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 murder mystery dōjin soft visual novel series produced by 07th Expansion (Ryukishi07). The story is divided into eight main arcs, which are referred to as episodes. The first four episodes of the series are referred to as Umineko no Naku Koro ni Question Arcs to distinguish it from the full series. It is succeeded by Umineko no Naku Koro ni Chiru, which consists of the last four episodes.
The first entry, Legend of the Golden Witch, was first released at Comiket 72 on August 17, 2007. Successive episodes were released at each Comiket thereafter, with the final entry of the main story, Twilight of the Golden Witch, being released on December 31, 2010. The entire series was fan-translated by The Witch Hunt, who later collaborated with MangaGamer to officially release the series in English worldwide as Umineko When They Cry Question Arcs and Umineko When They Cry Answer Arcs on July 8, 2016 and November 17, 2017, respectively. The English edition is playable on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems and may be purchased on MangaGamer, Steam, or GOG.
Umineko When They Cry is considered to be a sequel to Higurashi When They Cry, and the two are part of the overarching When They Cry series. While Umineko contains significant elements that are related to Higurashi, the main plot of Umineko is its own independent story.
Welcome to the world of "Umineko When They Cry" (When Seagulls Cry)
Welcome to the Rokkenjima of October 4, 1986.
You have been given a chance to catch a glimpse of the family conference held annually by the Ushiromiya family.
The remaining life in the old family head who has built up a vast fortune is very slim.
To his children, the greatest point of contention at this family conference is the distribution of his inheritance.
Everyone desires all that money, no one relents, and no one believes.
Who will gain the old head's vast inheritance?
Where is the 10 tons of gold that the old head is said to have hidden?
Can the unnerving riddle of the epitaph which is said to point to the location of that gold be solved?
In the midst of this, a suspicious letter is sent from one claiming to be a witch.
The presence of a 19th person on this island, which should only have 18, begins to hang in the air.
Brutal murders repeat, and unsolvable riddles are left at the scene.
How many will die? How many will live? Or will everyone die?
Is the culprit one of the 18, or not?
Is the culprit a "human", or a "witch"?
Please, enjoy this isolated island, western mansion, mystery-suspense gadget of the good old days to the fullest.
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 linear and contains no interactive gameplay elements. 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, the Tea Party and ???, which are successively unlocked. They are continuations of the main story that often contain important plot points, and are required to be read before progressing onto the next episode.
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.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni takes place primarily from October 4 to 5, 1986 on Rokkenjima, a small island privately owned by the wealthy Ushiromiya family. The Ushiromiya family gathers for the annual family conference, which concerns the division of assets belonging to Kinzo, the ailing family head. In addition to the twelve family members are five of their servants and Kinzo's physician, comprising a total of eighteen people.
The protagonist Battler Ushiromiya, one of Kinzo's grandchildren, has been absent from the family conference for the past six years due to personal family circumstances. Upon his return, Battler becomes reacquainted with the legend of the "Golden Witch" Beatrice, who is rumored to have given Kinzo ten tons of gold in the past to revive the Ushiromiya family, which had been crippled in the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake. A portrait of her lies in the entrance hall of the Ushiromiya family mansion, and a puzzling epitaph is written below it. It is rumored that whoever solves the epitaph's riddle will receive the gold and become the successor to the Ushiromiya family. After a typhoon traps the family on the island, mysterious murders begin to occur, often in ways that seem impossible for a human to have committed.
Concept and Development
Improvements From Higurashi
Development for Umineko began soon after the end of Higurashi. Ryukishi07 settled on the tentative title of Umineko no Naku Koro ni since the Higurashi title was more well-known than 07th Expansion’s, and he wanted to make it clear it was a continuation of Higurashi.
With his new work, Ryukishi wanted to improve on various flaws Higurashi had. He regretted not making enough character sprites for Higurashi, so with Umineko he planned to make sprites for every character unless they weren't absolutely important. As a result, Umineko's first episode features 18 characters in its initial cast. Umineko also improves on the technical side by letting character bios and TIPS be read at any time by right-clicking.
Similar to Higurashi's All-Cast Review Sessions, Umineko featured Tea Parties that at first were intended to show the characters getting together and talking about the story in a laid-back, humorous way. The original version of Episode 1 even had the Hidden Tea Party/??? actually be hidden, which could only be unlocked by fulfilling certain criteria. Over time, these Tea Parties became integrated into the story and were no longer optional.
The main characters' outfits were inspired by gothic lolita fashion magazines, as Ryukishi envisioned them as being "classy elites". He also used a different method of drawing for his character artwork: In Higurashi he used airbrushes, but in Umineko he used line paint.
Early Influences and Story Changes
Umineko incorporated a lot of Western influences. The story arc titles were all written in English to give it a Western feel, used recurring motifs like chess, and derived a lot of inspiration from the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None.
- Main article: Land of the Golden Witch
Due to strong complaints from readers that Episode 2 was difficult, Ryukishi scrapped the original version of Episode 3, Land of the Golden Witch, and reused and rewrote some of its concepts for Banquet of the Golden Witch onwards. Along the way, Ryukishi wrote many short stories tying into Umineko, with Memoirs of the ΛΔ written to “lock in” the culprit and ensure they didn't change while the rest of the story did.
Throughout the development of Umineko, Ryukishi at first didn't explicitly reveal the answers to respect readers who arrived at their own conclusions. He changed his mind over time, releasing the booklet Our Confession that provided more hints and later approved additional story details featured in the manga adaptation of Twilight of the Golden Witch.
- Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch
- Episode 2: Turn of the Golden Witch
- Episode 3: Banquet of the Golden Witch
- Episode 4: Alliance of the Golden Witch
- Episode 5: End of the Golden Witch
- Episode 6: Dawn of the Golden Witch
- Episode 7: Requiem of the Golden Witch
- Episode 8: Twilight of the Golden Witch
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni Tsubasa: a collection of previously-released short stories adapted into visual novel format released alongside Episode 8.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni Hane: another collection of short stories released alongside the fighting game spinoff Golden Fantasia.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni Saku: a compilation including all previous titles (Question Arcs, Chiru, Tsubasa, and Hane), 07th Theater, a visual novel adaptation of Our Confession, and a new episode Last note of the Golden Witch.
- Main article: Umineko WHEN THEY CRY (manga)
A manga series was serialized from 2008 to 2015, consisting of the Question Arcs, Answer Arcs, and Tsubasa. It was licensed for English release by Yen Press.
- Main article: Umineko no Naku Koro ni (novel)
A light novel series was illustrated by Tomohi and published by Kodansha from 2009 to 2018, covering the Question Arcs and the Answer Arcs.
- Main article: Umineko: When They Cry (anime)
Studio DEEN created an anime adaptation of the Question Arcs that originally aired in 2009.
Ports and Rereleases
Rondo of the Witch and Reasoning
- Main article: Rondo of the Witch and Reasoning
A PS3 port of the Question Arcs produced by Alchemist, featuring new art and voice acting.
- Main article: Umineko no Naku Koro ni Portable
PSP ports of Rondo. Portable 1 contains Episodes 1 and 2 while Portable 2 contains Episodes 3 and 4.
Nocturne of Truth and Illusions
- Main article: Nocturne of Truth and Illusions
A PS3 port of the Answer Arcs, featuring new art and voice acting.
Symphony of Catbox and Dreams
- Main article: Symphony of Catbox and Dreams
A PS4 and Switch port of Saku produced by Entergram, featuring new art and voice acting.
- The word "umineko" refers to a kind of seagull known as a black-tailed gull. "Naku" means "to cry" or "to make a sound" (鳴く), referring only to sounds made by non-humans when written with that kanji; no kanji is provided in the series logo, however. According to Ryukishi07, the red Na (な) in the logo is an official part of the title.
- Umineko When They Cry Question Arcs Store Page (MangaGamer) https://www.mangagamer.com/detail.php?goods_type=0&product_code=177
- Production Journal entry on September 9, 2006.
- Production Journal entry on September 12, 2006. Translation by rockmor
- Episode 1 Shinsou Kaimei Dokuhon page 101
- GanGan Powered No. 8 Interview, August 2007
- Production Journal entry on September 7, 2009. Translation by rockmor
- Answer to the Golden Witch
- Ryukishi07 Interviews (Epitanime 2012)
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni: The First and the Last Gift author note, page 61
- Answer to the Golden Witch: KEIYA: “Won’t he reveal the solution a little more clearly?” was the expectation of many people, I think. But you have said in interviews and so on, that “there wouldn’t be a clear solution like that”. And it really became a finale just like that.
Ryukishi07: So that’s where you’re coming from all of a sudden *laugh*. It’s a little misleading to say, that I said something like “I wouldn’t reveal the answer”. I have made it to the point where in a classical mystery someone would say “All the mysteries have been solved!”, the answer has been made clear enough and not few people have actually arrived at the truth. For me there has always been a path leading towards the truth and there have been enough people on it at certain points to be sufficient. The people arriving there have arrived because they thought about it. And wouldn’t it be inexcusable towards those who actually put effort into arriving at that truth, to just give the answer to those who didn’t arrive because they did not think about it.