Hotarubi no Tomoru Koro ni Prologue Translated

The short story prologue of Ryukishi07’s new manga series, Hotarubi no Tomoru Koro ni, has finally been translated! Big thanks to the translator, because it’s quite well done.

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The short story was released earlier in December as a bonus of the book Umineko no Naku Koro ni ~The Last and First Gift~, which collected previous Umineko TIPS.

After reading it, my first thought is “more, please!” On one hand, I worry about Ryukishi07 retreading the same ground too much. Once again we have the setting of a remote Japanese village with bizarre customs (remember Okamikakushi? That didn’t go so well). On the other hand, I’m loving all the fanservice in form of meta connections to Higurashi and Umineko. My main questions are:

  1. If this is an alternate timeline for Miyo(ko), what happened to Hinamizawa?
  2. Is this a world where the supernatural just plain exists, like Higanbana? (And you might say that the supernatural already exists in Higurashi, but I prefer a naturalistic explanation for it, which makes more sense after reading the God Violating chapter released with Higurashi Hou).
  3. Will Miyoko be the protagonist or antagonist of this story? Right now she reminds me of Erika Furudo, coming in to this isolated world of fragile emotions and just upending everything.
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Umineko Reading List: The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the WindThe Shadow of the Wind is many things. Through its twists and turns, it tells a story both mysterious and romantic, chilling and comedic. If you loved Umineko, and seek more stories in the same vein, The Shadow of the Wind is a fine place to start.

One night, Daniel’s father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, tucked away in the alleys of Fascist-dominated Spain. Daniel may choose any single book from it’s endless bookcases, on the condition that he protect it with his life. The Shadow of the Wind, last remaining copy of a novel by obscure author Julian Carax, catches his attention. Daniel’s quest to protect the book is complicated by the fact that a man has been tracking down copies of Julian Carax’s books, and burning every single one. Even odder, this mysterious figure claims the name of “Lain Couthbert,” The Shadow of the Wind‘s arch-villain.

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Umineko Reading List: The Tokyo Zodiac Murders

tokyo zodiac murdersThe Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada is one of the best-selling mystery novels in Japan. Upon reading, it’s clear why. The story begins with the death of a reclusive artist, and the discovery of rambling note written in his own hand. The note details his plans to gruesomely murder his own daughters and nieces, as part of a “noble” experiment to create the perfect woman, Azoth, with dismembered body parts from each girl.

Soon after his supposed death, the murders occur just as written. The sensational and seemingly impossible crimes shock the world, and remain unsolved for over 40 years. In modern day, the eccentric fortune teller Kiyoshi Mitarai races to solve the case, all for his own personal reasons.

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders was clearly a strong influence on Ryukishi07’s Umineko no Naku Koro ni. Many of the plot points will feel familiar: An eccentric old man sacrifices his progeny to a gruesome ritual, all for the sake of his perfect woman. The mystery shocks the world, inspiring a whole subculture of occult and conspiracy theories. Without spoiling anything, though, it’s probably the mystery’s conclusion that comes closest to the heart of Umineko.

Despite it’s macabre tone, the book is rather easy in one way: it’s a classic “fair play” mystery. Near the book’s end, the author even inserts a note to let the reader know when all clues need to solve the mystery are present. Although it isn’t the hardest mystery novel out there, it definitely has some beautifully clever twists.

The book might disappoint those expecting an atmospheric thrill ride, like Agatha Christie’s And then There Were None.  The crime’s distance of time can make it feel more like an intellectual puzzle than a suspenseful narrative. Still, the characters are well developed, and the atmosphere is perfectly set thanks to some beautiful (and occasionally creepy) passages. The Tokyo Zodiac Murders is strongly recommended to anyone interested in the influences that went into Umineko. Or, anyone just looking for a cracking good classic mystery novel!