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Higurashi When They Cry (ひぐらしのなく頃に Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, lit. When the Cicadas Cry) is a Japanese murder mystery dōjin soft visual novel series produced by 07th Expansion. The story is divided into eight main arcs. The first four arcs of the series are referred to as Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Question Arcs to distinguish it from the full series. It is succeeded by Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai, which consists of the last four arcs.

The first entry, Onikakushi, was released at Comiket 62 on August 10, 2002. Successive arcs were released at other Comikets, with the final entry, Matsuribayashi, being released at Comiket 70 on August 13, 2006. The eight main arcs have all been officially translated into English by MangaGamer under the title Higurashi When They Cry Hou and may be purchased individually on MangaGamer's website, GOG, or Steam.

Official Introduction

June, 1983.
The summer heat has arrived earlier than it does most years.
By day there are cicadas, and by night, the higurashi.

Hinamizawa, a small village in the Japanese countryside.
While there are fewer than two-thousand people there,
every year, 'something' happens.

For the past 4 years, someone has died,
and another has gone missing.

This series of deaths and disappearances is connected
to the local resistance against a now-abandoned dam construction project. A murder during the construction,
covered up by the local authorities, is being re-enacted
year after year.

Is it a conspiracy?
A coincidence? Or perhaps a curse?

Someone who was supposed to be there...isn’t.
Someone who wasn’t supposed to be there... is.
Someone who was alive last night is now dead,
and someone who is here right now isn’t alive.

There is no way to avert this tragedy.
There is no choice but to give up trying.
But even so... please don’t give up.[1]

Gameplay

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni is a mystery visual novel, and as such conveys its story primarily through text-based narration and dialogue supplemented by visual and audio elements such as character sprites, background music, and sound effects. It is described as a "sound novel" by 07th Expansion, owing to the game's greater focus on creating atmosphere through audio elements rather than visual aspects. The original releases contain no voice acting for the characters.

Besides advancing text, players may also access the TIPS Mode, allowing them to view extra scenes that include new information regarding the characters and story. The Question Arcs chapters each have an epilogue called an All-Cast Review session, a comedic skit where the characters of the story will discuss the chapter and may also provide some hints. The Answer Arcs each have an epilogue called the Staff Room, where the author Ryukishi07 talks about his thought process for writing the chapter. While it is not necessary to view these scenes, they can provide greater insight on the story overall.

Despite the lack of interactive gameplay elements, Higurashi is framed as a game between the author and the reader, with difficulty ratings given in the descriptions for each episode. This refers to the difficulty of the mysteries in each episode, which the reader is intended to actively try to solve.

Story

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni takes place primarily in June of 1983 in the rural Japanese village of Hinamizawa. The main protagonist is Keiichi Maebara, a young boy who moves to Hinamizawa with his family and starts attending the school there, making new friends and having fun with club games.

As Keiichi gets closer to his friends, he gets more involved with the village's culture and learns they worship a god known as Oyashiro-sama and hold an annual festival dedicated to him. Keiichi also discovers that the annual festival has a curse associated with it, where someone mysteriously dies and another disappears. Keiichi's search for answers leads him to learn dark secrets about his friends and of the village itself.

Concept and Development

Inspirations and Early Concepts

Ryukishi developed an interest in novel games due to works such as Otogirisou and Kamaitachi no Yoru and wanted to make one of his own. Using the game maker Sound Novel Tsukuru 2, he created a game similar to what would become Hinamizawa Bus Stop but lost all of the data one day. He later rewrote Hinamizawa Bus Stop as a stage play script and submitted it to a contest but it was rejected.[2] After the release of Tsukihime, Ryukishi's brother Yatazakura convinced him to try again with making sound novel games using NScripter, the same engine that Tsukihime used. Ryukishi took his original stage play script and rewrote it.[3]

There were many ideas for the title of this new story. Ryukishi wanted the title to evoke the image of evening cicadas and wanted to use the higurashi (蜩) kanji, but he thought people would think the story featured a lot of insects. Another working title for the story was "Strange Tales of Hinamizawa" (雛見沢奇譚 Hinamizawa Kitan), however Ryukishi decided against it when his word processor was unable to type the 譚 character. He then thought about scenes with characters namedropping the title and mused to himself "it will all be over when the higurashi cry (higurashi no naku koro ni)" and finally settled on that. The na (な) character in the title was made red because it can have many meanings, like "weep" or "cry".[4]

Ryukishi intended to release Higurashi all as one game, but instead decided to split it into multiple releases due to how long the story would turn out to be.[5] It was going to be a game with choices and routes named after characters, and each chapter would focus on a different character with 6 total.[6] In the end that was changed as well.[7]

The setting of 1983 was chosen because "1983 is a little more than 20 years ago. I think most Higurashi readers are young people, around college age. So it becomes a kind of ambiguous time, when the reader may or may not have been born. Now, for example, if a story was set more than a hundred years ago, it might enter the realm of fantasy, because no one who's alive was present at that time—not the author, not the readers, not anybody. No matter how carefully they may have studied books on the subject, it won't change the fact that they are depicting their imaginary vision of something they've never seen or heard. But if it takes place just barely around the time you were born, it’s not fantasy. And yet it might be a time when you could believe in the fairy tales your parents told you when you were small. I think this puts it on the boundary where reality and illusion blend together. That's why I chose the ambiguous date of 1983 as a setting. I think it’s because it takes place in that time that there's a delicate balance between murder cases and curses."[5]

Part of Ryukishi's inspiration for Higurashi came from several works such as the movie The Blair Witch Project and the works of Seishi Yokomizo, most notably The Village of Eight Graves.[5] Ryukishi especially praised Blair Witch Project for seeming realistic due to it having in-universe documents, diaries, and police reports released before the film came out. He adopted a similar level of realism with Higurashi's TIPS, presenting many of them as police reports and news articles.[6] Ryukishi was also inspired by KEY's works, which were known for starting with happy, ordinary scenes before transitioning to sad scenes; Higurashi follows a similar theme in starting with ordinary slice of life scenes before transitioning to horror scenes.[8]

Real-life inspirations included the Miboro Dam development project, a plan to build a dam that resulted in the relocation of over 1,200 people and the submerging of many houses. Villagers in Shirakawa-go opposed it with an organization, the "Defense Society For the Absolute Opposition of Miboro Dam" (御母衣ダム絶対反対期成同盟死守会).[9] Ryukishi had seen a news report about it when he travelled to Shirakawa-go and named Higurashi's Onigafuchi Defense Alliance after it.[10]

When the first chapter Onikakushi was released, it was originally released as an alpha version and was intended to be rereleased at the next Comiket with added choices and scenarios. Some players wondered how they could get different endings, and Ryukishi told them it was unfinished. However, Ryukishi instead chose to write the next chapter Watanagashi rather than add choices to the first. He got similar feedback after Watanagashi, but he wrote and released Tatarigoroshi afterwards. By then, Ryukishi decided he wasn't going to add choices to Higurashi, thinking it set the work apart from other novel games since choices and branching routes were customary to the genre.[2]

Artwork and Sound Development

The Shirakawa-go Hachiman shrine (top) and the Furude Shrine (bottom). (Photo by Morry's Box)

All of the backgrounds featured in the original version of Higurashi are filtered photographs taken by Ryukishi and his friends, with the majority coming from the Japanese village of Shirakawa-go.[11] The character sprites were drawn and colored by Ryukishi, however the famed "scary eyes" were originally created by Yatazakura.[7]

For the music, Ryukishi at first relied on royalty-free music tracks as many composers he reached out to refused to work with him, as they believed he was working on an erogame and didn't want to be associated.[12] Ryukishi frequently received comments accusing him of stealing music from other games, or comments where people thought other games stole his music. Ryukishi decided to limit the use of royalty-free music from then on and communicated with a member of the doujin group GameMusicLibrary for advice, who told him to crowdsource composers on the website mixi.[13]

One day, a fan by the name of dai sent an email to Ryukishi criticizing the music mastering, and though Ryukishi believed he sent a dismissive reply asking him to send some of his own soundtracks, dai actually complied. The 07th Expansion staff was impressed and brought dai on board.[12] dai's music would be featured in Higurashi starting with Meakashi.

Promotion and Release

Initial Release and Reception

The first chapter Onikakushi was first sold at Comiket 62 for only 100 yen (US equivalent: approx. $1). Due to the very low price, many people mistook it for a demo version.[3] At the time, Ryukishi was also selling custom cards for the Leaf Fight game and put free copies of Onikakushi into card packs mailed to customers, passing it off as a mistake whenever people asked.[2]

The back cover of Tatarigoroshi advertising "correct answer rate: 1%".

Out of the first 100 people who played Onikakushi and sent theories to Ryukishi by email, only one of them managed to solve the mystery. Ryukishi decided to use "Correct answer rate: 1%" as a tagline and put it on the back of new chapters.[14] Ryukishi promised to send free copies of later installments to people who gave feedback.[2]

After the release of Tatarigoroshi, Ryukishi's friend BT suggested they put up a free trial version of Onikakushi to encourage the series' growth. Ryukishi agreed, and it helped contributed to the series' growing popularity due to widespread support and recommendation from fan blogs. Prior to Himatsubushi's release, Ryukishi sold copies of Higurashi at a booth at Comiket. He had tried to make deals with a doujin store to get them sold there, however he was rejected due to Higurashi being an orignal, all-ages work and having poor artwork. Although Himatsubushi was unplanned, Ryukishi still made 2000 copies of it and had all of them sell out. Himatsubushi was later sold at many doujin stores in Akihabara.[2]

Controversy Surrounding Influence on Real-Life Murders

In September 2007, a news report of a Japanese teenager murdering her father with an axe made headlines in Japan[15], resulting in the TV broadcast of Higurashi When They Cry Kai being halted for a while. KBS Tokyo stated that they did it out of consideration for the incident and that the anime showed scenes of a girl holding a weapon, and would "correct the visual expressions" and resume broadcasting later.[16] In January 2008, an 18-year-old Japanese boy murdered his family, and several violent manga he owned were confiscated by police, including an unnamed one strongly suggested to be Higurashi.[17]

This apparent controversy surrounding Higurashi's influence on real-life murders was such that Alchemist acknowledged it during their 33 Mysteries campaign advertising Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kizuna Volume III, where one of their mystery videos asked, "Did Higurashi really influence real-life killings?".[18] On the follow-up "34 Mysteries Kai" microsite, this question was answered with a linked article featuring a discussion with University of Tokyo professor Masataka Yoshida, who asserted that Higurashi was not to blame for any violent incidents and opposed the concept of environmental determinism.[19]

Story Arcs

Question Arcs

Solution Arcs (Kai)

Extra Arcs

Ports, Adaptations, and Spinoffs

Ports

Manga

Main article: Higurashi WHEN THEY CRY (manga)

A manga series was serialized from 2005 to 2012, consisting of the Question Arcs, Answer Arcs, and many original arcs. It was licensed for English release by Yen Press.

Drama CDs

Main article: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (drama CD)

A drama CD series covering the main arcs was released from 2005 to 2012. Notably, this is the first piece of voiced Higurashi media, predating the anime.

Anime

Studio DEEN created an anime adaptation of the main series which originally aired between 2006 and 2007. The first season adapted the Question Arcs, Meakashi and Tsumihoroboshi. Named after Kai, the second season adapts a Tsumihoroboshi TIP, Minagoroshi, and Matsuribayashi alongside an exclusive arc Yakusamashi-hen. Rei was adapted into an OVA series of the same name in 2009. An OVA series of 4 episodes named Kira was released between 2011 and 2012. Later, a standalone OVA adapted Outbreak in 2013.

Light Novel

Main article: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (novel)

A light novel series was illustrated by Tomohi and published by Kodansha from 2007 to 2009, covering the Question Arcs, the Answer Arcs, and Saikoroshi-hen.

Live Action Movies

A live-action movie was released in 2008, featuring elements from Onikakushi and Watanagashi. It was released overseas with the title Shrill Cries of Summer.

A sequel titled Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Chikai was released in 2009, featuring elements from Tsumihoroboshi. It had the overseas title of Shrill Cries - Reshuffle.

Live Action Drama

Main article: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (2016 drama)

A live-action TV show adaptation aired in 2016 with two seasons.

Stage Plays

Main article: Hinamizawa Bus Stop (stage play)
Main article: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (stage play)

The theater group Shingidan has produced two stage play collaborations: Hinamizawa Bus Stop, an adaptation of the Higurashi prototype story; and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Naga and Aka, adaptations of Watanagashi and Meakashi.

Sequels

There are many anime and manga series that are considered sequels to the original story:

  • Higurashi Gou and Sotsu, two anime series produced by Studio Passione and often referred to collectively as "GouSotsu".
  • Higurashi Gou and Meguri, two manga series illustrated by Tomato Akase. Despite having a similar name and plot details as the above anime, they are considered a separate work.
  • Higurashi Rei, a manga series set 35 years after the original story, centered on the children of the original main characters.

Spinoffs and Misc

Gallery

Trivia

  • Higurashi has many coincidental similarities to the 1997 manga Haruka Refrain (はるかリフレイン). During the release of Higurashi, many Japanese fans pointed out the similarities between the two, and Ryukishi has stated that if he knew about Haruka Refrain from the beginning, then Higurashi may have been much different or may not have been written at all.[20]

External Links

References

  1. Higurashi When They Cry Hou Ch. 1 Onikakushi Store Page (Mangagamer) https://www.mangagamer.com/detail.php?product_code=132
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Higurashi 15th Anniversary Dengeki Online Interview
  3. 3.0 3.1 07th Expansion Toratsu Interview
  4. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Matsuri Official Complete Guide Special Interview
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Alone in the Dark: An Interview With the Creators of Higurashi When They Cry
  6. 6.0 6.1 Higurashi no Nakasekata Part 1
  7. 7.0 7.1 Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Official Character Guide/Interview
  8. July 9, 2004 forum post on the 07th Expansion bulletin board by Ryukishi07 (archived)
  9. Miboro Dam on Japanese Wikipedia.
  10. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Famous Scene Investigation File 100 Interview, page 106
  11. Ryukishi07 Interviews (Epitanime 2012)
  12. 12.0 12.1 ACen 2015 07th Expansion Panels
  13. Higurashi no Nakasekata Part 2
  14. Production Diary Entry on August 25, 2003. (English translation by rockmor)
  15. Japan Times September 19, 2007: Teenage girl admits killing dad with ax (archive)
  16. J-Cast News, September 27, 2007: "School Days" and "Higurashi When They Cry Kai" Anime Pause An Overreaction?"
  17. J-Cast News January 16, 2008: "Doll implanted in mother's abdomen? The relationship between "bizarre murders" and manga" part 2
  18. 33 Mysteries Part 1: Did Higurashi really influence real-life killings?
  19. J-Cast News, February 12, 2008: "Did Higurashi When They Cry Influence Murder Cases? UTokyo Associate Professor Masataka Yoshida Inquires."
  20. "Haruka Refrain" Reprint Commemoration, Interview with Ryukishi07: https://natalie.mu/comic/pp/harukarefrain
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