The works of 07th Expansion can be a bit intimidating to newcomers. I’ve gathered some common questions in this guide. Hopefully, they’ll help you on your journey.
Q: What’s so great about Higurashi and Umineko?
In 2002, 07th Expansion released the first installment in the indie visual novel series. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When the Cicadas Cry) Ryukishi07, the circle’s main member, wrote and illustrated it all by himself. Despite low production values, interest in the series blew up on the strength of its characters and captivating story. From its humble origins, Higurashi has been adapted into comics, anime, a live-action movie, multiple video games, and even a pachinko machine (sort of like the Japanese equivalent of pinball). In 2007, he followed it up with with Umineko no Naku Koro ni (When the Seagulls Cry), the next game in the When They Cry series.
Higurashi and Umineko both follow a similar structure: we meet a bunch of people. Things go horribly wrong. Everyone dies. And then, time loops back to the beginning. Each loop, though, plays out differently, parceling out new clues to the underlying mystery. Or just as often, they reveal twists that completely upset everything you thought you knew.
Even though they’re full of narrative tricks and meta-fiction, neither loses sight of the heart. While most long mystery series can only develop the detective, the looping structure gives time to humanize the victims. Higurashi and Umineko are emotional roller coasters. Their complex mysteries, philosophical underpinnings, and powerful storytelling make them one hell of a ride.
Q: Which should I read first: Higurashi or Umineko?
Although the two works are loosely connected, Umineko isn’t a sequel to Higurashi. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy Umineko without any knowledge of Higurashi.
Ideally, though, one should read Higurashi first. Umineko makes some allusions to the previous work, which might spoil its core mystery.
On the other hand, for people who aren’t die-hard anime/manga/visual novel fans, I recommend people try Umineko before Higurashi. Higurashi falls back on many more anime tropes, which might put off casual fans. Umineko is also a more mature and (in my opinion) better work, so it might be worth trying Umineko first if you’re on the fence about both series.
Q: Which version should I read/watch? VN, Manga, or Anime?
Higurashi and Umineko have both been adapted into a plethora of mediums. The original novels, however, remain the ideal experience. They tell the story with the greatest detail and nuance.
On the other hand, they can be a huge time sink! To that end, I’ve created this chart. It shows how favorably each adaption compares to the original, as well as their length.
|Higurashi||How Good Compared to Original?||How Long Will It Take Me?|
|Visual Novel||100%||96 hours|
|Umineko||How Good Compared to Original?||How Long Will It Take Me?|
|Visual Novel||100%||120 hours|
|Anime||35%||10.8 hours (Although the anime only covers the first half of the story, so you’d have to switch to another medium to finish it)|
Q: Where can I get the original visual novels?
Higurashi has been released in English by MangaGamer. You can buy the first half and second half of the series from them now. They’ll also be releasing a new version on Steam in the future. MangaGamer also sells the first half and second half of Umineko’s Japanese version, which can be patched to English with Witch Hunt’s translation patch.
Right now MangaGamer is renewing their contract to seel Ryukishi07’s games online. For now, you can only buy the first chapter of Higurashi on their site.
Q: What’s up with all these patches?
Besides the original PC release, both Higurashi and Umineko have been ported to various gaming consoles. These ports have received updated graphics and voice acting, which can be applied to the PC version thanks to a few fan-made patches. Some people prefer the original artwork, however, for it’s expressiveness.
Also, when MangaGamer released Higurashi in English for PC, they had to remove some of the original music tracks. Patches exist to return the original music, as well as enhancing the user interface, font, and translation quality.
Q: I’ve read Higurashi and Umineko, and want more. What else has 07th Expansion worked on that I ought to look into?
Along with Higurashi and Umineko, I highly recommend the following visual novels from 07th Expansion/Ryukishi07:
- The visual novel Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni, in two parts: Dai Ichi Ya (First Night) and Dai Ni Ya (Second Night).
- The visual novel Rose Guns Days.
- Ryukishi07 wrote one of the routes for the visual novel Rewrite.
He’s also worked on a few other projects, which range from “meh” to “avoid!”:
- Ryukishi07 contributed to the story of the anime/game Okamikakushi.
- Ryukishi07 wrote the manga Kaidan to Odorou.
This post is a living document. Do you think I should include any other questions? Please, let me know!