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.
- 1 Official Introduction
- 2 Gameplay
- 3 Story
- 4 Concept and Development
- 5 Promotion and Release
- 6 Story Arcs
- 7 Ports, Adaptations, and Spinoffs
- 8 Trivia
- 9 References
- 10 External Links
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.
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.
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. 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. Ryukishi intended to release it all as one game, but instead decided to split it into multiple releases due to how long the story would turn out to be. This new Higurashi story was going to be a game with choices and routes named after characters; each chapter would focus on a different character with 6 total. In the end that was changed as well.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Artwork and Sound Development
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. The character sprites were drawn and colored by Ryukishi, however the famed "scary eyes" were originally created by Yatazakura.
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. 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.
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. dai's music would be featured in Higurashi starting with Meakashi.
Promotion and Release
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. 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.
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. Ryukishi promised to send free copies of later installments to people who gave feedback.
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.
Solution Arcs (Kai)
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Rei: a collection of three extra arcs.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Hou:a compilation including all previous titles (Question Arcs, Kai, and Rei) and three new extra arcs.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Hou+: a remastered compilation including Hou and a new scenario.
Ports, Adaptations, and Spinoffs
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Matsuri is a PS2 port published by Alchemist that includes new character art and voice acting. It includes the first seven chapters and three new arcs: Taraimawashi, Tsukiotoshi, and Miotsukushi, the last of which serves as an alternative ending than Matsuribayashi.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kizuna is a series of Nintendo DS ports by Alchemist that include new art and several new arcs. Four games were released in total.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Sui is a PS3 port by Alchemist and Kaga Create that includes all content from Matsuri and Kizuna with updated art, voice acting, and an adaptation of Hajisarashi.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Hou is a PS4 and Switch port of Sui by Entergram that includes ports of the arcs from the original PC version of Hou and Batsukoishi from Rei.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Main article: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (novel)
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
- Higurashi Daybreak is a fighting game published by Twilight Frontier.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni Episode X: Rokkenjima of Higurashi crying is a crossover manga with Umineko no Naku Koro ni.
- 07th Theater is a series of visual novels that crossover with other 07th Expansion works Umineko, Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni and Rose Guns Days.
- Higurashi When They Cry Hou Ch. 1 Onikakushi Store Page (Mangagamer) https://www.mangagamer.com/detail.php?product_code=132
- Higurashi 15th Anniversary Dengeki Online Interview
- 07th Expansion Toratsu Interview
- Alone in the Dark: An Interview With the Creators of Higurashi When They Cry
- Higurashi no Nakasekata Part 1
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Official Character Guide/Interview
- July 9, 2004 forum post on the 07th Expansion bulletin board by Ryukishi07 (archived)
- Ryukishi07 Interviews (Epitanime 2012)
- ACen 2015 07th Expansion Panels
- Higurashi no Nakasekata Part 2
- Production Diary Entry on August 25, 2003. (English translation by rockmor)