Tag Archives: Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni

Interview: Ryukishi07, creator of Higurashi and Umineko

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Ryukishi07 of 07th Expansion is a pioneer in the visual novel scene. Best known as the original creator of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Umineko no Naku Koro ni, he has been plumbing the depths of suspense, horror, and mystery for many years. Recently, in a change of genre, he wrote Lucia’s route in Key Visual Arts’ most recent visual novel, Rewrite (whose head writer was Aura and Humanity Has Declined’s Romeo Tanaka).

This interview was conducted by Lily Huang, and comes courtesy of MangaGamer. It has been edited for clarity and concision.

Why do your stories revolve around the tension between natural or supernatural explanations for phenomenon? (For instance, the curse of Oyashiro-sama in Higurashi, the Red or Blue Truth in Umineko, and Lucia’s route in Rewrite.)

I like to leave it up to the audience to figure it out on their own.

Do what audiences come up with ever contradict what you imagined?

Yes, there are times when I present something, but readers take it a different way. It happens a lot. In the case of Higurashi, it took four years to make, and the readers had a lot of opinions and feedback, and I would take that and incorporate it into the next work. It’s like catching and passing a ball back and forth, an ongoing process.

lucia

You worked on Rewrite’s Lucia route, which was a collaboration with many other people. Was it harder to write it without any feedback from fans?

In the case of Higurashi and Umineko, it was my own work so I could do whatever I wanted. In Rewrite, it was Key Visual Arts’ work so I had to respect that, and it made me really nervous to write in a very different style and thought process.

When you did the Lucia route, did you have to write more “business” type than “passion” type than you usually do? How did it make your work with Key more or less difficult?

For me, when I could write anything I wanted, it was harder to come up with things. With Rewrite, there’s already a world and setting set up for me, as well as a character. It’s actually easier to write and expand that world. It was fun.

Did you write the route knowing the ending ahead of time, or not?

Rewrite itself is by Romeo Tanaka, and I couldn’t change that–there was already an initial setting for Lucia. But the direction of the story was up to me, as long as it was possible in that world. The ending was mine.

Overall what was your experience like as a collaborator? What did you like and what would you change?

Before Rewrite, I only wrote mystery, murders, suspense…it was the first time I wrote a love story. I found a lot of new things about my writing style. It was a good experience.

higurashivnen

We know you as a creator who works very closely with fans–Umineko and Higurashi had changes after fan feedback. How has your interaction with fans changed since then?

When I wrote Higurashi and Umineko, I was still young and energetic, so I could go all the way. Now I’m getting kind of old and want to settle down, and find a new way of writing to fit my current stamina.

What is it like working with fan translation groups like Witch Hunt vs official companies like MangaGamer?

I’m always surprised because my games are so long, and there’s so much text, it’s surprising someone can translate all that work. They must have so much passion over the story.

What is like working with MangaGamer?

I’m very happy that we released new artwork for Higurashi and putting things on Steam. I’m happy to see new fans try things out that way.

What are your thoughts of the future of the doujin and visual novel market in Japan vs America? Do you see fan involvement being more important in the future?

Today’s visual novels are released by commercial companies; they are such high quality, they’re almost like [professional] anime. But people like fans that are making their own sound novels for the first time, they’re unable to get to that level at the start. I’m a little worried about them. But it’s OK that there can be two separate worlds of visual novels–very high quality commercial novels as well as old-fashioned pictures and music sound novels.

MangaGamer sparks outrage over Soul Link

Game publisher MangaGamer announced Soul Link CGs would be removed, leading to cries of hypocrisy over their initial plans to produce an “uncensored” version.

A total of 6 CGs from the game will be removed due to having an arguably underage looking character naked.

soullink600

Comments so far have been unilaterally negative:

“I fear Mangagamer intends to take the censorship even further than JAST.”

“Decisions such as [this] will cause your fanbase to turn against you.”

“It’s taken a good 2 years (or more) and tons of bad translations and delays for Manga Gamer to establish the reputation that they have right now and virtually overnight, with the announcement of “censorship” it’s on the brink of shattering.”

Several countries view attempts to sexualize underage persons with alarm, and Anime Diet has previously reported on efforts in the United Kingdom and the Philippines to ban all works that portray minors in a sexual context. It is unclear what laws, if any, would be applicable in the United States, where such works are legal, provided no actual children were used in their making.  Still, the official MangaGamer website prominently features a young girl as its welcoming image, indicating the company intends to court loli eroge buyers.

MangaGamer is better known in some circles for its upcoming release of Higurashi no Naku Kokoro ni, scheduled December 15th.

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 13: Or, How to Carve Hope from a Corpse

Time waits for no one. And this time is over.

The Massacre arc, as one might expect, lives up to its title in this, the concluding episode. But the feeling at the end is that the rules of the game have changed forever, and that there is indeed a way out of the darkness. If it indeed possible to find some kind of hope in the midst of death, Rika sees it at last.

Continue reading Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 13: Or, How to Carve Hope from a Corpse

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 12: How Many Mysteries are Left?

Miss Plot Exposition.

Not that many, actually, though some essential ones remain. And this episode continues the trend of being simply, well, different–totally different outcomes and plot points and a different focus altogether. In many ways this is a different show from the first season, though they’re intimately interconnected.

The bulk of this review, of course, contains spoilers. Read the spoilers at your own risk.

Continue reading Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 12: How Many Mysteries are Left?

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 10-11: Does It Tie Together?

This, in fact, is not the sign that it portends. At least not yet.

It’s just like this show to find an ominous turn in the midst of hope, and foretell the arc’s title “Massacre”–though of course not in the way we were led to think. And, honestly, without knowing where it’s exactly heading, I can’t say for sure whether it works or not. But as they say: “I have a bad feeling about this.” Especially since, as far as I know, this show is going to go on for another season, and at this point I’m really not sure how much more there is to know; most of the key mysteries have been revealed this season.

Continue reading Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 10-11: Does It Tie Together?

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 9: Banding Together

Preach it, brother!

A lot of fans have said that this is the best arc of all in the entire Higurashi cycle, and the way it’s going so far, I’m starting to believe them. Compared to the previous arcs, it’s definitely the most different, the only one that isn’t suffused with despair (and thus the one with the highest degree of tension–for once there is genuine question about the outcome of the story). I’m really pleased with the way the writers are now starting to give us payoff for all the arcs we’ve watched previously.

Of course, given the title of the arc is “Massacre”…maybe it really will be for naught after all.

Continue reading Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 9: Banding Together

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 6: Give it Away, Give it Away, Give it Away Now!

Thanks, Miss Plot Exposition!

Warning: spoilers ahead (if the title wasn’t enough of a giveaway already :))

Gosh, did they have to make things that clear? This episode, which begins a new arc, pretty much lays down the ground rules for what was happening in this Higurashi world, point by point. It also seems to represent a hinge of sorts, where the characters finally can begin to make real decisions and either, depending on the way the authors want to take it, go into redemption or even deeper tragedy.

The most important change is in Rika–and, it turns out, her ghostly alter ego/personality, Hanyuu. Hanyuu, it seems, is the one with the high-pitched squeaky cutesy voice, and in the midst of a portentious set of dialogues, it’s her that gets the chibi treatment.

This scene almost belongs in Lucky Star or something.

I’d said in earlier articles that the constant fatalism of Rika was getting annoying after a while. Here, this episode and it looks like this arc takes that on directly: it brings up the question, can fate be altered? Do we live in a deterministic universe in which the same things are decreed to happen over and over again? Or can things, just maybe, change?

One of the most interesting things about Higurashi is the degree to which it reflects and displays the premodern view of the world, a haunted world filled with overwhelmingly powerful forces that sweep human beings up unwittingly and yet responsibly. It is a world centered around a festival dedicated to a god who may be capricious, protective, and locally omnipresent. Interestingly enough, this fact didn’t hit home to me until I saw the bonus DVD episode (the “Cat-Killing Arc“) and heard Rika talk accurately and eloquently about the concept of taboo, and it summarizes the whole world of Higurashi very well:

In this world, where there is light, there is also shadow, and in the same way, where there are good places, there are bad ones as well. There are instances where treading upon such places will make people miserable without reason. When us humans are unable to define such dreadful places well in words…we call such places “taboo.”

The Powers that Be must be respected rather than conquered or dismissed. In the premodern and medieval world, powers and forces were often concentrated in concrete places or objects: think saints’ relics, or special shrines. One of the ways the modern world was “dis-enchanted” was when it lost the sense that the Numinous, the Holy and the Other, was tied to specific places. This show brings it back.

Rika, the theologian.

Another one of the key aspects of the premodern pagan understanding (East and West) is its fatalism. Many of the Greek tragedies are about heroes fighting, and losing, against their set destinies, and it’s no accident that one of the more appealing and noble pagan philosophies in ancient Rome, Stoicism, counseled a serene resignation to the circumstances of the world. In Buddhist-inspired cultures, the cycle of reincarnation and karma meant that the way you turned out was in part the product of something that happened long before your present life.

Just wait and determinism will come back to bite you in the ass!

Keichii’s challenge to a small part of fate–the game they are scheduled to play–is enough to shake Rika out of her funk and restores her hope that things might be different this time. In Buddhism, the eventual goal is to escape the cycle of reincarnation into Nirvana, and since we’ve learned that the Higurashi world is one recycled situation after another (literally!), the goal too of all the characters is to find a way so that the murders and paranoia cease at least. It might be through love and forgiveness, as hinted at the end of season 1. Or it might be through just a series of small steps that, when added up, get bigger and bigger until you arrive at a different ending. Or, alternatively, the story could end tragically; the characters think they can escape their destiny, but in the end it finds them anyway. That would be a depressing, but traditional and classical, way to end this.

This continues to be one of the most fascinating animes made in recent times and I look forward to watching more.

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 2-3: The Beast in Rika

She knows what’s coming.

Contains spoilers–even in the screenshots! Be warned.

The beast in me
Is caged by frail and fragile bonds
Restless by day
And by night, rants and rages at the stars
God help the beast in me.

–Nick Lowe

We saw in the opening sequence just how much the new series was going to focus on Rika. The previous season only hinted at her role in this accursed town, or her abilities–only, in one arc, to reveal her grisly end just prior to the Great Hinamizawa Disaster. Episodes 2 and 3 of the new season pretty much spell it out clearly, with her two voices (only one of which is Rika–and it’s not the cute “Nippa!” voice which is Rika’s), and with Mion outright admitting: Rika is likely none other than the current incarnation of Oyashiro-sama. And she is fated to die at this year’s festival.

Ah, now I see.

That she is something of a god in this universe is clear at the start of episode 2, in which the multiply overlapping storylines are directly alluded to and beginning to be justified (though, if one has a knowledge of this show’s game roots, it’s also kind of funny: like the game, the goal is to get to one of the “happy endings”). I think, in fact, the first few minutes of episode 2 teeters on explaining too much, but given the number of completely unresolved puzzles that are left in this show, it could also be a welcome bout of clarity. There has been an increasing sense since the final arc in season 1 that a reckoning, an accounting, is on its way–some sort of explanation not only of what and how but the meaning of the events. And Rika is at the center of it.

The idea of Rika, an incarnation (or more accurately probably, an avatar) of a god, being fated to die sets off from interesting questions in this wannabe theologian’s head. My guess is that in some way, Oyashiro-sama really is protecting the village, and his* death is what will trigger the destruction of the entire town which we already know will happen. It would explain the fatalism of Deep Voiced Rika and the predictions of her own death. What is unexplained is still why the disappearances and murders each year are necessary–does Oyashiro-sama require it not only to be propitiated, but also to live? (Many cultures have rituals to ensure the continuity of the seasons and therefore crops, and therefore their survival.) Or, perhaps, since presumably Oyashiro-sama takes on different avatars over time, Oyashiro-sama undergoes generational cycles of death and rebirth? But the village’s end seems permanent and a close to any cycle, so that seems unlikely.

Set this date for murder.

What’s clearer, though, is that the story and motive behind Oyashiro-sama is complexifying. Most of the first season presented him as a kind of demonic, bloodthirsty deity who demanded gruesome yearly sacrifice and who was behind a curse that played upon everyone’s desires. A more naturalistic explanation began to surface at the end of the first season and the first episode of the current one–but now, we have an avatar apparently show up in the form of this really cute little girl who speaks with two distinct voices. And in a way, solving the theological mystery–who is Oyashiro-sama?–is key to solving the show’s mysteries in general. Because everyone in this show is affected by this god and/or the myth inspired by him, whether it turns out to be true or not. Like any deity worth his salt, he is the center. All plot threads and questions lead back to him.

I could easily envision this scene in much more dire circumstances.

One last thing: I’ve always found interesting about Higurashi is the degree to which the kids’ games were often used as foreshadowing–sometimes obviously, sometimes subtly. Even from episode 1 in first season, no matter how slapstick the antics, every game was tinged with menace, particularly the whole concept of “penalty games.” Here it seems the writers were deliberately mocking their narrative strategy, in which some of the same ominous music, horror movie tropes, and explicit references to zombies were used for humor. (Might the game’s outcome be a straightforward foreshadowing of this arc’s resolution? It was such in the previous arc, though I felt it was handled a bit too obviously.) Nevertheless, in every arc so far, the real ominousness only begins when the photographer and the police detective show up. And it’s no different here.

Finally: I guess the lack of an episode preview is a permanent thing. Alas.

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai 1 – Will the Mysteries Finally be Solved?

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni Kai - The Title Screen

Contains spoilers for Season 1

The show I’ve been most looking forward to this season, Higurashi Kai, is finally out on fansub. Higurashi won my “Originality Award” last year along with Haruhi Suzumiya for taking two hackneyed genres–harem and haunted village horror–and creating a harrowing, postmodern set of short stories about what drives people not only to do but to become evil. Though it sometimes lurched into outlandish plot twists, and much was left unexplained at the end of the first season, it was still one of 2006’s most substantial and dramatically compelling shows. It forced the viewer to empathize with and understand characters who do horrific things. No small feat for a show that features such obvious harem lolis.

This cutie pie has some dark, dark secrets…

So when I heard that they were going to devote the second season not only to new material, but to provide answers to some of the puzzling turns that happened at the end of the first season–I was excited. And they have delivered in this episode, which by all rights ought to have been in the first season. It provides an epilogue to the events and purported happenings of the first season’s final “Atonement’ arc, though substantial clues are thrown out for future exploration, like the identity of Rika. In fact, if the OP is any clue, she is going to be a very prominent part of this season. This episode already hints strongly at who she might be.

The mood of the show, judging from the OP and the episode itself, seems more melancholy than sadistic and creepy. The centerpiece of the episode is a broken adult Rena, who after 2 decades has yet to recover psychologically from whatever happened in the Great Hinamizawa Disaster. (The writers are clearly trying to find a way to relate all the arcs in season 1 in some way.) Even when Ooishi, unfairly, pushes her to try to remember and she gets angry–it is not the crazed, vengeance-filled berserker mode we saw in Season 1. It’s a heartbreaking helplessness instead.

The look of trauma.

Knowing the final outcome of the town–everyone but Kei-chan and Rena dies–frees the show to focus on character and not rely too much on suspense and shock. We are going to be treated to the why more than the what behind the town’s secret tragedies, and see for ourselves just how a town can be literally cursed unto death in both body and spirit. The show’s strength is in how it shows that this curse is at once both outside and inside the townspeople, something that has a malignant power of its own but seems also to come naturally from the fears and desires of the people. Nobody is merely a victim; everyone is in some way personally responsible. The stories of the characters trying to deal with the curse of Oyashiro-sama is thus always a story about the inner struggles of the characters and whether they choose to resist or give in to the beast that is, first and foremost, always inside and part of themselves.

Some quibbles which no doubt will change over time:

  • No episode preview? I loved the episode previews in season 1. They were arty and actually good foreshadowings of the themes of the next episode, with some lovely music too.
  • The OP song, while good and by the same artist, is not as instantly memorable as the first season’s. The graphics are also more generic than the juxtaposition of cute and disturbing the first one did so well.

90% Recommended for your Anime Diet–but only if you’ve seen the first season. You’re going to be very confused otherwise! (Plus, you should be watching it anyway unless you have a weak stomach. It’s one of the finest and most inventive horror anywhere, but it is very disturbing at times.)