opusculus: Black hole (Default)
[personal profile] opusculus
So I expected to be really bothered by the choice Ange was offered in Umineko's ending, because the choice as described was mystery or fantasy, and it was very, very clear that choosing mystery was the bad end. And I, personally, am really not a fan of choosing fantasy if it's not what actually happened. At heart, I'm an atheist because I fundamentally can't personally do that without being very aware that I believe I'm lying to myself, and so I expected this to really, seriously annoy me because I have an instantaneous twitch reaction to forcing yourself to believe fantasy = making yourself a better person. I mean, I love fantasy as a genre, but it's not something I fundamentally believe in in any way, and things that tell me people should generally really annoys me.

…It didn't! And that shocked me. And I think that comes down, to me, to the way it was presented. The choice Ange was presented was so obviously a trick that I couldn't in fairness call it a trick, because a trick attempts to deceive you and this didn't. And it's actually what made me figure out what Umineko meant by magic (or at least how someone as persistently non-fantastic as me sees it.)

Fantasy in Umineko, while definitely shading into "if you believe in it, it will happen" at times, really is much more about defining who you are, and choosing to view the people around you in the best possible way, than it is about impossible things happening. And it genuinely surprised me to realize how well mystery fits as choosing to view people in the worst possible way. I mean, look at what Bern and Erika did when they took over the game - they made Natsuhi have an affair and throw her son off cliffs and it was all very LOOK AT HOW HORRIBLE THESE PEOPLE ARE to the point where it was very obviously unfair. Even though…Natsuhi did throw the baby that Kinzo gave her to raise off the cliff um. But using that to prove that she was a terrible person responsible for the murders was seen and viewed as a terrible violation, done only by villains who…well, are incapable of giving people the benefit of the doubt. Even when it leads to their own unhappiness.

And this gets down to the heart of Umineko, and why I fundamentally view it as doing the same thing as Higurashi from a different perspective. Because what both Umineko and Higurashi do is put the worst possible acts you can imagine up there on the screen, and then go "this is terrible and horrible, and you should be as sad for what could drive someone to commit a crime so terrible as you are for their victims." And I find that fascinating, both in the concept and in the varied ways that Ryukishi07 is approaching that concept. Because I disagree! Pretty profoundly, actually, both in some of the cases he suggests and in general. But I think there's some valid truths in that and I think the way that he keeps coming at it from a different angle and some of the ways he approaches it are fascinating.

And what fantasy is about, to me, is basically the same as one of Higurashi's biggest themes - the ability to redefine yourself as a good person and move on with your life to try to make that as true in practice as it is in theory. It's a lot more elaborate than that in Umineko, though. And there's a couple valid reasons for that - the first, internal version is that Yasu and Beatrice are such complex people who so vastly redefine themselves. Yasu is a sickly, forgetful, meek, possibly boy who creates a new personality for every situation who eventually emerges from the sea of redefining herself as Beatrice - the elegant and powerful and beautiful golden witch who loves Battler above everything, who takes the blame for her family's sins and ultimately sinks to the sea for it. Yasu's someone who's so fundamentally about redefining herself and redefining everyone around her to make them better people too, and creating mazes on mazes in that in order to make it be true no matter what it takes that she's just a vastly better person to center a series about redefining the self better than almost anyone in Higurashi could be. (I actually think the person who comes closest in Higurashi is Rena, but that's a side issue.) Yasu doesn't just drive the series, she embodies it.

The second is that Higurashi kind of…failed at its forgiveness theme, at the end. By removing the responsibility for the murders from Takano onto the mysterious secretive organization that drove her, it just gave people a target. And, frankly, I think it gave them a target that should absolutely be removed - pragmatically I think it is a bad idea to leave a political party that is willing to kill 2000 of its country's citizens in cold blood for political advantage in power. I will fully accept that in other situations they might not be bad people, per Higurashi's themes. But in that world they are not only bad people, but they are bad people who actively pose a threat to the people they're supposed to serve, and so..yeah not only did that fail, but that failed hard for me, because forgiveness only works when odds are low that they'll continue being horrible people. And Ryukishi noticed that and I think that's one of the reasons why Umineko approaches it from such a vastly different angle.

You never know for sure who killed anyone in Umineko. I think there's enough evidence that you could work it out if you're smart (and that's going to be one of my goals in rereading the series), but the answer is never just given to you. All you know is that these are a bunch of people who could be good and could be bad, and the only survivor of the family at the end chooses to view them all as good people because that's what works best for her to move on with her life. Which. Isn't something I would argue with! And so by not answering who's responsible for the family murders, all we get is sympathy for everyone. And the fact that the primary antagonist in the series was born out of the suffering that we saw the protagonist of Higurashi undergo makes it all the more difficult for anyone playing Umineko to hate and blame anyone in it. Especially considering…well, she offers the answer to Ange. And the answer, in the last game, is what saved her. Yeah, she's evil and crazy and kind of wants to hurt everyone around her, but…idk, I find the sympathetic undertones around her oddly compelling. …granted I RP her younger self so I am so not unbiased.

I mean, I'm not totally pleased with Umineko's answer to the problem of forgiveness? I think if you have to obscure who actually did it that heavily for forgiveness you're sort of evading the issue. But I find the ambition fascinating, the contortions necessary for it to work educational, and the mindset behind it oddly adorable.


opusculus: Black hole (Default)

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