This is an interview of 07th Expansion conducted by the magazine Toratsu in 2004. Ryukishi07 and his colleagues talk about Higurashi no Naku Koro ni's development and success. Notes from KEIYA are included.
2004 Late summer, somewhere in Akihabara, Tokyo
—Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is experiencing something of a break this summer. What are your feelings right now?
Ryukishi: I am honestly surprised. There are so many better games out there.
—Have the things around you changed in any way?
Ryukishi: Well, before, nobody remembered the title of our game, and nobody saw me as “Higurashi‘s Ryukishi07″. Recently, the game started gaining some popularity, so I finally became “Higurashi‘s Ryukishi07″. …I am very humbled.
—Higurashi is being made in a long span of time. As far as I researched, its first appearance was at 2002’s Comiket, but was there anything before that?
Ryukishi: No, we weren’t making any Higurashi before. Back then, we were creating original cards for a trading card game Leaf Fight for 2 years. So, it was the first time we made a video game. Onikakushi-hen in summer of 2002, Watanagashi-hen in winter of 2002, Tatarigoroshi-hen in summer of 2003, then we skipped winter of 2003 (*everyone laughs*) and reached this point in 2004.
—It’s the first time Higurashi is being distributed in shops, so was it only sold at Comiket before?
Ryukishi: It was only distributed at the events. Because we were orika (original cards) circle, card circle, analogue circle, we were selling not on the 3rd day, but on the 1st one.
Yatazakura: We also asked others to help us a little bit with selling.
Ryukishi: It was just 10 or 20 copies.
—Then, the next step was a downloadable version, right?
BT: We uploaded the demo-version this May for the first time. Before that, the game was only distributed on the events.
—So, the progression seems to be events first, then download version, and now shops…
Ryukishi: Yeah. Frankly speaking, we weren’t confident that any shop will take a game without 18+ content or good art… We were happy to sell 100 or 200 copies at a time before, and we didn’t think about asking shops for a time being. But now, after we uploaded the free demo-version, somehow… It became big *laughs*
BT: The demo-version was registered at different free game sites, and through that it started gaining popularity.
Ryukishi: There was a certain time lag, so the real thing started maybe after Summer Comiket. There was a bit of that before Summer Comiket too, but I think it started for real after it. Because of that… A lot of people were saying: “Looks like the new one was released at this Comiket” and were wondering if you could buy it outside of Comiket. Many of them were not attending Comiket or even going to Akihabara. That was the reason we started thinking about shops. And… you have to fill a form if you want to start selling your product at a shop, don’t you?
Ryukishi: It has questions there like “Number of CGs”, “Is there any 18+ content?”, etc… And I were like *laughs* “0 CGs…”, “No 18+ content…” When I was filling it, I was thinking: “If I was a manager here, I definitely wouldn’t accept this” *laughs* But thanks to Yano-san we were accepted.
—Mmm… It’s a bit scary to ask you about this *laughs*, but how it was to run around different shops at first?
Yano: Right… Frankly speaking, the reception form this company was the coldest *laughs*
—…I see *bitter laugh* There was a big gap in knowledge?
Yano: Right. There was a slight gap between shop owners who already knew and played Higurashi and those who didn’t.
— It’s a bit rude to ask, but did you have a 100% faith that this will work when you were presenting it to different shops?
Yano: Yeah, I was a believer. 2 years ago I was asked by Ryukishi-san to “do promotion and stuff for this game when it comes out”, and a year later I checked what’s going on with it… And after that I was checking every half of a year: “So, how soon?”
Ryukishi: Yeah *laughs* …At first, I was arrogant enough to think that I will finish in 1 year. Everything. It’s scary to reread my Production Journal. *Everyone laughs*
Ryukishi: Well *laughs* After that I said: “Yano-san, it will be ready this winter, so I can rely on you when the time comes, right?”, it became stranger and stranger with time. “Ryukishi-san, when it will be finished?” “…I think it will take another 2 or 3 years…”
Yano: Yeah, I was like “Eh! Is it such a long story?!”
— How did everyone in 07th Expansion meet, and what did you do at that time?
Ryukishi: (Pointing at Yatazakura) We’ve been in very close relationships with him… *laughs*
Yatazakura: Like breaking in his room (during the development of Higurashi) and yelling “What the hell are you doing?!”
— And what about website administrator BT-san?
BT: I was a fan of the original cards that Ryukishi-san was making.
— Are there any other staff members?
Ryukishi: The ones that gathered here today are the main staff, and of course there are a lot of other people who are helping us. I guess they are someone like… emergency support staff? They are helping with things like sticking labels or copying CDs.
— Emm, so you are burning discs yourself…
— How does it look like?
Ryukishi: Hmm, it’s always 100-200 copies, almost everything is done at home. The burning process became pretty fast lately, so it takes around 3 days… Or even less?
Yatazakura: We make it in one day.
Ryukishi: Right. We are burning and burning.
— On how many machines?
Ryukishi: 2 or 3, I think?
Yatazakura: It depends, sometimes it’s up to 4.
Ryukishi: This time we made 1500 copies (*everyone laughs*), and BT-san, who is very knowledgeable in hardware, has built an awesome 7-disc duplicator *laughs* It was working like a machine-gun.
BT: At first we couldn’t think about burning even 100 discs.
Ryukishi: Right, at first I was like “700 is enough” *laughs* And then BT-san was like “Let’s go with 2000!”. After some debating, we decided to go with 1500 as a compromise.
BT: That was a pretty quick change. Before that, it was 200 copies?
Ryukishi: 200. It’s hard to believe that we brought 1500 this time.
— But I’ve heard that everything was sold out before noon?
Ryukishi: More like in 2 hours, I think.
Yatazakura and BT: Something like that.
— Did you feel that something was changing and you began to get some response?
Ryukishi: Yeah, we’ve felt it indeed.
Yatazakura and BT: Right, right *nod*
Ryukishi: There is such thing like an “opening rush” at Comiket, isn’t it? The number of people who started coming specially to buy our product and checking catalogues beforehand has increased. At first, there were a lot of people who were coming to our stand while passing by: “OK, if it’s 100 yen, I’ll buy it” Lately, there are more people who first run to our booth to buy our stuff. Before, almost everyone who came to us was like “It seems interesting, but… hmm” and went elsewhere *laughs* There were a lot of those who either said “If it’s 100 yen, I’ll buy it” or “100 yen? Is this a demo? Don’t need it”.
— The word of mouth for Higurashi is amazing, and that’s people who came to Summer Comiket just for that and started talking about that on the Internet after that…
Ryukishi: It was after we uploaded the demo. There were quite a few people who played it and began spreading the word…
— How was the result of that?
Ryukishi: Yeah, it felt like a prank.
*Everybody bursts out laughing*
Yatazakura: It was quite a shock.
— It was surely tough for BT-san to look after the counter.
BT: Before that, our homepage visits were always around 40 or 60.
Ryukishi: 40-50 visits per day. The only time it went over 100 was on an opening day and the day after that *laughs*
BT: But then it started rising and rising *laughs*
— It probably felt like the counter was broken.
Ryukishi and BT: It actually broke many times.
(Talking about counter breaks for some time)
Ryukishi: To think that even without ~, 10000 people would visit in one day *laughs* We couldn’t imagine it.
— When did it happen?
BT: I think we’ve reached 10.000 after the Summer Comiket.
— And at the time it was decided that the game will be sold at shops, there were…
BT: Around 30,000 I guess?
Ryukishi: Yeah, at its peak.
Yano: That’s impressive.
BT: I can’t express the rate we were growing at that time other than by the word ” surprising”. We were honestly dumbfounded.
— So, there were no thoughts like: “Finally! As we expected!!”?
BT: *laughs* No, not at all. We couldn’t even dream about that.
Ryukishi: Yano-san also told us that because it’s the first time we were selling at the shop, the numbers might be not that good. I also had zero experience. And it turned out that it was sold several hundred copies in a couple of days… There were so many times I was throwing away unsold copies from the Mansei Bridge…
Ryukishi: I didn’t go to Akihabara that time, so I didn’t see the place where it was sold out *laughs*
— Let’s talk about origins of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. When did you first have an idea for it?
Ryukishi: I’ve thought about doing it for the first time 2 years ago. We’ve been making orika (original cards) for 2 years and I was thinking about moving to some other genre soon. At that time Yatazakura-san suggested making a novel game. “I’ve been learning to code and made this, take a look” “Oh, that’s cool” “Tsukihime is made with this” “Oh, that’s cool” “OK, let’s make a novel game then!”, it went something like this. If we look even further, I have always liked things like plays and scenarios, and because I had some connections with theatre students and troupes, I had an experience of writing plays. Though, of course, when I tried to submit them, they were turned down *laughs* One of those plays called Hinamizawa Bus Stop has became the origin of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. It was… it’s painful to read it now. It has some crucial spoilers sprinkled over several pages *laughs* If it was published today, it would be extremely painful. …However, I don’t think there are people, who have it at home.
— I see~
Ryukishi: Maybe one of my friends from the troupe who said: “Hmm, I’ll read it later”…
Editor: The one who has it is going to be demoned away…
Yatazakura: It’s quite possible… *grins*
Ryukishi: I planned it to be about 60 minutes from start to finish, and because I wanted it to be performed on a troupe graduation ceremony, I made it about a bus stop during the rain… with just Mion and Rika. Mion was going to be younger, and Rika was an older sister type. It was a tiny horror with one of the main points of Higurashi as a core.
Ryukishi: Even though I worked extremely hard on that play, it ended up unused, and that left a feeling of disappointment in my heart. Because of that, when we began thinking about doing a novel game, we decided to take that finished story and expand it by adding more characters and detailing the setting. That’s how it turned into Higurashi.
— So, you wrote a lot of scenarios before Higurashi?
Ryukishi: Mm, if we are speaking about it on the level of writing down whatever ideas came to my head, there was quite a few of that. Actually, I was in charge of writing a scenario at one doujin circle even before I became Ryukishi07, but that project collapsed because the work on the art has spun out *laughs* I worked for 2 years, all for nothing *laughs* So… (talking to Yatazakura) If we just talk about the scenario, that was a finished game, right?
— It was something completely different from Higurashi?
Ryukishi: Completely different.
— So, it has to be in stock right now.
Ryukishi: It is. Because of that incident, I decided that from now on I will draw all the artworks by myself *laughs* I am not really an artist.
— So, Higurashi was your first novel game?
Ryukishi: That game at previous circle has collapsed and we didn’t release it, so, yeah, this one is the first.
— It’s just my impression, but when I played it I thought: “Wow, this is so well written. What is this?”. Haven’t you been writing for a long time in terms of quantity?
Ryukishi: No, not at all. I was working in the office and had to write simple lists of events sometimes, but nothing resembling what I am trying to do here…
— As you said yourself, Higurashi is a very organized and well structured story. Where this ability to create such complicated stories comes from, how do you think?
Ryukishi: Mm, I’ve said this earlier, but I don’t read a lot…
Ryukishi: If that’s true, it’s probably our parents’ influence…
Ryukishi: Our parents always complain a lot when watching movies and other stuff.
Ryukishi: Like, when they watch a movie on TV, they make comments like “What an idiot, why they didn’t do it like that” or “Lame, I can predict what comes next”. It was that way since we were children, so I didn’t like watching anime and other things. I didn’t want them to be criticized. So I always had a thought that “I don’t want parents to criticize me” *laughs* …So, it’s not like I am thinking hard in order to create a complex structure, rather it’s the result of watching our parents criticizing fiction and having the impression that “parts that are criticized are bad”.
— Feels like it’s something that has developed naturally in you.
Ryukishi: Yes, it’s the influence of our parents. Our father hates digressions in fiction. It often happens in war movies when the action goes into a slump, and he really hates that.
Ryukishi: That’s why I feel that I have to connect all events to each other without hesitation. The less there is plaster between the events the better. Because entertainment has to entertain, I must place entertaining pieces one after another. I mostly think about that, it’s not something deep really.
— You’ve said that you weren’t reading a lot of books.
Ryukishi: It’s a rude thing to say as a writer, but I start feeling dizzy if there are more than 3 lines of text. It’s a struggle to reread my own writing *laughs*
— And what about liking mystery or reading horror novel games?
Ryukishi: I can read sound novels. Otogirisou and Kamaitachi no Yoru made a huge impact on me, and I began making sound novels myself because of those two titles. Even though the golden age of novel games is synonymous with dating sims, I had a strong belief that “a sound novel has to be a horror!” and thought that I should make something like Otogirisou and Kamaitachi myself. There was a time when there were many horror sound novels on Super Famicom, and I loved to play them. I still love horror games.
— Which games do you respect or like the most? Which ones influenced you?
Ryukishi: Speaking of influence, the list should probably start with games by KEY. At the time we started working on Higurashi, Leaf’s sound novels… ah, those are rather called visual novels… were very popular, and after that games by KEY started to come out. We thought that there were a lot of things there that we could learn from. Kanon and AIR, especially, were on our minds, so we studied them. “What makes KEY games fun?” And we noticed that in KEY games there is always a period of joyful everyday life followed by sadness. At that situation and with that contrast players will surely cry. So we thought, let’s go from joyful everyday life to horror *laughs* Let’s surprise the player with that contrast.
— That is distressful enough for a player to feel empathy, isn’t it. I was just surprised in the first chapter, but starting the next one I began thinking: “Please don’t do that~, please don’t do that~”.
Ryukishi: That’s why I wanted to make the CD cover like in a regular galge.
Ryukishi: Among all the emails I got, I was the happiest about the one that said: “My friend tricked me by saying that it was galge”.
*Roar of laughter*
Ryukishi: I think those players who thought it was galge were surprised the most. I love comments like “I played it thinking it was galge… _|￣|○”. People didn’t buy it when we tried to sell it as galge at Comiket, so it changed to mystery/horror, but if you start playing it thinking that it’s a normal dating sim… *laughs* For me, it is the most ideal scenario.
— I believe you’ve said once that art style is Higurashi’s first trap.
— I think it pretty much overlaps the story itself, but it seems that you like that type of “tricks”, don’t you?
Ryukishi: If someone plays my game, I have to make them surprised *laughs* That’s the basis, so… Yeah, I enjoy using tricks *laughs*
— It feels that you may be tricked not only in the game itself but also outside of it.
Ryukishi: I was drawing a lot of illustrations for Leaf original cards before, and those who supported us were usually drawn to that style of drawings. So, I thought: “If I use that style in this type of game, people will be caught off guard” *laughs*
— Even those who knew that Higurashi was a horror say that it’s scary, so what to tell about those who thought that it was a galge…
Ryukishi: Please show sympathy to those of your friends who were tricked… *laughs* If we only had more time, I’d want to make the CD cover reversible. One side would be a regular galge illustration with a disclaimer: “In case you give this game to a friend, please show them this side” *roar of laughter* …I want to trick people.
— Is this the motive power behind the game?
Ryukishi: Hmm, the motive power… (Speaking to Yatazakura) What do you think it is?
Yatazakura: I think it’s a desire to create something, to show it to the world.
Ryukishi: Also… The frustration from work *laughs* Wanting to put everything we can do into something… Like, we’ve thought that Tsukihime is amazing when we played it, right?
Ryukishi: When does the first death in Tsukihime happen? In the first 15 minutes? OK, let’s murder somebody in the first 15 seconds then! *Everyone laughs* I’ve written about that in Production Journal as well.
— You are talking about that opening scene…
Ryukishi: Right, the opening scene.
Editor: I remember thinking when I read it: “Is this ――――?”.
Ryukishi: In fact, it is ――――.
— Aaa! Aaa! It will ruin the fun if you spoil things. Emm, let’s go back to what we were talking about. So, your main influences are KEY and old sound novels?
Ryukishi: Otogirisou, Kamaitachi… Early games by Chunsoft. And KEY. That’s pretty much it when it comes to games. But there are also movies.
Ryukishi: I was super influenced by Blair Witch Project.
Ryukishi: Blair Witch Project is amazingly made as a “project”, not a movie. It was a flop in Japan because we only had a movie, but as a whole, it’s excellently done.
Editor: What’s outside the movie is excellent.
Ryukishi: Right, what’s outside the movie. 3 students who went to the woods in order to make a film about a witch, went missing. Their belongings were found under a 100-years old cabin… Somewhere they shouldn’t have been. Inside the bag, there were their recordings. Those tapes were shown at the movie theatre… That was the setup. Before showing the movie there were notes and diaries released, as well as a documentary about the legend… It was very similar to what we are doing in our games in the form of TIPS. Even the movie itself was a TIP… I realised that there are more ways to show the world than just with the story, but also with testimonies and documents. When you add such TIPS, the world inside the story becomes more interesting. There are a lot of official documents inside Blair Witch Project. Statements by the sheriff, reports of the found belongings, scientific appraisal results, etc. Such things add a lot of realism and help create an illusion that it is something that really happened.
Editor: There were even reports about found belongings on TV, which became a hot topic.
Ryukishi: Right. Perhaps, they were aiming to recreate the effect of Orson Welles’s The War of the Worlds. Unfortunately, though, we in Japan didn’t get anything besides the movie, so there was zero hype, almost nobody saw it and it was treated as a failure. However, we stumbled upon those additional materials by chance, and after seeing them we thought: “They’ve beaten us…”. So yeah, the TIPS system in Higurashi comes from Blair Witch Project. That’s the 3rd influence.
— KEY, early years Chunsoft and Blair Witch Project.
Ryukishi: I think those 3 were the inspiration when it comes to creating the game.
— And you combined all that with Hinamizawa Bus Stop.
— I want to ask you about your process of writing a scenario. First of all, did you know the ending from the very beginning?
Ryukishi: Yes. The rest is differences in presentation. In the direction, there are various ways to show a scene, but all the main plot points and setting are already done. The characters are all placed and move according to their rules. When we started the project, the ending was already settled.
— I’ve already abandoned any attempts to figure out what’s going on in Higurashi, so that may be a stupid question, but isn’t it pretty difficult to keep consistency inside the story?
Ryukishi: Mmm, as I said earlier, everything starts with the environment. After placing pieces into that environment, they start moving, and that’s Onikakushi-hen. There’s a game called Black Box, isn’t it? Depending on the angle of a light ray it reflects differently, and you have to discover the location of objects inside with it. Hinamizawa is a Black Box. Even though the plot of each of the 3 scenarios is entirely different, the foundation is the same. Both characters and setting are the same through those 3 (4) chapters. However, by adjusting the accent slightly, the plot changes entirely. That’s not parallel worlds.
Editor: Not parallel worlds. The timeline is the same as well?
Ryukishi: The general timeline is the same. However, there are some slight variations. For example, is it raining or not on the day of Watanagashi, little things like that, but the overall settings of the world are… For example, it’s not something like “even though Rena has a dual personality in Onikakushi-hen she turns into a good girl in Watanagashi-hen“. She is the same character throughout all arcs. It’s like following different routes of that world. If in “Houjou Teppei comes home/doesn’t come home” the former is chosen, you end up in Tatarigoroshi-hen. The world is exactly the same but with tiny changes there all kinds of possible deaths and murders… He-he-he *laughs like he has something in mind* There is even a possibility of Keiichi becoming a vicious murderer.
— I am very sorry, but I have a feeling that you enjoy Bad Endings a lot… *everyone laughs* I’ve become sadder and sadder after each arc. Like, ahh, it happened again *cries*
Ryukishi: *Laughs* The Question Arcs are all Bad Ends. Starting with Meakashi-hen even though there are still some mysteries left… *laughs* I am going to move towards a relieving and healing ending. The last arc will be the final.
— Aren’t there such voices from players? “Hey… Just a little bit…”
Ryukishi: There are, there are. “Please make them happy”, I hear that a lot.
Editor: Did you write with the thought that people would present and discuss their theories on the Internet after playing?
Ryukishi: It’s not really something that unique for our game. When Evangelion was still ongoing, I often discussed it with my friends. I am leaving a lot of missing links and unclear information in the story, and think it’s fun to read it while trying to piece it all together. After all, it’s not interesting to read carelessly, so we propose this way to enjoy it.
Editor: Blair Witch Project is built the same way.
Ryukishi: It is.
— I’d like to ask you more about the development process.
Ryukishi: Well… (Talking to Yatazakura) I think we’ve settled pretty much everything at the very first meeting?
Yatazakura: We did.
Ryukishi: Things like the number of chapters… I think it was going to be 6 chapters back then?
Ryukishi: The idea was to give every character a scenario, so that makes it 6. After the number of chapters has changed we just moved things around. So, almost everything was decided at the start, and after that, we just had to sort it all… Making sure we don’t deviate from the original plan… First, we created the setting and planned out the story until the ending, so what left was to stick to it.
— Are you making flowcharts?
Ryukishi: No, it’s pretty random. At most, we know that the scenario goes for about 14 days, so the first week is spent on playing and after the 7th day everything’s is turned around. So we write something like a synopsis that says: “First 3 days will be a fun time, then it turns around after a certain event”. The ending is already decided, so we just have to figure out how many days it will take to reach it.
— By the way, do the other staff members know all the story?
Ryukishi: Yatazakura-san knows everything, and I told a lot of it to BT, but he always tells me to stop *laughs*
*BT makes a pose that says: “I don’t want to hear anything”, everyone laughs*
Ryukishi: I always ask his opinion on different story developments on the messenger.
BT: I know almost everything now…
— You didn’t want to know?
BT: I want to enjoy the story like everyone else *laughs*
— Understandable. We here made a strict agreement not to ask any spoilery questions today…
Ryukishi: I asked Yano-san if he wanted to listen, but he refused *laughs*
*Yano makes the same “I don’t want to hear anything” pose*
— Have you decided on the end number of chapters?
Ryukishi: I think there will be 8 of them in the end, so it’s a turning point right now.
Editor: It will be Kai from now on.
— Aaa! You’ve spoiled the titles.
Ryukishi: No-no, you won’t be able to understand the content from titles alone *laughs*
— Does Yatazakura-san build the script after you’ve finished the scenario?
Ryukishi: First, I just type in Word without worrying about anything as the thoughts come to my head, then I give that chunk of text to Yatazakura-san, who turns it into a script. If at that stage it turns out that there is no background picture for a scene or a particular sound, he may go shooting or looking through free sound resources. Because I am the creator, I don’t hesitate and write as I please even the most impossible scenes *laughs* Yatazakura-san keeps saying: “What the hell?!”.
Yatazakura: Yeah, like “You’re kidding me!”.
Ryukishi: But because we are doing it for 2 years now, he has added a lot of good backgrounds.
— What goes after that?
Ryukishi: After the script is finished, it comes back to me. There is no music yet, just some sound effects like cicadas at most…
Yatazakura: Sounds of bitting or throwing, etc.
Ryukishi: When we have a script with backgrounds and sound effects, starts the process called “clean-up”. We fix and add little things like facial expressions, what sprite goes where, turning the screen black, where a cicada sound starts and fades out, making the sound of rain going on longer, etc… Going forward step by step while saying things like “That one doesn’t fit at all!”, “Let’s go with this and not with that after all” *laughs* That usually goes for 2 weeks before Comiket *laughs*
*Everyone laughs dryly*
Ryukishi: It’s a war at that point.
— I think that the timing of sounds in very important in a Sound Novel, but are you paying extra attention to that?
Ryukishi and Yatazakura: You bet!
Ryukishi: After all, it’s a “Sound Novel”. We are thinking very hard about sound design. “Let’s do thunder… a distant roll of thunder here”, “Shouldn’t the sound of a gun be louder?”, etc. Maybe it goes up to silly levels but we think it down to the smallest details.
— Hinamizawa… It is a fictional village but does it actually exist as some real place?
Ryukishi: The model for it is a certain famous place. We went there together to shoot some pictures. I remember sitting in his (pointing at Yatazakura) room and discussing how does Hinamizawa look. It was “Japanese native places” (Nihon no Furusato), right?
Ryukishi: We found a booklet with that name and when looking through it I shouted: “That’s it! That’s my Hinamizawa!” *laughs* “OK, let’s go take some pictures” *everyone laughs* We went there on a vacation and I was like: “Listen here! We won’t come here again, so go wild and shoot! Take pictures of everything!!!”. How many pictures we had in the end?
Yatazakura: There’s only 250 left in memory, but at first there were more than 500.
Ryukishi: When we went there, I could feel Hinamizawa with my skin. Because I am from Kanto, at first I had only a vague image of what a “remote village” looks like. The act of actually going there and feeling it by ourselves can’t be overestimated.
— Did you live in Kanto all your life?
Ryukishi: Mainly in Kanto, yes.
— There is some dialect in the game, which dialect is it?
Ryukishi: It’s… pretty random.
Ryukishi: After all, a dialect…
Yano: Like “suttara”?
Ryukishi: Yes, yes *laughs* Expressions like “suttaran to!” or “succhara kocchara!” *laughs*
— I was under impression that it was surely based on some actual dialect…
Ryukishi: …It’s all was “Ryukishi language” *laughs*
Editor: All the characters in Higurashi are very unique, so I am curious about how do you create them.
Ryukishi: Characters are… all perverts *laughs*
Editor: Are they?.. *laughs* What about imagery and motives?
Ryukishi: There are no any specific models, but, continuing the talk about KEY, I decided to figure out what makes KEY characters so memorable, and the answer I came up with was “They are all perverts!” *everyone laughs* “Everyone is weird!”. For example, the girl named Ryuuguu Rena is a very meddlesome person, who can’t resist cute things and tries to take everything home. If she finds something cute, she decides to take it home! Steal! Her garden is full of strange things! I tried to make her weird and close to a pervert. I thought quite a bit to make every character weird.
Editor: I want to see Rena’s house.
Ryukishi: Her garden is big but cramped, her room is small and cramped, she has a cellar, there are marks of nails and blood on the walls… Like someone tried to escape from there… *laughs*
Editor: Is this a joke?
Ryukishi: It is a joke *laughs*
Editor: I was scared a little bit…
Ryukishi: There probably won’t be a chance for me to depict Rena’s house in the game. however, I’ll be happy if you’ll try to imagine it for your own enjoyment.
— It’s a complete derailment, but I want to ask about the “eyes” from the staff-roll.
All together: Aaa! *laugh*
— That’s “those eyes”, right?
Ryukishi: It’s Naruse Tsubaki’s (なるせ椿) eyes, he is my real friend and we took a picture of his ____ with ____, edited with Photoshop, which was left on the hard disk. It was a good picture of a man’s face. I thought that it looked nice and cut eyes out of it *laughs* Without permission.
— So, after all, the “eyes” from the staff-roll are “those eyes”.
— I jumped like 30 cm high [when saw them], and I think the impression among players was also very strong.
Ryukishi: It was heavily edited, so you won’t recognize him if you look at the actual person.
— However, thousands of people see those eyes without the actual person knowing it. *Everyone laughs* …It’s pretty wild.
Ryukishi: I think he completely unaware of it. …Well, it was a mistake to give me that photo.
— It may be a rather dangerous question, but what is the reason you’ve made Showa period as the setting?
Ryukishi: There are 2 reasons, one being the feeling of nostalgia.
Ryukishi: For someone who was born in the Showa period, “Heisei” has a “near future” sound to it, and isn’t very interesting. So, to I decided to make it Showa because of the nostalgic imagery. Another reason is that “curses” don’t really go well with mobile phones. Most of the tricks could be destroyed with a mobile phone.
Editor: So it’s the story that is only possible because there are no mobile phones.
Ryukishi: However, after the fact, someone told me: “A mobile phone won’t work in the remote village in the mountains, though” *everyone laughs* Aaa, they got me, I thought *laughs* I could make it in out days! *laughs*
— One more question: there is a poem at the beginning of each chapter, right?
Ryukishi: Ah, yes.
— Are those some quotes, or?..
Ryukishi: Those are original poems. Something like hints… or rather… how should I say it?
Yatazakura: They are symbolic representations of a scenario, maybe.
Ryukishi: I can’t give you a very realistic explanation, so please think of them as hints. Something you will think “Ah, that what they were about” after you finish all the scenarios. When you read them now, even though you’ll feel some hidden hint in them, you won’t understand them exactly. I made it so you’ll have a sudden realisation when you finish the story.
— There were some discussions about the author’s name at the Spoiler forum.
Ryukishi: …………….Mmm *grins*
…L-let’s end this conversation here *laughs*
Ryukishi: No, I can tell you off record *laughs*
— No-no-no, I don’t want to hear it *laughs*
(Voices of other people shouting “Don’t tell! Don’t tell!”)
— It seems nobody wants to know *laughs* …Ok. It was dangerous after all. Let’s end with “There is lots of such stuff!”.
Ryukishi: Please dig in *laughs*
— There are a lot of mini-games inside the game. Were they done by BT-san?
— It’s a digression from the main topic, but when I was playing Rena-pan), it took me around 5 times to beat it…
Ryukishi: Take a note, BT-san *laughs* This will help you with managing the difficulty.
— That aside, there quite a few of mini-games there. What led to their creation?
BT: Rena-pan was kind of a one-time joke. I wanted to surprise one of my relatives and made it in one day.
— Ah, I see.
BT: Then Ryukishi-san said that it was interesting and asked if it’s okay to add it to Higurashi. So I remade it one more time.
Ryukishi: For some reason, there were special attacks and other things now *everyone laughs* It was done pretty well as a game.
— People at the forum got really excited about it too. They reached such numbers like it wasn’t human beings playing. Do you play it as well?
Ryukishi: Of course.
— Who is the best player?
Ryukishi: I wonder. I can reach somewhere around 200 on a good day.
BT: I can’t get more than 300…
Ryukishi: Eh! *laughs* What a betrayal.
— What about you, Yano-san?
Yano: Around 300.
(Conversation about how to hold a mouse when playing Rena-pan goes for some time)
Ryukishi: From that time, BT-san makes a mini-game for each new arc. I think it was Takahashi Naoki-san (高橋直樹) who created NSCRIPT, wasn’t it?
Ryukishi: I bet he didn’t think anyone would use NSCRIPT in such way. An action game on a novel game engine *laughs* Our game is meant to depress a player, so there are things like All-Cast Review Sessions and mini-games to lift their spirits up after they get depressed. I think, in the sense, mini-games are a very good thing.
— Now, speaking about what will come next, it will be Higurashi, right?
— Are you planning to do something besides that?
Ryukishi: There was a suggestion to revive that game I was talking about earlier *laughs* They said it will be easy to do because the scenario is already finished *laughs* However, we as 07th Expansion are thinking about what if we stick to doing horror-mystery? We’d like to take some time to think about that. Higurashi will probably end in 2 years… However, there is no guarantee that it will be so. We will see how it goes, will it have any resonance.
Yatazakura: Maybe we will do a spin-off or something.
Ryukishi: A spin-off or a plus-disc *laughs*
— Ah, I see. I was going to ask if there’s going to be any happy-from-start-to-finish plus-disc because the main story is so sad and painful.
Ryukishi: There was an email in the early days that asked us to make a scenario about club members going home happily together after doing club activities from all the arcs. However, if I’d announce a happy fun scenario, nobody will probably believe *laughs* Everyone will wait for a sudden twist *laughs*
— What are your plans for the next winter, for now?
Ryukishi: To go to Comiket with Meakashi-hen.
— How’s the development going?
Ryukishi: I’d say it’s finished for 2/5, maybe?
Yatazakura: Quickly give me the scenario *laughs*
Ryukishi: *Laughs* Right. The main part is on the day of Watanagashi now. However, it’s not in the middle as it always was, but somewhere at 2/5.
Editor: Is this “Watanagashi” that Watanagashi when ____________?
Ryukishi: Yes. When ____________ happened. It’s a little after ____________, so it’s the world where ____________ exists. There was ____________ that year, after all. So, after that I am going to write about ____________ [those who’ve finished reading Himatsubushi-hen should already know that information]. I am writing a scene about ____________ right now.
People in the room: A-a-a! U-u-u!!
— You’ve said that the game is going to be finished in 2 years?
Ryukishi: Yes, there are 4 more arcs we want to make. If we will release an arc on every Comiket, it will exactly 2 years.
— You’ve said that this time it will be pretty different from the last Comiket, so will it change even more since the game became that popular?
Ryukishi: If we are talking just about a game called Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, our goal is to make a product that won’t betray expectations of those who look forward to it.
— Has the pressure increased?
Ryukishi: Mmm… “no”… will be a lie. However, other doujin makers that I’ve met thanks to Yano-san, sometimes give me advice like “Don’t think about it too much, just do what you want to do”. “It’s better to make what you love yourself rather than trying to please everybody”.
— I see.
Ryukishi: It’s true that when I read exciting Higurashi discussions on the net, I sometimes feel like what they come up with is better than the actual story *laughs* At times like that I think, shouldn’t I change something in the game?
Ryukishi: …However, Higurashi is a story that goes according to the initial plan, so we are going to quietly release each new arc and just leave it to the players.
Editor: As a fan, I wanted to see someone cosplay in that Rena’s dress.
Staff all together: Aaa *laugh*
Ryukishi: How long has it been since then?
Yano: 2 years? …Maybe 1,5.
Ryukishi: It’s a joke that went beyond a joke from the time when we still were an orika circle. There is a company called pare ideal that is one the most famous makers of one-off cosplay outfits. We ordered that dress from them, and then thanks to Yano-san there were 2 times?.. Around 2 times when we had a girl cosplaying in that outfit at our space [at Comiket]. Unfortunately, that was before we introduced Higurashi! It would be a bit more meaningful now.
Ryukishi: That dress was either lost or became unwearable due to its age.
— I have a feeling that there is going to be lots of secondary works based on Higurashi.
Yano: Everyone is so quick.
Editor: There are already lots of them on the net.
Ryukishi: There are many things like web-manga. My heart feels at ease when I read them *laughs*
— Perhaps there will be many figures and other things soon.
Yano: Let’s ask Ryukishi-san to draw every character in 3 views when he has time *laughs* Maybe number of people who make figures will increase after that.
Ryukishi: I made a blueprint of that Rena outfit we were talking about earlier when I was making an order, so there is a detailed drawing still left.
— What about Rena’s casual clothes from the game?
Ryukishi: There are no specific blueprints of it. It’s not a complicated dress, so it’s made like many people are imagining it.
Yano: But what about that cut that everyone is talking about? Is it on the front or on the side?..
Ryukishi: It’s on the front.
— Oh, is it? Ok, let’s write it down: “on the front!”.
Yano: It’s an important information *laughs*
— Well, for people who draw fanart it’s important to know is it on the front or on the side.
Ryukishi: Ok, the official one is with the cut on the front.
— Officially it’s “on the front!”.
Ryukishi: Officially it’s “on the front”. Is it a slit? It is zipped? Let’s go with a slit.
*Everyone bursts with laughing*
— Ok, for those who draw or makes garage kits, it’s “a slit on the front!”… Somewhat, I have a feeling that we have solved a major problem here *laughs*
Yano: If you have troubles with an outfit, making it hot is the right answer.
Ryukishi: *Laughs* The way Yano-san thinks is correct. Making it lewder that official is actually official *laughs*
— *Laughs* Thank you for your time today.
- 【KEIYA】: Summer Comiket lasts for 3 days in a row (Winter Comiket can be 2 or 3 days). The day that a circle is going to sell its product is decided based on genre.
- 【KEIYA】: It’s rare to see a circle that would sell a completed game for 100 yen. The price depends on a circle, but a completed long novel game usually costs around 1000-2000 yen. No wonder people mistook it for a demo-version.
- 【Editor of sai-zen-sen.jp】: “~” comes from the original publication without changing. Probably it’s “cgi”.
- Mansei Bridge (or Mansei-bashi, 万世橋) is a bridge over Kanda River just near Akihabara. Niku no Mansei, famous for its steak towers, as well as Mansei-bashi police station, the guardian of the electric town, are all located here. Comes up frequently in topics about Akiba. Of course, illegal dumping is strongly prohibited.
- 【KEIYA】: This, along with Ryukishi07’s words from The Last Study: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: “I fall far short of the true book lovers”, is a form of humility. However, these words since became a base of a misunderstanding that “Ryukishi07 doesn’t read books at all”.
- Gyaru gemu/gal game/bishoujo game, is “a type of Japanese video game centered on interactions with attractive girls” (from Wikipedia).
- 【KEIYA】: Spoiler forum or Netabare Keijiban (ネタバレ掲示版) is a forum on the 07th Expansion official site. It’s meant for those people who have already finished reading Higurashi and it’s where you can discuss and make deductions about the whole story.