The following Question and Answer session was held using a special broadcast by the music circle Pomexgranate in commemoration of the release of Umineko Saku and Phase 1 of Ciconia. The broadcast was made on November 4, 2019.
The original broadcast may be watched on Pomexgranate's Youtube channel. The translation of the broadcast found here was done by rockmor on the blog Rena-Rena Toshokan, with only minor typographical issues corrected. All details regarding Umineko will be spoiler tagged here, along with Ciconia details past Chapter 7: The Three Kings.
- Ryukishi07 (author)
- Nakao Boushi (director)
- xaki, Motoki Zakuro, Luck Ganriki (music composers)
Presenting Umineko Saku and Ciconia
xaki: So, Ryukishi-sensei. It has been almost 10 years since Episode 8, hasn’t it?
Ryukishi: Ah, has it been so long? The time passed so quickly. It feels like just 3 years has passed.
xaki: Each year become shorter when you get older.
Ryukishi: *laugh* I guess. I have a feeling that I have just finished Umineko.
xaki: You lose perception of time when continue writing something for so long. It’s difficult.
Ryukishi: I thought: “OK, after a long time, let’s write!”, but it felt like I’ve just finished recently.
xaki: There are a lot of songs that I’ve made more than 10 years ago, but when I play a CD with them, it feels like it wasn’t that long.
Zakuro: Your feelings return to that time.
Ryukishi: Yeah, you can time-slip to the time you created something. I understand that very well.
xaki: Just seeing 07th Expansion logo and hearing that sound effect makes you return to that time.
xaki: What was the motivation behind Last note of the golden witch?
Ryukishi: At first I was thinking about what should I write. I’ve touched a lot of different themes in the main story. However, I wanted to make something that is properly connected to the main story, not something that you may read or not read and it wouldn’t make any difference. Is there anything that I haven’t explore yet? Ah, it’s OK to talk about spoilers, right? I felt that I didn’t talk about Asumu enough. She is Battler’s real mother and a big reason for Kyrie’s envy, so she has influenced the story quite a bit, and still, she is barely there. So I thought that maybe it would be nice to talk about her more.
xaki: It was great.
Zakuro: She is such an interesting character for me, so I was very happy when I realised that it was her.
Ryukishi: Thank you all for remembering Asumu. I am so glad.
xaki: Nakao, you’ve been in charge of the script and directing. How did it feel to work on such a legendary title as Umineko?
Nakao: I feel highly honored. A new character, Piece-chan, is extremely cute. Managing her sprite was a lot of fun. There are quite a few moments when characters make strange faces, but Piece-chan is very cute when she does that *laugh*
Ryukishi: Nakao did pretty interesting things with her hair. I didn’t give any special instructions, so he was guided just by the text of the story and his own sense. He made her hair grow and crawl. I was very surprised when saw it, it was that good.
xaki: And that hair...
Nakao: I drew them myself.
xaki: Awesome. To think you’ve made an addition by yourself.
xaki: There are so many unique characters with distinct personalities in Umineko, so you’d think that there is so no place to add more of them. But there was.
Ryukishi: If I have an opportunity to write new Umineko in the future, I may choose Kinzo’s wife this time.
Zakuro: That would be interesting!
Ryukishi: She is the mother of four siblings, but she has almost no appearances in the story. I’d like to write about her sometime, though I guess I have already spoilered it *laugh*
Zakuro: Say it in red *laugh*
Ryukishi: I am giving a pledge *laugh*
xaki: After Higurashi and Umineko, probably no one expected that it will be Ciconia who will cry this time.
Ryukishi: *laugh* Yes. I was vaguely convinced that the title should consist of several hiragana symbols. However, as those who have played it already know, this time it’s quite different in style. Higurashi was a story about serial murders combined with a kaidan in the style of Yokomizo Seishi. And Umineko was a story about closed circle murders in a Western mansion in the style of Edogawa Ranpo. This time I wanted to do something different and thought that it would be nice if the title would reflect that. I was struggling with it until the last minute. Kounotori was among the candidates. However, “kounotori” is a power word in Japan, isn’t it? “Kounotori” = “children”. I thought the image was too powerful. Then I learned that the scientific term was a Greek word “Ciconia” (キコニア). By the way, in Japan, it’s pronounced with “chi” (チコニア). At that time I happened to talk with Gin Kreuz, a musician. I asked him, and in his very native pronunciation, it sounded as “kikonia”. So, I decided to go with it, because it sounded more “native” *laugh* So, that’s how the title became an unknown katakana word, which, in my opinion, suits the story well. I hope it won’t be seen out of place.
Zakuro: It’s a name, that, once you’ve heard once, you will never forget.
Ryukishi: Thank you. People, who enjoy thinking about a story, could start from here: what is Ciconia? I think those people will have the most fun.
xaki: Did you come up with that name from the very beginning?
Ryukishi: The codename was different until the last moment. I can’t say it, but it was “something-something no Naku Koro ni“. That “something-something” was too much of a hint, though. It had a very strong image, so I changed it. I’ll tell you what that name was after the recording *laugh* But I think when the whole story is finished, readers will accept this name.
xaki: At that time, please listen to this part of the recording once more *laugh*
xaki: Nakao, you, of course, was the main scripter for Ciconia. How was that experience?
Nakao: It was… fun *laugh*
xaki: You’ve been helping Ryukishi-sensei from the very beginning.
Nakao: Yes. It was fun to imagine how I will do a scene while reading the story.
xaki: I think that everyone knows you because of your direction in TRianThology, but this time you’ve done a great job too. With battle scenes, etc.
Nakao: Ah, thank you.
xaki: It’s difficult to make a sound novel. You may overdo it, make it a bit too much like an anime. I think, capturing that balance is very hard. What were your thoughts about this after TRianThology?
Nakao: I found the scenario very powerful. I had to think about how to do the direction so that it would be easy and pleasant to read the story. So I put a lot of effort into places with a lot of movement, like battle scenes, but also I tried, with the help of other staff members, to add liveliness into normal scenes too.
xaki: What surprised me in interface this time is the position of text and sprites. It feels slightly different from previous titles. Text is aligned to the center and the characters are a bit on the sides.
Nakao: It’s because the screen format is 16:9 now, while in Higurashi and Umineko it was 4:3. So, we decided to put text and sprites this way for better balance.
Ryukishi: In fact, one of the first problems in the production of Ciconia was what to do with aspect ratio. We thought a lot about this step.
xaki: I don’t know if it’s OK to ask this, but how much of the story do you know, Nakao?
Nakao: I don’t know anything past Phase 2.
xaki and Zakuro: Eh~
Nakao: So I am looking forward to it myself.
Ryukishi: This time the story exists almost entirely in my head. I didn’t tell much to other staff members. Of course, when it comes to the direction of scenes that are related to the future, I describe everything in details, though I try to stay mean and make the staff members, who are my first readers, surprised. That’s my mischief personality *laugh* So yeah, this time I didn’t tell even staff members anything. When we were looking for typos, one person asked me: “Hey, is *kero*kero* the AOU’s traitor?”, but I kept my mouth shut.
Music of Umineko Saku and Ciconia
xaki: Ryukishi-sensei, what was your image for the music in Ciconia?
Ryukishi: Actually, this time the image was very difficult to come up with, compared to previous WTC titles. Umineko had a very clear gothic theme: stained glasses, crosses, etc. So it was easy to find the right music for it. It was easy to describe what music is needed in which case. This time it’s SF or fantasy, something that doesn’t exist in our world. I tried to show the text to you (Ciconia composers) as quickly as possible, but after reading there were questions, like “Should we aim to the image of near future or a unique *kero*kero*?”, so the balance was pretty difficult. I managed to somehow communicate in five pages the image with “something similar to this and that”, but in the end, that beautiful result was achieved thanks to HiguUmi Sound.
xaki: Luck, after the meeting where Ryukishi-sensei told us about story and setting, how you were going to approach this?
Luck: Well, as Ryukishi sais, simply making it feel “like future” was not good. I thought about making a lot of tracks, but then, “Huh? Not many of my tracks were chosen…” But yeah, I made many tracks, so I hope there will be more of them in Phase 2 and further.
xaki: Yeah, I removed some of them. As Ryukishi-sensei said earlier, if you create music while thinking about Ciconia as a whole, the image may break apart, so, like in TRianThology where there was different music for different worlds, I decided to go with my interests and chose battle scenes. At that time, we didn’t have a scenario yet, just a synopsis, and I thought: “They are fighting all the time!” *laugh* I thought that you can create lots and lots of battle themes, and they all will be used, and so I did. Then dai said: “Sorry, xaki, please allow to use these starting from Phase 2” *laugh* So, I guess I was a bit hasty with battle music.
Ryukishi: When there is a stock of music, the range of direction becomes wider. Of course, for composers, the most ideal situation is when all the music they created is used right away, but looking from the standpoint of scenario writer and scripter it’s good when there is music left in stock.
xaki: I see. If you use all of it, you have to start from the beginning.
Luck: I think the greatest thing is when your music is used in the most fitting way.
xaki: Nakao, you were also managing the direction of sound effects.
Nakao: Regarding the music, I was receiving directions from Ryukishi through dai. My job was to put his choices into the script.
Ryukishi: When writing the script, I was putting in notes like “here such song plays”, “fade-in”, “fade-out”, etc. But at that time, of course, there were not any songs yet, so I just wrote names of the songs I’ve heard before that were fitting in terms of atmosphere. Then, based on that, dai picked songs among those that were written by people in HiguUmi Sound. And then, it was up to Nakao to choose the most fitting tracks.
xaki: What’s about sound effects?
Nakao: Sound effects were delegated to M.Zakki. He was extremely helpful.
xaki: There were quite a few of them, weren’t there?
Nakao: Yes. He created very high-quality effects.
xaki: Yeah, Zakki is really fast and the quality is high. In fact, I once asked him for some help in the project outside of 07th Expansion, and he presented 3 variants of each sound effect! Umineko had a lot of effects too, so I guess there will be things like a sound after which you become sad *laugh*
Ryukishi: For me, the best sound effect this time is when operators talk over a military radio.
xaki: You can’t tell what language they are speaking.
Ryukishi: Yes, it’s several languages mixed in. Though, when I heard it before post-processing, it made me laugh *laugh*
Nakao: You peeped through…
Ryukishi: A forbidden door, yeah. Rather then military radio it was like *kero*kero*kero*kero* …Ah, I probably shoudn’t say that.
xaki: Yes, we will cover it with Keropoyo later.
xaki: Luck, your new tracks were used in Umineko Saku as well, weren’t they?
Luck: Yes, I am very grateful. Also, some tracks that ended up not used in original Umineko. Finally, their time has come. I am very happy.
xaki: They were laying somewhere all that time?
Luck: Yes. There was also a CD with unused songs. Now they have joined their friends. Moreover, they were used in scenes with a new character. Thank you.
Ryukishi: Maybe it’s because they were created at that time, they managed to fit perfectly. If I asked to write a new song for Piece, it may feel too different. So, even if it may be disappointing for composers to have their songs left out, for me and Nakao it’s very reliable.
Luck: Well, as I said earlier, I want my songs to fit into the scenario. So, it feels weird to say, but it would be more disappointing to have a song forced in out of pity, rather than not used at all. I’d like to have it fit.
Ryukishi: Nakao was very good at choosing fitting songs every time.
Nakao: The songs fit the scene so well that I almost didn’t have to think.
Luck: Thank you.
xaki: It’s a thing you can always trust in 07th Expansion: the sense of how the sound is applied. There were not any misses. Of course, there are many cases when I write a song without knowing where it will go, but if such a song is ended up used, you look at how well it fits and think: “Weren’t I writing just for this scene?”. To the point of having goosebumps. There are not many such cases. Usually, I receive a concrete request: for this scene, that many seconds, etc. However, there are cases when I make a song freely and it fits perfectly for some reason. It gains an expression that even the one who wrote it didn’t see at first. It impresses me every time.
Zakuro: It’s fun to see how players react to different tracks, like how one track can be seen as a theme song, etc. They gain new meanings and ways people interpret them.
Ryukishi: It’s my mischief and playful personality again, but I like to use songs in a different way from what its creator intended. The most striking example was in Umineko where was a song called Tsuki Usagi no Butou (Dance of the moon rabbits) by dai. In his notes, he wrote: “While making this song, I imagined how rabbits are dancing happily on the moon”, so I was like: “OK, let’s use it in the scene where Chiesters kill everybody” *laugh*
Luck: In the end, that song suited that scene perfectly.
xaki: It became an excellent soundtrack to the tragedy *laugh*
Questions to Ryukishi-sensei!
- "Q: What’s the driving force behind your super-fast writing speed? In the past, you’ve said that it was anger, but is it still the case?"
- — by Luck Ganriki
Ryukishi: Of course, it has changed. Especially when it comes to Ciconia, it’s a story that was carefully planned, not written by the momentum. After I planned everything to detail, I decided: “Phase 1 will be from here to here”. Previously I, of course, was planning a story until the end, but pretty roughly, and then I created every part on the go by keeping the momentum. This time I designed everything very carefully from start to finish and made a detailed worksheet that included every event. So, I am going less with emotion and more with calm preparation this time. I have planned out the plot, how many characters each Phase should be, etc. It took 2...no, 3? Ah, I see, it was 3 years *laugh* I can say it now when the game is finally out, but just right before I started writing Ciconia, I had thoughts like: “Maybe I should write not this, but just something about serial murders in some village”. After all, nobody was expecting an SF from me, I guess. So, there were several different ideas that I wanted to challenge myself with competing with each other inside my head until the very end. It was also a part of preparation.
Luck: You’ve written such an enormous volume of the text so quickly, and also while doing other work. It’s fascinating.
Ryukishi: The staff member that was overlooking the progress even told me: “You don’t have to work that hard”. Usually, I am being asked: “How much time the writing will take if you push it?”, but this time I was told not to overwork myself, maybe because of the amount of text *laugh* This time it’s the first chapter, and it especially contains a lot of stuff. Starting Phase 2 it will be the usual amount. And even if I have a high speed when I write, that speed comes from all the preparation. If you only look at the writing part, it may seem very fast, but including the preparation phase, it’s a pretty long time. I think it’s not that fast.
xaki: I see… When it comes to writing music, we are not at the age when you can just go with momentum anymore *laugh*
Ryukishi: But passion is still important. When I finished a 40,000 characters manuscript and sent it to Nakao, I was so excited, that I wrote 10,000 more characters in 12 days for a different job, even while there was still clean-up and debugging going on.
Luck: How much pages it will be in a normal book?
Ryukishi: One tankobon (tome). It’s my shortest time record. 12 days from idea to writing 10.000 characters. It felt good.
xaki: It’s including preparation?
Ryukishi: Including brainstorming ideas. Right after finishing working on Ciconia, I had some time before debugging, so the staff member said: “You can finish that other job in that time”. So yes, it was thanks to momentum.
- "Q: Naima, please do more of cool Naima!"
- — by dai
Zakuro: Is it a question?
xaki: We are gathering questions, but this one has an exclamation mark *laugh* Ryukishi-sensei, could you explain?
Ryukishi: Probably, it’s dai saying that he liked cool Naima. It’s just his impression! My answer is: “I am glad!” *laugh* Writing Naima was a lot of fun. There is a number of cool scenes with her in Phase 1. It’s great that dai liked her so much.
xaki: She has a gap in her personality, which makes her interesting.
Ryukishi: Starting with Higurashi I had a certain philosophy about how when a man sees a woman as cute, kind, etc., it’s basically an image that a woman creates for a man. Sort of like cosmetics. If you ignore that and try to see the essence, it may look totally different from what you imagined. A cute girl isn’t just a cute girl, she may also insist on her opinions really strongly. That’s what I am trying to show in my stories.
xaki: I am sure you all know this, but Ryukishi-sensei is male.
Zakuro: *laugh* What was that?!
xaki: He writes female characters so well, that you may think that he is actually a female. I don’t remember where I’ve heard this, but there are times when poems written by men depict a woman’s loving heart better. So, maybe it’s because Ryukishi-sensei is a male, he is so good at writing female characters.
Ryukishi: In drawing as well, when a woman draws a male character, he looks cool and hot. When you depict a character of the gender that may become your love interest, maybe you write it more deeply than the real thing.
xaki: OK, I hope dai will be happy with that answer *laugh*
- "Q: What was your method when creating a scenario for Ciconia? (Experience, knowledge, references, etc.)"
- — by xaki
xaki: The worlds of Ryukishi-sensei feel very real. Starting with Higurashi, you may even think that you have experienced all that yourself. But of course, it can’t be true, can it? *laugh*
Ryukishi: Yeah, I haven’t been in the army and never flew in the sky with a Gauntlet *laugh* Well, I usually try to find similar things to what I am writing about. For example, the image of the army was based on the time when I was working at the company, with all the morning gatherings and upright atmosphere. I also was a boyscout once, and we had to salute, so I took that too. I am using my own experiences as a motive and expand it to depict different things.
xaki: I guess it’s a special sense or talent of a writer. It’s awesome.
Ryukishi: I am also inspired by video games a lot. Like, when playing something I can think: “If I was in that world, it will be so and so!”. Of course, I think that a person who hasn’t seen the Grand Canyon can’t make a painting with it. However, it may raise a question, can you write about isekai if you haven’t been there? Basically, a writer is someone who imagines and writes about something that he hasn’t seen. But writing about your experiences, doing documentaries, is one of the ways too. Writing about something that you’ve never seen as if you experienced that and as if it is right before your eyes is a great skill. It’s difficult. If I understand how it works, I’ll be able to make even better texts for all of you. I am still learning.
- "Q: Did you become hooked on some foreign culture or food during the production of Ciconia?"
- — by Motoki Zakuro
Ryukishi: It comes up in the story, but there is a thing in North Europe called salmiakki. I’ve inserted my own experience in a certain scene about sweets. Monaka from the cafe called Monster Party, which also appears in Ciconia, has introduced me to a member of a band from Sweden, who knew about Umineko. He presented me salmiakki and asked if it OK to take a video when I taste it. It seems like they enjoy capturing the moment when a foreigner tries it and makes a confused face *laugh* I’ve put all my anger and vexation into that scene *laugh* I apologize to all people of Sweden *laugh*
xaki: Judging from this anecdote, you haven’t been travelling around the world in order to gather material.
Ryukishi: Well, I learned some things during my times at conventions abroad. And also, you can learn a lot nowadays thanks to the Internet. So, it’s not like I tasted every food that I put in scenario *laugh* I haven’t eaten surströmming yet. I think dai...
Zakuro: He likes it, doesn’t he? *laugh*
xaki: He likes strange things *laugh*
Ryukishi: He says it was on a drinking party of music staff?
Luck: Oh, I wasn’t there. Were you, xaki?
xaki: It was passed around, but I coudn’t eat it *laugh*
Zakuro: Did anybody make a video? *laugh*
xaki: *laugh* No, nobody did.
Ryukishi: By the way, I remember the music staff holding a yami nabe party at dai’s house during Umineko production *laugh*
xaki: Yes, yes. Luck, you…
Luck: Yeah, I’ve been on lots of those. There was one with an alligator, for example…
Ryukishi: An alligator?!
Luck: I don’t understand dai. I said: “dai, that’s nasty”, and he was like: “Ah, I’ll go buy it then!”, and he went and bought it. Does he like things that are gross?
Zakuro: I went to eat a rabbit with him once. It was pretty tasty, though.
Luck: It sounds like some gourmet thing.
Ryukishi: Rabbits are often used in French cuisine.
Zakuro: Is it OK for dai’s branding? *laugh*
xaki: In terms of branding it’s NG *laugh* We’ll have to use Keropoyo again.
- "Q: How was the Christmas Party born?"
- — by Nakao Boushi
Nakao: I really love that scene. Even when reading the text, it was very fun and made me excited. I’d like to hear how in the world did you came up with it.
Ryukishi: Long before I came up with the title Ciconia no Naku Koro ni, at the phase of kneading the dough, so to speak, I had an idea to have a day X in the story and to use a day for it that has a meaning that everyone knows. Oomisoka (New Year’s Eve), for example. At that point, I haven’t even decided on the season yet. After considering different holidays, I’ve thought about Christmas. It is celebrated in Japan, but is it the case for the rest of the world? I’ve looked it up and found out that something similar to Christmas exists almost in every country, unrelated to religion. When it was decided that the story will happen in winter, I stopped at Christmas. I wanted to use a day that has meaning. If it was December 2 or 29, it would be confusing.
xaki: It’s the day of Winter Comiket *laugh*
Ryukishi: Right *laugh*
xaki: And that’s how Christmas was sacrificed.
Ryukishi: It’s a perfect Christmas for people who want to destroy Christmas *laugh*
xaki: There are a lot of comments from people who say that Christmas has become a traumatic experience for them *laugh*
Ryukishi: BGM is especially great. It’s hard to believe that a person who created this is among us *laugh*
xaki: Yes, it was me. I’ve made that Christmas Song *laugh*
Ryukishi: It is really good.
xaki: Thanks. I am going to have this playing on this year’s Christmas *laugh*
Ryukishi: Even after the Master-up I’ve returned to that scene many times. “Apocalypse II”, right? It’s so catchy. A terrifying song.