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Karifean's Blog of Visual Novels

Umineko: Episode 4 Tea Party

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You talk too much. All you have to do is honestly say 'I'll kill you'.

For those that don't know, the climaxes of Episodes 4, 5 and 6 are my 3 favorite moments in Umineko (which also makes them my 3 favorite moments in fiction overall), all for their own individual reasons. I've been dying to talk about them for a while. I figured I'd start with the Episode 4 Tea Party, quite possibly the greatest example of Ryukishi's writing skill of them all.

This post will contain implicit spoilers for all of Umineko, and obviously very explicit spoilers for its first half.

Umineko OST - Dir


It's a setup we've seen a hundred times. The final showdown between the hero and the villain. The hero asserts how important his family and friends are to him, how he'll stick to his ideals never giving up, and how he'll beat the villain to take back his everyday life. The villain laughs and stares in his face with a cocky smile, daring him 'just you try'.

Shirou did it to take down Gilgamesh and his master. Ren did it to take down Reinhard and his people. And now Battler does it to take down the Golden Witch herself - Beatrice. And the most kickass soundtrack yet plays as the curtain raises on our 'final battle'.

But it's so wrong. It's all so wrong.

Let's rewind back to the final stages of Episode 4 proper. Battler takes his test and as Beato prods him to remember his 'sin', he comes up empty-handed. He cannot think of anything that could possibly fit the bill. He dismisses it as something unimportant, but then Beato says in red that because of his sin, people die. Battler's response? Complete denial. He does not take well to the prospect of being one of the causes of the incident when the witch in front of him is clearly the actual culprit.

And at that, Beato gives up. Her attempts at getting Battler to give a damn failed, she loses all faith that he'll ever see through to the truth. Even now he gets defensive and refuses to seriously consider what she's telling him. So the game is abandoned. As a parting gift Beato gives him a little bit of an existential crisis.

However, there's a piece in this game that will absolutely not allow Beato to leave things as they are: Ange. Ever since Episode 4 started her role has been to get Battler serious. She had Beato introduce the blue truth to make the game more 'fair' on a mechanical level, and Beato naively played right into it. In doing so she yielded control over the pace of the game. Now, if Battler wants to he can simply pressure Beato over and over until there's nothing left but the cold hard facts of the matter. While Beato was in control she could prevent this from happening and guide Battler more and more towards the way of thinking he would need to reach her heart.

Now with Ange in the game things don't go smoothly. The voyagers and Ange forcibly drag Beato and Battler back into the game (destroying Beato's final safe haven in the process) and this time, Ange does not allow Beato to determine the pace; she gives Battler very clear motivations unrelated to the witch. And to make things worse, it's combined with Ange willingly sacrificing her life, decisively shackling Battler. He can no longer turn back, otherwise Ange's sacrifice would be 'for nothing'.

The ultimate emotional manipulation.

And with that, all the pieces are in place for Beato's downfall. Checkmate. So what does she do?

She plays along. She takes it upon herself to play the role of the evil witch that stole Battler's family from him until the end. To allow Battler to end her once and for all, without having to question what he's doing.

Even so, it's not easy. Beato struggles to keep her facade intact, and Battler likes to talk big but still cannot bring himself to actually start tearing into her.

This right here is part of why I love the original sprites of Umineko so much. The emotion packed into each of them *perfectly* matches the situation. Beato gathering her resolve and putting her trollface back on (but still betraying her true feelings) and Battler wordlessly bursting into tears. And then we get flashes of red text that spell out Beato's feelings to us even further.

And so we find ourselves at the Tea Party once again. We get a small repeat of the prior section as Battler, again, talks about just how much he's gonna beat Beato up, until Beato steps in and tells him to just say he'll kill her. It's tragic to see how transparent Battler's anguish is and how much he'd rather not do this, but the emotional shackle placed on him through Ange is something he simply cannot ignore.

In a visual novel full of scenes that mean entirely different things when not taken at face value, this is perhaps the most deceptive of them all. Because chances are, a lot of the subtleties in this scene will go straight over your head the first time reading it. And why wouldn't it? This is a setup you've seen a hundred times. The soundtrack, the atmosphere, it's all screaming at you that this is a totally awesome final battle between the righteous hero and villainous witch. And I know first hand just how easy it is to get caught up in this narrative. Hell, even Lambda and Bern try to convince you of it, and convincing they are since Beato *really* was nowhere near being cornered mystery-wise.

Umineko is not forgiving either. It never actually points out the intricacies of this scene to the reader, not now, not later on. This is something you'll have to drag out yourself.

Back to the Tea Party.

The battle is of course an utter farce. Besides Battler's theory about Kinzo being already dead, which is true, his theories about an 18th person X committing the crimes are, of course, complete and utter bulltrout. Still, there's nothing quite like looking at a spectacle of a logic battle with red and blue being thrown back and forth and Dreamenddischarger blaring through the speakers, or even better, headphones.

It's still hard to read just how much pain Beato endures playing her role though, and we are reminded of that just about every time Battler pulls out one of his theories. I love how Battler breaks through all the riddles and then instantly prompts Beato to counterattack though. He really doesn't want this to end, not because he wants to torture her further, but because he wants to spend more time playing with her. Ange was completely and utterly right in that assertion. Battler and Beato were having the time of their life playing this game... until Bern brought in Ange and drove things to a fast close.

After explaining how Kinzo could have been dead the entire time without any contradictions, Beato falls for the first time. This is when we hear Beato's first person perspective on this whole scene. She hates it. She's sick of playing this role, sick of enduring this pain, sick of being just a piece in the voyagers' game even though she's become a witch now.

She realizes, this was a game without victory from the very beginning. And yet she entered the game hoping to 'win'. There's a good hint at her motives buried in those seemingly contradictory statements.

And she knows. Battler being like this, Battler asserting himself and fighting Beato completely robs her of even a glimmer of the miracle she'd hoped for. Although Battler still manages to ask the right questions...

Even now that she's given up, as if to add insult to injury, Battler still refuses to finish her off. He knows she didn't actually lose. Even though Beato reminds him that her loss means that he gets to return to Ange as he wanted, he cannot leave things as they are. Because ultimately, that's where his priorities really lay.

And he pretty much unmistakably betrays that fact in this little scene.

And so, after being beaten down and impaled all over, she has no choice but to start again from zero. To play the witch, again, this time making sure not to let Battler leave things unfinished.

With Beato confirming the death status of Kinzo, round two begins.

Round two is at first glance quite similar to round one, except Battler now actually makes theories revolving around more than the 18th person X. And then you have theories like this one...

Which really make Beato want to facepalm, buuuut she manages to keep up the facade of taking him serious as an opponent. For the most part, that is. She doesn't hesitate to point out just how crazy his ideas are at every given turn.

This segment is one of the finest examples of Ryukishi's capabilities at writing subjective narration. Battler repeatedly comments on the wounds Beato sustains and just how much they must hurt and how much she's probably suffering, before immediately reminding himself of what he has to do, and that she's his enemy. He himself doesn't even realize the meaning of that.

And Beato brings up Ange again and again to make sure Battler's focus remains on killing her this time.

When Battler brings up the infamous small bombs theory, Beato can't even care anymore. And I really can't blame her. For someone who wants their adversary to pierce the mystery and understand the heart it can't be anything but disheartening to find him stumbling at some of the most fundamental tricks in her book and pose small bombs as a theory instead. I mean, full points for creativity, but even he himself acknowledges that his logic is totally messed up.

The pretense is getting harder and harder to keep up, but she still manages, and bringing up Ange always manages to get Battler riled back up.

Of course, Battler still has to convince himself that he's eradicating an evil, saving his family, etc etc. If he didn't have that, he'd be left facing the fact that he's putting the woman he loves through the worst agony imaginable.

In the end, Battler pierces all mysteries including the red web of truth that is Nanjo's murder in Episode 3. And as soon as he does, Beato can't take it anymore. She breaks down crying.

Umineko OST - Thanks for being born

And at that sight, Battler's resolve crumbles as well. Even when Beato brings Ange back up, he denies it. He won't listen to what she wants for his own sake, but so he can stop her pain.

With that, Beato poses her final riddle, setting up Battler's motivations going into Episode 5. Ange is no longer his priority. Beato is. It would take an entire extra episode for him to actually understand the reason why, though.

Whereas in other stories the protagonist stepping up and asserting themselves is a hype moment to be celebrated, Umineko brutally undercuts it. In this Tea Party, Battler very much murders his ideal woman, in a one-sided slaughter masquerading as an epic confrontation. The character development of Battler in this tale is not of a hero learning to defend what is important to him. It's of an adolescent learning that the world is a lot more complex than he might want to believe, and trying to fit people into a convenient narrative can lead you to making terrible mistakes.

Umineko doesn't make it easy for him either. Beato very much dies as a result of his actions here, and by the time Battler realizes what he's done, it's all too late. He cannot take back this period where he was ignorant for just a bit too long.

Still, he learns. The Episode 4 Tea Party is Battler at his worst, blocking out Beato's very being in favor of following his own constructed narrative. With Episode 5 on the horizon, it's all uphill from there.

Umineko is a meta-commentary on many things, and nary a scene exemplifies it as well as this one. One of my absolute favorite scenes in Umineko, and quite possibly the best-written scene I've ever read in a visual novel.

Updated 07-09-2017 at 10:08 PM by Karifean

Miscellaneous , Video Games