The reason I had been thinking about this is I was reading some plot speculation by people playing the visual novel. I'm not sure 'playing' is the right word for it even though it's often categorized as a game. Think of it as a Choose Your Own Adventure novel except you never get to make any choices. It turns out that there's a group who's been writing English translation patches for the games as they come out. There's a bit of a delay (of course) and they're usually at least 1 part behind. I had downloaded the fist 4 parts of the English version Higurashi game a while back but never actually got around to really trying it. I found that it was hard to be all that interested in it when I already knew what was going to happen. Realizing the same would probably apply to Umineko, I chose to let ignorance be my motivation. I snagged the first 5 parts for which an English patch existed and starting 'playing' a couple nights ago.
All in all, I haven't gotten very far yet and it's been a lot of introduction and setup. What I'm finding really odd, and disturbing given what I know about how the series turns out, is how different the mood is in the visual novel. Everything's been bright and cheery so far and the characters, even the adults, are all friendly and genial characters. In the anime, almost all of them are grim/dour right off the bat. It makes me wonder if the visual novel made everything more happy-go-lucky on purpose just so that the mood whiplash hits you harder when all the bloody evisceration starts. It would probably be hard to justify the drastic character development to something darker in an anime as opposed to the novel where you have more room to build up changes. The art in the visual novel is also a lot more childlike and cheery, which no doubt adds to the positive impression. I can't help but wonder if that's something that will change once the aforementioned blood bath begins.
Anyway, I'm going to spend the next few days working my way through Umineko and see how it goes. God knows the visual novels are supposed to provide a lot more information about the mystery and may let me get a better handle on the plot. One of the complaints I had at the end of the anime was that everything seemed to be in a perpetuate state of WTF. At least by reading the original source I can find out if that was just due to a poor adaptation or if the confusion was intentional.