After many hours of scene-setting, a third of the cast has died overnight. And circumstances (or witchcraft) contrives so that…
How could it happen, Hideyoshi? How indeed? It’s almost like you’re all in a carefully constructed murder mystery scenario.
Obviously this was Beatrice the Witch, operating by magic. But in case it wasn’t, how could they have dunnit?
In some order, if the murderer is an external agent…
- the murderer enters the house before Shannon finishes locking up.
- they run into Shannon patrolling, possibly outside Natsuhi’s room, and kill her, resulting in the bloody handprint.
- Eva and Hideyoshi have gone to bed, but some subset of Krauss, Rudolf, Kyrie and Rosa are continuing to discuss the inheritance in the dining room. They enter the dining room, probably armed, and kill them, leaving a bloodstain. Though wouldn’t this perhaps wake up the others? Perhaps not, if the walls are thick enough and the storm is loud enough.
- they need to hide the bodies. so they go to the servant’s quarters, and find Gohda still reading. They kill him too, and take the key. the others are all asleep or in the guest house.
- they carry all bodies to the shed.
- they mutilate the bodies in the shed. then, they close the shed and make an arcane sigil on the door.
- they lock the shed, put the key back, and escape into the forest to lie low
This doesn’t offer any kind of motive. It’s plausible, if not likely, that Eva or Hideyoshi is the murderer and very good at acting. The narration seems to suggest otherwise, and I didn’t get the impression either was quite that ruthless.
Natsuhi asks why they even have an emergency radio if it’s no use in an emergency. Genre conventions, Natsuhi!
Eva suggests semaphore. Brilliant idea.
And then… it’s revealed Kinzo has gone! Dun dun duunnnnn!
Eva, at least try not to sound like you’re salivating over that inheritance right now!
The kids reminisce about Shannon while they wait for something to happen. It’s an effectively poignant scene. George gets survivor’s guilt, arguing that if Shannon hadn’t been embarassed and gone to the mansion, she’d have lived.
Battler’s grief has turned quickly to restlessness and anger. He ends up discussing with Eva whether the murder could be connected to the Beatrice letter.
And reaches an inevitable conclusion…
Eva argues the culprit must have known the keys well enough to know which one is the one for the storehouse, and the location of the storehouse. Conclusion: one of the servants dunnit.
That leaves Genji, Kanon and Kuwasawa as suspects. Kanon is unlikely to kill Shannon… Kuwasawa is an old woman who would struggle to murder people or lift bodies (plus it seems rather out of character)… so could Genji have dunnit?
Kuwasawa argues that there must have been multiple accomplices to have overpowered the four in the dining room and moved the bodies. Kanon and Kuwasawa don’t seem like they’d be much good as accomplices though.
Eva adds that they’re no more defensible now than the others were the night before, so to keep her suspicions quiet.
I think Eva is wrong tbh. Murdering Shannon would be completely implausible for Kanon or Kuwasawa given what we know about their relationships, and I don’t think Kanon could be such a good actor either. Genji we know less about, and it’s possible that Kinzo and Genji worked together. Kinzo has motive to perform the black magic ritual written in the riddle which starts with six ‘sacrifices’. But again, it’s unlikely. Kinzo is an old man dying of illness, surely not much of a fighter. And Kinzo seems to be expecting Beatrice to act, not carrying out murders himself. Genji, too, isn’t a total cipher, and it seems unlikely he’d go as far as to murder on Kinzo’s say-so.
So perhaps they aren’t alone on the island. Could someone have stowed away on a boat, or landed on a different part of the island? Perhaps aided by an off-shift member of staff?
…Because the reasoning we had arrived at was altogether too simple. Reasoning that anyone could arrive at. …And I just couldn’t accept that.
Battler adds some other counterarguments, observing that it would be an unlikely mistake for the servants to implicate themselves.
Battler also takes the opportunity to plug the previous VN in the When They Cry series…
…Just like the words of the main character’s mother in a novel I read recently called Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.
@alchymistryandcoldsteel has told me that Umineko no Naku Koro ni, to use its full title, was in some ways a commentary on the way fans received Higurashi. Apparently Higurashi ends supernaturally, and a lot of people found this unsatisfying. This being 1986, it’s unlikely the version Battler read is a dōjin soft visual novel though :p
Battler, thinking from the perspectives of the various agents, concludes the discovery of the bodies must have been the point of the murder, not an accident. He notes that everyone but Eva and Hideyoshi lost someone close to them in the murders. And, as already noted, Eva had a motive.
Eva anticipates the suspicion, of course. She suggests that someone might be trying to frame her for the murder. She argues that this wouldn’t be a sensible way to go about murders for inheritance money, and Genji can provide an alibi.
The others consider the cross symbol. Battler hypothesises that it’s a message to Kinzo, the only member of the family (apart from Maria) to be into the occult.
Nanjo seems to know about the cross. He says it was a crest from a religious order of knights, protecting pilgrims. That would be the Teutonic Order, I suspect.
At this point Maria turns into the devil?
More precisely, the narration describes her as having an uncharacteristic knowing evil smile and laughing, and the jaunty occult theme kicks in. And that face happens.
Who wore it best?
Anyway, the obvious reading is that Maria is being possessed by Beatrice. She declares it’s the ‘seventh magic circle of the sun’ with Hebrew characters.
Those did not look like Hebrew characters in the illustration, just random smudges, but I guess blood isn’t an easy medium to write in.
Maria gives us a quick lecture on occultism. I have no idea if this is accurate to any occult tradition, but searching the names of those first four angels gets a handful of Google results that are lists of angels, e.g. here. And here, on the site of “ongoing adventures and insights of a magician’s attempts to accomplish the Great Work”, the second list of four names gives those names as rulers of elements.
The Seventh Magic Circle of the Sun, or at least Seventh Pentagram of the Sun, also appears to be a real thing, one of the Seals of Solomon. Here’s a cleaner version (from here):
I can’t read Hebrew, but Maria’s description is echoed on sites listing the Seals. Maria explains the magical effect of this Seal, when engraved on a gold talisman, is to release people from bonds and gain freedom. This is also echoed on occult sites (which is to say, talisman shops.)
Naturally, metaphorical bonds, including mental bonds also count. Perhaps the sacrifice is considered a ‘release’ from their obligations in life…
Maria continues to say creepy shit…
So: the murders were committed not for a material motive, but a magical one. Or so the murderer wants everyone to think.
Battler muses on this a bit, acknowledging that in a sense since they received Beatrice’s letter they have been drawn into another, isolated world where normal rules don’t seem to.
…To hell with that shit, this is the human world. As if I give a crap about witches, demons, magic circles and sacrifices.
…and then, after a childhood flashback, he resolves to reject it and remain resolutely committed to rationality and the ‘human world’ and a cool theme kicks in that I think has a distorted steel drum? I think, given what Wren has told me, this here is a key part of Battler’s motivation later.
Battler takes another shot at - Kyrie’s recurring words - ‘flipping over the chessboard’ and analysing the situation from the murderer’s perspective.
He resolves to take on the ‘witch’ in a battle of wits and reveal her for ‘who [she] really [is]’. There’s a bit of a ‘trust no-one, not even yourself’ moment as the camera pans round the room and back to him.
Then Natsuhi shows up with a ‘rifle’ (though in the art it looks more like a sawn-off shotgun tbh). Apparently it’s inspired by Kinzo’s love of westerns.
I wonder what gun law is like in Japan? Not that it would really apply to someone as rich as Kinzo in practice. Wikipedia says “The weapons law begins by stating “No one shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords”, and very few exceptions are allowed. However, citizens are permitted to possess firearms for hunting and sport shooting, but only after submitting to a lengthy licensing procedure.” They say Kinzo used it for sport shooting, so it’s probably legal… or not, since Genji asks them to keep it sceret.
One more time, Battler raises the question of ‘is there a 19th person’ in the narration. And the chapter ends.