At the 2nd Panel on Saturday, Ryukishi07 detailed his writing process for Higurashi and Umineko. WARNING: This post contain spoilers for parts of Higurashi and Umineko. Introduction and What he Writes For
- Before coming to the US, Ryukishi did a lot of research on what were the most common questions he’d be asked. One question at the forefront was, “How do you come up with such strange stories and characters?”
- One of the most important things to him is making sure he becomes one of the readers.
- To test the waters, he always asks close staff members to read his works. The number one thing he’s looking for is for them to have a surprised face in a strange way while reading.
- When he gave his stories to BT to read, BT would say, “You’re like a devil!” BT had such a pure an innocent soul, so one of the main reasons Ryukishi wrote was to get a reaction from BT.
- He wants to surprise and disgust his readers, but also to trick and deceive. He would watch people reading his stories going “Oh, I’m saved!….no, I’m not. Oh, I’m saved!…no, I’m not.”
- This staff reading is a big part of him and his work.
Writing as Game, Pt. 1
- His stories aren’t written like a “1, 2, 3” linear progression, but as a game.
- He thinks of making a story as like chess. There’s one motive (to win), but many possible plays and ways to reach that motive. With the 32 pieces, the only thing set is the rules of how they move. Everything else is organic. He believes his stories are the same.
- In the 1st game, White wins. In the 2nd game, Black wins, and so on. It’s different every time.
- With Higurashi, Ryukishi wanted to see what would happen if you completely forget about the rules and just go for the goal.
- An example of one of the rules in Higurashi is how Rika is a very cute girl, but when she’s alone, her personality completely changes.
- Ryukishi experiences both sides of the story, as a writer and reader.
- If you ignore the game rules and add more and more layers, the characters will be more like human beings. For real people, there’s much more going than just a single storyline.
Writing as a Game, Pt. 2
- One of Ryukishi’s favorite movies is Superman. Superman is the strongest man in the world, but he imagined, what if there was another person stronger than Superman? Would Superman still care about saving humankind?
- When They Cry came from that concept: taking the same pieces but putting them through a different situation, and seeing how the characters react quite differently.
- With so many layers, you need complicated and well-rounded characters.
- For Umineko, every game has the same setting: all the characters arrive on the Island for the family conference, every time people are killed. However, different people are killed each time, and that changes the story, bringing lots of mystery and intrigue into it.
- Ryukishi approaches this process like a reader. He’s just observing what happens when you move the pieces [I think this a fascinating way of looking at story creation. I’ll have to try it with my own writing].
- The way he creates a story is more like a roleplaying game, such as Dungeons & Dragons, than traditional writing. He’s not writing it linearly with parts “1, 2, 3”, he’s just watching what goes on.
- Many times because of this process, even he doesn’t know what the outcome will be as he’s writing it. For example, he never knew the scene of Rena chasing Keiichi would ever happen.
- This method of writing keeps him much more engaged and excited, since he doesn’t know everything in advance. With the traditional way of writing, he can’t stay as motivated, since he already knows the outcome. It’s his policy as a writer to always do it in an organic way.
- One of the downsides of this is that he can get too inspired, to a detrimental effect. As an example, when writing EP6 he was heavily inspired by Independence Day, although many might not see the connection. He kept on trying to get Keiichi to fight against aliens!
- The scene where Keiichi and Rena fight has a lot of influence from the scene with the president in Independence Day.
- After that, he’s always avoided all anime, movies, and games when writing a story.
- He still plays some games, though, as a breather when writing. When writing EP6 of Higurashi, he ended up playing 100 hours of a Playstation ninja game in between writing. Sometimes he thinks to himself, “This is a great game…I need to hurry up and finish it!”
- His most recent guilty pleasure is a PS4 zombie game. For future reference, in one of his upcoming stories, you’ll be able to tell where the zombie touch comes from [He might be referring to Higurashi Outbreak, since it’s not officially translated into English yet].
- He loves zombie games. However, in Japan, if you throw bombs at zombies, their body parts remain intact, and their blood is green [Since they censor violence more heavily in Japan]. So he always makes sure to get the US version.
- In Japan, zombies don’t get much love, but anything with girls’ panties do. So, he hopes we could make a zombie game with girls’ panties so it can get love in Japan.
From Setting to Character
- It’s important for all characters to have 2 sides.
- Rena: Cute, but has another side that’s very chilling.
- Satoko: Mischievous, but has another side that’s very sad for upbringing.
- Mion: Doesn’t have a front/back side like the others. She’s very straightforward and honest. On the other hand, although it seems like she’s knows all the secrets in the start of the story, she actually knows nothing.
- Each character has personality you see, but also ulterior motives and other sides to them. This makes them more complex and full-dimensional.
- The funnest part is the lack of rules with characters.
- In Umineko, instead of saying how Beato felt and thought, he wanted the readers to fill that in by figuring out that himself. He knows it all himself, but he doesn’t want to tell readers and wants them to come up with their own version through their own experience.
- He often went online a lot to see what people were thinking about the game. After EP2, a lot of players were giving up on the mystery and declaring it a fantasy. That led him to change EP3 from its original much harder version. He added Virgilia to help the reader. Originally, that character was going to be Virgilius, an evil and very intelligent male character, that later became Erika Furudo.
- If Erika had been in EP3…how different things would have been then! Too bad, he had really wanted to make the readers suffer.
- In a press junket in Japan, a journalist suggested that Ryukishi looked online and changed the story based on that. For example, he’d take the character that everyone thought was good, and make them evil. But no, he doesn’t do anything like that.
- Umineko is a game he plays with the readers. At this point, the audience called out, “He’s a witch!” to which he replied “Exactly!”
- For 4 years, he was playing a game with the readers, and the story of Umineko is the end result of that.
- The creation of a When They Cry isn’t possible without you guys. It’s a joint effort between him as a creator and the readers, and he thanks them all from the bottom of his heart.
- Q: Why is Higurashi set in a rural area, and why in the 80s? A: He was inspired by the mystery novel The Village of the Eight Gravestones by Seishi Yokomizo.
- Q: What’s his favorite character in all of When They Cry? A: Tomitake.
- Q: How did the death of BT affect his writing process, particularly since some people say that Umineko EP6-8 turned out quite differently from the rest of the story? A: The way he wrote before was based on who he was as a person then, and he’s a different person now. He’d like you to walk away with that.
- Q: How does he get over writer’s block. A: He still doesn’t have a solution for that! But a lot of good ideas come to him when he’s in the bath.