This is a series of interviews of Ryukishi07 and Witch Hunt conducted at the French anime convention Epitanime on May 26 and 27, 2012. The first interview concerns what Ryukishi did before making When They Cry, his thoughts on the franchise becoming as popular as it is, and his new work Rose Guns Days. Translated by Ziassan. Original archived source is here, alternative source is here, and translation source is here.
Interview 1 Transcript
This year, the oldest convention still active in France - Epitanime - had Ryukishi07 as guest, the brain behind the works, adapted in anime, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Umineko no Naku Koro ni. We were able to meet him on Friday evening, three hours before the start of the convention.
Q: Can you introduce yourself, for the French people who don't know you?
Ryukishi07: To all the French: delighted! My name is Ryukishi07! I produced the visual novels Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni, Umineko No Naku Koro Ni, in short the When They Cry saga. I wish I could call it a "sound novel" but it is a registered trademark in Japan, just like "visual novel".
Q: It solves the problem of whether to call it a "sound novel" or a "visual novel" ...
Ryukishi07: In France the term is free to use so one can call it as they want. In Japan, on the other hand, the safest notion in terms of rights is "PC-Novel".
Q: What was your professional experience before writing the When They Cry saga?
Ryukishi07: When I was 20 years old, I spent three months in a regular company, and after that I was a civil servant for ten years in a district town hall.
Q: About that, in Higurashi and Umineko we often see complicated relationships between children and adults. For example in Higurashi between Satoko and her uncle or, in Umineko, between Rosa and her daughter Maria. Did this professional experience inspire you?
Ryukishi07: During the ten years I was a civil servant, I went through a lot of departments where I learned a lot. And, yes, this experience is reflected in Higurashi and Umineko.
Q: What is your feeling about being published and edited in France?
Ryukishi07: Actually at the beginning, my audience was otakus attending the Comiket, which are a very small fraction of Japanese otakus, themselves a small part of the Japanese population in general! I never thought for a single second that I could be read, published & edited on the other side of the planet, in France.
Q: By the way, you have also authorized a group of English fans named Witch Hunt to develop and publish a free English patch for Umineko No Naku Koro Ni ... How do you feel about this international distribution of the game?
Ryukishi07: As with Higurashi, I never thought that people outside of Japan could be interested. Especially since Umineko is a text even the Japanese can find complex to read. So to imagine that strangers made the effort to read it, understand it and translate it... it is for me an indescribable happiness.
Q: What is your relationship with your fans? Do you still meet them regularly, for example at Comiket?
Ryukishi07: At the beginning of Higurashi , for the first three episodes, the story was still rather unknown ... I produced the CDs myself with a few friends, and sold them directly to people at the Comic Market - and at the time, the price was about 100 yen, it was almost like begging the public to take them! At the same time we told them "if after reading, you could give us your impressions on the story by mail, we will send you the next chapter for free!"
I did not consider the series at the time as a source of profit. I just wanted it to be known as much as possible.
Q: In the Higurashi / Umineko sound novel, we often find this strange ambivalence between macabre scenes and schoolboy humor ...
Ryukishi07: For me, a story must be like a big eight. That is to say, before writing a really cruel scene, it's necessary to get people up, with like, fun scenes.
Q: And also, to make us care more about the characters ...
Ryukishi07: Yes. But to write a cruel scene, it's a necessary process! Before writing a scene of pure despair, one must go through scenes of hope. And, actually, I have a lot of fun doing that when I write it.
Q: What information can you give us about your next title, Rose Guns Days ?
Ryukishi07: I'm surprised that people already know about Rose Guns Days in France! I have not announced anything in Japan about the work so I'll tell you what I can ...
The story will take place in 1947. But it will be an alternative 1947, with historical facts that have nothing to do with reality. An uchronie, in a few ways. For the rest I was inspired by the film The Third Man, which takes place in Vienna after the Second World War, when the city is divided in four by the allies. It's the atmosphere I wanted to transcribe.
Q: So we can think of a Japanese city divided into four ...
Ryukishi07: Imagine a city divided like a chess game, between America and China ...
Q: Will it be included in the When They Cry saga?
Ryukishi07: No, it will not be part of the series.
Q: Umineko is a work ruthlessly dissecting the mystery/detective genre. What were your main inspirations?
Ryukishi07: I've been influenced by many works but more particularly by an Agatha Christie novel named The Ten Little Negroes (Also known as And Then There Were None).
Q: And if you were a character in the When They Cry saga, who would you be?
Ryukishi07: (laughs) In the case of Higurashi, I want to become Keiichi! In the case of Umineko, it would be rather Beatrice (laughs) !
Q: Beatrice... which one?
Ryukishi07: (laughs) The answer gets complicated ... Well, in the end, I'm going to stay on Keichi from Higurashi to make it simple!
Q: And finally the last question ... what would you do, if you could get Beatrice's gold?
Ryukishi07: I would buy the Palace of Versailles (laughs) ! No, more seriously, about the 200 million dollars that the treasure represent, I would give half to the prefecture of Fukushima and with the other half I would buy an island to build a mansion, take ten fans at random and send them invitations (laughs) !
Interview 2 Transcript
The conference of the 26th was focused on Higurashi: Ryukishi07 first introduced himself, followed by the introduction of Pbsaffran, the translator and editor of Higurashi in French, and Klashikari, the founder of Witch Hunt. Ryukishi07 then started to talk about how he decided to make Higurashi. He said that he used to be active on the Doujin Scene even when underage. He also used to play the card game Magic: The Gathering quite a lot. When he became an adult he started working as a civil servant at an administrative building in a district of Tokyo. He thought that he would stop being an otaku at that time but realized that once you become an otaku you stay one forever, and as he was spending more and more time on his hobbies, he decided to retire from work when he was 28 to dedicate himself fully to the Doujin Scene. He wanted to do his first big work, and that was Higurashi.
The thing that inspired him the most to do Higurashi was a movie called The Blair Witch Project, he wanted to do a Japanese Blair Witch Project. He and his little brother decided to do a Sound Novel. That’s what became Higurashi.
After this introduction, Pbsaffran aka Pierre Bancov, started talking about how he discovered Higurashi and how he started working on it around 2008, gave everything he had to not only translate the game in French, but officially release it in our country. As no company was interested in releasing Higurashi, saying it was too long, that there wasn’t a market for this kind of game in France, he made his own game editing company to release it. And the day of the conference, the 26th of May 2012, the French version of the last volume of Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni: Matsuribayashi-hen, was commercialized at the con. So he did it. A little funny fact: Visual Novels aren’t classified by the PEGI, the French equivalent of CERO. So they couldn’t evaluate the game properly. The only thing that got into their jurisdiction was the mini games in Higurashi. That made them give the game a rating of “for 7 years old or more”. So there’s an additional warning on the cover of the game explaining this mistake, and that it’s definitely not for kids.
After that, we started the Q&A session. (I don’t think the questions are in chronological order, it doesn’t matter much though thankfully).
1/ Why did you choose the real life village Shirakawa-go as the base for Hinamizawa village?
Ryukishi07 said that when they were doing Higurashi, they were thinking about the village they’ll use. His little brother had a book about the 100 most beautiful villages of Japan. They just opened it, found Shirakawa-go and decided on it.
2/ How do you plan your works?
He said that he starts thinking about the story, the characters and all of the next work a year before it’s release. As an example he said that while they were finishing Higurashi, as in, working on Minagoroshi-hen and Matsuribayashi-hen, he already started to think about Umineko. And while they were working on Umineko’s ending, he started to think about Rose Guns Days.
3/ Why does Higurashi is very Japanese, while Umineko is more occidental?
He wanted to make Umineko more occidental, adult and cool.
4/ Why birthday information about the characters of Higurashi and Umineko is so vague or unknown?
He said that they don’t reveal them, especially in Umineko’s case, as if they make a mistake in the dates it could put the already established story into jeopardy. They said that maybe one day they’ll take the time to think about it.
5/ Which is created first? The music or the story & art?
He does all the story and graphic first, and then he goes see composers and asks them to freely compose something. When they’re done, he chooses what he wants from what they composed and put it in the scenes he wants. As an example, he took the Siesta sisters’ theme song, “Dance of the Moon Rabbits” telling us the composer was imagining a rabbit dancing on the moon, while he decided to use the song in the gruesome Siesta massacre scenes.
6/ Is there ever a character in his works that simply dies of old age?
After many laughs, he thanked the person who asked the question, for giving him this idea. He said that maybe in a future work that will span on many generations, he’ll use this.
7/ How did you create the characters of Ryuguu Rena and Sonozaki Shion?
He said that he needed a character that would be double edged. A really cute and happy personality and sometimes really terrifying. That’s how they made Rena. He then added that when you take Rena’s concept, but push the” violence” characteristic at the maximum, you get Shion.
8/ Who’s your favorite character in your works?
He didn’t answer, but said that he’d like to become like Maebara Keiichi. In the 2nd conference though someone asked the same but for Umineko’s case only, and he answered his favorite character is Beatrice.
9/ Did you ever read [H. P. Lovecraft's] works, as it’s similar how things are all happy then starts to go crazy in your stories.
He said that he never did, but that’s how he likes to do stories. It’s like a Jet Coaster. It climbs and climbs and climbs then abruptly goes down. (He made the gesture with his hands of a Jet Coaster while saying this).
10/ How much important is the music in your works?
He said that when you pronounce Sound Novel in Japanese, Sound (SA-O-UN-DO) has 4 syllables while Novel (NO-BE-RU) has only 3 syllables, so the sound is a very important part. (He counted it with his hand while saying this.)
11/ Do you like the opening themes of the Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni anime?
He said they’re “subarashi” and he loves them, Shimamiya Eiko did a great job capturing the atmosphere with her songs, the first time he heard them he was really happy and satisfied about it.
12/ Why did they chose the Higurashi (a variety of cicada insects) and Umineko (Seagulls) as the animals in the titles, and not others??
Well in Higurashi’s case it’s obvious. When they were done with Higurashi, they knew they would keep the No Naku Koro Ni part in the title but change the animal. They knew this sequel would take place on an island, and the first animal they though of then was Umineko (Seagull).
He then added that he and his little brother thought about using another animal for the yet unpublished work Rose Guns Days but didn’t find any animal that could fit. So they decided on Rose Guns Days temporarily and then it became real. When they think of another animal to make cry they’ll make the next No Naku Koro Ni title. He said jokingly that it’s the the only thing that keeps him from working on a new No Naku Koro Ni for now.
13/ Why does the sentiment of love is prominent in Higurashi, and extremely omnipresent in Umineko?
He said he wanted to tell a very humane, real-like story.
14/ What does he thinks about France and Paris?
He really likes Paris, he said he wants to go to places tourists usually don’t go to. He told us that he came in France last year, and went to the Mont Saint Michel. He went on a trek there wearing only a t-shirt in the afternoon. He didn’t know that it gets much colder at night and caught a cold when they got back at nighttime. He said while laughing that he brought many multi-layered clothes this time.
15/ As he came to Paris in summer, does he misses the cicadas cry from Japan?
After many laughs, he said that he’s surprised that cicadas and their specific cry are known all over the world.
16/ If there’s any book he recommends reading, to become a better member of society.
He said while laughing that he doesn’t and he’d appreciate it if someone told him what book you need to read to become a better member of society.
And it’s over. The conference was around 2 hours long. Stay tuned for answers about things like Umineko’s ending, why he isn’t the main character designer for Rose Guns Days, how he got the idea for the emblem of the Ushiromiya family and *gasp* why every woman in the Ushiromiya family is very well endowed.
Interview 3 Transcript
This conference was mainly focused on Umineko :
It started pretty much like the first one, with Ryuikishi07, Klashikari and Pbsaffran introducing themselves. Similarly to Pbsaffran at the 1st conference, Klashikari started to talk about how he discovered Umineko and made up Witch Hunt, and how they received Ryukishi07’s email. One of the most difficult thing with the translation was the red truth. They had to be extremely careful not to make mistakes as it could drastically change the meaning of a sentence.
Ryukishi07 then talked about Umineko’s ending. Episode 8. The epilogue. He said that the ending doesn’t say clearly what happened on Rokkenjima. The answer do exist but he doesn’t intend to give it. It’s in the cat’s box. Some people’s theories that are posted on the net are right, but he won’t tell which. He doesn’t want to be like authors who just writes something, then the readers reads and that’s it. He wants the readers to work on the book too, that way a link is created between the author and the readers. He added that there’s as much answers as the number of people present in the room, or more.
After that Pbsaffran talked about his impressions on Umineko. As he studied Japanese literature for 9 years and since Ryukishi07 is an authentic Japanese writer, he could read between the lines and managed to find some answers right from Episode 1. The more he played the more he thought he was wrong though and then it turned out that he was right. He said that for this reason he is less emotionally attached to Umineko but the musics are absolutely great.
After that came the Q&A session: (Note, I may have mixed in questions that are actually from the 1st conference. Also, like in the 1st summary, the questions probably aren’t in chronological order but it doesn’t matter)
1/ First off, Klashikari himself asked about the references in Umineko, why did he put Touhou references, and if Battler was inspired by Naruhodo Ryuichi/Phoenix Wright.
Ryukishi07 answered that he’s the kind of author who has the bad habit of putting references in his works just to have them. (I agree with him and thought about anime like Nyaruko when he said that but I’ll leave that for another post). He said that he just puts a reference to something he currently likes a lot. At the time he was designing Battler, he definitely was hyped on Gyakuten Saiban/Phoenix Wright. He also did the Objection Finger pose.
2/ Pbsaffran also asked him something: If the stories about him working non-stop and sleeping only 2 hours a day to meet deadlines are true.
Ryukishi07 said that it’s true, and that when he goes to sleep these two hours, when he wakes up, he has answers about the things he was thinking about before going to bed. So he’s actually working while sleeping too. Now he’s getting older so recently he stopped doing that, and works hard to plan things ahead and respect his schedule.
After that people in the room asked questions.
3/ Which one do you like the most, Higurashi or Umineko?
He said that now that he finished both, when he looks back on Higurashi, he doesn’t think he could do another story this amazing again. Then when he looks at Umineko, he thinks that it became like that thanks to the experience he gained while doing Higurashi, so comparing them is very difficult.
4/ As a successful person in this domain, if he has any advice to newcomers of the Doujin Scene who wish to make a visual novel.
He said that the most important is to finish your game. He said that you shouldn’t forget that besides the scenario, there’s also the music, the graphics etc. His advice is to start with a small game, with a small goal, and get to 100% completion of that game. If you can do it, then try to go beyond this 100% and make a slightly bigger game. Then repeat this process.
5/ If the Red Truth system was hard to work with.
Using the red truth is laborious because when you used it, that’s it, you can’t change it. He said that there’s many famous manga in which something is said at the beginning, then later in the story it’s changed to something else. With the Red Truth, you can’t do that, so working with it was burdensome.
6/ There’s some instances where a certain character seems to be criticizing not only the characters, but the readers themselves.
He answered that in the world of Umineko, there’s the Chessboard, then the Meta Room, then the Witches World and it goes up like that. Different worlds are hierarchically piled up. Sometime the critic may be aimed at the characters in the world below, sometimes at the readers, but he’ll leave it at our imagination to guess when.
7/ How do you manage to portray family secrets and discord with such realism in Umineko?
He said that it’s thanks to his days of working as a civil servant. He was often in contact with families and he learned how to deal with their problems and things like that. It’s thanks to the valuable experience he got at his job.
8/ Do you have the start and the end of the story in mind while working on it? And are you influenced by the players/readers’ reactions?
He said that he does have the ending in mind, but doesn’t know how he’ll get to it. He said that when you try to do it like this it’s difficult to think about everything that will be in between all at once. To make things easier, he uses checkpoints. He took an example saying that at the end of checkpoint 1 the story goes like this (tracing lines with his hand) then in order to get to checkpoint 2 he takes another road. That way the readers think it will go like this. But then he deceives the readers and take another road to go to the next checkpoint. (He drew various patterns in the air with his finger while saying all this.) So he is influenced by the reader’s reactions.
9/ If I understood correctly, the guy asked him something about the characters in Ougon Musou Kyoku, about game balance I think. The translator didn’t get it right and translated it as “Why the characters are so well done?” or something. The answer is still interesting though.
He answered that he thinks that the base for a good story is good characters. Characters with lots of depth, detail, and work put into them makes great stories.
10/ Who’s your favorite character in Umineko?
He said it’s Beatrice. (Note: The trolling/EP1-4 version of Beatrice)
11/ How do you manage to write such crazy amazing stories? Are you crazy?
He said that back when he was working as a civil servant, sometimes during meetings, he would suddenly imagine the Kanji on a sheet walking, going on the head of someone, like a female coworker, and playing or dancing on it. Then slide back down and get on someone else. Then someone would call him, bringing him abruptly back to reality and asking him about something. He’d then admit that he wasn’t listening. He said that maybe he is KURAZY after all.
12/ Who’s your favorite character in Touhou?
He laughed a lot after hearing this. He said that it’s very difficult to answer. He said that of course he has a favorite favorite character, but it’s constantly changing. He said that this month he likes Reimu the most.
13/ Is it right to think that Battler is the hero of the explicit part of the story, while Ange is the heroine of the implicit side, of the feelings you want to share with the readers?
He said that there’s many main characters. Battler can indeed be considered the hero of episode 1-4, and that the heroine of the rest could be Beatrice. It depends of your point of view, of your way of approaching the story.
14/ How did you meet up with the person who composed the opening song of Umineko?
The music in Umineko is very important.When he was preparing Umineko, he listened to a whole lot of different music, to choose the opening, as it would set the atmosphere of the game and was very important. From what he listened, he choose Shikata Akiko, then sent her mails and insisted for her to make something adequate. If it wasn’t for Shikata Akiko-san, maybe he wouldn’t have got such a wonderful opening song.
15/ Have you ever cosplayed one of the characters you created?
After laughing, he said that if he was more good looking he would allow himself to cosplay. He told us that there’s a female staff of 07th Expansion who cosplays the characters and sew and creates all her costumes herself. He said that she even manage to cosplay characters that seem totally impossible, like Gaap.
16/ Did you like everything that is Occidental before working on Umineko or did you started to like it after doing research for Umineko?
He said that it’s like a Nabe (hot pot soup). Higurashi was a certain type of story, and he wanted to do something different. So he put different ingredients in. Sometimes the soup would turn out bad so he would throw it away. That’s how elements from Agatha Christie books or Dante’s Divine Comedy got in.
17/ How did you create the One Winged Eagle, the symbol of the Ushiromiya family?
He answered that when creating the characters, he felt that something was missing. It was the link between the characters. So he randomly scribbled on the right part of his torso, trying to find something that would show the link between the characters. It turned out to be this emblem. He said that now that he thinks about it he must have been inspired by Zeon’s symbol from Gundam.
18/ The women of the Ushiromiya family are quite BOIN BOIN. Why?
He said it’s surely because he loves big boobs.
19/ You aren’t the only character designer for Rose Guns Days. How did it turn out like this? Were you contacted by the artists? Or did you go meet them yourself?
He said that he wanted to do an experiment. As this time, he wanted to fully concentrate on the scenario for Rose Guns Days, he went to Square Enix and asked them if there’s any artist available that’s able to draw some good looking guys fast. The guys at Square Enix told him, why not use the artists who already worked on the manga versions of Higurashi and Umineko. So he did that. That’s what happened.
20/ If you weren’t the author of the Epitaph, would you be able to solve it?
He said that as he’s not very smart, he would have a lot of trouble with it. Especially that he made it with the goal in mind that no one would solve it for at least two years. He said that he wouldn’t be able to solve it.
21/ In Rose Guns Days, there is a character that has a striking resemblance to Battler, even the name is similar, is it the same person?
He likes to have old characters appear in newer works. He answered that you need to think of the characters in his works as actors of a movie. Now that Umineko is over, the actor playing Battler is now playing another role.
22/ What’s the priority you have in mind while creating your works?
He said that in each work he has to please the readers with a good story, deceive them and please himself.
23/ You were contacted by Konami to write the scenario of Ookamikakushi and by Key to write the scenario of a Route in Rewrite. How did it affect your original schedule?
For the summer Comiket, he works from April to August, for the winter Comiket, he works from September to December. So at that time, he had 3 months in between when he didn’t have much to do. That’s when he was contacted by Konami. Working with them made him learn many things and it was also an opportunity to work in a much relaxed environment than usual.
After this last question, Ryukishi07 said some last words. He thanked us all for coming. He said that he was very surprised at the number of the different languages spoken at the convention, how thanks to the translators everyone could communicate and how he was in the middle of people who came from different places. He said he should try to improve himself in that domain. He added that he though that maybe no one will come, and that he would sometimes get nervous, thinking that people wouldn’t know about his works and talk about Touhou instead.
Klashikari then announced that Witch Hunt will translate Rose Guns Days in English. He also said that a surprise is waiting for us. He didn’t say anymore though.
Aaand that’s it. After one more last standing ovation to Ryukishi07, we left the amphitheater.