Why “Umineko” Isn’t (and won’t ever be) Popular

Warning: Spoilers for Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Higurashi/Kai.

Warning: “Spoilers” for Umineko no Naku Koro ni. But most of the things said aren’t even spoilers, since so much is up to interpretation, and I merely discuss my own.


Hello and welcome! If you’re into anime and you know some noteworthy titles from the 2000s prior to 2010, you’ve almost certainly heard of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. In English, it means “When the Cicadas Cry,” and the English Dub of the first season is called When They Cry. It’s a thriller/ horror/ mystery show that’s technically a “harem anime” and also includes comedy and supernatural. It’s a fantastic show I recommend to anyone 16+ who can stomach violence.

Maybe, like me, you’re a fan of Higurashi, familiar with the both seasons of the anime, plus the various specials. Or maybe you’ve gone even farther than me and read most or all of the manga. I only know the anime, but I’m a diehard fan. If you love Higurashi, you may have found yourself looking for something else like it to watch. Well, the original creator of Higurashi, known as Ryuukishi07, went on to create the concepts and stories for Umineko no Naku Koro ni (“When the Seagulls Cry.”) The manga ran in 8 “episodes” (arcs) from 2007 to 2015, and an anime adaptation covering 4 of the arcs aired in summer 2009.

In both manga and anime forms, Umineko initially attracted a lot of attention from Higurashi-lovers. But in the end, only a handful of this vast fanbase liked and remained interested in the Umineko anime/manga after the first few arcs. In short, it wasn’t popular; you can even say it “flopped,” at least compared to the Higurashi franchise. So what happened? Where did Umineko go “wrong”? (I say wrong in quotation marks because there are some, like myself, who still love and enjoy Umineko, especially the manga. To me, to us, it didn’t go wrong at all.)

Presented next are some reasons for why Umineko failed to be popular with its potential audiences, Higurashi fans as well as people completely new. For one thing, there were/ are issues with availability of Umineko. I don’t know much about it, other than it’s hard to find the anime and the manga available legally and/or in a translated form. I just wanted to mention that as a potential factor in the way Umineko bombed.

Another reason Umineko failed– particularly in anime form– is the level of unnecessary and graphic violence and death. This turns some people away from Higurashi, too, but in that series, I believe those elements were needed to set the show up as a tragic horror story and to show the reactions of the characters. The same can’t be said of a lot of Umineko‘s content. The excessive gore is there for one reason only: to attract people who, like me, enjoy violence and death in anime form. (Relax– it’s only anime.)

(Evil loli Maria from Umineko)

People like this, like me, are actually fairly few. The shocking depictions of death and torture may be what attracts a lot of people, but for most, Higurashi is lastingly popular because the stories and characters are so interesting. So it was a major blunder to think blood ‘n guts alone would make people interested in Umineko — let alone make them stay for more than a few arcs.

This next reason applies mostly to the Higurashi fans drawn to Umineko. It’s just that Umineko and Higurashi are so different. This was a terrible disappointment to fans who just wanted something else like Higurashi. Umineko takes place in the same universe, and it sort of has a character from Higurashi (a witch born from Rika’s soul). There are some similarities with narrative style and the general feel of the content, but besides that, Umineko is nothing like Higurashi. Well, how exactly is it different?

Higurashi is a thrilling mystery story with amazing characters that provides clear answers to all of the big questions by the end of the series. Umineko is a story about amazing characters talking about whether or not murders committed by magic can be explained with only human means and logic. Answers to the big questions of each arc are rarely given, and they’re never given in a clean, satisfactory way. Most of it is up to interpretation, including the main premise of the show (witches with godlike powers exist and one of them pulls Battler into her games)!

(Beatrice The Golden Witch)

Higurashi is overwhelmly self-consistent, and firm rules are in place that can only be broken by the characters’ repeated attempts to overcome “fate.” Meanwhile, in Umineko, there is a lot of inconsistency, and for most of the series, only one being can make/break the rules (Beatrice). In Higurashi, there are elements of supernatural, what with Hanyuu/Oyashiro, and elements of fantasy/ sci-fi (the existence of brain parasites and Hinamizawa Syndrome). There is only ever one mention of magic or a witch. (Rika refers to herself as a witch who has ended her 100-year journey, at the end of Higurashi /Kai.) However, Umineko has an overflowing abundance of magic, witches, and mythological beings.

These are all major differences. Let me give some examples. Who is behind the mysterious recurring deaths happening every year, what is the reason for characters going insane, and why does Hinamizawa always get wiped out at the end? Those big questions are answered clearly in Higurashi/ Kai. Takano is the murderer mastermind, characters go insane because of Hinamizawa Syndrome, and Rika’s death is the cause of the village’s destruction in every timeline. It’s pretty straightforward and simple.

Now look at Umineko. What are the answers to the logical dilemmas in each arc, what is Beatrice trying to accomplish by repeating the events, and what is the nature of magic? These questions are never answered very clearly. Solutions to the logical dilemmas aren’t given unless Battler or another player provides them. There’s no “right” answer. Beatrice has a goal– to make Battler remember her and fall for her– but that’s only one Beatrice. The Beatrice Witch as an Existence still continues after, repeating the murders for no reason. The nature of magic is that it can’t be measured or explained in any way. Those are the only kind of “explanations” we get.

(That face. Yes, exactly.)

Umineko no Naku Koro ni failed as a popular anime /manga for many reasons. These include availability issues, needless graphic content, and the series’ many differences from Higurashi. There are others I don’t mention here, as well — like Battler being stupid or annoying, or the anime ending without any resolution. Another reason could be that the content of the manga, once you get far into it, was too complex for people to understand, keep up with, or care about. But the most powerful causes of Umineko‘s failure were these: it’s easy to misunderstand what it’s about, and what it’s really about appeals only to a tiny audience.

So what do I mean by that? Well, Umineko sets itself up as a grand mystery with some ideas from and references to classical mystery novels and fiction. Then it does a 180 degree turn and brings in magic that becomes more and more absurd and unruly with each story arc. So is it a mystery-solving anime/manga? Or is it a fantasy tale? Can it be both? Actually, it’s neither. Then what is Umineko about? Once past the misunderstandings which Umineko seems to almost promote in its first few arcs, it’s obvious what kind of story it really is.

Umineko isn’t a story itself, as much as it is a story about stories. It’s not a mystery; it’s about characters discussing, thinking about, and reacting to mysteries. Umineko isn’t a fantasy tale, but a depiction of interesting characters discussing, thinking about, and reacting to fantasy/magic. It doesn’t give answers with each arc; it gives new questions. You won’t be handed any certain or satisfying solutions — only more and more complex puzzles. What do you see when you look at the symmetrical ink blot? There’s no “correct” answer.

(L: Takano’s Witch, Lambda Delta. R: Rika’s Witch, Bernkastel.)

Is there a point of this anime/manga? You could say that seeing the fates of the characters — including Rika’s Witch — is the purpose of this work of fiction. But that alone isn’t worth the mental strain of getting through Umineko — especially if you’re not fond of the main characters. “The point” is to enjoy the process of thinking of possibilities. If you don’t enjoy thinking for the sake of thinking, and trying to wrap your mind around purely hypothetical and theoretical arguments and concepts, then there’s no point in Umineko.

Reading the Umineko manga is like being given a math problem, looking at everyone’s theories on how it might be solved, and then moving onto the next without it ever actually being solved. Oh, and add a splattering of blood, just because. Now for me, that sounds like all hella fun. But I’m kind of weird, if you haven’t noticed. xD So anyway, here’s the thing. Umineko will only ever appeal to a small audience because relatively few people have the time, patience, interest, or personality type needed to enjoy the content. I don’t recommend the manga or the anime, unless you’re the sort, like me, who takes pleasure from objectively pointless mental strain.

(People trying figure out Umineko)

Well then, let’s end on that note. I really want to thank you for reading this anime rant/ ramble. Each and every view is appreciated. Thank you! πŸ™‚

(If you enjoy Anime Rants, please consider supporting this site. At the bottom of the page, in the footer on the right, there is an option to make a $3 donation with Paypal. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’d appreciate it.)

(All images were found by searching the web and I don’t own any of them.)

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12 thoughts on “Why “Umineko” Isn’t (and won’t ever be) Popular

  1. I agree with you that Umineko is much more cerebral than Higurashi and it’s surreal nature probably makes it less appealing to some readers. I love both series, though I have only read the manga adaptations of both and haven’t seen the anime or played the games. I’m also reading Umineko as it’s published in English, so I haven’t read the ending yet, but, based on what I’ve read so far, I’d say that Umineko’s weaker reception may have less to do with the answers to the mysteries being unclear and more to do with the fact that, in some cases, the answers are less satisfying. (SPOILER WARNING for Umineko ahead) Umineko doesn’t have anything like the Answer Arcs from Higurashi, where we see exactly what was going on in the previous Question arcs, but we are given an explanation for how all the murders in the previous games were carried out: Beatrice always had co-conspirators and any conceit that a group of people acknowledged as being true was presented as if it were reality e.g. Shannon and Kanon are distinct individuals. The problem with these answers is they feel like cheap tricks, something that the manga actually acknowledged. I was a little mad about the whole Shannon/Kanon thing when that was first revealed, though I’m more okay with it now, as the manga has always presented reality as being a nebulous concept. I think I’m going to have to go back and reread the whole series once the final volume is released, and see how I feel about the earlier arcs now that I’m armed with these bits of knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment! You made some really good points and I’m glad to see another individual who enjoys Umineko.

      (To be honest, I haven’t read the manga yet for the last two arcs of Umineko. I stopped reading the fan-translated scans because it started to bother me, and I haven’t yet been able to find an affordable copy of either of the last two arcs.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oops, hope I didn’t spoil anything!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No I think you’re good. I remember the part where they find out about Shannon/Kanon.

        You’re correct that the manga gives explanations to some things, debateably the most important things. I guess I meant a something a little different. I’d love to see an arc where every instance of magic can be explained with human logic and actions. But in Umineko, there’s not a world where Battler or anyone else fully achieves that. (Unless it’s at the end of “episode” 7 or somewhere in “episode” 8.)

        Also, I think the anime would be pretty good if you know what to expect from reading the manga. Starting with the anime is a little harder, because the magic and whatnot just seems so out of place at first, when you don’t expect it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The 8th arc does give a run down of how a lot of the ‘magic’ could have been accomplished through human actions. But you’re right, in that they don’t really provide a complete explanation of every instance and in some cases they actually provide multiple explanations of how something could have happened.

        Maybe I’ll check out the anime. I do enjoy the manga and I’d be interested to see how they adapt some concepts (e.g. the whole red truth thing, which I’m sure worked in the game but is kind of hard to incorporate into a manga with no colour).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So. I love Higurashi, and I loved it before watching the second season. I want more of the visceral horror that the show uses. I still remember the opening moments of that show vibrantly.

    To be honest that’s what I want from another series. The way you describe this really makes me less interested in hunting it down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, the purpose of that rant wasn’t exactly supposed to inspire people to watch Umineko, though I don’t want to drive anyone away, either. I only posted it to explain why I think it didn’t commercially succeed.

      Now, there are some shocking and horrific moments in Umineko, but they’re interspersed with a LOT of talking, analyzing, and watching characters think. If you want something similar to Higurashi in all its gory glory, you could try any of these: Mirai Nikki, Elfen Lied, Another, Shiki, Baccano, or Corpse Party. Only a few of them have interesting mysteries, but all of them are quite violent.

      Like

      1. So what I liked about Higurashi wasn’t really the gore itself, but the fact that it felt shocking. I know that sounds weird, but what I mean is that Higurashi is set in a moe world. Everything is cute and tranquil, but the thin veneer of civilization is slowly stripped away usually pretty quickly (I think most of those arcs are about four episodes.) So you have this emotional connection and the, bang, it’s turned on its head. It doesn’t rely on knowing the answer to the world to be interesting. I would compare it to Shiki or Another, but even those aren’t perfect comparisons. More like the last section of Another, but repeated multiple times.

        The way you’re describing Umineko, it sounds like we’re getting a mediated experience. So we know that something is wrong, and we don’t get an immediate emotional connection. There was a horror show like that but I can’t remember it off the top of my head.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hmm… shocking? Moe? *laugh evilly* Please check out Gakkougurashi (School live!) and if you haven’t yet, also Madoka Magica.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’ve heard about Madoka Magica. And my wife watched it while I was doing something else, so I’ve “heard” a lot of it.

        Oh and I want to apologize for the things that didn’t make sense in my post. I went back and reread it and I noticed two problems and I just cringed. I was just like edit, I must edit now πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

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