the island involving the GHQ, which I don’t fully understand, but meant Tokyo couldn’t get it back. Battler comments that part of his success was due to his command of English due to a ‘West’ obsession, which allowed him to make connections with GHQ more easily.

I do feel like, props to the author for tying this in with actual history so tightly. Knowing this much about history doesn’t seem entirely in-character for Battler, but eh.

In any case, at some point towards the end of his life, the guy got into black magic. Battler finishes by speculating that, in the present with less turbulent times, he probably wouldn’t have been nearly so successful.

Having finished the history lecture, we’re treated to a lunch lecture. It’s thankfully not quite Redwall level. tl;dr: the fish was good and so was the dessert. Kumasawa is sweet and Gohda shows off.

We get a less detailed backstory on Gohda. Apparently he was forced to retire due to internal faction politics at his former hotel.

The kids all bugger off to the beach and it’s time for the adults to get the daggers out again…

Eva snidely saying “That’s right. We’re not children anymore. We are all adults. So I could like it if we could all hold an intellectual discussion without befoming emotional.”

As has been heavily hinted, they’re here to discuss the divvying-up of Kinzo’s fortune. The music gets very grim now.

They discuss his odds of living to the next year. To be honest, I don’t think he has much chance of surviving to the next scene at this rate.

Apparently the fortune amounts to tens of billions of yen. In October 1986 when this game is set, one US$ was worth 156 yen (per Wikipedia). $100 in 1986 corresponds to $223.11 in 2017 (some website). So, ten billion yen in 1986 corresponds to about 140 million US dollars today. Blimey. (Would it be more correct to convert past yen to current yen and then to dollars? Either way, similar order of magnitude I guess?)

But because some of it is capital in non-money forms, it’s hard to split evenly.

In any case, Krauss and Natsuhi are much more reluctant to discuss the splitting of the inheritance than the rest of the group, even Rosa. This leads to… vicious verbal sniping, what else?

We get some political/economic context: the yen is rising on the dollar (evident in the data I looked at; Eva speculates about 100 dollars to the yen), and also there’s a legal change for happy capitalists…

Eva saying “Also, the ruling party says that it will establish a health resort maintenance law by next year. At this moment, resort development companies across Japan are running about trying to gather as much capital as they can.”

The ‘ruling party’ would be the Liberal Democratic Party, a conservative party. The prime minister at the time was Yasuhiro Nakusone, who was pursuing privatisation policies much like his contemporaries Reagan and Tatcher.

There’s further discussion of the economic situation in Japan in 1986.

Hideyoshi saying “Krauss-san, your foresight is somethin’ else. …When I heard this several years ago, I thought it was ridiculous. …But see, when I heard about the G5 nations’ Plaza Accord, that changed.”

The Plaza Accord concerned exchange rates; the dollar was depreciated against the yen and Mark.

The author of this game has certainly swallowed at least one textbook on the economic history of Japan.

In any case, this is all pretext to attack Krauss’s economic insight and argue about the inheritance. Krauss’s reason for the new builds on the island is to open a resort. But the siblings are skeptical… or more precisely, they say the project fell through because Krauss mismanaged it and the predicted resort boom had not yet come. Hence, Krauss has huge debts. Implication: he’s been using Kinzo’s money to cover his losses. Committing embezzlement.

Eva’s voice actress does a splendid job of portraying her vicious glee as she levels the accusation. She’s got a good evil laugh too.

I didn’t think an argument over money could actually be quite exciting, but the writing’s coming into its own now, and the pacing is a lot better. Now, when do the murders start?

Eva mentions the bird icon all the Ushiromiyas wear. Apparently it’s called the One Winged Eagle. The whole deal with direct descendants > spouses is brought up explicitly as Eva tears into Natsuhi over her attempt to assert authority.

A dramatic half-screen CGI of a furious Eva pointing her fan at Natsuhi, who is wearing a purple dress and a lilac cravat without the One Winged Eagle. The narration says “…There were a hundred ways Natsuhi wanted to respond. However, her anger and sorrow crushed her throat, and not one of them managed to make it to her mouth.”

The bourgeoisie are pretty fucked up huh.

Natsuhi leaves in tears. And Krauss doesn’t stand by her one bit, dismisses her completely coldly. Suspecting the Ushiromiyas are literally made of snakes.

Kumasawa drops by to explain the situation underlying their rivalry.

So. Usual rule: woman marries outside of Ushiromiya clan, no longer part of the hierarchy. So Eva would be disqualified.

But, Krauss and Natsuhi had no kids. And patriarchal rule is no kids = woman is worthless. Kinzo abused Natsuhi for being childless. Eva took advantage, and persuaded Kinzo to change the rule and let her stay in and have an heir even if she married.

Narration by Kumasawa saying “There was a vast difference in the Ushiromiya hierarchy between Madam, who married into the Ushiromiya family, and was treated like an outsider, and Eva-sama, who was related to the family by blood and whose husband took on the Ushiromiya name.”

And Natsuhi, of course, blames herself. This is grim :(

Kumasawa repeats a line: “How heartrending… I cannot do anything but watch over from the shadows”, much as she did with Kanon and Shannon earlier. That phrasing seemed maybe-significant before, but now it’s repeated, suspecting Kumasawa is Beatrice or something similarly out-there.

Things are happening at last, so this is finally starting to get good. Hopefully that will continue. Next time, back to the kids.