Higurashi no Nakasekata (ひぐらしのなかせ方 How to Make Higurashi) is a series of interviews conducted with 07th Expansion staff that were published in the magazine Toratsu, where Ryukishi07 and his colleagues talk about Higurashi no Naku Koro ni's development and success. Notes from KEIYA are included. Part 2 was published in 2004, around the release of Meakashi.
2004 Early spring, once again somewhere in Akihabara, Tokyo
— To coincide with Higurashi Kai, we would like to introduce the second installment of our “Nakasekata” series. Once again, thank you for your support. I’m sure you’ve done a lot of interviews since our last one, but do you ever get used to it?
Ryukishi: No, not at all.
— Last time we started with a discussion about Comiket, so let’s start this way again. You’ve said before that Comiket that time was a bit different. Do you feel that it was even more different this time (Winter Comiket of 2004)?
Ryukishi: This time we were a so-called shutter-circle, and it was a different world from what we’ve seen before, so I was a bit confused. We had only one item, so the distribution itself went pretty smooth, but, well… *becomes speechless for a moment* …Everyone has lined up just to buy our stuff this time.
— That’s right.
Ryukishi: In reality, we were just handing disks over. Up until now, we were just one circle the shima, and of course, nobody was lining up to our booth. Our PR was to invite those who were passing by and describe our product to them, and maybe do something like a show-room. We were often asked things like: “Is it good?” or “Is it really scary with art like this?” or “It’s sold for 100 yen, is it even finished?”. If we managed to convince them, they would buy it. However, this time it wasn’t like that, …for me it was the thing that differed the most.
— In your Production Journal, you’ve written that you were a bit sad after it ended.
Ryukishi: I guess it’s some kind of burnout. I always feel like I am going to crash for the first week after an event, but this time there were also some other things.
— There were people lining up when you entered the hall, right? What was your first reaction when you saw that?
Ryukishi: I thought, “It’s a lie”.
Ryukishi: It didn’t feel real. [The hall is] separated with the shutter before the opening, right? And when they opened it there was all those people… It’s something I never experienced before.
— Though, I think, it was a pain to organize it all.
Ryukishi: We had only one product and the price was 1000 yen this time, so there was not a lot of change, so it was the easiest form in terms of distribution. Before that, the price was 100 yen, and when we were selling cards they were 500 or 700 yen, so dealing with change was extremely complicated. In that sense, the distributing itself was very easy.
— Do you sell yourself? Or there are too many of those who what a sign or come to say hello?
Ryukishi: How many of us were there that day, I wonder? 1… 4… 5… 6, it was 6 people. Website administrator BT-san was managing the line and there were also Naruse Tsubaki and a girl who was a host at Maekawa-san’s event, two of our figure-makers friends who came to support us. They said that Wonfes is the same as Comiket even if it has a different genre, so they will be fine *laughs*
— It’s a good story *laugh*
Ryukishi: In other words, there were 3 people on the front and an ammunition carrier in the center.
— Ammunition carrier *laugh*
Ryukishi: He was taking new copies from a box and preparing 1000-yen bills in case there would be a change situation. I was standing behind opening the boxes and managing the money.
— The number of circles making products in the genre of Higurashi has increased recently. Did any of them come by to you?
Ryukishi: Well, there were a lot of other circles who came by. It’s a pity I myself couldn’t leave my own booth. I heard that there were a lot of Higurashi doujinshis this time, too bad I didn’t have a chance to check them out.
— Next thing I wanted to talk about is Hugurashi Only Event, which also included Tora no Ana. How did you find it?
Ryukishi: It was a lot of fun. The smallest event I attended before was about 50 circle spaces large. At first, I was worried about how it would be at an event less than half the size of it. I would feel bad for the organizer if nobody came… However, there were enough people in the end so some of them had to wait until others leave. Higurashi became more popular after this Summer Comiket. To think that there were people passionate enough to make Higurashi doujinshis for this event right before Winter Comiket.
— That’s right. Some people have been working on their books in a frenzy. It was a Higurashi Only Event, so there were a lot of Higurashi doujinshis lined up, but what did you think after looking at them?
Ryukishi: I was very surprised and happy… Really, it was surprising first and only after that it was moving. I thought that it was a dream… and that maybe it was time for the dream to end soon *laughs* I can say that now, but that was a very bad time for writing, and I was in a pretty tight spot, so a lot of people have worried about me. And there was a lot more to it than just writing. But I took the time to go to the events, which gave me motivation, and although it was a bad time, I was motivated by being at those three events, so I’m glad I did.
— Including the Only Event, there have been quite a few Higurashi books published, have you read any of them?
Ryukishi: I’ve read everything that I’ve been given as a present or bought myself. It helps me to get a sense of how others see my characters. For example, I may see Rena as a cool character, but someone else could perceive her as a “weird girl”. *laughs* So, it can be very valuable as a research of how the characters are seen from another point of view. Of course, even without that aspect, it’s very fun to read them. If there are a lot of books about Mion, I can see that right now Mion’s popularity is high. If there is a lot of Satoko, it’s like “Oh, Satoko is popular now. Oh, there is not a lot of Rika”. *laughs*
— Which characters are popular right now?
A Tora no Ana person in charge of doujin: There is a lot of Rena, after all. Rena and Mion?
Ryukishi: Satoko is also very popular.
— There was such discussions elsewhere, but which girl is your favorite?
Ryukishi: I think I answered “Sonozaki sisters” back then?
— It was a bit of a blurry answer, but yes.
Ryukishi: At that time, I was pushing Sonozaki sisters forward. The ultimate reason for that is that when I looked at all the characters profiles, I had a feeling that they would end up the least popular. I thought that Mion would probably have the most painful role. Number 2 isn’t the first, and if we had a voting system where people would only vote for the first place, nobody would put even a single vote in Mion. They would put it in Rena or Satoko… Tatarigoroshi-hen was already fixed to a certain extent at the planning stage, so I thought if Satoko got to Tatarigoroshi-hen, she would get a push. At that time, Watanagashi-hen wasn’t a story focused on pushing Mion. However, while the setting for Onikakushi-hen was becoming denser, I began thinking: “Ah, Mion… She will have it hard, she won’t be popular”. *laughs* People probably wouldn’t hate her, but she still won’t be able to take 1st place. So I decided to push her more and give her more spotlight without changing the skeleton of the story. After Onikakushi-hen there were some comments like “seeing strong Mion crying was so moe“… I realized that everyone loved to see Mion crying. *laughs* Rena had a strong impact since the very beginning because she was like a typical galge heroine image + an axe, and putting aside the question of whether she was cute or not, her character already stood out.
— Probably, Rena’s hatchet has already become the symbol of Higurashi. It was used that way at our shop, though.
Ryukishi: It was the same with that one, but a real hatchet has a round tip, doesn’t it. The one in the game has the tip sticking out, but I don’t know if that type ever existed…
— They said “axe” (ono), and I thought, maybe the hatchet (nata) is a mistake? But as expected, we couldn’t bring a real axe *laughs*
Ryukishi: The plan is for Rena really to appear with a hatchet from now on.
— I am looking forward to that. …Sorry. We went slightly off-topic. Let’s get back to the characters.
Ryukishi: After establishing Rena, Mion and Satoko, we are in a situation when we are still waiting for Rika’s turn. Himatsubushi-hen is Akasaka’s story rather than Rika’s. I don’t want to say it too loudly, but… Rika has a decent spotlight on her, but she’s… a character who goes into the dark side of things. Shining the spotlight on her means....so.
— The story has progressed to Meakashi-hen, and Rika… has turned dark *laughs*
— Is that the kind of balance you’re looking for when it comes to your characters?
Ryukishi: We are releasing a new chapter semi-annually, so we get feedback and evaluations during that time.
Ryukishi: There are aspects that are being “adjusted” accordingly. By “adjustment” I don’t mean changing the setting, I mean changing the direction. …For example, if I wanted to push the charm of Mion in the first half of Watanagashi-hen, I would increase the number of events related to her in the first half, or something like that. I think this is one of the strengths of our serialization format.
— Apart from being objective as an author, do you have any subjective preference for any of your characters?
— Something like “I want her to be my girlfriend!”.
Ryukishi: Ahh, that’s…
— Or “I want her to be my wife!”.
Ryukishi: This one will have a different answer~ *laughs*
— I see *laughs* OK, let’s do it separately. What if we start with a girlfriend?
Ryukishi: Girlfriend… It’s a girlfriend, so… A girlfriend, huh? *pause for reflection* Well, I think it will be Mion after all.
— I see. And what’s about wife?
Ryukishi: Wife… If it will become long relationships… Satoko is also a good choice, I guess *laughs*
Ryukishi: I was going to say Rena at first, but… Then I thought about who it would be more fun with. *laughs* I feel it would be fun with Rena too, though.
— Did you consider every character in all their depth?
Ryukishi: Yes, in all their depth. *laughs* Living with Rena would be tough because you can’t lie.
Ryukishi: I will probably be tricked by Satoko and that may be cute, and because I will probably quickly understand that she is lying, I’ll go: “Well, maybe I’ll let her trick me”. *laughs*
— Mion for a girlfriend and Satoko for a wife.
Ryukishi: Something like that.
— I’m digressing, but is the Mion you are talking about the person we called Mion from the beginning?
Ryukishi: Ahh, right. The one that was introduced as Mion.
— I have a little trouble distinguishing how to call whom after Meakashi-hen.
Ryukishi: You can distinguish them by a tattoo *laughs* The one with a tattoo is Mion. I guess it’s OK to call Mion a person you’ve thought as Mion from the start.
— It becomes clear in Meakashi-hen, but that trick with twins swapping all the time was there from the beginning…
Ryukishi: It’s a spoiler, but a mystery I wanted to do with Onikakushi-hen itself is, because there are more mysteries in different places… (omitted due to spoilers). When I made the trick for Watanagashi-hen… (omitted due to spoilers). Ah, it also coincides with the “month of Mion strengthening”. *laughs* So… it feels that if I continue this way the text will become more and more lacerated. *laughs* When the first impressions of Onikakushi-hen appeared (omitted due to spoilers). …In other words, Shion’s existence (omitted due to spoilers). Well, you’ll understand everything about Shion if you read Meakashi-hen.
Editor: What do you think about Shion in Meakashi-hen?
Ryukishi: Shion is… How do I say? I’m not sure if she’s pure of heart, or if she’s blinded with love, but she’s the kind of person who can be reckless. Together with the tragedy of Hinamizawa, or rather Higurashi, she becomes a character who goes wild. Of course, it’s a revenge story that was prepared at the time of Watanagashi-hen, where Shion was blaming the Three Families for Satoshi’s disappearance and decided to take revenge. And she was using Keiichi for this. Watanagashi-hen is told from Keiichi’s point of view, who thinks that something threatens his life, and it becomes a completely different story because of that. That’s why the catch-phrase of Watanagashi-hen is “It’s less difficult but very vicious”. In this particular case, the difficulty is meant to be low. No matter from which point of view you look, the twins swap at some point, so the probability of guessing the culprit is 50%. Either “Mion is the culprit” or “Shion is the culprit” is true. However, those who played it… Among the first 50 or 100 people who got the game for free in exchange for a review, almost everyone has given up reasoning.
Ryukishi: No one has ever guessed it. It all ended with a “Poor Mion,” and I was like, “Huh?” *sweating* In some sense, it was a shock. I was expecting something like “I wonder where they swapped”… For example, in the middle of Watanagashi-hen, where the motive is punishment by the village for entering the ritual storehouse, it’s obviously wrong to think that Oryou was killed. And still, nobody doubts her death. Just by me mentioning that “Oryou is dead”. In some sense, I made the All-Cast Review Session too misleading, and everyone accepted it. That’s why I decided to put “very vicious” in the description of the chapter with the release of Tatarigoroshi-hen.
— Were Watanagashi-hen and Meakashi-hen done almost at the same time, after all?
Ryukishi: That’s why the story is identical. In the time of Watanagashi-hen, there was a character named Shion who was acting in the background and it was connected to Satoshi. However, regarding direction, there were some scenes that were similar in both arcs, so I went and slightly changed things after those. But the overall picture is almost the same.
— We are slowly approaching the core.
Editor: I see it as, while Meakashi-hen is a reverse side of Watanagashi-hen, we still don’t understand something that lies in the foundation of Higurashi.
Ryukishi: That’s right.
— In the next scenario…
Ryukishi: That’s Tsumihoroboshi-hen.
— In Tsumihoroboshi-hen, are you going to do the “reverse side” to some other arc again?
Ryukishi: No, this was the only time I have done it by repeating the previous case. Next time it will be a new story and it will give you an answer to a certain big mystery that is directly relevant to the other two scenarios… or rather to Higurashi as a whole. However, because it’s a serial publication, I won’t give all the solutions in the next arc. By the way, there were people who thought that the story will answer most of the questions or even concluded in Meakashi-hen. They were angry that the mystery was left unsolved *sweating*
— I imagine impatient fans all like “Do something about it already!” *laughs* There are some comments here and there that say that they can’t wait until the next Summer after the end of Meakashi-hen…
Ryukishi: Those who started with the first arc have been waiting for 2 years already, though. *laughs*
— It’s not structured in such a way that the first three installments and the second three installments mirror each other perfectly, right?
Ryukishi: Yes. It won’t be a reverse side of Onikakushi-hen or Tatarigoroshi-hen next time.
Editor: I have one more question: in the previous interview you’ve said that the timeline is the same, but in a parallel form. Does it mean that Shion’s actions are also happening in other scenarios?
Ryukishi: No, it’s not like that. I touched on it a little bit in Meakashi-hen, that Shion has always been depressed over Satoshi’s case. However, she became tired of it after a year… Anyone would calm down a little if they had a year… But there still would be an unpleasant feeling left in their heart. There is a motive of denying Satoshi’s existence by saying that “Satoshi has transferred”, isn’t it? And then there’s the envy that lies in the back of Shion’s mind towards Mion, there are a lot of keywords like that. While listening to Mion’s complaints about Keiichi and her own ones about Satoshi…
Ryukishi: Those are “detonation keywords” in some sense. So, even though Shion is still depressed and carries a bomb with her in other arcs, she doesn’t detonate it. She talks with Irie and the baseball team in Tatarigoroshi-hen, but she is thinking about Satoshi too. However, because Irie knows about her past, he approaches her gently. But when Keiichi asks “Hasn’t he transferred?” she snaps.
Editor: I see~
Ryukishi: Shion after Meakashi-hen… It’s difficult to talk about it *laughs*
— *Laughs* Yeah. Let’s just say that Shion’s fans should look forward to the next chapter. Returning to Meakashi-hen, up until now, you’ve been presenting a mystery, and from this time on, you’ll be giving the answers in the form of a “Kai”, but is there any difference in how you write it?
Ryukishi: There’s a difference in mood. In terms of direction, up until now, it was like a plane has taken off… free to go anywhere and everywhere, and now we’re going in for a landing, so I have to keep the plane level, I have to keep it on course, that kind of thing. I have to gradually lower the altitude of a story that’s just started getting fun… That’s a bit sad.
— Up until the last arc, the first half of the scenario would be fun at the school, and then the second half would suddenly go downhill, but I thought it would be a little different this time around?
Ryukishi: There are almost no fun scenes this time around, and up until now at some point, “after Watanagashi”, I guess, suddenly the second half of the arc was starting. There are probably a lot of people who have been wanting to get some answers soon after looking at different variations up until now, so we included a lot of highly informative material. Besides, there were many comments like “I’ve seen enough of club activities”. *everyone laughs* “Give me some answers!”, there were a lot of these. So if you look at it objectively, you can see that the more the story progresses after Onikakushi-hen, the less and less fun it becomes.
Ryukishi: Finally, back and stomach met each other. …But this time comments like “I want a club activity scene” or “I want an All-Cast Review Session” started to appear. *sweating*
— There is also a big demand for a Music Room, what about that?
Ryukishi: There will be a patch adding a Music Room soon.
— So, there will be a patch with a Music Room and an All-Cast Review Session?
Ryukishi: No, first a Music Room. People have been asking for an All-Cast Review Session as well, so I’d like to make it if I have an opportunity. …We were a bit pressed for time this time… I actually had time to make it for one night.
— One night…
Ryukishi: In the end, I couldn’t write anything because I was too nervous.
— It’s really tough to do it in one night. It was…
Ryukishi: When Yatazakura-san was busy updating the script, there was one evening when I move forward until he finished, and that’s when I could do it. So I stared at the keyboard for a long time, but my mind was tired and it didn’t come out at all. Anyway, what troubled me was the number of characters.
Ryukishi: It used to be easier when there were fewer characters. I have a policy of letting each character have the same number of lines in the Review Session. At first, there were only five of them, so it was easy… Now that there are over 10 characters, it’s difficult to put them in order. *laughs*
— This time, instead of a Review Session, there was a scene at the ending?
Ryukishi: Well, you could say that it was put instead, I guess? It’s up to readers to decide whether you see that as a dream, the future, or the result of the choice [at the fork].
— Could you tell us about the music change in Kai and the name of GML-san that has appeared in the staff roll?
Ryukishi: I asked the General of GML for advice on how to make this music. I’ve been using royalty-free music for a long time now, and even though it’s great music and it’s been well received, it had some issues with things like sound quality… Because it was processed MIDI data, the sound quality was not so good compared to what could be made by a competent person. Also, because it was royalty-free, we got a lot of people saying, “You’re using songs from other games, aren’t you”.
Ryukishi: Or the opposite, “Someone else is stealing your songs”. I have to explain that it’s royalty-free every time. *laughs* …Well. Honestly, as a practical matter, for people who have heard a song before in some other game, if they hear the same song in our game, they’ll only think of the scene in the previous game. It’s because there is such a thing as a preconceived notion. That’s why we decided that there is a limit to the image of a royalty-free product. That’s why we came to the conclusion that there is a limit to the royalty-free music in terms of imagery.
— And because of that, you’ve switched to original music.
Ryukishi: We asked the General of GML to start a thread on mixi where we asked if there’s someone who would like to write new music for Higurashi. There are a lot of things like oekaki-imageboards, aren’t there? We started to get many new songs by doujin composers. I didn’t ask to create any specific type of song, so everyone was doing what they were good at. At first, I thought I’d borrow a couple of songs, but after a while, a lot of different genres came up, and I thought, “Huh? We could do most of the scenes with new songs, right?” So, we have decided to use only new songs this time.
— Usually, when you are making a game, you “order” the songs, but it seems it wasn’t the case…
Ryukishi: No, we just gave volunteers the freedom to create as they wish. If you take a look at the staff roll, there would be eight people who made the music. That doesn’t mean that we commissioned eight people, just that there were eight writers of songs I happened to use from among those that came up. The General calls it “The Festival System”. All that great music was born out because of that kind of free environment.
— I think that’s a novel approach, or perhaps it’s an approach that hasn’t been used very often before.
Ryukishi: Initially, I also thought it would be difficult to do it alone, in terms of matching the image of the music, so I talked to the General with the idea of commissioning: “Why not ask two people to do it?”. Then he said, “No, there’s a more interesting way to do it” and he suggested this method. However, we couldn’t do the final mastering of everything together, so this time we used the data created by each composer individually as is. That’s why different songs have different intensity and sound pressure. Please allow me to add this in honor of each individual composer.
— Is there any possibility that the music will change again in the next arc?
Ryukishi: Some of the composers have said, “Wow, now that I hear it, I want to rework it”. *laughs* But if there are a lot of great songs, there’s no need to use common music for anything. In the past, we would have used “Scary Song A”, “Scary Song B” as the standard, but after all the power of the new songs are huge. The technique we’ve used in Higurashi is when we play a song for the first time, it’s in a big scene, and there are also songs that are only played in one scene. I’m pretty greedy when it comes to music, so I think our works have far more songs than commercial novels.
— So, there is a possibility that your “Festival System” will keep evolving in the next arc…
Ryukishi: It’s possible, yes.
Editor: Do you come up with the names for the songs yourself?
Ryukishi: No, the file names in the MP3 folder are the same as it was when I received the song. Because of that, they all have names like “DEMO48”, “t1” or “t2”, very practical… *laughs* The composers have a lot of feelings about their songs, so we’re leaving to them to give us an official name. Some of the songs have a name and some don’t, so I’m going to get the official song titles together and then make a music room patch with them.
Editor: I personally like the song “You” a lot.
Ryukishi: It’s a song by dai-san. He sent me an email with his impressions, and right from the get-go he attacked by saying, “To tell you the truth, the sound quality is bad”.
Ryukishi: “I’ve heard rumors that it’s royalty-free, but it’s just too bad” *laughs* “Throw me the data and I’ll try to reduce the noise. Please think about it. If you want, I could write some songs too…” and so on. So I replied, “Let me hear if you can create something powerful”. I get similar emails from time to time, but no one has sent me music afterwards. However, he really wrote a song and said, “I’ve made an HP, please download it”. And when I listened to it, it was quite good… So I contacted the General and asked, “Can you recommend this person [so he could register] on mixi?” *laughs* In the end, he wrote some great songs and unify the main theme with the ending theme.
— It feels almost like ad lib.
Ryukishi: According to dai-san, he was very conscious of the ending staff roll of Tatarigoroshi-hen.
— It seems that Meakashi-hen has a high reputation for its music.
Ryukishi: I guess so. The scary scenes have especially become more ambient, and those scenes came together in a nice way *laughs* They are made by another composer, but all music is great.
— The metallic sound is so tasty *laughs*
Ryukishi: The nail removing scene doesn’t have any BGM or sound effects. It’s just music. When I heard it I immediately thought that I wanted to use it *laughs*
— Speaking of the nail ripping scene, up until now you were always saving that kind of brutal scene until the end, but this time it came up earlier. In Watanagashi-hen, you’ve stopped right before hammering a nail in a finger, but now it’s different. Why is it so?
Ryukishi: I like to try out a lot of different things with Higurashi. I hadn’t done that type of scene yet, so I tried it this time. Truth be told, originally Watanagashi-hen was going to be a lot gorier in terms of direction. I wanted to do a scene where Mion cut Shion’s fingers into pieces in front of Keiichi, who was locked up in a cell. There was going to be a twin-swapping/identifying trick by looking at whether Mion lacked or didn’t lack a big finger: “I thought the one without a finger was Shion… wasn’t… she… *scared*”. However, while I was writing, the story turned into a quite type about Mion’s atonement for her past, so I decided to put the gory scenes in storage for a time being. Originally, Watanagashi-hen was much more gruesome.
— Um, let me ask you frankly, but do you… like to write scenes like that?
Ryukishi: Not really. I swear I am normal. *bitter laugh*
— *Laughs* Sorry.
Ryukishi: I don’t usually think deeply while writing, but up to this point Higurashi has only been using, how should I say… neat scares like “things creeping towards you” or “something is behind your back”, and I wanted to try a bit dirtier horror with that scene. Don’t worry though, Higurashi isn’t going to become all guro now *laughs*
— When we talked last time, you said that the next arc is going to be painful.
Ryukishi: It’s about a torture scene. Because there was a scene where Satoko was tortured, similar scenes with Kimiyoshi and Oryou were put on hold. Though at that time I was going to torture them all *laughs* However, in that case, Satoko’s death scene wasn’t cruel enough, so in the end, the other two died easily, and only Satoko was going to be killed properly *laughs*
— So, the intention was to include scenes that didn’t exist in the past.
Ryukishi: That’s why I tried to be conscious of the “painful” type this time. I think there are many ways to show things, and Higurashi has the capacity for experimentation. Unfortunately, the number of remaining chapters becomes less and less, but there’s still going to be a lot of opportunities to make you excited *laughs* I want to try to make you go “wow!” *laughs*
— This is also something we’ve talked about the last time a little bit, but you’ve said that people often mention those “eyes”, but you didn’t have the intention to make them such a huge topic. So, I’d like to ask you, what are your favorite scenes in Higurashi, what scenes do you like the most in terms of direction? For example, I think you’ve mentioned that you liked the scene where Keiichi was talking to Ooishi on a phone, and Rena was standing behind his back.
Ryukishi: That was a scene that came together so beautifully in my opinion. I love it. The other one is when Rena’s goes “It’s a lie!” and her eyes change.
— That was powerful.
Ryukishi: What else… I like the scene where Keiichi murders Satoko’s uncle in Tatarigoroshi-hen quite a bit. A series of scenes where he goes after Hojo Teppei and beats him down. Strictly speaking, it’s a bit long, but I like the whole day in which the crime happens.
— From the morning.
Ryukishi: Yes, starting with preparing everything and up to the killing and digging up a hole. I think it turned up a good story about how a normal boy can kill someone with unflagging resolve if he was brought to his limits. There are two types of reaction to this: people who say it was emotionally engaging and those who say it’s childish and stupid. Though, I don’t think actual killing is as easy as it is in fiction. I wonder if at least half the world will be able to get through it calmly *bitter laugh*
— For me, that scene where you see as a player how the protagonist is trying to arrange for the murderer was pretty grim.
Ryukishi: This is the kind of situation where Keiichi can’t talk to anyone, and he is the only one facing a problem. So I thought about what kind of effort it would take to try to kill one human being. I wrote my thoughts as they came into my head as if I were really going to carry out the crime. So when I got to the point where Keiichi was chasing after the uncle and killing him, I was so excited, the adrenaline was so high that I had a headache, and I went out of my way to record that in a journal.
— So, you were quite invested emotionally…
Ryukishi: Yeah! “I will kill him!!!” *laughs*
— *Laughs* That scene also suddenly becomes more dynamic when the background music changes.
Ryukishi: I’d like to tweak the timing of that BGM *laughs* I also like that part of the murder scene where Keiichi shouts “I’ll kill you!”. To put it more precisely, the part where the thunderclap sounds when Keiichi crushes the uncle’s head. That sound was put in by Yatazakura-san, and it has a nice feel of “I did it!” to it.
— Speaking of that scene where Rena is standing behind Keiichi’s back while he is speaking on a phone. It’s a rather quiet scene that makes you fear for your life.
Ryukishi: It turned out beautifully, or rather I should say that it’s one of the classiest scares in horror. There’s a lot of types of scares, isn’t there? It can be violent like in Friday the 13th, or it can become literature like Bancho Sarayashiki. That scene is the classy type.
— What about Rena’s “It’s a lie!”?
Ryukishi: Would that be a violent category? I think visual novels exist thanks to the illustrations, so I made that scene using the nature of visual novels. As long as Stephen King is a novelist, he can’t do that type of expressions. Of course, Stephen King is an amazing writer. But that can only be done with sound novels. And you can only do it with pictures like that *bitter laugh*
— It’s already been mentioned here and there, but is it Yatazakura-san who made those “Higurashi eyes”?
Ryukishi: It was started by Yatazakura-san and I didn’t tell him what to do. He can use photoshop a little bit too, but he can’t draw. However, he filled the eyes with blue color, inserted them into the game, and when I was testing it while humming some tune, those eyes suddenly came up and I was really scared *laughs* …And then I went, “That’s awesome! What’s going on? Let’s use them! I’m gonna draw them properly!”, and that’s how “Higurashi eyes” were created. However, compared to my carefully painted eyes, those that Yatazakura-san randomly painted with an airbrush were way scarier *laughs*
— So when you first saw those eyes, you freaked out just like a normal player?
Ryukishi: It was really scary! *laughs* I know the story, of course, so I’m not usually scared or anything, so I’m very bored when it comes to debugging, but that one made me jump.
Ryukishi: …I mean, there is nothing scarier than that. It’s normal when you are surprised by a game someone else made, but I was surprised by my own game *laughs* I didn’t come up with that trick either.
Ryukishi: Ah, but there was an even scarier story during Higurashi development…
Omission (*Because it’s way too scary, we can’t put it here)
Ryukishi: …So, there is classy horror and violent horror, and I want to try out different expressions.
— “Classy horror”, “Expressions that can only be made in a visual novel”, and next is…
Ryukishi: A “painful” splatter-like scene. There is also a “visual grotesque” that I didn’t do yet.
— Uhhhh… I don’t like blood personally so that one is…
Ryukishi: There was a scene where Rika’s stomach was ripped open, but I would like to do that as an illustration. However, that one is problematic from an ethical point of view, and there are also people who physiologically can’t look at such things, so I won’t actually do that, but if we just list all possible types of expression, there is also that one.
— Satoshi is appearing a lot in this episode, so about Keiichi and Satoshi. They appear in different timelines, don’t they?
Ryukishi: It’s off by a year.
— There are some depictions of the two of them that overlap and they also have similar roles, so don’t you have a feeling that they are basically the same character?
Ryukishi: No, they are completely different characters. If you compare Keiichi and Satoshi, they have absolutely different personalities. That part in Onikakushi-hen where they talk about Satoshi and his bat, etc… It’s related to the next arc, but Satoshi, same as Keiichi, is (omitted due to spoilers). Keiichi becomes suspicious as to why, while knowing about that, he takes the same actions. However, it’s (omitted due to spoilers). Satoshi in Meakashi-hen is Satoshi how he is viewed through Shion’s eyes, nothing more than that. He is written very shallowly there. If I was to write a scene where he is viewed through Rena’s or Mion’s eyes, there would be more sides of him shown. Hypothetically, if there were scenes where Satoshi was portrayed from his own perspective or Rena’s perspective, it would show a much broader aspect of Satoshi’s personality. Or maybe that would be a completely different person than the one we’ve seen in the past. This time, Satoshi is just “Satoshi as seen by Shion”.
— I feel sorry for Keiichi, because if you look at Watanagashi-hen from the other side, he was simply used by a girl…
Ryukishi: He is just a Pierrot. But in Watanagashi-hen, he seems to be a character in the middle of the events. The key to Watanagashi-hen and Meakashi-hen was the fact that there were two completely different stories within a single story. That’s why I’m so frustrated with the feedback I’ve gotten from people who’ve abandoned their reasoning, which I mentioned earlier. “There is this scenario, please notice that!” *crying* But in the meantime, there was another scenario in between, and from the release of Watanagashi-hen to the release of Meakashi-hen there was a year and a half of time to spare, so I wanted to write Meakashi-hen as soon as possible.
— So, you are saying that character-wise that Satoshi is not the whole Satoshi.
Ryukishi: That’s right. For example, Satoshi is from a time where he lived with Satoko and brother and sister is still barely depicted. There was a little of that, but that’s because of the gambling house. We don’t know how he behaved when he was in club activities. In fact, the first half of the arc was cut a little bit short this time, so I think that maybe there wasn’t enough of the peaceful, everyday life with Satoshi in it. I wonder if I could have described it a bit more.
— Is he someone we are going to have any deep involvement with in the future?
Ryukishi: Yes. There’s a line between Rena, Satoshi and Keiichi. Rena is (omitted due to spoilers). Satoshi and Keiichi from Onikakushi-hen are (omitted due to spoilers). Why is Rena (omitted due to spoilers)? I touched on that a bit in Onikakushi-hen, but I’ll start telling about it in Tsumihoroboshi-hen.
— The female characters, on the other hand, are the ones who, even if we can’t see everything right now, are the ones about who we can say what kind of person they are. I think there’s enough material for that kind of speculation. However, Rena is the only character who is still rather mysterious, right?
Ryukishi: People often call Onikakushi-hen the “Rena arc”, but it’s really the “Keiichi arc”. The real Rena arc will appear in the future.
— So, there is a possibility that the next chapter will be from Rena’s perspective?
Ryukishi: I am thinking about how to show it at the moment. Which perspective it will be from, or maybe even there will be multiple perspectives…
— That’s like zapping, right?
Ryukishi: Hmmm, something like that. I already have a plot, so I just have to think about how to show it. How to make it more fun? If I could, I’d like to take a different approach from Meakashi-hen.
— I think Rena is the character who only becomes more and more mysterious, because she’s was shown as suspicious, and then she became a kind and dependable girl in later scenarios.
Ryukishi: Rena first appears as a cute character in Onikakushi-hen, but then she suddenly destroys that impression. I think she’s become a character that symbolizes Higurashi no Naku Koro ni as her existence becomes more and more mysterious. In a way, Rika has been suspicious from the beginning too, and this time she has finally shown her true nature *laughs* I’m thinking that I’ll start digging into Rena in the next arc. However, basically, the main character is Keiichi, so there is a question of whether or not to mix in other perspectives. For example, the 1982 flashback about Satoshi could be shown from Rena’s point of view, but it could also be shown from Mion’s perspective or as TIPS.
— So, Keiichi will return to being a protagonist?
Ryukishi: Yes. Keiichi will come back a little bit more reliable next time *laughs* He’s been through a lot of trials and tribulations, and he’s evolved over time.
— Now that the Answer Arcs portion of the game has started, I’m sure you’ve received a lot of impressions and theories, but are there any of them that are getting close?
Ryukishi: Well, there are. There are quite a few.
— Quite a few!
Ryukishi: As for the individual gimmick and tricks, they’re pretty good. Some of them are “It’s … itself”. However, since it is a serialization, the final answer has not yet been presented. So even if someone has a right answer, I can’t say “That’s correct!” *laughs* Watching you discuss things in the process is one part of the fun.
— In our last interview, you’ve said that your future titles were Meakashi-hen, Tsumihoroboshi-hen, and Minagoroshi-hen, but do you already have a name in mind for the final chapter?
Ryukishi: Hmmm, it’s still up in the air, but “(omitted)” is quite close. I like how it sounds, and in the end, it has to be “Something-something-shi-hen”. This is likely to be the one so far.
— Have you thought about going back to the original title and making it “Higurashi-hen“?
Ryukishi: Oh, no, I won’t do that.
— You won’t?
Ryukishi: I mean, it will just become “sono hi gurashi” [hand-to-mouth — rockmor] *laughs*
Ryukishi: Sono Hi Gurashi no Naku Koro ni… Sounds like a dark story about restructuring *laughs* I’ve got the story in my head for the last chapter, and I thought it would be worthy of being called “(omitted)”. So I think that title is fine.
— Lastly, as much as you can answer it. Previously, you’ve said that Meakashi-hen is a “painful” story. Now, if you had to pick one or two words to symbolize the next chapter, Tsumihoroboshi-hen, what would they be?
Ryukishi: The last part of it is “action”. What I haven’t done so far in Higurashi is a fight or action or something like that, but since it’s a novel, there aren’t a lot of scenes with intense movement. There are many scenes of people talking to each other. That’s why the next one will be “action”. Whether that’s a positive or negative thing… I’ll leave it at that.
— So it will be like an action movie?
Ryukishi: There’s going to be some metal bat swinging… *laughs*
— In Meakashi-hen, Shion pushes forward with her vengeance and meets a sad end, but after the episode, we were asked in the staff room if we could agree with killing people or not, and your own answer was “Well, what do you think?”. What can you say about that?
Ryukishi: Personally… Isn’t a murder a final judgment that can’t be atoned for with a simple apology? It’s something you can’t take back. No matter what happens, people shouldn’t be killed, and if you kill someone, there is always an aftermath. They say “Vengeance produces nothing”, don’t they?
Ryukishi: Vengeance and murder are nothing more than a conclusion for those involved. So Shion’s outburst was really unacceptable, and when she thought “I’m going to kill them”… she missed something… in my opinion. But sometimes you have to do it, you have to kill, and I think that’s another aspect of the truth of humanity, and that’s where the tragedy lies.
— Now here’s the last question I prepared for you. Though this may be a bit outlandish. I’m going to say a few words now and ask you to tell me the first thing that pops into your head… It’s the kind of thing you do with counseling techniques and psychological analysis.
Ryukishi: Oh, yes, yes *laughs*
— Was it the “free association method”? I’m going to tell you a few words, so please tell me what you think of. The first one is “human”.
Ryukishi: Human… Ah, that’s bad, I just came up with “doll” or something *laughs*
— So for “human” it’s “doll”?
Ryukishi: A “doll” just instantly came to mind. “An object in the shape of a person”. That’s no more appropriate way to define a human being. I wonder if this one (pointing at his own body) is human or not. How should I say it… there’s such a thing as an “internet personality”, isn’t it?
Ryukishi: People who aren’t nice at all in real life can act really kind online, and people who are passive in real life can be aggressive online. …I really think that’s a different person. So I think the definition of a human being is something that is untouchable, like a personality. Without thought, we are just meat. So I think real people are like souls, they are hard to describe. People that only exist on the Internet… If there was a personality called “Taro”, that “Taro” would exist, but not related to the real person.
— So, what we call virtual isn’t really virtual?
Ryukishi: I think “pseudo-personality” is a real thing. Maybe the term “multiple personalities” is closer to what I am talking about. …Sorry, I’m rambling.
— I see. Maybe we can learn a lot of things from this answer.
Ryukishi: *Smiling a bit bitterly*
— Oh, of course I’m an amateur, so don’t worry. So, secondly… Do you hate these questions? *laughs* It may be quite an unfair technique.
Ryukishi: I’d be scared to have this answer analyzed by a veteran or expert *laughs*
— Now, the second one is “good and evil”.
Ryukishi: Good and evil… It’s hard to visualize… The first thing that comes to my head is balance scales. …In other words, something that can be shown in numbers. Not something vague that you can understand or not understand, but something that can be shown in a simple, clear, numerical way. Something you can quantify, like “Oh, you were bullied a lot = +5”.
— The third one is “crime” [They use the word “tsumi”, which can also be translated as “sin” — rockmor].
Ryukishi: Crime… “To think”? …I think a crime starts with a thought. Was it “The Silence of the Lambs”? “Desire comes from seeing”.
— Doctor Hannibal Lecter.
Ryukishi: Right. For example, the reason a person who lives in the jungle doesn’t yearn for city life is that they don’t know about that kind of thing. Something has to be seen to become an object of desire. To commit a crime you have to first think about it. That’s why I think alcohol is good. When you drink, you don’t have to think about anything.
Ryukishi: I think people need to make their minds blank once in a while.
— Does alcohol turn people away from crime? *laughs*
Ryukishi: Instead, they lose their ability to think and become debauched *laughs* To not commit a crime means losing your will to fight, and it doesn’t matter anymore whether you exist or not… It’s difficult *laughs*
— OK, let’s move on to the fourth one. Whenever there is “crime” there is also “punishment”.
Ryukishi: …Balance scales, after all… Or rather “equivalent value”… Compensation for a crime is a punishment. There is a crime on one side of the scales and enough weight on the other side to balance it out. So this is another thing that can be quantified.
— Next. “Society”.
Ryukishi: Society… I imagine it as a circle of people. People holding each other’s hands is what’s called “society”. But it has a different meaning depending on who you ask. Those who say, “Family is important” have their own circle of family members. Those who say “all you need is a lover” have a circle of two people. Those who say “I will change Japan!” and those who work hard are holding hands in a circle with people all over Japan. But the bigger the circle, the more people might let go along the way, and the less connected they might be. People feel safe when they have a circle, and they don’t feel comfortable without a circle. So if one of the hands of a person who is in a circle with just their lover becomes empty, suddenly that person’s entire world is destroyed. …Because of that, that person can’t think about anything else anymore, and his world turns into a world of “kill or not kill”.
Ryukishi: When the circle is large and it’s tied properly it doesn’t matter if one of the people inside sneezes. Because he’s one of the many. So there are two conditions for humans to live in harmony. “You have to form a circle. And the bigger circle the better”.
— …Now for the last one, “Family.”
Ryukishi: Family… I only have an image, but… Something like “open and honest relationships”… No need for decoration, carefreeness… Right, “carefreeness”. When you can wander around in your underwear and nobody cares. Sense of security. Ease of mind.
— I see. It’s not directly related to the story of Higurashi, but I think you gave me pretty interesting answers. There seems to be a lot of room for speculations, though… Lastly, this is a staple, but could you give a few words to those who have played Meakashi-hen and to all fans who are looking forward to the new game in the summer?
Ryukishi: Thank you all for enjoying Meakashi-hen. Next up will be Tsumihoroboshi-hen, and I’m going to take a different approach to a few themes from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni… Rather “themes” than “mystery”… I think this will be a story that will reveal that. The next chapter will be a new story instead of tracing back to the past like Meakashi-hen. I’ll do my best to create a scenario that will allow you to find a different way to enjoy the game, so I hope you’ll look forward to it.
— Thank you.
- Especially popular circles have their booths placed in the area near the entrances of the halls so the buyers could line up outside.
- Shima (島, island) is a long square counter where circles of the same genre are put together. There are several shimas side by side inside the hall.
- A series of events called Hinamizawa Watanagashi Matsuri that took place in December of 2004. A Preparatory Committee representative was a person called Maekawa.【KEIYA】
- Wonder Festival. The biggest hobby event in Japan. Takes place twice a year in summer and winter, and one could say that it’s a “one more Comiket”. Though, after all, it’s pretty different in nature.【KEIYA】
- A doujinshi sale event focused on one particular title.【KEIYA】
- At the Tora no Ana Akihabara 1 store, the store has started the decoration for the event “Hinamizawa Village Cotton Flow Festival 0.5B” on November 28th. A real hatchet that the manager of Akihabara No.1 store (from Akita) actually uses in the mountains was used.
- Some people called Rena’s change in Onikakushi-hen “Higurashi mode”. In relation to this, Rika, who speaks and acts in a mature manner, is called “Rika in Higurashi Mode”.
- These omissions are part of the original interview text: Original text blank due to spoilers (ネタバレのため原文空白)
- The Representative General (代表大将) of the doujin circle GameMusicLibrary. He is an authority among music circles, and you can see his name in many places outside of his own circle’s activity
- I am not sure what he means by gambling house (鉄火場) here — rockmor
- “Higurashi” (日暮し) here means “daily life” and it’s a different word from “higurashi” (ひぐらし) in the title.