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Interview

This is a translation of an interview included in the Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Official Character Guide in 2005. 07th Expansion talks about how their members first met, their difficulties in creating Higurashi and their plans for the future.

The interview was translated by rockmor and sourced from here.

Transcript

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni keeps conquering hearts of fans with an explosive power ever since it was “discovered” through Comiket and a download service last summer. To fulfill a promise to hold a “Review Session” for the staff that was made during the production of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Special Chapter. Private Files: Hinamizawa Serial Murder Case (temp) that was published by our company last year, we gathered members of 07th Expansion to talk about troubles of production and further ambitions.

Starting point of 07th Expansion and its change

Today we are holding a “Review Session” for the staff of 07th Expansion. Let’s talk about the struggles of each of you, as well as your special memories.

Ryukishi: …I’ll better stay silent today.

What are you saying all of sudden? *laugh*

Ryukishi: I always talk too much and make everyone angry *bitter laugh*

Let’s go in chronological order. How did you begin your doujin activity?

Ryukishi: I think the very first time when I found out about doujin was in middle or high school. It was the heyday of Gamest… There was not even the word “doujinshi” yet, wasn’t it? There were advertisements like “Recruiting members for copy-shi“. So, for no reason, I applied to one of those. I liked to show my friends manga that I was drawing on the back of my notebook. I was writing down lecture notes from the first page and drawing manga from the last *laugh* In the end, notes and manga run into each other. At first, there were like 3 pages of a manga, but then it kept going, and I hated to give out my notebook to the teacher *bitter laugh* That was the beginning, I guess?

The gap in drawing abilities starts coming out in your later 10s. At that time I wanted to become a game maker and entered a special school. However, I didn’t have a clear vision of what I need to learn in order to become a game maker, so I chose art. But if you ask me what I’ve learned there… I couldn’t say *bitter laugh* All I remember is that it was fun. I studied different things, but I don’t have an impression that I’ve learned any particular technique… Ah, I’ve learned Photoshop. However, you won’t become a game maker just because you’ve entered a special school. You have to be able to apply some skills from the start, not just study there… You will need to put them into immediate use, that’s what I’ve learned. In the end, it didn’t make me a game maker.

After that, I entered an industry that has nothing to do with my otaku interests and stayed there for some time. However, I still had that core passion to create things in me, and after working there for several years I mentally burned out… By accident, I picked up a doujinshi that was laying in Yatazakura’s room, and there was a recruitment advertising in the afterword. It was really an accident. And that was the beginning.

Did you start making things right after you entered a circle?

Ryukishi: No, my upperclassmen were drawing, and I just was there as a support. There was one person who has worked in the seinen manga industry, and who didn’t do coloring, so when I decided to start taking part in games development, I began coloring that person’s drawings, as I had some experience with computers. It was time before Windows, so it was a huge pain. You had to use just 16 colors for the whole game, 4 of them for the system, if there were two characters on the screen, then it’s 6 colors for each one… Etc. Such a world it was.

Everyone: Huh… *surprised voices*

Ryukishi: Right now it’s an age of full-color, so everyone seems to not care much about such things, but at that time things were made with a great balance in mind. We had to think about things like making color of hair close to color of clothes or not having to use black or white because they were reserved for system… You couldn't just make something half-transparent, because “transparent color” had to be one of the colors itself. Anyways, at first, I was busy with such chores and even when I drew and proposed something, it all ended up turned down. Frankly speaking, in the end, I didn’t do any creative work at all. After all, I wanted to do something as an illustrator… or rather as a creator. There was that one thing[1] for which I was doing the scenario, but after 2 years of work, the project itself collapsed. However, at that time I became convinced that I really want to do things that I want to do.

In the end, how long have you been in that circle?

Ryukishi: …I don’t really know, but it was 3 or 4 years, I guess. It was my assistant era. At that time, I’ve published an offset seinen doujinshi.

Yatazakura: I think one of those is still lying somewhere in my room.

Ryukishi: They are all packed away in a different place. …It was a terrible fiasco. We printed 200 copies but only 5 of them were sold. The printing cost was somewhere around 80.000 yen. Nothing hurt me as much as receiving bills back then.

Yatazakura: It was rough.

Ryukishi: In a financial sense, it was a difficult period. Giving away 80.000 yen was painful. At first, I thought that maybe we can get back half of that money, but the reality was way harsher than that. After that, we began thinking about going away from that circle to do our own stuff, but the only thing I could do was drawing, or so I thought back then. Card games were really popular at that time, so we decided to try making our own. We teamed up with some old friends and started making them. For 2 years we went to different events to sell our original cards. Little by little, we increased the number of cards we printed out. 30, 50, in the end, there were 200 or so. At that time, I’ve met BT…

Yatazakura: How it happened?

BT: At first, I came upon Ryukishi’s booth at Comiket and decided to buy something from him because it looked cute. At that point, everything was sold out though.

Ryukishi: Really? So, the first contact was by mail then?

BT: Yes, when I ordered something. It was delivered safely, so I sent you my happy impressions. And then, a person called 4U wanted to introduce your card deck on his site, so I asked you if it’s OK for him to do so.

Ryukishi: Yes, yes… It was the first time I gave someone my permission. It brings back memories. After then, we talked for some time, and you offered to make a homepage for us *laugh*

That’s how I met with 4U and BT. 4U served as administrator of the first homepage, and then BT took over. In the end, after 2 years of selling cards at different events, we began thinking about switching to some other genre. At that time, Yatazakura came to me saying: “I am learning Nscripter now. The same one in which Tsukihime was made”. So, we took sprites from Renai Novel Tsukuru (恋愛ノベルツクール) and other things and put together a demo to see if we could make it work. As I saw that we could make a lot of things in it, I became more and more excited.

Then, we started to think about the scenario. Which became Higurashi, but we have to rewind here a little bit. That game that ended up scrapped at our previous circle, we wanted it to be full-voiced. The kids that were gathered to do the voice-acting were from a small theatre troupe. In small theatres, the audience is very close to the scene, and it’s very exciting. Under their influence, I tried writing some plays. One of those plays was Hinamizawa Bus Stop, which, after some cleaning up, we decided to turn into a game… The notebook with our conversations back then…

Yatazakura: Was it a notebook?

Ryukishi: Maybe it was your little pocketbook?

Yatazakura: Yeah, something like that…

Ryukishi: I remember that we wrote out there many things about the story, like motives, etc. At that time it was still going to be a normal novel game with choices, where you had to clear a number of scenarios in order to get access to further ones. The idea was that you could start freely with Rena-hen or Mion-hen, and after clearing both you could proceed to the next one.

Yatazakura: Right, the next one was Satoshi-hen.

Ryukishi: Did we already come up with the name Satoshi back then?

Yatazakura: No, we only knew that he was going to be a high-school boy. Even many things about Satoko were not decided yet. Then we decided to expand Satoko’s character, make her suffer more and come up from the bottom, and that’s why she became a sister of a disappeared boy.

Ryukishi: I am surprised you remember all that… But yeah, that’s how it was. That’s how Satoko’s story turned up that way… And when did we come up with Shion?

Yatazakura: Like, when we were struggling with whether Mion will have a sister or not?

Ryukishi: However, we came up with her much later, didn’t we? Somewhere after Onikakushi-hen?

Yatazakura: Well, strictly speaking, yes. But we were thinking about giving Mion a sister even before that. Her name was Tamane (魂音) at first.

Ryukishi: Ah, right, right.

Yatazakura: After that, we were thinking about having a granny appear when there will be a talk about Sonozaki family in the story. And if we were going to create Mion’s sister, it would be better to make them twins.

Ryukishi: At first, there was going to be a looong conversation with the granny at Sonozaki’s, and it was really boring.

Yatazakura: Granny’s accent was so strong, that I couldn’t understand what she is saying. To be honest.

Ryukishi: It was pretty difficult to translate.

Yatazakura: But in reality, Sonozaki grandmother, Oryo, was going to be a rarely appearing gag-character.

Ryukishi: “The grandmother is outside the window!” “But it’s 5th floor?!”, she was that type of mysterious character. Never appearing before the main character’s eyes.

Yatazakura: She was a really comical granny back then.

It’s hard to imagine that now…

Ryukishi: Yeah, I guess.

Yatazakura: Sonozaki family wasn’t that bad news at first…

Ryukishi: I am suprised you remember all that…

Yatazakura: Well…

Yatazakura, have you been together with Ryukishi07 from the very beginning of his doujin activity?

Yatazakura: How would I say…

Ryukishi: Strictly speaking, from the beginning of Higurashi?

Yatazakura: I guess so. However, I was at the backstage since that collapsed project.

Ryukishi: He is the brain of developing games.

BT, you’ve known those two thanks to card games, but have you felt any moe from Ryukishi07’s drawings?

BT: Well… Puni-moe[2], I guess.

Everyone: *roar of laughter*

Puni-moe, huh?

BT: I love cute squishy drawings *laugh*

Ryukishi: What’s the first one you’ve bought?

BT: It was an AIR card set.

Ryukishi: That one… I like that one too. It’s 1st or 2nd in my rating.

BT: It was all sold out at the event, so I had to order by mail.

Yatazakura: It’s because we didn’t know how much to print at first.

Ryukishi: We struggled with it every time. “Is it OK to bring 100 sets with us? If the demand will be higher, will leave it to the mail orders”.

One of my friends has also bought your cards.

Ryukishi: It’s embarrassing. However, I have a feeling that my drawing skills were higher back then. It’s because I could focus just on drawing. In Higurashi, there are no sprites at the early stages of development. It’s when we decide on the structure and when the scenario is finished, I can first ask Yatazakura about necessary face expressions for every character. If the new character appears, he often uses sprites from Sound Novel Tsukuru at first for showing character’s emotions like laughing or crying, and then I draw my own versions of them.

BT: In beta-version of Onikakushi-hen there was Tomitake in school uniform.

Ryukishi: That was completely a male character from Sound Novel Tsukuru.

Yatazakura: Tomitake had an appearance of such a young man back then?

BT: I was very surprised when he suddenly turned from a skinny young man to a macho guy when the real sprite was input *laugh*

Ryukishi: While we at this topic, the reason Mion has such large boobs is just because the temporary sprite from Sound Novel Tsukuru for her had them *laugh*

Yatazakura: I don’t remember that… Do you like big boobs?

So you are saying that she wouldn’t turn out that way if you used a different sprite *laugh*

Ryukishi: There was a lot of trial and error back then. There was an idea to make it 18+ in terms of disturbing content[3], for example.

Yatazukura: Yeah, you talked about that.

Ryukishi: I also researched stories by Key a lot. Like, “Because Key games go from ordinary life to tears, let’s try to go from ordinary life to fear”. If you think about this, we are here now because there was that direction. Chilling out in the first half and then having all the twists in the second one. There are people who say that Higurashi is very original, but in terms of mechanism Maeda from Key and others have already created it before.

There is a special thing you do with the eyes in some places where the story makes a sudden turn. What it that way from the start?

Ryukishi: (Pointing at Yatazakura) It was that man’s suggestion.

BT: Rena’s eyes, right? They surprised me…

Yatazakura: I filled her eyes with flat blue color and touched a bit with an airbrush, and the result shocked even myself. “What’s that?! What’s that?!”

Ryukishi: He is the creator of so-called “Higurashi eyes”. I liked them and did my own version, which is now in the game. However, now they are too polished and don’t have the same impact. Yatazakura’s eyes were way scarier. Just having them blue is scarier! So yeah, he is the one who created them. I just thought out how to use them in the game. BT, what about you? What was your impression when you first saw them? It was in beta, I think.

BT: It was really scary…

Ryukishi: To tell the truth, even I was very scared when played the first time. Even though I made it *laugh*

Why, in your opinion, a character changes so much when you change their eyes?

Yatazakura: After analyzing many games, I noticed that characters with beautiful eyes tend to be smart and logical. And cloudy eyes usually indicate some abnormality. However, when the eyes are cloudy, but the mouth is laughing, it looks unnatural and scary… After studying for some time, I came up with those eyes. Suddenly the eyes become cloudy, and you understand that even though the appearance is still normal, on the inside something is wrong, which causes in you a strong unbalanced fear…

Ryukishi: Yatazakura is very knowledgeable about novel and adventure games. His room is full of unplayed ones, though *laugh* So, we put this knowledge to use in the development of Higurashi.

Yatazakura: The only ones that Ryukishi played that time were mainstream games, like To Heart. Not enough to count it as “research”.

Ryukishi: Either way, the idea with eyes really surprised me. For example, if you compare characters from To Heart with Shizuku, the characters in Shizuku are way scarier. Especially Ruriko!

She is scary, isn’t she.

Ryukishi: If you ask, what’s the difference, I’d say it’s eyes.

That’s true. Whether it a real person or a 3D-character, you look into their eyes when they talk. In 2D things like manga too, there is a big attention to the eyes, which is the first thing that people look at. When you combine it with the shock factor, the impact is huge.

Ryukishi: Right. So, all the temporary effects in the game are made by Yatazakura. After that, I look at them and do the fine-tuning. At first, it was super hard to balance our visions of the game and characters, but now it requires just a little bit of fixing.

The road from Onikakushi to Meakashi, it’s light and darkness

Let’s talk about each arc separately, starting with Onikakushi-hen.

Ryukishi: The production of Onikakushi was the longest. Everything was for the first time, groping on through every step. We didn’t calculate anything. However, even if we moved blindly and unsurely, nothing critical happened. There was no pressure of deadlines, we could release it anytime we wanted. On the other hand, we didn’t know at all the level of quality we needed to aim for. All we had was uncertainty. It was the first time I was going to show a scenario to people, well, there was that project that I worked on for 2 years, but really Higurashi was the first. And also there was a problem of not having any music…

Yatazakura: We really struggled with that one.

Ryukishi: At first we were introduced to a music circle by a person we knew. However, when we brought the beta-version to them, they said that they won’t work on a game that isn’t 18+ and turned us down. And the other one said: “I can’t give my music to someone who makes doujinshi” after taking a look at our website that had information that we are selling cards. It seems he was a person who even rejected all secondary works… Then we began looking for some copyright-free music and found some good stuff.

Yatazakura: Right. In beta-version, we just used music from other games.

Ryukishi: We didn’t have any other method of creating the imagery of the game then temporarily using existing music. Of course, we couldn’t release it that way, though.

Yatazakura: I had my portion of problems without Ryukishi07 knowing *laugh* For example, burning CDs before Comiket was a struggle. Just so happened that my PC that was working for several days straight began malfunctioning, and same with the CD-R drive. I tried to cool it with a fan while saying: “Damn, burning keeps failing! Will I be on time?!” *laugh* I had some struggles with it, but overall, it was the laziest time for me.

Ryukishi: It sounds like a funny story now, but we were working with a thought that it’s impossible for Higurashi to become a hit. We treated it as a training before the next product, that will become a hit, after which people will discover Higurashi, and it will become a late hit too… That was the plan! “Higurashi will definitely become an unknown masterpiece!” *laugh*

Yatazakura: “It doesn’t have to become famous now. They say that even that super popular doujin game didn’t sell more than several copies at first. Even though they have a popular girl cosplaying for it!”. We had such conversations back then, though it’s funny to remember now.

Ryukishi: We had a resolve about our future. Well, to be honest, if there wasn’t any reception at all, we would probably just quit and returned to card games *laugh*

Ehh *laugh*

Yatazakura: He became hooked on Koumakyou

Ryukishi: Touhou Koumakyou (Embodiment of Scarlet Devil) has just come up, so, if Higurashi failed, I was going to make Touhou original cards. To be honest, I was excited to make a Koumakan deck using our system from when we were a card circle *laugh*

BT, had you any similar experiences during production of Onikakushi-hen?

BT: I was in charge of the logo that appears on the loading screen, Rena-pan and some other things, but I didn’t know the right methods at all and had a lot of difficulties. I couldn’t make 07th Expansion logo spin right, so it moved like a hula hoop, I couldn’t set the right speed for Rena-pan, so it exceeded the normal human speed and moved with the speed of god *laugh*

However, the thing that I am worried the most in Onikakushi is debugging… It took a lot of time, so it probably couldn’t be helped, but I have a feeling that it wasn’t done properly…

Ryukishi: I’d say it wasn’t done at all.

Is that so?

Ryukishi: We didn’t do debugging and other such stuff properly.

But you’ve done at least a test play, right?

Yatazakura: …To some extent, yes.

Ryukishi: In the end, we’ve done it only at the state before master-up. It was okay at that point, but later all the true colors began to show.

Everyone: *laugh*

Ryukishi: Since Watanagashi-hen BT started saying: “Debugging, debugging”.

…Because you didn’t do debugging properly in Onikakushi, BT decided that it couldn’t continue that way?

Yatazakura: No, it wasn’t back then. After that double seminar incident, BT was like: “Here, you see?.. We have to do it”. But back then he didn’t started talking about debugging yet, I think.

BT: No-no, I started right after Onikakushi.

Ryukishi: Is that so? Then, it probably wasn’t reaching our ears. Sorry *laugh*

Everyone: *laugh*

BT: And about burning discs too…

Ryukishi: BT was putting a lot of attention to this. He said things like: “CD-R have to be of high quality” or ” Because there would be errors, we have to check every disc”. That’s why we started only using CDs by Taiyo Yuden. We didn’t really care about cost performance. BT was also against label seals. There are labels on CDs, aren’t there? “If a CD will spin at high speed and the label will come off and destroy a computer, we can’t take responsibility”. I said: “Let’s fight with our visuals”, to which he answered: “If this would happen even to one person out of 100, we are out”, and then I went: “It can’t become a product if it occurs even in 1 case out of 100!”. We had some hot discussions *laugh* In the end, it’s good that nothing happened, but we decided to fight with visuals. …By the way, I don’t remember struggling with Watanagashi-hen scenario.

Yatazakura: The deadline day was pretty rough. It was 28th of November, wasn’t it? There were no sprites, no All-cast Review Session, no TIPS…

Ryukishi: Only the scenario!

Everyone: *laugh*

Ryukishi: I gave the scenario to Yatazakura, and was writing TIPS while doing the clean-up. But I don’t think it was a crisis situation. What was really hard is to burn CDs, the last 48 hours or so. 48 hours before Comiket, we finished the master-up, and after that, we didn’t have time to sleep or rest. Everyone had to go to work, so we used every minute to burn, and burn, and burn…

Yatazakura: It’s something that I didn’t tell Ryukishi as well, but before that my PC has finally broken in September. But because I didn’t know anything about computers, I couldn’t understand what’s wrong. At first, I thought that maybe it’s the hard drive, so I replaced it with a new one, and little by little I changed all the insides before I figured out that it was the CPU. It was already the middle of November at that point.

Ryukishi: You were always saying that it wasn’t working good…

Yatazakura: After that, I hastily finished all the job that accumulated during that time and started fixing different little things…

Ryukishi: The second part of our CD burning days was really rough that time. In the end, it led to that thing…

Yatazakura: Right…

Ryukishi: At that time, we did debugging before archiving. And master-up after that. We didn’t think that bugs could appear after archiving! It’s not possible that there would be no bugs before archiving, and then they suddenly there, we thought. On the first day of Comiket BT came to my room, launched Watanagashi-hen… “Pon!” That was a sound of an error…

BT&Yatazakura: Uwaaaaaa…!!!!

Ryukishi: “It’s because we fast-forwarded it?” “No, it’s not the case” …We really didn’t understand what’s wrong. And it’s at the time when Mion was going to do a confession! “Pon”!! The message that “semi.WAV can’t be found” has appeared. What’s thaaaaat?! It can’t be true, can we make it appear again? Try it, try it, “Pon”…

Yatazakura: It was when we came back after the first day at Comiket and tried to found out the reason until 3 p.m., wasn’t it?

Ryukishi: …Well, we somehow managed to make it work before the second day. It’s when BT had a realisation that “debugging is important”. After that, doing the second debugging after archiving became the norm… Other then that, everything went pretty good.

Yatazakura: Did anything bad happen during Tatarigoroshi? I can’t really recall.

Ryukishi: Writing the scenario for Tatarigorishi was pretty fun.

Yatazakura: There was a schedule managing problem. Basically, I kept saying that we won’t be ready before the next Comiket at the pace we had.

Ryukishi: Right, I have moved to an extremely busy workplace at the end of Tatarigoroshi production, and even though we somehow managed to finish in time because I had some text ready at my previous job, I didn’t actually write anything at the new one. “It can’t continue like this”, I thought. The fact that we can’t release a new Higurashi chapter every half of the year has became obvious . The actual work on scenario went pretty well, though.

Yatazakura: It was somewhere in July or August.

Ryukishi: But, you know. I have a feeling that the clean-up went smoothly and we finished master-up in about less than 72 hours, right?

Yatazakura: Right, in less than 72 hours…

Everyone: *laugh*

Ryukishi: We all have lost our sense of danger.

From 48 to 72 hours is just a day of difference, isn’t it?

Ryukishi: We put those extra hours into debugging…

Yatazakura: However, we found out on the last day that we couldn’t install the thing because the installer didn’t run properly.

*laugh*

Yatazakura: Then BT said: “I’ll fix it myself, so use it”… In a great rush. We all thought that it will be hard to continue this way while having jobs, but the scenario for Tatarigoroshi went very well, and we got a lot of positive feedback, so we started to feel that maybe we could make it with doing novel games.

Ryukishi: “There is a response! We are doing good!” That was the feeling.

Yatazakura: …Though we couldn’t imagine that it will go this well *laugh*

So, Tatarigoroshi is when you first felt that it may be your thing?

Ryukishi: Until Tatarigorishi our audience consisted mostly of fans that were with us since card days, and in fact, our circle was a card games circle with a bit of Higurashi on the side. Most people were buying it out of pity… but didn’t actually play. However, those who have played started saying that it’s interesting. We had a homepage for Higurashi, but there was no demo-version back then, so it just said: “Please, consider buying it on the next Comiket”.In winter that year I had troubles with finishing the manuscript in time. I wasn’t sure, should I go with Meakashi or Himatsubushi, so I started writing Meakashi little by little, but… Then I thought that Sonozaki family at that time wasn’t suspicious enough and decided to put more plot-points that would make player suspect them, so I hurried to start writing Himatsubushi, but I was very busy at work… And there was a lot of alcohol. I was drinking 3 times a week. For the whole year.

Like, on meetings or parties?

Ryukishi: I think that were more guest receptions then parties. Either way, when you are drunk your brain doesn’t work well. I didn’t have the opportunity to work on the scenario at all. Besides that, there were no consecutive holidays, and also Saturday was a workday at that job, and weekly holidays were all over the place. Before that, I was always focusing on writing on Sundays after having a rest on Saturday, but I couldn’t do it on a new job. Because of that, our plans for Winter Comiket completely collapsed. We had a lot of people asking about the new product but were able to only sell reprints that winter… It was disheartening. After that, we used accumulated material to release Himatsubushi-hen in summer… but at that time we already understood that it was a bad situation. You probably know, but Himatsubushi is half the amount of text compared to previous arcs. If you think about it, I started writing right after finishing Tatarigoroshi. Half the amount in a whole year. At that time, I was seriously lost between putting Higurashi aside for 3 years and quitting my job to focus on writing… Then, BT suggested putting a demo-version online.

BT: Ryukishi was in terrible condition at that time… When I heard that he fell off the stairs because of dizziness, I thought that he will break down if the things continue this way… It was very worrying. I heavily suggested that if he was so good at writing, it would be better for us to focus on the game.

Did you have such conversations?

Ryukishi: We talked about often in a messenger. “I am busy. I can’t do it anymore. It’s over!” And each time I said that I heard the news that one of the scenario writers that I was looking up to, quitted their job in order to concentrate on writing… People started saying: “Ryukishi, maybe you should quit your job too?”

Everyone: *laugh*

Ryukishi: Well, even if they were saying that. It was a decent life, you know…

BT: It’s because he is saying such things… Of course, I couldn’t help Ryukishi with his work, so instead, I did my best to keep his motivation at least somewhat high. Uploading a demo was one of those things. I wanted to make the game more popular, even if just a little bit, so I tried to squeeze Onikakushi-hen into an archive, somehow put it on the server and presented it to some free game sites. Higurashi was on hold and could fall apart any minute, so I was desperate to keep it alive.

Ryukishi: In terms of mental health, that time was the roughest. I was extremely busy at my job and didn’t have time to work on the game, all while Higurashi was becoming more and more popular, and the expectations for it were rising. I didn’t know what to do. Besides that, even if the popularity was increasing, it was not that much, so I was worried about all sorts of things. I think that was the most difficult time for Higurashi.

According to your Production Journal, 2004, before Himatsubushi, was your most difficult year.

Ryukishi: I was talking almost exclusively about my work back then. I wasn’t able to refuse any orders there. Even if I said: “Ah, that day is a bit…”, my superior would go: “Hey, you are coming, aren’t you?”… My answer would instantly change from “I don’t know” to “Sorry. I am coming!”. To “Let’s overcome this hurdle together!” I would answer: “Roger that!”. If there is a scary superior, I only can response with: “I’ll do my best” *laugh* I was updating Production Journal from my phone, while laying on a futon at the office…

Yatazakura: Every time we met back then the conversation went this way: “What about the scenario?” “Scenarioooo~!”.

Ryukishi: “Look at the schedule, it’s stuffed!”

Yatazakura: “Should I send it to you myself after calculating remaining days then?”, etc.

Ryukishi: Well, on the other hand, we were able to polish Meakashi-hen, which turned out very good.

Were there any other troubles with Meakashi-hen?

Ryukishi: Time was the biggest struggle. Creating Higurashi isn’t only writing a scenario, it’s a lot of different work. And my hands were full already. Because of that, I had to resolve to not accepting any unrelated work if we wanted to be ready before Summer Comiket. Otherwise, even 8 months weren’t enough. In reality, it was April already, so we had 4 months left. In other words, in terms of time, it was like Summer Comiket was already over. Step by step. Other than music, time, job, what troubles will come next?

Yatazakura: Checking manga manuscripts?

Ryukishi: It’s fun, so it wasn’t trouble.

Yatazakura: I guess. You get to be the first reader too.

What was the reception of the characters appearing in Meakashi-hen in visual terms?

Ryukishi: It was pretty good. Keiichi, who has finally got his own sprite, started gaining some popularity. He wasn’t that popular before that. Akasaka was scary. Even without a sprite, he was already successful, so I feel that it will get out of control if I give him one *laugh* Keiichi and Akasaka are especially popular among women, so they can’t be looked down at. …In fact, there is a demand to see Keiichi in short pants. I wanted to make Keiichi short, because I like when a protagonist isn’t tall.

However, he can’t pat a girl’s head if he is short. I have an impression that both guys can do it.

Ryukishi: Yes. One does it roughly, another gently. In these type of games, protagonists are like air, so they can’t usually become a standard of popularity… But I am glad that they have grown into characters who are somewhat popular.

You see, it’s because you draw them properly without hiding their eyes[4].

Everyone: *laugh*

Staff’s favourite characters?

Does each of you have a favourite character?

BT: But of course… It’s Rika. She is like a cute tanuki, I just can’t help it *laugh* I want to be tricked by her.

Like getting stealthily shot with a syringe?

BT: Yeah *laugh* I even created O-sanpo Rika-chan[5] (Rika-chan on a walk) by momentum *laugh*

Yatazakura: For me it’s Ooishi. I like how rough he is. His words always have a double meaning, you can interpret them in different ways. However, even if his actions are mysterious, they are understandable. If you think about his position… It’s like: “Ah, I get it”. He is an interesting character.

There are a lot of interesting detective characters in fiction. They often appear to be intrigants. It’s very fitting to the story.

Yatazakura: Yeah, very fitting. However… He is not a pure ally, he has some very dirty part to him, and this is his strong appeal. Like, having conversations about public morals at work…

Ryukishi: Everybody does that~

Yatazakura: But, you know, police workers in games usually don’t talk about that, do they?

Ryukishi: I wanted to depict police properly in Higurashi. In various manga and anime of similar themes police usually doesn’t do anything, right? For example, if there is a kaiju rampaging in the middle of the city, often police don’t move, and I always found that surprising. So I became determined to do the police right in Higurashi. An official institution that is under pressure and that can’t move exactly because of that… For example, I made sure to depict a child consultation center properly in Tatarigoroshi, so the story will feel more real. There is a government office and the police in that world as well. I think we’ve managed to make the police very real.

Is Ooishi based on a real person?

Ryukishi: He is based on my seniors from previous work. Not on one person, but on several. There were a lot of pretty wild people among my seniors. There was one person who is probably already retired because of old age by now whom I really admired. One day, I went to the printing room to print out some papers, but I couldn’t because there was no seal by the manager. However, that senior had the same surname as the manager, so he helped me by putting his own seal instead.

Everyone: *laugh*

Ryukishi: I thought that was extremely cool. When I asked him is it okay, he answered: “Don’t worry”. Shouldn’t you ask the manager in such cases? “Don’t worry”. He was way too cool. Ooishi’s catchphrase “Have a nice year” comes from that senior too. For a conversation between Ooishi and a medical examiner, I copied one of the conversations between that senior and his friend exactly. Reading horse racing newspapers openly at work, talking about horses on a public phone in a lobby. I didn’t ever see him wearing a tie. He was always wearing working clothes so you could think that he was a worker, but he actually was a chief. He also had a lot of influence and was well-known in mahjong circles. There were even directors among his mahjong friends. As he said with a laugh once: “That guy is a traitor. While everyone was playing mahjong, he studied and passed an exam”. Because he was that way, he was very influential. The spitting image of Ooishi.

So, you are using your work experience to deepen your characters.

Ryukishi: After all, I probably started with doujin too late. It’s normal to have a debut while you are a student or just starting working. As I was 10 years late, I feel that if I don’t use the experience I accumulated at the company during that time in the game, it will be my loss. That’s why I am using it as much as I can.For example… The way the old Sonozaki family is ruling their land is based on things I experienced at work. Though, it probably doesn’t come through my poor writing. It’s not fantasy. It’s something that happens just next to us, in 23th District of Tokyo. That’s why I was able to depict Oryou’s behaviour very realistically. To the point that I hope a certain person won’t find out about it *bitter laugh*

Well, Higurashi isn’t that complicated of a story. “Rena is scaaary” is probably enough for it. Really, if only I could write better prose, maybe I could depict that world more beautifuly, like Yokomizo… Like in The Village of Eight Graves.

Do you have any ideal or rival?

Ryukishi: It’s more like my goal as a scenario writer, then a rival… but I want to write something as absorbing as Nasu Kinoko… And if you ask about works… Hmm, I wonder. My head is full of creating my own works. In some sense, my rivals are my previous works, I am just running forward as I like. You can’t create anything decent if you are too conscious about other creators, so the best thing is to do what you want to do.

A breath of fresh air: mini-games and Angel Mort

There were not any mini-games in Meakashi-hen.

BT: I want to make them, though. My hands right now are full with managing home-page, user support, etc.

Ryukishi: You’ve made some during Meakashi… Are they shelved for a time being?

BT: Those messed up during server transferring.

Ryukishi: There was one game with falling blocks you’ve shown me a long time ago… The one that looked like Puyo Puyo… What’s up with that one?

BT: I was working on it, but if I’d finish it, it would look exactly like Puyo Puyo, so I scrapped it.

Ryukishi: What about that simulation game? You’ve shown some screenshots of it, it looked fun.

BT: I stopped working on that one too… I’d like to start over with it if I have time but at this point…

Ryukishi: The puzzle one looked so similar to Puyo Puyo, “Oh, Puyo Puyo is fun”, I thought.

Yatazakura: We can have 3 black blocks merging into Mickey Mouse and disappearing, or something like that…

I feel that it’s a bit dangerous… Without a doubt, it will summon from America an assassin in a black suit *laugh*

Ryukishi: There is also a story that is going on through that mini-games, so what’s up with it? It seems that it has paused in O-sanpo Rika-chan

Yatazakura: Did you spend all your passion on Rika?..

BT: If I only had a little more time… I still have a lot of ideas left.

Yatazakura: Ryukishi, you wrote the story for Rena-pan, right?

Ryukishi: Because of Soul Brothers.

Yatazakura: Yeah, Soul Brothers!

Ryukishi: However, it’s BT who created Irie and others. Mini-games were becoming better and better, and little by little they started to corrode the main game, so if you don’t break loose in mini-games I won’t be able to return to the main scenario. So… I am waiting for an even more shameless game from you this time.

BT: I want to do them again.

So, you are saying that there will be a mini-game in Tsumihoroboshi-hen.

Ryukishi: So, you are saying that you are starting working on it today.

BT: No-no-no… It’s impossible…

Ryukishi: We are waiting for letters that will fire up BT’s soul! Please write that you are looking forward to a new mini-game!

BT: No-no-no, it’s not about my feelings, I just don’t have time. I have to manage the home-page and there is other stuff… If you ask what’s the most important, I think it’s to make the user experience good… Mini-games will have to wait…

Ryukishi: In fact, the fact that BT started working on the web-site has been incredibly helpful. It always needs maintenance, and we can’t just do it in our free time. BT made it so we could forget about it and focus on the game. Even though he isn’t involved in making the game directly, he helps to create the environment for us, so in that sense, BT is definitely one of Higurashi's developers. If he falls sick, this will definitely be damaging to the quality of Higurashi.

BT: Managing home-page is fun, you know. I become happy when there is a nice round number on the visitors counter. And various memorial days.

Like Nii-nii day.

Yatazakura: Sounds like some department store.

Ryukishi: If it’s fun, then it’s the way to go.

Let’s finally talk about something cheerful.

Ryukishi: We don’t have anything besides troubles and gloomy stories, though *laugh*

I recall there has been an Angel Mort Day[6] recently.

Ryukishi: It was great~ It seems that ohagi were instantly sold out. To think that a product will be sold out before the shop opens…

Yatazakura: The line to that shop was already larger than the number of ohagi. The rumours say that the line was going up the spiral staircase…

BT: It had ohagi and other stuff, the menu was great.

Yatazakura: I was drinking only tea the whole day… I wasn’t able to eat anything either.

Ryukishi: Ah, me too. What else, the music was also from Higurashi.

Yatazakura: Yes. When you hear old Higurashi songs, it feels like you are doing debugging. Like you are in the middle of a clean-up.

Ryukishi: It was the same at Angel Mort Day Only Event. Constant debugging flashbacks *bitter laugh*

Yatazakura: Like you are holding a notebook in one hand and repeating: “This is no good, this is no good”… *laugh*

Ryukishi: “Here the song stops and the rain sound starts” or “Cicadas sound until here” or “Here starts suspicion2 track”… Songs are heavily associated with debugging.

Yatazakura: “Here the position of the sprites is wrong”, etc.

Ryukishi: I understand well why game developers hate debugging. After you’ve done it so much, even if you buy a game that you’ve made you never unpack it. Playing it will be the last thing you’d want to do. It would feel like you are doing the debugging at home, they say *laugh*

Future of Higurashi and future of circle

Do you already have any ideas about your next work?

Ryukishi: Well, there is that unfinished project for which I did complete the scenario. The game I was working on at my previous circle, it was dropped because the artist has left. Everything besides art was finished. However, if we’d release it now, it will require all sorts of small changes. Many of the characters from there moved to Higurashi. The protagonist is a complete Keiichi…

Yatazakura: There are a lot of different characters in that game. I can’t talk about it much, though. If we are going to release it, I can’t talk, and if we aren’t, I can’t talk either because it’s embarrassing.

Ryukishi: It’s not like we’ve decided to go with it, though. Either way, there are a lot of things that I want to do other than Higurashi, so we’ll be busy.

I’d like each of you to say something that keeps you moving forward.

BT: Well, I am going to work hard from now on. Especially on the web-site, I am going to properly manage it and keep support Higurashi together with everybody. I will keep supporting Higurashi from the back from now on.

Yatazakura: My goal is no bugs!

Everyone: *laugh*

Yatazakura: Which is obvious, so I also want to do different kinds of directing. Every day I have thoughts like: “It would be cool to make this scene such and such, but I don’t have time”. For example, when someone executes their plan during a club event, I’d like to show it with a cut-in with just their eyes. I want to do many of such effects in the next game.

Ryukishi: I am going to do a lot of research in preparation for the next one. I kinda started learning HSP (a simple programming language) for the next game. In the end, when you have time, you should learn.

Yatazakura: That’s true. We will also need someone who will beat Ryukishi’s ass.

It seems that, in the end, your role is to make sure that the production is moving forward.

Yatazakura: Rather than that, that part of the work that appears towards the end is a bit tough.

Ryukishi: Yeah, it’s a type of work that you can’t get to until it’s done on my side.

Please say the last word.

Ryukishi: I am always competing with my previous works. For now, I am going to do my best in order to not lose to Meakashi-hen. I’ll be running forward until the end. There is no meaning to leave things unfinished, so, if the things go smoothly, we will be ready in half a year, though we shouldn’t become too relaxed. We are going to work hard, so we all hope for your support. Higurashi is made possible thanks to all of you. We will do our best to not betray your expectations, so please forward to the new game this Summer.

Thank you very much for today.

Notes

  1. It wouldn’t be overstatement to call it Ryukishi07’s first-ever doujin game. The scenario for it was completely finished, but the main illustrator has left in the middle of production, which lead to the project’s cancellation. After that event, Ryukishi07 decided that he will make illustrations for Higurashi himself.
  2. Comes from puni-puni: squishy, bouncy.
  3. The term Ryukishi uses here is 残酷表現 (zankoku hyougen), which means “cruel expression” if translated literally.
  4. Very often in bishoujo games protagonists have their eyes hidden by long hair.
  5. A mini-game in Himatsubushi-hen.
  6. A special fair that was held from 18.03 to 27.03 of 2005 at CURE MAID CAFE at Akihabara. The uniforms and menu all were in the style of Angel Mort. There were also ohagi, that appeared in Onikakushi-hen. At the point of May of 2005, the fair was opened in several more places.

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