Umineko: WHEN THEY CRY Volume 2 marks a noticeable transition for the series, which will likely leave viewers who liked the first set scratching their heads or dropping it after a few episodes. What started as an appealing murder mystery backed by some really trippy supernatural elements turns into a tangled series of story devices, pushing the mystery elements into the background. The shift wasn’t unexpected if you paid attention to the first three parts, but I wasn’t expecting as drastic a shift.
Volume 2 features the fourth, and final, set of episodes. Battler and Beatrice are locked in their various intellectual "games" as Battler attempts to unravel the mystery behind the murders taking place at his family reunion. If the series had stuck with that plot, Volume 2 would be an instant "Must Buy." Murder mysteries make for good stories, especially when it involves family members squabbling over inheritance. Family members do show up, so the plot isn’t completely forgotten, and you do get a better sense of people’s relationships with one another. Yet, these elements are minor and Volume 2 goes head first into what amounts to two people debating philosophy while heavy-handed chess metaphors play out in the background. Interesting, sure, but only to a point.
At the heart of the debate is the "Spirituality" versus "Science" debate, which in and of itself is always fun, if only to see who loses their head first. But, that has nothing to do with what is going on here. Instead, we have Beatrice and Battler using the debate to determine whether the murders are supernatural, or just plain old human nature. As neat as the concept sounds, there is a bad tendency for the show to ramble. The writing is smart, but this is a TV show, not a thesis.
Volume 2 also introduces time travel element. Most of the show takes place in 1986, though it periodically jumps to 1998 to offer exposition about how the future plays out because of what happened on the island. It is sort of like the time slides on Lost with all of the associated issues. Time jumps flesh out certain subplots and push parts of the core story forward, but also act as stumbling blocks, creating a show that is more convoluted than it really needs to be.
The full color art book, entitled "Case File 02," does help clear up some of the more confusing issues surrounding the show. It isn’t as helpful as "Case File 01" was, but the short newspaper clippings do offer something you can look to for reference. I really like the family tree found at the back of the book.
Umineko: WHEN THEY CRY Volume 2 is a poor ending to what was an incredibly fascinating start. The core story is something worth watching and strong enough to pull in just about anyone interested in murder mysteries, whether they enjoyed anime or not. Rather than stick to these elements, the show spins off into a completely different direction. On top of that, the exiting elements are trampled down in favor of numerous subplots or just a mad dash towards wrapping up the entire series. Really, all the show really needs is fewer plotlines and a little more breathing room.
Were the series packaged as one collection, I wouldn’t have had much of a problem with Umineko: WHEN THEY CRY Volume 2. Good shows end badly, end of story. However, an entire one-disc volume dedicated to that ending? It doesn’t work. If you’re invested and HAVE to know what happens, it is an OK purchase. Otherwise you can skip it.