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On March 23, 2021, the website Febri posted an interview with Ryukishi07 regarding Higurashi: When They Cry - GOU.

Interview is translated by rockmor.

HIGURASHI GOU SPOILER WARNING
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This article or section contains untagged spoilers for all of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou. Readers who have not finished the anime are advised not to proceed further.


Transcript

We wanted to respond to the fans who wanted to play Higurashi again.

This is the first Higurashi anime series in about seven years, how did it all start?

Ryukishi07: Once, when I was drinking tea with people in the anime industry, we were talking about how it would be nice to make another anime. “What if it would begin as a remake but then turn into something new from the middle?”. It was just a vague idea at first, but then we decided to start from scratch, and that’s how I began to write the plot of Higurashi Gou.

So it wasn't a plot that you had originally prepared?

R07: That’s right. At that point, there was no guarantee that it would be made into an anime, but I thought it sounded interesting. I sometimes receive comments from fans who say they want to erase their memories and enjoy Higurashi again. I’ve been thinking for a long time about how I could give back to those people. That’s why I thought that if I created a story that was supposed to be Onikakushi-hen but actually turned out to be something completely different, people would enjoy it even more, including making theories.

It’s been a while since you worked on the characters of Higurashi, how did it feel?

R07: Originally, the characters in Higurashi were designed to be versatile and fit in any setting. And since I had been continuously writing short scenarios, I never had any trouble at all with characters not moving. It’s a feeling that came back to me in an instant when I started writing.

I’m glad you enjoyed Satoko’s transformation

Rika is the main character up to Nekodamashi-hen, but it switches to Satoko from Satokowashi-hen. Rika is more of a behind-the-scenes protagonist than in the previous series, but why did you choose to feature Satoko this time?

R07: In the Higurashi series so far, Satoko has been the main character in Tatarigoroshi-hen and Minagoroshi-hen, which is the answer to Tatarigoroshi-hen, but in these stories, Satoko doesn’t take an active role, right? She is in the so-called “princess position” and Keiichi and the others, who play the princes, are struggling to save Satoko, which results in Satoko herself hardly appearing in the story. I’ve been thinking for a long time that despite the chapters I was writing were supposed to be about Satoko, I struggled to put her in the spotlight.

Indeed, up until now Satoko has only been “taking the hand extended to her by Keiichi and the others”.

R07: That’s right. In Minagoroshi-hen, I put too much emphasis on the fact that if you want to find a happy ending, you can’t do it by violent actions, but you have to take the right approach by gathering everyone’s strength, and as a result, it didn’t lead to a story of Satoko’s growth. That’s why this time I wanted to delve deeper into Satoko’s heart and make her the main focus of the story.

So that’s how it was. Even so, I feel that Satoko very unexpectedly has grown into a hell of a kid .

R07: Haha. Yes, that’s true. I’m glad that everyone seems to be surprised by that. I’ve already portrayed the duality of Rena and Shion before, so I was worried that Satoko’s change wouldn’t be very fresh and that no one would be surprised by it, but everyone seemed to enjoy it, which makes me happy.

The animation staff is sometimes more familiar with Higurashi than I am

As for the production, you wrote the script and gave it to the animation staff, right?

R07: Yes. Director Keiichiro Kawaguchi and the rest of the staff knew Higurashi so well that when we were discussing the scenario, they would say things like, “This is ○○ from the Heisei version of Higurashi” or “This is ○○ from the manga”. I am supposed to be the original author, but there were times when I couldn’t keep up with the conversation *laughs* The director has a deep enough understanding of the story to say things like, “The important thing is to get ○○ to say this line, right?”. Of course, I was involved in the scenario and storyboarding as a supervisor, but I only had to change a few lines.

I’m relieved that the staff reads so deeply into it.

R07: That’s a big relief. I feel like I just bought 200 kilograms of tuna from the fish market and just handed it over to the animation staff. Director Kawaguchi did a wonderful job of deconstructing the story, and the scriptwriter, Naoki Hayashi, neatly sliced it into three pieces. I was really impressed by everyone’s amazing understanding and how professional they are. I’m a bit of an amateur when it comes to animation, and the plot wasn’t designed with that in mind, so I think they handled it well.

Akio Watanabe is in charge of the character design, and it’s a very nice balance of retaining the nostalgia of the original while refining it for the modern age.

R07: It’s just as you said. Especially since Satoko is the main character in this story, I wanted to ask someone who could draw her as attractively as possible, and Akio Watanabe, who is the best when it comes to fangs and plasters, came in. I think he did a really great job with the design.

The cast thought it was a remake at first.

On the other hand, the cast members are the same.

R07: This is just a relief. Since they have been playing these characters for many years, they are very familiar with the world of Higurashi. Just after explaining the setting of Higurashi Gou in a few words, they already understood it, so that was a big help to me and I was able to rely on them.

However, the cast members didn’t know the whole story of Higurashi Gou before they start recording, right?

R07: Yes. Basically, we gave them a script for each week’s recording, and they probably thought that it was a remake at first. However, since Hanyu appeared in the second episode, Yui Horie, who plays Hanyu, said, “Isn’t it too early for me to step in?” *laughs*

So the cast members were also enjoying theorizing about Higurashi Gou as they were recording.

R07: I hope that’s the case. The only person I said anything beforehand was Mika Kanai, who plays Satoko. I said her that Satoko will have a rough time. On the other hand, I didn’t give any spoilers to Yukari Tamura, who played Rika, the one who is being deceived this time.

I made "Higurashi" because I wanted people to enjoy thinking about it.

I see. Maybe that kind of attention to detail is also reflected in the acting. Currently, a total of 24 episodes of Higurashi Gou have been aired, and from the very first episode, there has been a lot of excitement with various discussions through SNS. How do you feel about the reaction of the audience?

R07: For me, it’s the most ideal way to have fun. The TV anime Higurashi no Naku Koro ni was broadcasted in 2006, so at that time, there was no environment where people could casually post on SNS, and the only way to discuss was through forums. Now we live in an age where we can exchange opinions very casually, which I think is ideal.

Indeed, a wide range of people, from core fans to first-timers, are enjoying the discussion.

R07: I’m really happy about that. Originally, Higurashi was not intended to be an “orthodox mystery” where the goal is to uncover the culprit or trick, but rather a work that I wanted people to enjoy thinking itself. However, when we first announced it, such an atmosphere had not been fostered, and it was perceived as part of a culprit guessing game, where the person who figured out the culprit was amazing and the rest were seen as losers. For me, it’s not about the right or wrong answer, but rather the experience of exchanging opinions and discussing with others that is valuable and enjoyable. For me, Higurashi is a “theorizing game”, and I also think of it as a kind of communication game.

That’s right. In that sense, Higurashi Gou is exactly the way the series was originally intended to be enjoyed.

R07: In the age of social networking, I think the way we enjoy content has changed. Of course, there are a lot of people who are seriously into theory-crafting, and that makes me very happy, but I think it’s great that the range of ways to enjoy it has expanded.

I’m sure you’ve seen some serious thinkers, but are some of them close to the right answer?

R07: Everyone is very smart. There are quite a few people who think that if they can get this much from the information they have at the moment, it would be a perfect score of 100. But again, whether or not you got it right is secondary, as I think it’s more important how much fun you get from your theorizing, so even if your thinking is off the mark, I think that’s great.

Higurashi and Umineko are Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix?

There are also cases where viewers who started with Higurashi Gou start watching the Heisei version of Higurashi as well, giving the impression that the whole series is gaining momentum.

R07: I didn’t have that much in mind when I was writing the plot, but I’m glad it ended up working that way. It was also very important that the program was re-broadcasted and distributed through various media to make it easy to access. My only concern was that the old and new anime would be compared and there would be pointless discussions about “which one is better”, and I didn’t want that to happen. I love the Heisei version of Higurashi, and I’m grateful to Studio Deen for doing such a wonderful job, so I don’t want them to feel bad about it. But once it started, I saw that my fears were baseless. Everyone understands that all differences between the old and the new were done on purpose, including the direction, so I think it’s settled in a great place.

In terms of theory-crafting, the Higurashi series has long been suggested to be related to Umineko no Naku Koro ni, but to what extent were you thinking about this when writing Higurashi Gou?

R07: It’s often misunderstood, but basically Higurashi is a complete work, so it’s not that you can’t solve its mysteries or enjoy it if you don’t know Umineko no Naku Koro ni. However, if you are familiar with Umineko, you may find it interesting to look at it from a slightly different perspective. That’s about it.

So it’s something like an accessory item to broaden the scope of your thinking?

R07: That’s right. The two works share a part of the same setting, and I have a huge unified world in my mind, but it’s just a framework in my brain, not something that is clearly depicted in the story. It’s like Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix. While the stories are independent of each other, Phoenix and Saruta appear in most of the stories, don’t they? So you don’t necessarily need to know Umineko no Naku Koro ni to enjoy Higurashi. Of course, I would like you to read all the volumes of Phoenix, though *laughs*

I want you to feel for Satoko

Okay, I understand. Now, please tell us about the story of Higurashi Gou. First of all, there is Onidamashi-hen which makes you think it is a remake at first but turns out to be completely new work.

R07: That’s exactly what I was aiming for with Onidamashi-hen. I wanted to make people think that it was similar to the previous story but with some slight changes, when in fact it was completely different. The crucial part is the scene where Rena attacks Keiichi. In Onikakushi-hen, the tragedy occurred when Keiichi in a state of doubt didn’t let Rena into his house, while in Onidamashi-hen Keiichi welcomed Rena into his house, but was attacked by her. The first thing that shows that this story is not a simple IF route, but something else, is the Onidamashi-hen.

And it’s the same with Watadamashi-hen, which first part is similar to the beginning of Watanagashi-hen, but it is a different story.

R07: A person with good intuition may have noticed that there is something big happening behind the scenes in Higurashi Gou at the time of Onidamashi-hen, but  Watadamashi-hen is the chapter that tries to absolutely confirm it. Keiichi’s failure to give the doll to Mion led to the tragedy in Watanagashi-hen but in Watadamashi-hen the tragedy cannot be averted even though he gave the doll to her. I think this is the episode where you can clearly see that none of the previous flags will work.

In the following Tataridamashi-hen, the story takes an even more drastically different turn.

R07: I can’t go into too much detail about Tataridamashi-hen because it will be a relatively large part of the Higurashi Sotsu that will be aired later, but I think it’s a scenario that requires a new perspective based on the information that has been revealed so far. Please look forward to the solution in Higurashi Sotsu.

Starting from Nekodamashi-hen, the story is completely original.

R07: This is the chapter where Satoko tries to destroy Rika’s heart, and her goal is to get complete power over her. And it is Satokowashi-hen that depicts why Satoko has become so obsessed with Rika. This arc is positioned like the prequel of Takano Miyo’s story from Matsuribayashi-hen, and although Satoko indeed tries to prevent the future that Rika wants, I want you to be empathetic towards her as much as possible.

Earlier, I said that Satoko has grown into hell of a kid but I do understand her feelings painfully.

R07: I’m glad to hear that *laughs* Higurashi Sotsu is structured to tell how the tragedy was happening from Satoko’s point of view. The game board spins around and the player changes from Rika to Satoko.

From a viewer’s point of view, I’m expecting a development that leads to the last scene of Nekodamashi-hen, but what you can say about that?

R07: Right. That’s where it will come down to the last scene of Nekodamashi-hen section, as you’d expect, probably *laughs*

If I have any interesting ideas, I’m always up for doing it again

By the way, Heisei Higurashi had a major theme of “trusting and relying on friends”, but is there a different theme being portrayed this time?

R07: I have it in my mind, but honestly, people always get angry at me for being preachy *laughs* So this time I will not say it myself. It’s the same with the meaning of the words Gou (“karma”) and Sotsu (“graduation”) in the title, and I’m sure those who understand will understand, but I dare not say anything about it now.

If you connect the two, you get Sotsugyou (“graduation”), which makes me think that maybe this is the final chapter of the Higurashi series…

R07: No, I don’t mean that this is the end of the series. This time, we were able to create a story that won’t lose to Heisei Higurashi, so I think about it as a milestone, but as I said at the beginning, the setting of Higurashi is very expandable, so if I can come up with something interesting, I would like to do it again anytime.

That’s a relief for Higurashi fans.

R07: I might even do a story about the children of Keiichi and others in the time when they have their own families. But anyway, for now, I hope you can enjoy Higurashi Gou and Higurashi Sotsu as much as you can. Since there will be some time left before Higurashi Sotsu airs, it would be good to rewatch Higurashi Gou again, and if you watch the Heisei version of Higurashi, I think you may discover something new.

Sources