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The cover of <i>Alliance of the Golden Witch</i>, the first complete release of an <i>Umineko</i> game, which consists of the four games of <i>When They Cry 3</i>.
The cover of Alliance of the Golden Witch, the first complete release of an Umineko game, which consists of the four games of When They Cry 3.

Umineko: When They Cry (うみねこのなく頃に, Umineko no Naku Koro ni, lit. When the Seagulls Cry) is a Japanese dōjin soft visual novel series produced by 07th Expansion. The first game in the series, Legend of the Golden Witch, was first released at Comiket 72 on August 17, 2007 playable on Windows; the game sold out in thirty minutes.[2] The story focuses on a group of eighteen people on a secluded island for a period of two days, and the mysterious murders that befall them. Readers are challenged to discern whether the murders were committed by a human or of some other supernatural source, as well as the method and motive behind them. Umineko is the third title in the When They Cry series, preceded by Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai, and followed by Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru.

Square Enix, Ichijinsha, Kadokawa Shoten, and ASCII Media Works all published various manga adaptations of the series. It was also turned into a 26-episode anime by Studio Deen, which aired in Japan between July and December 2009. A series of novels written by Ryukishi07 are published by Kodansha Box. A fighting game based on the franchise, Umineko: Golden Fantasia, was released by 07th Expansion on December 31, 2010.

Gameplay


Umineko When They Cry is a murder mystery visual novel, and as such conveys its story primarily through text-based narration and dialogue supplemented by visual and audio elements such as character sprites, background music, and sound effects. It is described as a "sound novel" by 07th Expansion, owing to the game's greater focus on creating atmosphere through audio elements rather than visual aspects. The original releases contain no voice acting for the characters.

Umineko is almost entirely linear and contains no interactive gameplay elements, with the exception of small portions of its final entry, Twilight of the Golden Witch. Besides advancing text, players may also access the Tips Mode, allowing them to read various supplementary information regarding the characters and story. Each episode also contains two epilogues which are successively unlocked, which are continuations of the main story that often contain important plot points.

Despite the lack of interactive gameplay elements, Umineko is framed as a game between the author and the reader, with difficulty ratings given in the descriptions for each episode. This refers to the difficulty of the mysteries in each episode, which the reader is intended to actively try to solve. Several story elements are introduced through the course of the story to aid readers in solving the mystery along with the story's protagonist.

Synopsis


The story begins on October 4, 1986 at Rokkenjima (六軒島), a private island where the wealthy Ushiromiya family have gathered to discuss the division of assets belonging to the ailing family head, Kinzo.[3] Returning after a six-year absence, Kinzo's grandson Battler becomes reacquainted with the legend of the "Golden Witch" Beatrice, who is rumored to have given Kinzo ten tons of gold to restore his financially crippled family in the past. Beside her portrait is an epitaph on which a mysterious riddle is written, which is believed to grant the rumored gold and the succession of the headship to the solver. A typhoon traps the eighteen people on the island, and occult-like murders occur in accordance with the epitaph over the course of the next day, often in ways that seem impossible for a human to have committed.

At the end of the first game, the witch Beatrice revives, leaving no survivors. Refusing to acknowledge the existence of magic, Battler is sent to a parallel dimension, Purgatorio, from where events on Rokkenjima can be overseen. He then faces Beatrice in a game of twisted logic where the murders repeat themselves in different ways, and is tasked to explain them all with human tricks. Over the course of the story, Battler gradually comes to understand magic as an adornment of reality with fantasy, used by several individuals as a coping mechanism for their harsh life situations.

In the final two games, the true identity of Beatrice is revealed as Kinzo's illegitimate child Sayo Yasuda, who plays the role of two of the family's servants, Shannon and Kanon. Having begun work for the Ushiromiya family at age nine, Sayo was ostracized by the older servants and found comfort in the creation of imaginary friends through "magic". They also experienced severe gender dysphoria due to their failure to develop standard female sexual characteristics during puberty. Sayo developed a close friendship and childhood crush on Battler, but suppressed their feelings for him during his absence and eventually entered a relationship with his cousin George as Shannon. Another cousin, Jessica, also developed a crush on Kanon, which Sayo partially wanted to reciprocate.

With the aid of Genji, the head servant, Sayo solves the epitaph and gains possession of the legendary gold and a massive number of explosives under the island, both remnants of an old World War II military base that made contact with the Italians. They also discover their relation to Kinzo, as well as the fact that they had been assigned male at birth, but were raised as female following the loss of their genitals in an accident during infancy. Compounded by the realization that a relationship with any of the cousins would be incest, Sayo is driven to despair and begins planning a mass murder-suicide using the resources at their disposal. Several possible scenarios are thrown into the sea as message bottles with the hope that someone in the future would come to understand the truth, which forms the basis of the first two games. Sayo's plan ends with the detonation of the explosives, which would destroy all evidence and leave only their fictitious tales standing. At the same time, Sayo is unable to fully accept this course of action and makes it possible for another person, ideally Battler, to solve the epitaph and stop them.

However, on the actual family conference of 1986, the epitaph is solved by the adults of the family, and as such, Sayo's plan does not take place. An argument breaks out over the possession of the gold, and Battler's parents, Rudolf and Kyrie, carry out a massacre of the family. Battler's aunt Eva survives the massacre after killing Rudolf and Kyrie in self-defense; Sayo and Battler also survive, but Sayo commits suicide by drowning at sea. Battler, who attempted to rescue Sayo, suffers brain damage and loses his identity as Battler, but retains his fragmented memories. He takes on a new identity under the name Toya Hachijo, and his attempts to piece together the truth of the incident lead him to pen the tales of subsequent games.

Umineko no Naku Koro ni (うみねこのなく頃に, lit. When the Seagulls Cry) consists of the first four arcs of the series. They are referred to as the Question Arcs and introduce the world of the story and its mysteries. Each arc in this series contains all the previous arcs.

Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru (うみねこのなく頃に散, lit. When the Seagulls Cry Scattering) tells second half of the story, delving deeper into the core of the mystery while providing more clues towards the truth of Rokkenjima. Each arc in this series contains all of the previous Chiru arcs.

Umineko no Naku Koro ni Tsubasa (うみねこのなく頃に翼, lit. When the Seagulls Cry Wings) is a compilation of short stories written by Ryukishi07 outside of the games, released on December 31, 2010 alongside Twilight of the Golden Witch. Several of the stories are humorous in tone, but the more serious ones are considered canon.

Umineko no Naku Koro ni Hane (うみねこのなく頃に羽, lit. When the Seagulls Cry Feathers) consists of two additional short stories written by Ryukishi07. It was released on December 31, 2011 alongside Golden Fantasia Cross.

Umineko no Naku Koro ni Saku (うみねこのなく頃に咲, lit. When the Seagulls Cry Bloom) is a collection of all official visual novel content for the series along with two additional scenarios. It is to be released on October 4, 2019.

Development


Umineko When They Cry is the second visual novel series produced by 07th Expansion, the first being Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. The scenario writer for the series is Ryukishi07, who also drew all of the character illustrations. Game direction was handled by Ryukishi07's younger brother Yatazakura, and the overall management of the series was handled by BT until his death in July 2009.[4] Image and text processing was headed by Jika, who took over BT's position of overall management. Background images and photography were provided by Yatazakura, Zekozakura, Mali., and All Season Kisetsu no Irodori. The games were designed using the game engine NScripter. The music of Umineko was provided by various music artists including both professionals and dōjin artists, and Dai, the composer of most of the music found in the answer arcs of Higurashi, also had a hand in the project as the music director. The word umineko is the name of a kind of seagull known as a Black-tailed Gull.[5] Naku means "to make sound" (鳴く), specifically referring to those sounds made by non-human organisms. According to the original creator, Ryukishi07, the red character Na (な) in the logo is an official part of the title.[6]

The first game of the Umineko When They Cry visual novel series, titled Legend of the Golden Witch, was first released on August 17, 2007 at Comiket 72.[7] The second game Turn of the Golden Witch was released on December 31, 2007 at Comiket 73, and the third game Banquet of the Golden Witch was released on August 16, 2008 at Comiket 74. The fourth game Alliance of the Golden Witch was released on December 29, 2008 at Comiket 75.[7] The first game in the Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru series, entitled End of the Golden Witch, was first released on August 15, 2009 at Comiket 76. The sixth game Dawn of the Golden Witch was released on December 30, 2009 at Comiket 77. The seventh game Requiem of the Golden Witch was released at Comiket 78 on August 14, 2010. The eighth game Twilight of the Golden Witch was released at Comiket 79 on December 31, 2010. A fan disc titled Umineko no Naku Koro ni Tsubasa was released the same day as Twilight. A second fan disc titled Umineko no Naku Koro ni Hane was released at Comiket 81 on December 31, 2011. MangaGamer released the Windows games on Steam.[8]

Taito released a version of Legend of the Golden Witch playable on certain mobile phones on March 31, 2009.[9] The game is playable on FOMA 900 and i703 phones, using BREW as a runtime environment.[10]

A remake for the PlayStation 3, subtitled Majo to Suiri no Rondo (魔女と推理の輪舞曲 (ロンド), lit. The Rondo of the Witch and Deduction), was released by Alchemist on December 16, 2010.[11] The release covers the original four games, and its features include a full HD rendition, all of the original soundtracks from the PC games, and full voice acting. Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru was similarly remade for the PlayStation 3, subtitled Shinjitsu to Gensō no Nocturne (真実と幻想の夜想曲 (ノクターン), Shinjitsu to Gensō no Nokutān, lit. The Nocturne of the Truth and Illusions)[12] and released by Alchemist on December 15, 2011.[13] Both remakes were to be ported to the PlayStation Portable under the title Umineko no Naku Koro ni Portable (うみねこのなく頃にPortable), each to be released as two separate games. Rondo was split into Portable 1 (which covers Legend and Turn) and Portable 2 (which covers Banquet and Alliance), released on October 20 and November 17, 2011, respectively. Nocturne was to be split into Portable 3 (which was to cover End and Dawn), and Portable 4 (which was to cover Requiem and Twilight), but both games never came out.[12][14]

A dōjin 2D fighting game produced by 07th Expansion titled Golden Fantasia (黄金夢想曲, Ōgon Musōkyoku) was released on December 31, 2010 at Comiket 79.[15] An append disc, titled Golden Fantasia Cross, was released at Comiket 81 in December 2011.[16] In addition, an Xbox 360 port of the original game developed by Alchemist was released on October 6, 2011 under the title Golden Fantasia X.[17]

On November 3, 2018, developer Catbox Creative announced they would be releasing a Kickstarter for an updated version called Umineko When They Cry: Gold Edition. The game will have an English dub.[18]

Adaptations


A manga version of Legend of the Golden Witch drawn by Kei Natsumi began serialization in the January 2008 issue of Square Enix's Gangan Powered, which was later transferred to the debut May 2009 issue of Gangan Joker after Gangan Powered was discontinued, and continued until the September 2009 issue. An adaptation of Turn of the Golden Witch drawn by Jirō Suzuki began serialization in the August 2008 issue of Square Enix's GFantasy. The manga adaptation of Banquet of the Golden Witch began serialization in the October 2009 issue of Gangan Joker and is illustrated by Kei Natsumi. Sōichirō draws the adaptation of Alliance of the Golden Witch, which began serialization in Square Enix's Internet-based magazine Gangan Online on October 1, 2009. The first bound volume for Legend of the Golden Witch was released in Japan on June 21, 2008 under Square Enix's Gangan Comics imprint. Yen Press licensed the various Umineko manga published by Square Enix for release in North America.[19] A four-panel comic strip entitled Umineko Biyori: Rokkenjima e Yōkoso!! (うみねこびより。~六軒島へようこそ!!~) and illustrated by Makoto Fugetsu was serialized in Ichijinsha's Manga Palette Lite magazine between March 1, 2008 and March 2, 2009. A single bound volume for Umineko Biyori was released on June 22, 2009.

Another manga, Umineko Dōri no Peru-san (うみねこ通りのペルさん), is illustrated by Satoshi Shinkyo and was serialized between the November 2008[20] and May 2009 issues of Kadokawa Shoten's Comp Ace magazine. A cross-over manga drawn by Yuki Hiiro and featuring characters from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni titled Umineko no Naku Koro ni EpisodeX Rokkenjima of Higurashi crying was serialized in ASCII Media Works's Dengeki G's Festival! Comic magazine between January 26, 2009[21] and February 23, 2011. Two volumes of EpisodeX were released, the first on February 26, 2010 and the second on April 27, 2011 under ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Comics imprint.

Frontier Works began to produce a set of drama CDs for Umineko starting with the first volume Ōgon no Kakeratachi (黄金のカケラたち, lit. Golden Fragments) released on June 24, 2009.[22][23] The second volume, Ōgon Chō no Miru Yume wa (黄金蝶の見る夢は, lit. The Dream Seen by the Golden Butterfly) followed on July 23, 2009.[23][24] The voice cast is the same as the anime.[23]

Kodansha Box began releasing novelizations of the visual novel arcs in two volume sets, beginning with Legend of the Golden Witch released on July 1, 2009 for volume one and August 4, 2009 for volume two. The two volumes of Turn of the Golden Witch were released in November and December 2009.[25] The novels are written by Ryukishi07. Novelizations of the other arcs were also produced.

A 26-episode anime adaptation based on the visual novel series aired in Japan between July 2 and December 24, 2009 on Chiba TV, and aired on additional stations at later times.[26] The anime is produced by the animation studio Studio Deen, directed by Chiaki Kon,[27] and written by Toshifumi Kawase. The opening theme of the anime is "Katayoku no Tori" (片翼の鳥, lit. "One-Winged Bird") by Akiko Shikata, and the ending theme is "La Divina Tragedia: Makyoku" (la divina tragedia~魔曲~, lit. "The Divine Tragedy: Diabolic Song") by Jimang from Sound Horizon. The singles for both songs were released on August 19 and September 16, 2009, respectively.[28] The anime is licensed by NIS America for release in North America and was released in two Blu-ray Disc compilation volumes in December 2012.[29]

An Internet radio show titled Umineko no Naku Koro ni Episode R: Radio of the Golden Witch aired ten episodes between August 26, 2009 and January 13, 2010. Produced by Animate TV, the show was hosted by Sayaka Ohara (the voice of Beatrice in the anime adaptation) and featured numerous guests who were also voice actors from the anime such as Daisuke Ono (Battler) and Marina Inoue (Jessica). A special episode was later aired on April 28, 2010 featuring Rina Satō (Ange) and Ryukishi07 as guests. Two CD compilation volumes containing two CDs each were released on December 23, 2009 and January 27, 2010 compiling the ten main episodes.

Music


The visual novels have three opening theme songs. The four games of Umineko When They Cry use the opening theme "Umineko no Naku Koro ni" (うみねこのなく頃に, "When the Seagulls Cry"), composed and performed by Akiko Shikata, which was released at Comiket 74 on August 15, 2008, and for public release on August 29, 2008 by Frontier Works.[28] The first two games of Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru (End and Dawn) use the opening theme "Occultics no Majo" (オカルティクスの魔女, Okarutikusu no Majo, "Occultics Witch") sung by Ayumu from Zwei. The single for "Occultics no Majo" was released on November 26, 2009 by Geneon. The last two Chiru games (Requiem and Twilight) use the opening theme "Kiri no Pithos" (霧のピトス, Kiri no Pitosu, "The Pithos in the Fog") sung by Nei Kino. The PlayStation 3 versions use different opening themes. Majo to Suiri no Rondo uses "Seikyō no Igreja" (誓響のイグレージャ, Seikyō no Igurēja, "Church of Resounding Oaths"), sung by Kokomi. Shinjitsu to Gensō no Nocturne uses "Inanna no Mita Yume" (イナンナの見た夢, "Inanna's Dream"), sung by Ayumu from Zwei.

At the end of each game, there are two ending themes: one played after the completion of the main game (or, in some episodes, after the Tea Party) when the cast of characters is shown and another played after finishing the "????" epilogue when the staff credits are shown. In Legend of the Golden Witch, "Bring the Fate" composed by Hironori Doi is the first ending theme and "Rōgoku Strip" (牢獄STRIP, Prison Strip) composed by -45 is used for the staff credits. Turn uses "Kuro no Liliana" (黒のリリアナ, Black Liliana) composed by U2 Akiyama for the first ending theme and "Senritsu (Shirabe)" (旋律(シラベ), Melody (Shirabe)) sung by Kazumi Kimura for the staff credits. The first ending theme of Banquet is "Dread of the Grave (Rhythm ver.)" composed by SB Yune and the staff credits theme is "Active Pain" performed by Zakuro Motoki. The first ending theme for Alliance is "Discode" sung by Kanae Sakura and "Rōgoku Strip" is again used for the staff credits.

End's first ending theme is "Kodoku na Shinkaigyo" (孤独な深海魚, A Lonely Deep-Sea Fish) composed by -45 and the staff credits theme is "Tsubasa (Hope)" (翼~hope~, "Wings (Hope)") performed by Rekka Katakiri. Dawn uses "Birth of New Witch" sung by Zakuro Motoki as the first ending theme and "Usan no Kaori" (ウサンノカオリ) sung by Nei Kino for the staff credits. The first ending theme for Requiem is "The Executioner" composed by Zts and the staff credits theme "Namae no Nai Uta" (なまえのないうた, Nameless Song) is sung by Kanae Sakura. Twilight has three ending themes, and differs depending on the ending chosen. For the trick ending, the theme used is "Umineko no Naku Koro ni" by Akiko Shikata. For the magic ending, the first ending theme is "Byakumu no Mayu (Ricordando il passato)" (白夢の繭 ~Ricordando il passato~, "Cocoon of White Dreams (Remembering the Past)"), also composed and performed by Akiko Shikata. The staff credits theme is "Engage of Marionette" composed by Dai.

An original soundtrack for Legend of the Golden Witch titled Essence was released on August 26, 2009.[30]

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