This is a transcript of a series of 07th Expansion panels at ACen 2015. Over the course of 3 days, Ryukishi07 talked about his works, his writing process, and his inspirations.
This article or section contains untagged major spoilers for the original Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and possibly the console-exclusive arcs. Readers who have not completed the main story are advised not to proceed further.
This article or section contains untagged major spoilers for all of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, possibly including the manga. Readers who have not completed the story are advised not to proceed further.
- 1 Panel #1
- 2 Panel #2
- 3 Panel #3
- 4 Sources
- Although he calls himself a “script writer” now, he didn’t always want to be.
- At the beginning, he’d felt an impulse to create something, but couldn’t tell what.
- He never could have imagined that a decade later, he’d be here writing sound novels.
- He could have very well ended up a different sort of creator. If he’d become a chef instead, he’d be making omelets for us all now [I can’t fully capture it here, but FYI, Ryukishi07 was hilarious throughout the panel. The audience laughed out loud tons of times…especially at his “wacky anecdotes” later in the panel].
- Script writing may not even be his true calling yet. He might still find something that suits him even more.
Spur of the Moment
- Early on, he was making a manga with a friend, and had left the manuscript with him.
- His friend called him up in the middle of the night, and asked what Ryukishi07 wanted his pen name to be. He was extremely sleepy and confused, so he asked “…Right now?” His friend told him that the deadline was now.
- Ryukishi decide to base it off the Dragon Knight class in Final Fantasy, and the “07” came from a reading of Reina from Final Fantasy since he liked that character. It was only meant to be a temporary name.
- Next, Ryukishi ending up doing illustrations for the Leaf Fight TCG. The name “07th Expansion” was decided since it was like the different expansions released for TCGs.
- Ryukishi advised the audience that “If you’re gonna come up with a name, don’t come up with anything silly, because it’ll stick!”
- These are all examples of how spur of the moment and unplanned the whole process of creating Higurashi was.
BT and Higurashi’s Birth
- 2 years on, Ryukishi met BT, who ended up being the main engineer behind Higurashi.
- At this time, Tsukihime had just come out from Type-Moon. It was based on Nscripter. and Ryukishi’s younger brother said, “Hey, we can use this too.”
- Earlier, Ryukishi had written a stage play [Hinamizawa Bus Stop] and he suggested they could convert it into a video game.
- After hearing Ryukishi’s idea for creating a sound novel, BT went along with it, but later confided that his reaction was, “I thought you’d gone crazy.” He thought it would be an utter failure, but couldn’t bring himself to tell Ryukishi.
- With both the ability to write and program between them, he felt that they were invincible.
- In Japan, when something popular comes out, many people jump on the bandwagon to try imitating that success. Many other people were doing that with Tsukihime, although 07th Expansion didn’t really realize this at the time.
- Some people said that since Tsukihime had vampires, the next big thing would have werewolves. Higurashi doesn’t have that, but it is somewhat similar how people can turn into demons in it.
- At this point, Ryukishi’s pen name, group name, and motivation were all completely improvised. If you know too much, it can inhabit you. So sometimes ignorance can be a better motivator than knowledge, allowing yourself to forge on recklessly.
- As an example of his recklessness: Although Higurashi ended up being 8 releases over 4 years, he originally thought he could do it all in 1 year.
- It was good to not realize the task he was setting out on was “impossible.”
- If he was an investor in a project with people thinking like that, of course he’d cut it off. But in a hobby of the heart, that recklessness is a plus.
- Around EP3, Higurashi started getting a lot of recognition online.
- BT had convinced him to release a trial version with the first arc, which helped promote it.
- The trial version actually had the data for the 2nd and 3rd arcs, but they were supposed to be inaccessible. As Ryukishi was eating in a ramen shop, though, he got a call from BT saying, “I have to apologize. Some evil programmer has unlocked the data in the trial version…” They’d unintentionally released everything they’d put so far for free [I couldn’t quite tell from this whether it was another evil programmer who’d hacked it, or whether BT had left it accessible himself. I think it’s the first, though].
- Still, this increased the sales of the 4th arc.
- This is another example of how the success of Higurashi was completely unplanned.
- Eventually, they started getting offers for manga and anime adaptations. They got advice from the president of Type-Moon saying: “When you do cross media, you need someone in control or fans will be disappointed.”
- As an example, in the VN of Tsukihime, Ciel’s favorite food is curry. In the anime, they arbitrarily changed it to spaghetti. This didn’t sit well with many fans.
- 07th Expansion was still just 3 people, though (Ryukishi07, BT, and Ryukishi07’s brother), so they didn’t have the staff to oversee things tightly.
- Ryukishi07 believes that adaptations should have changes to meet the strengths of the new medium. VNs are text based and can have lots of information. Manga/anime can better show character expressions and emotion, but are much shorter.
- That’s why the story between the adaptations can be different, which fans ask about.
- The overall message is the important thing.
- When supervising scripts of the anime, Ryukishi would try to put in too much dialogue, which doesn’t work in that medium.
- He would supervise the script, but ultimately leave the final version up to the pros.
- He was really active, though, in making sure the voice actors got the intonation right. For example, Rena’s “Hauu~!” and “Omochikaeri~!” (which Ryukishi did awesome impressions of, to the audience’s great amusement).
- In the live action movie during raining scenes, Ryukishi is just off the camera freezing, although you can’t see him.
Writing and Work
- By this time, Ryukishi was almost spending more time supervising then actually writing, so the releases were getting further apart.
- He also still had his day job as a civil servant.
- He got lots of valuable story material from his job.
- One recommendation he has to all young people wanting to be writers, is to not become a writer right after college. Get a regular job first to get life experience, and write at the same time.
- At a regular job, you’ll meet lots of people and learn things that’ll make your writing stronger.
- In Japan, after 10 years of working as a civil servant, they start to assign you lots of work, and it’s the super hard and busy kind.
- Ryukishi loved writing more, so he wanted to get the lazy bottom feeder work instead, so he had time for writing.
- He probably shouldn’t say this, but he might have written a third to a half of Higurashi while he was on the job.
- He had mastered the shortcuts to quickly switch between windows, and also wrote in a tiny font so it wasn’t immediately clear what he was doing to a senpai watching over his shoulder.
- Sometimes the text was so small even he couldn’t tell what he was writing. This might’ve been a good thing.
- The anxiety of wondering whether a senpai was watching over his shoulder probably influenced the anxious mood of Higurashi.
Full Time Writer
- The 4th arc was half as long as the previous ones, but took twice as long to write (a year instead of half a year), due to how busy he was at work.
- When he got home, he would try to write instead of sleeping. He was thinking this might be the end of Higurashi.
- He was very lucky at work that his boss was such an SOB, so he didn’t have any hesitation to quit.
- We all need to thank his boss, because being such an SOB made him one of the true VIPs behind Higurashi’s creation.
- Ryukishi really wishes he could still keep his day job and be a writer, though.
- His brother and BT were also very dedicated.
- His brother was a postal worker on a motorcycle, so Ryukishi always knew that if his brother got into a traffic accident, it would be his own fault for not letting the man get enough sleep.
- After pulling 2 all-nighters in a row, instead of saying, “OK, you can rest now,” they’d be saying, “OK, you can go to work now.”
- He’ll be thankful to his brother and BT for all the rest of his life.
- In Japan, it’s extremely difficult to get paid time off except through bereavement. Ryukishi expects that BT had to “kill off” many of his relatives during the creation of Higurashi.
- Ryukishi even invented a fictional girlfriend to get time off from work. At Comiket, he’d get regional souvenirs from fans in different areas to use as proof of the vacations he’d supposedly gone on with her.
- At times he’d be at Comiket talking on his cellphone, fake coughing to pretend he was sick that day.
- Thanks to all these things that went into Higurashi, Ryukishi gets extremely nostalgic whenever he hears the title. It all comes back to him.
- People ask him, “How to be a successful writer?” and his half-joking response is “Go to a shrine and pray.”
- Most of his success came from luck, as well as the huge amount of help he’s received from his friends.
- There was only time for one question, which was about how Higurashi and Umineko came to have such wonderful music. Ryukishi explained that, when he was first starting Higurashi, it was hard to get music for it because lots of composers refused to do music “for erogames.” At the start, they ended up using copyright-free music.
- Later on, the composer Dai sent them an email saying that the game was great, but that it’s soundtrack was “full of noise.” Ryukishi replied back saying, “Well, let’s see the soundtrack you’d make.” He thought he’d flippantly blown off Dai, and that would be the end of the conversation. However, Dai ended up responding with some actual tracks. He showed them to the other members of 07th Expansion to get their opinion, and they said, “We need this guy’s music in our games.” And the rest was history.
Introduction and What he Writes For
- Before coming to the US, Ryukishi did a lot of research on what were the most common questions he’d be asked. One question at the forefront was, “How do you come up with such strange stories and characters?”
- One of the most important things to him is making sure he becomes one of the readers.
- To test the waters, he always asks close staff members to read his works. The number one thing he’s looking for is for them to have a surprised face in a strange way while reading.
- When he gave his stories to BT to read, BT would say, “You’re like a devil!” BT had such a pure an innocent soul, so one of the main reasons Ryukishi wrote was to get a reaction from BT.
- He wants to surprise and disgust his readers, but also to trick and deceive. He would watch people reading his stories going “Oh, I’m saved!….no, I’m not. Oh, I’m saved!…no, I’m not.”
- This staff reading is a big part of him and his work.
Writing as Game, Pt. 1
- His stories aren’t written like a “1, 2, 3” linear progression, but as a game.
- He thinks of making a story as like chess. There’s one motive (to win), but many possible plays and ways to reach that motive. With the 32 pieces, the only thing set is the rules of how they move. Everything else is organic. He believes his stories are the same.
- In the 1st game, White wins. In the 2nd game, Black wins, and so on. It’s different every time.
- With Higurashi, Ryukishi wanted to see what would happen if you completely forget about the rules and just go for the goal.
- An example of one of the rules in Higurashi is how Rika is a very cute girl, but when she’s alone, her personality completely changes.
- Ryukishi experiences both sides of the story, as a writer and reader.
- If you ignore the game rules and add more and more layers, the characters will be more like human beings. For real people, there’s much more going than just a single storyline.
Writing as a Game, Pt. 2
- One of Ryukishi’s favorite movies is Superman. Superman is the strongest man in the world, but he imagined, what if there was another person stronger than Superman? Would Superman still care about saving humankind?
- When They Cry came from that concept: taking the same pieces but putting them through a different situation, and seeing how the characters react quite differently.
- With so many layers, you need complicated and well-rounded characters.
- For Umineko, every game has the same setting: all the characters arrive on the Island for the family conference, every time people are killed. However, different people are killed each time, and that changes the story, bringing lots of mystery and intrigue into it.
- Ryukishi approaches this process like a reader. He’s just observing what happens when you move the pieces [I think this a fascinating way of looking at story creation. I’ll have to try it with my own writing].
- The way he creates a story is more like a roleplaying game, such as Dungeons & Dragons, than traditional writing. He’s not writing it linearly with parts “1, 2, 3”, he’s just watching what goes on.
- Many times because of this process, even he doesn’t know what the outcome will be as he’s writing it. For example, he never knew the scene of Rena chasing Keiichi would ever happen.
- This method of writing keeps him much more engaged and excited, since he doesn’t know everything in advance. With the traditional way of writing, he can’t stay as motivated, since he already knows the outcome. It’s his policy as a writer to always do it in an organic way.
- One of the downsides of this is that he can get too inspired, to a detrimental effect. As an example, when writing [Tsumihoroboshi] he was heavily inspired by Independence Day, although many might not see the connection. He kept on trying to get Keiichi to fight against aliens!
- The scene where Keiichi and Rena fight has a lot of influence from the scene with the president in Independence Day.
- After that, he’s always avoided all anime, movies, and games when writing a story.
- He still plays some games, though, as a breather when writing. When writing EP6 of Higurashi, he ended up playing 100 hours of a Playstation ninja game in between writing. Sometimes he thinks to himself, “This is a great game…I need to hurry up and finish it!”
- His most recent guilty pleasure is a PS4 zombie game. For future reference, in one of his upcoming stories, you’ll be able to tell where the zombie touch comes from [He might be referring to Higurashi Outbreak, since it’s not officially translated into English yet].
- He loves zombie games. However, in Japan, if you throw bombs at zombies, their body parts remain intact, and their blood is green [Since they censor violence more heavily in Japan]. So he always makes sure to get the US version.
- In Japan, zombies don’t get much love, but anything with girls’ panties do. So, he hopes we could make a zombie game with girls’ panties so it can get love in Japan.
From Setting to Character
- It’s important for all characters to have 2 sides.
- Rena: Cute, but has another side that’s very chilling.
- Satoko: Mischievous, but has another side that’s very sad for upbringing.
- Mion: Doesn’t have a front/back side like the others. She’s very straightforward and honest. On the other hand, although it seems like she’s knows all the secrets in the start of the story, she actually knows nothing.
- Each character has personality you see, but also ulterior motives and other sides to them. This makes them more complex and full-dimensional.
- The funnest part is the lack of rules with characters.
- In Umineko, instead of saying how Beato felt and thought, he wanted the readers to fill that in by figuring out that himself. He knows it all himself, but he doesn’t want to tell readers and wants them to come up with their own version through their own experience.
- He often went online a lot to see what people were thinking about the game. After EP2, a lot of players were giving up on the mystery and declaring it a fantasy. That led him to change EP3 from its original much harder version. He added Virgilia to help the reader. Originally, that character was going to be Virgilius, an evil and very intelligent male character, that later became Erika Furudo.
- If Erika had been in EP3…how different things would have been then! Too bad, he had really wanted to make the readers suffer.
- In a press junket in Japan, a journalist suggested that Ryukishi looked online and changed the story based on that. For example, he’d take the character that everyone thought was good, and make them evil. But no, he doesn’t do anything like that.
- Umineko is a game he plays with the readers. At this point, the audience called out, “He’s a witch!” to which he replied “Exactly!”
- For 4 years, he was playing a game with the readers, and the story of Umineko is the end result of that.
- The creation of a When They Cry isn’t possible without you guys. It’s a joint effort between him as a creator and the readers, and he thanks them all from the bottom of his heart.
- Q: Why is Higurashi set in a rural area, and why in the 80s?
- A: He was inspired by the mystery novel The Village of the Eight Gravestones by Seishi Yokomizo.
- Q: What’s his favorite character in all of When They Cry?
- A: Tomitake.
- Q: How did the death of BT affect his writing process, particularly since some people say that Umineko EP6-8 turned out quite differently from the rest of the story?
- A: The way he wrote before was based on who he was as a person then, and he’s a different person now. He’d like you to walk away with that.
- Q: How does he get over writer’s block.
- A: He still doesn’t have a solution for that! But a lot of good ideas come to him when he’s in the bath.
Q: Is it possible that he’ll make a continuation of Higanbana no Saku Yoru Ni, or does he consider the story finished?
A: First of all, he said he was glad that someone in Chicago had been able to read and enjoy Higanbana. He has a lot more ideas to work on the series, and he’d love to continue it or write a similar work.
Q: What was the inspiration for the Hinamizawa virus, particularly the repetitions of “I’m sorry, I’m sorry?”
A: The Hinamizawa Virus and the isolation of the village was heavily inspired by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” lines come from the concept of someone with a mindset that’s so paranoid and on egg-shells that even the smallest thing, like getting a button wrong, could lead them to a tragedy.
Q: With Ciel-sensei appearing in Higurashi, was it influenced by Tsukihime?
A: He considers it more an homage than an influence. Higurashi wouldn’t have existed without Tsukihime.
Q: Thoughts on Umineko becoming more relaxed in its giving of hints, especially with the EP8 manga?
A: He’d been writing Umineko for 4 years. He used the metaphor of a painter’s brush. At first you use it roughly, but eventually you become more comfortable with it. At the start of the series, there was a higher level of anxiety, but as it continues, it becomes more comfortable for the reader.
Q: What were some murder mysteries that influenced Umineko?
A: Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None [Though of course we already knew that].
Q: How did he come up with the concept of the Onigafuchi swamp and demons coexisting?
A: Japanese mythology has many themes of an “other” coming from some faraway place, and he draw from that a lot. [For the record, the translator wasn’t perfect. It took a good bit of explaining to phrase the more abstract questions. This was demonstrated succinctly with this question, as she paused to ask another moderator, “How do you say ‘swamp’ in Japanese?” I don’t meant to be snarky, though, since she was definitely trying her hardest to keep up.]
Q: Do the Japanese create fan works just like Western fans do?
A: Yes, in fact, there used to be a lot of posting of original works on the BBS of 07th Expansion’s website. Also, Ryukishi07 mentioned that he occasionally checks in on 4Chan sometimes (which got quite a reaction from the audience).
Q: Did Ryukish07 know about the Shkannontrice theory from the start?
A: Yes, and he spent a long time explaining it all to Beatrice’s VA for the anime. Also, he purposefully did not explain it to Shannon’s VA, and did tell Beatrice’s that Shannon’s didn’t.
Q: What is the relationship between Rika and Frederica Bernkastel?
A: Bernkastel is composed of all the negative emotions and memories from the Rika that endured 100 years of torment in Higurashi. On a side note, he mentioned that Rika was BT’s favorite character, so he greatly enjoyed making Rika evil to see BT’s reaction.
Q: How is Ryukishi able to write in such an emotionally powerful way?
A: It flows naturally since Ryukishi experiences the story as a reader just as much as an author. In an emotional scene, he’s almost crying as he writes it. It’s actually harder to write the scenes without that passion. Also, whenever you see the faces of his characters twisted with emotion, you can imagine his face doing the same as a writer (which he demonstrated with some great pantomimes).
Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of visual novels/sound novels as a medium?
A: He thinks it’s the strongest medium out there, since it has the best of both worlds: the depth of prose, wonderful graphics, and you can add film parts as well. It’s biggest weakness is that not enough people know about it, and it’s still a subculture.
Q: The Higurashi anime introduced yandere to the US. Would he rather people enjoy it for the yandere or the mystery?
A: He feels that you should enjoy it however you like. For him personally, though, it’s 10% the yandere and 90% the rest of Higurashi.
Q: Is there a deeper meaning to how he uses the same character in multiple works, or is it just for fan enjoyment?
A: In most cases he likes to think of it as actors in different movies, like Harrison Ford in Star Wars or Indiana Jones. In other cases, like with witches (Miyo and Lambdadelta were mentioned), there can be more to it, but the rest is secret.
Q: What’s his favorite arc of Higurashi?
A: Minagoroshi-hen (Massacre Arc), because of the part where the whole village unites to save Satoko.
Q: In the end of Umineko EP8, which is the real ending: magic or trick?
A: He laughed and said “Whichever you choose is the right answer.” Of course, since you’re a player in the game, he won’t say which is right.
Q: Now that copyright laws on fan works are getting stricter in Japan, how does he think this will affect things in the future?
A: He believes that lots of people are posing as fan works, even though they’re really in it for profit and lack passion [IE, boatloads of Touhou and KanColle merch]. It hasn’t affected him, though, since his fans really are passionate.