Ryukishi07 x KEIYA Special Talk ( 竜騎士07 x KEIYA 特別対談 Ryūkishi07 x KEIYA Tokubetsu Taidan) is an interview between Ryukishi07 and KEIYA released as part of the fan book Final Investigation: Witch-hunting for Episode 1-4.
A partial transcript of the interview is found below, as translated by chronotrig, the lead translator of Witch Hunt.
Keiya: One thing I noticed when taking another look over the series in preparation for my new book is the large number of foreshadowings which have been set up since EP1. For example, I looked up absinthe shortly after the release of EP1, and read on with the thought that 'wormwood' in the language of flowers means 'to be absent' and might be hinting at Kinzo's death. Then later on, his death was proclaimed with the red text in EP4. I get the feeling that many more foreshadowings like this are hidden throughout the game.
Ryuukishi: I'm glad that you've seemed to enjoy it.
Keiya: I've thought a lot about how Maria's frequently used line "keep your promises" might be the backbone of the story drawn out in EP4.
Ryuukishi: Who knows(laughs)? I'm right in the middle of writing EP5 now. I've started thinking that it's about time to expose the answers to a few riddles, but as I've said before, I don't want to go and say "X is the answer" like I did in Higurashi. After all, Umineko is a "thinking game", and I want everyone to enjoy "discussions". In a puzzle book, if the answer is written on the next page, your thinking stops the instant you see it, right? I'm aiming to release the answers in a way that will make those who have reached the right conclusion know that they got it right, and yet give only a hint to those who don't yet understand the answer. For example, if we presume that the answer to a riddle was "apple", then when we turn the page and see "something round and red", people who thought the answer was apple will think "ah, just what I thought" and have their reasoning confirmed. And for people who didn't know, it becomes a hint: "What is red and round?" This is the approach I am aiming for. So I think players like you, Keiya, who enthusiastically theorize about this game, will be able to enjoy the series even more during EP5 and after. In EP5, essential information regarding several riddles will appear, but those who reach the answer might begin to view these as red herrings, so reading the hints could make things even more confusing.
Keiya: I imagine there might appear to be several possible answers depending on how you interpret the hints.
Ryuukishi: Of course, that aspect exists as well. And the same hint might guide you to the answer in multiple ways. The blue text is a good example. There are cases where it is possible to imagine several possible methods for the crime based on the circumstantial evidence. That's the kind of mind game I want you to enjoy. But at the same time, people who are still confused or who aren't confident in their own theories might become even more lost. This kind of work is most fun when you're confused. This time, there will be a harsh trap, and while I believe those who have in some way penetrated to the core of story won't get tricked, those who haven't will probably think "Huh?" I wish I could say more, but I can't(laughs). Anyways, from here on out, hints will start coming from a different angle than before. Up until now, even though the number of hints about Beatrice have been steadily growing, they have all come from the same angle. This time, the hints will appear from a decidedly different angle, so some people might be able to see the riddles three-dimensionally......perhaps. But I tried to write it so that doesn't happen(laughs).
"The readers were far more resilient than I imagined"
Keiya: Now that about 5 months have passed since the release of EP4, what do you think about the reaction from the official message board and fan sites?
Ryuukishi: I think everyone is speculating with all they've got. There were many more hints this time, so I've noticed some very interesting lines of reasoning. There were quite a few people who made me think "So close!" As far as anyone reaching into the innermost heart of the series......I don't think anyone has yet. But there are several who have found the foothold from which the heart can be reached. Even so, it doesn't look like anyone has actually put their foot on that foothold and clambered up to the next level.
Keiya: Earlier, you talked about how some have gotten close to the truth in individual sections of the story.
Ryuukishi: That's right. People have done pretty well when it comes to certain parts. But since there are multiple rules in this tale, you won't be able to reach the truth just by stepping on a single foothold.
Keiya: I've felt that the "wills of several people might intertwine" in this story.
Ryuukishi: Unless you understand multiple things, I don't think you can explain the "who, why, and how". One thing I can say is that, since the speculation and reasoning at the current time is almost banging on the doors to the truth, those who start reading now will be able to unconsciously pick up several useful theories by reading information found on the web, the "explanation books", and your own thoughts, Keiya. Of course, since there are also several mistaken lines of reasoning, I think picking out the truth from amidst all that will be very difficult.
Ryuukishi: It's said that the three parts of reasoning are "Who dun it", "How dun it", and "Why dun it". 'Who' and 'how' are very difficult to speculate about, but the hardest part is the 'why'. In most Japanese mystery novels, this last part is often neglected. When the culprit and the trick are discovered, the culprit resigns and confesses about how their misfortune in the past led them to murder. I've tried to design Umineko so that you can enjoy the 'why' at least a little, so I hope that you do. But that doesn't necessarily mean that there will be clear hints pointing to the 'why'. However, judging by EP3 and EP4, Beatrice clearly hopes that Battler will figure it out. She wants a human to figure it out. People posing a riddle do so because they want someone to solve it. In the bus on a school field trip, if one person poses a riddle and his friends say "That's too hard, I give up. By the way..." and change the subject, wouldn't the first person feel pretty lonely? They would want to hear "I know, it's __" or "I don't know, tell me the answer". So at the very least, there can be no doubt that Beatrice is posing this riddle because she wants someone to try and solve it, and I hope that you consider what she's feeling. After all the most perfect crime would be carried out in a forest and never exposed to anyone. What does Beatrice want out of this incident, and why is she doing it?
Keiya: I imagine that's very closely connected to the riddle at the end of EP4.
Ryuukishi: Yeah, I'll bet. Many hints will appear in EP5 as well. When the pivotal answers come out in EP6 and EP7, I suggest that you replay starting from EP1 and enjoy how early on the foreshadowing begins. Like when you get a new key in an RPG, and return to the very first dungeon to get a treasure chest behind a door that you couldn't open before(laughs). That's an especially fun part of Umineko. Even now, there are many things you'll understand if you go back to EP1. But there are still many treasure chests waiting in EP1 that can't be opened yet. After playing EP5, EP6, and EP7, you might go back to EP1 and think "This is a huge clue" or "It's almost obvious!" This story will be fun to read over again. The anime will start very soon, won't it? People with certain suspicions might say "Ah!" and clap their hands at certain points in the anime.
"Will people be able to enjoy 'the fun of speculation' in the anime and manga versions too?"
Ryuukishi: Of course. I have been supervising those very carefully. In Higurashi, there were some problems with presentation, and they were allowed to do as they pleased in certain areas. But this time, I have been checking very carefully to make sure there are 'no misconceptions in the presentation' this time, so I think people will be able to significantly enjoy speculation in those as well.
Keiya: In that case, will people who only watch the anime be able to speculate about the series?
Ryuukishi: There is an overwhelming difference in the amount of information contained in an anime and the original work, so it will probably be best to play the original as far as 'the number of hints' is concerned. But as I just said, mysteries in pictures and mysteries in text focus on foreshadowing in very different ways, so things that you didn't notice in the original might feel very out of place in the anime. Then when you return to the original and read the same scene again, you might suddenly feel that something is very suspicious in certain places...... The opposite holds true as well, since some places might not leave an impact when on screen, but the text would lead one to wonder "why is this part being described so thoroughly?" So it might be useful to see it through different mediums.
"If you were to assign a difficult to the other formats, would you say that they're easier or harder than the original?"
Ryuukishi: I believe that the primary factors that decide the difficulty of a puzzle are the amount of hints and the amount of information. In that sense, you might be able to say that the original will actually be the easiest. As you know, things need to be condensed to fit in manga or anime versions. You can't just copy every line word for word and use the same description, so the amount of information naturally shrinks. Because of this, the original will always be easy as far as the quantity of information is concerned. Although there are also more fake leads in the original(laughs). But I wonder if that makes the difficulty equal between the two. Just like Higurashi, I think you should enter into Umineko from the type of media that you are most comfortable with. Then, when you also look at the different formats and see the information in a new light, you might be able to get close to something.