This is a record of a discussion between KEIYA and original author Ryûkishi07 spanning about 4 hours, which happened approximately one month after the finalization of Umineko, on the 10th of February 2011.
KEIYA (K): I want to congratulate you for completing Umineko first.
Ryûkishi07 (R): Thank you very much. I was really able to write what I wanted to write, because of you.
K: Even though the way to end it was sadly not quite what many players had expected it to be.
R: And what was it that so many players expected? I really want to know.
K: “Won’t he reveal the solution a little more clearly?” was the expectation of many people, I think. But you have said in interviews and so on, that “there wouldn’t be a clear solution like that”. And it really became a finale just like that.
R: So that’s where you’re coming from all of a sudden *laugh*. It’s a little misleading to say, that I said something like “I wouldn’t reveal the answer”. I have made it to the point where in a classical mystery someone would say “All the mysteries have been solved!”, the answer has been made clear enough and not few people have actually arrived at the truth. For me there has always been a path leading towards the truth and there have been enough people on it at certain points to be sufficient. The people arriving there have arrived because they thought about it. And wouldn’t it be inexcusable towards those who actually put effort into arriving at that truth, to just give the answer to those who didn’t arrive because they did not think about it.
Because I hoped for the fun in Umineko to lie in “thinking and troubling yourself, but reaching the answer through that”, I did not create something like a solution section in a riddle book, where you can look for the answers just by opening them. And I think even if I told the people who did not come through the “Who, how, and why”, they still would not understand. Someone who climbs to the top of the Everest by foot and somebody who just rode a helicopter to the top without breaking a sweat, you wouldn’t say they had the same feeling of satisfaction, would you? Of course I could not avoid giving an answer equally to both those who arrived and those who didn’t. That’s why I chose this way of revealing it. To those of you who arrived at the truth, it should all be clear as daylight, I think. I’m sure there were some among you who arrived at it during the really early Episodes and thought “he’s just portraying the same thing in every new EP again and again”, weren’t there? Truth be told, I was unnecessarily elaborate in telling the same thing again and again.
K: But you gave approaches from a different angle every time. Like there are many truths.
R: Keiya, in your playmemos I found the phrase “so this keyword came up again” repeated several times. If you take it as a hint that is something very good, but considering that it’s a novel it’s rather weak to repeat things twice or three times even. Even if you say that the angle was a little different every time. That part was really, really difficult. But even those who did not arrive at the truth of Umineko, can now use the released deductions of those who solved it and turn to people like you, thus being able to reach the truth much more easily.
K: I think there is about the same amount of people saying “I want to know the truth of the gameboard”, as there are those asking “What is the truth of the real world”. After EP7 had already revealed so much of the truth, many might have expected EP8 to step even further into the real world, and they were quite surprised when it took this, might I even call it ambiguous direction of locking up the catbox.
R: Because I slightly started giving an objective view in EP7, there might have been many expecting more of it. But I thought I gave out enough pieces by then to start an interpretation. I really thought that I had given an excessive amount of pieces. Even now when saying “there has been an excess of pieces”, I don’t want to go out and blurt out some kind of answer and forcing it onto you. I might have said it during interviews again and again, I absolutely never wanted to do a story where you could just fill in a solution via copy and paste.
K: You said that many times after we had our discussion after the main arcs.
R: Because this is the internet-age, somebody could just upload a clear screenshot, or if not that just copy and paste the answer all over the place, is what I thought. People seeing that would just say “Is that so?!” and dismiss the whole story with that, and that wouldn’t be fun at all. That’s why I created a way to reveal everything in a way that could not be copied and pasted. To those who think about it clearly, it all becomes clear as daylight. I would like it to become a work for which you can say that again and again even after some years have passed. But for those who expected there to be a clear answer at the end, it might have been quite a surprise ending. But for me it had already been decided from the start that there would be an ending like this.
K: After I had finished it, I had a short talk with Mr. Ôta from Seikaisha (the editor who is responsible for the novel version of Higurashi) on the phone.
R: “At the end of my holiday I was just waiting for KEIYA to be finished”, was what I had heard from Ôta. *laugh*
K: Just after I had posted “EP8 finished!” on Twitter, I immediately got a phone call.
R: That’s quick *laugh*. “I have waited for somebody to talk to all that time!”, was what he said, right?
K: Mr. Ôta was also in a state of excitement. I was, too. “That he would really end it in such an eccentric way.” I would almost call it a kind of Anti-Mystery ending.
R: That might be true. Because it’s part of the etiquette while writing a mystery, to clearly spell out the Who, how and why, right?!
Looking at all the chapters of Umineko, it has a double-layer structure.
K: I brought along my deductions which I have made during those five years, which are printed in a corner called “Forgery Author Test”.
R: I could follow in realtime how your deduction increased day by day. I always read it with joyous thoughts like, “he really got there already”.
K: Thank you very much. I very much afraid, that most of my ideas I had on the evening when EP8 was released were pretty rushed and quite bold.
R: No, not at all. I think it is great that there are many different deductions around. I think it is fun to stagger around a little bit.
K: There are some passages where I went wild with my reasoning and just got experimental, just not to go against the red.
R: (looking at the sheets of the Forgery Author Test) You even made up a score? *laugh*
K: It’s a way of grading myself, yes.
R: It’s alright to mix those O (correct) ∆ (possible) and X (wrong) around. But I beg you to just see this as my personal interpretation based on my own worldview. Even if they were all O’s, that would only tell of a limited horizon. That is why it’s great if there are many X’s. But the more I go towards the later half, the more O’s one has to give, right *laugh*? It’s to be expected, if you come that far, you don’t really waver in your answer.
K: At least I believe so *laugh*. Those are still grades given during my deduction phase, so especially in the later half there are many places where I have been quite easy on myself *laugh*. There are many places which I’d maybe like to change into ∆’s in the end.
R: It’s not important whether there are O’s or X’s. I already said it in our final discussion of Final Deduction Higurashi no naku koro ni, isn’t it best if you see the number of words you put into your deduction as a kind of score for yourself? I’m really glad that I was able to bring you so much enjoyment. I feel like a cook who sees the customers licking the plate clean.
K:Between the line of everything you wrote, there are many hints, aren’t there? I recently noticed, while rereading information released until EP4, how much kernel information had been around already.
R: I was really hoping for you all to return back to the previous stories after you played through them once. I said this before, but I think there are many scenes you can enjoy, because you notice them as hints or as misleads or as just plain weird.
K: There were a ton of those. We touched on this during the deduction of EP5, but the talk of Battler’s promise surfaced as early as EP1. “There were vital parts from EP1 on” is something that has been mentioned many times, but these things have to be mentioned
R: If you read EP1 ~ 3 now, you will think “That’s the core” at so many points *laugh*.
K: Right after the previous book was published, I immediately sat down and thought it all over again. And during that, I became really focused on the story about the promise towards Shannon *laugh*. It would have been better if I had already stumbled upon it during the last book. While reading EP4 I actually suspected Genji or Kinzô to be the one behind the message bottles. It was because of the influence they had on Maria and because their worldview was so much alike, but I really regret that I wasn’t able to connect those parts to Shannon as well.
R: But thank you very much, that you thought so hard about it. I’m really glad, especially because it was such a painfully long story. It’s really hard to enter parts, where you will later think “Now I see it!”. But because those hard parts are something that you’ll only notice once you have finished everything and go back to them, it is something that went unnoticed at the time when EP1 was released. That is why I am so happy, now that after 4 years, EP1 can finally be fully understood.
K: In Umineko you prepared many instances you can see in a totally different light, once you know about Kinzô’s death or the connection between Shannon and Kanon, right?!
R: If I may speak frankly, this is something which Higurashi’s Watanagashi-hen and Meakashi-hen are famous for. The main story and the background story became a double-layered structure, and then could be set back into one, right?! This is something I wanted to do with every arc when I started the concept of Umineko.
K: You are talking about the real world and the meta world?
R: Correct. I wanted to show the result of everything that happened in the real world, but make the interpretation and the processes leading towards it into fantasy. If you read all of it, learned the truth and then went back and reread it all, you would be able to see it in another light, as a mystery, but that was really hard to keep up *laugh*.
K: Because you basically had to write two stories, right?
R: That’s right. First I had to write the real story and then create a whole other story, only connected by the events, on top of it. That’s why these two stories were so troubling. Especially because in the end it will only be rated as one story *laugh*. If I should still be writing in ten years or more, I might go and rewrite Umineko all over again.
K: It really seemed to be hard work to join those two stories together. That’s what I thought the whole time while reading it.
R: It really was a piece of hard work. That’s why I wanted all you readers to think of it as two stories as well. “Because writing it was such a pain, I want it to be a pain to read as well.”, that’s what I thought *laugh*. That’s why the worldview behind Umineko became a belligerent phrase like “Try to think!”. The afterwords back then at the time of Higurashi were pretty low profile, but now with Umineko they have become pretty long and filled with Beato like phrases like “Don’t give up, think!!” or “Hyahaha!”. That’s why many people who started reading my works only after Higurashi might start thinking, “That Ryûkishi07 seems like a pretty arrogant guy!”. Well deserved *laugh*. During the next work I want to start writing modest again.
K: Because Umineko’s overall theme is to fight, it’s no wonder that one gets pulled into the spirit of it, right?!
R: Probably right. At the time of Higurashi there was no pushy theme like “Try and solve it!”. It was more a free spirit of “Please think about it like you yourself felt it”. But with Umineko, I said from the very start that it’s about “Try and think!”.
K: With words like, “This is going to be torture until you fold!”, this pushiness came through.
R: It sounded so nice, so I used it quite often.
K: It did a great job at expressing that fighting spirit within the worldview, as well as the feelings of both the Battler in the meta world and the one writing the stories of the gameboards.
R: They really do express Battler’s feelings, don’t they?
K: Among the locked rooms in Umineko there were many perfect locked rooms.
R: We already discussed that Umineko consists of two different narratives, but if you put it plainly, for the general consumer there is only one. Especially during EP 2 and 3 there seemed to be especially many people who read it like any other story while playing and only saw it as one narrative. If I said it vulgarly, back then there were many who just gave up. I had the impression that there were many people who just said “Stuff like that isn’t mystery!” or “I gave up after Kanon drew his blade!”. That’s why I felt the need to make the story more appealing from that point on.
K: That would be the part at the beginning of EP3, the lecture by Virgilia. It’s true that after the release of EP2 it seemed a little bit like you could bury the idea to regard it as detective fiction *laugh*. When I looked at some of the message boards back then, I was feeling like, “Eh, they are giving up already?!” about most of the fans.
R: Because of that situation I cancelled the production of what was planned to be EP3, Land of the Golden Witch. Right after we released EP I thought “So, after the proper greeting by the witch, let’s create a real evil, orthodox mystery incident.” but because so many people abandoned reasoning all together I hurriedly changed the whole script. Because it felt necessary to give the player a character who would lecture him about how to think, Virgilia was born. There were plans for a character similar to Virgilia to appear in the story before, but it was to be a more agressive character who later became the basis for Erika.
K: At that time there were already plans for something like Erika?
R: It was a character who would argue with the main characters about reasoning, and become an antagonist, approaching everything from a different point than Battler. It was actually planned to introduce that character at the stage of EP3. At that time it was a man called Vergilius.
K: The name is taken from the character Vergilius in Dante’s ’’Divina Commedia’’, right?!
R: That is correct. But because a lecture like this became severely necessary, I changed the character Vergilius into the woman Virgilia. And because he changed into Virgilia, the connection to Kumasawa was created. At that point I stopped thinking about the character Vergilius at all, but now when I think about it, with a little struggling, you could call him the male version of Erika. Though a little bit more impertinent in her knowledge.
K: At the time of EP2, Battler had a pretty hard time reasoning himself. If Vergilius had appeared then, the plot would have become an even fiercer battle?
R: It became a fierce battle either way, didn’t it? In my head EP1 was supposed to be nothing more than an opening, during which you get to remember the structure of the characters and the mansion. EP2 was to be the beginning of the fight. And EP3 was to mark the beginning of the truly orthodox incidents. I really thought about putting many difficult riddles into Umineko from start to finish, but… I don’t think I would be able to make you enjoy Land, now that all of you have learned about the truth. If the answer is already out, it’s laughable to try and hide it with difficult riddles. At best it would be funny. Maybe you’d think “Hey, that makes up for some of it”. Well that might happen, but almost all of the tricks planned for Land have been divided up and mixed into what became EP4~6. I really hear you asking for a release of Land, but I’m afraid I’m just not able to do that anymore.
K: Among some of the fans there is the idea that you could put it into Umineko Rei (an Umineko fandisc), which was mentioned on the blog on the official page, what about that?
R: I have thought about that as well, even though I have my hands full with my new work, but because it would only be ideas that fans of Umineko would know from somewhere else, I don’t think that my hard work or the enjoyment of the readers would make up for it…
K: So you are returning it to the shelf?
R: Not really returning it, it’s more like it’s an EP which departed on the way. By the way it was supposed to feature a really hard difficulty. Because Virgilia and Ronove had almost no following at all, I thought about making the riddles for EP4~6 an attack on one straight level.
K: So, using the part about the staged murders, planting plain to see corpses even though there couldn’t be a culprit and even then piling up on the corpses. I imagine you mean things like this.
R: There was also the Definition of a Locked Room. Many of my role models from the detective novels of the past argued about “what exactly is a locked room murder”. The most famous is Carr’s Locked Room Study. There were many other types of definitions floating around, and I can’t really say who coined this definition, but there is the explanation that “locked room murders can basically be divided into two kinds, those who fail to become a locked room situation and those who are destroyed afterwards.”. So, it would only really be a locked room, if it could not be destroyed by reason.
K: I also read many pieces featuring tricks and locked rooms. But you’re right, a perfect locked room would be a bold trick that could not be solved by anyone.
R: If you think about it from that angle, it’s quite fascinating isn’t it. If you would simply look at locked room murders on a time axis, you could only apply the definition of a locked room in the case of it being flawless. But if that were true, the definition of a locked room in itself would be wrong. In most of the cases, they are “the illusion of a locked room”. It’s a pattern where a locked room actually never existed. If you know about these definition, the locked rooms in Umineko are quite easy to understand.
K: “Illusion is the key to all of Umineko” is a part I have been troubling myself over from the beginning, it fits together with the chess metaphor we discussed around here last time. But you don’t have to stop at the locked room tricks, it’s something that encompasses the whole of the series.
R: I had the feeling that many people were used to the idea of an illusion locked room, but there are not many who are used to the idea of a perfect locked room. The most often used tricks for an illusion locked room are things like “it looks like a locked room, but there is this gap” or “if you use that, you can kill him within the room”. To say it shortly, it’s a pattern of remote killing.
K: Tricks like poison gas or certain gadgets, right?!
R: Or directions within the room, like “look up” or “look down”, which finally lead to you falling into a needle trap and dying. If there is a locked room in which you can still the person inside, then it’s just pseudo locked room. There are many others, mostly it’s something like “the door was locked from the inside, but through a kite string under the door…”. Because most of you people are used to this kind of mystery, you should be busy thinking about things like “is this really a locked room?” or “isn’t there a gap?”. That is why Battler is doing exactly this quite often and why he is doubting so often. By the way, the more Battler is doubting, the more he is attacked with red. And so more and more the perfection of the locked room is proven. If you came this far, a person well versed in locked room definitions might immediately understand this: “So if it can be proven that this locked room is actually perfect, then murder can only have happened before it’s construction or after it’s deconstruction.”. Because I spotted almost no people who arrived at this point, I assumed that there were not that many people who are well versed in locked room mystery. Because there are so many TV shows and movies in the mystery genre, which feature really well made illusion locked room tricks, I just had to accept that.
The Red as well as the Charas who turn against Battler all become Hints
K: That, with EP2, possibilities were severely cut down by the Red, was a huge help to those trying to deduce. They really were a hint, weren’t they?
R: Of course. That is why EP3 opens with Battler saying: “The more you put out your Red, the more my chances increase. So come on, give it to me.”. But even in EP2 it was supposed to be a hint. Even though Battler cried a lot *laugh*. By the way, because there were so many players saying “it’s magic, so where’s the point” I made Battler accept Virgilias explanations in red with so much joy. There was some avail to that, if I ever created a new piece also using the Red, people would be using it without giving up from the very beginning.
K: But the chance of you using it again are pretty slim, right? It’s like “this pattern has vanished”.
R: You’re right.The witch’s side won’t do you the service of a red truth if there is a next time *laugh*.
K: But it really became scarce around EP3.
R: That’s because the more you tell the harder it gets.
K: The hints became less as well, didn’t they?! Using the Red you could narrow it down to “it’s either this pattern or this pattern”, but during EP3 there was nothing much except the confirmation of times of death. EP3 was a game with a pretty straight forward possibility of reasoning from beginning to the end, even though it leaves pretty much of the actual pattern open for interpretation. It was pretty hard to find something encompassing the possibilities during the finale into that.
R: If you go all out with the Red, reasoning becomes easy. On the Wikipedia entry for Umineko it says “Because of the red truth system, reasoning becomes easy.”, when I read that I became actually relieved *laugh*. It really came across as a hint.
K: There were a lot of hints in the red words, right?! There were a lot of characters who were standing in Battler’s way, but the more they fought, the easier it got. They were really allies to the reader.
R: Battler really gave off the image of being down for, but actually he steadily came through. But would the player rather take that as a hint, or would they think “there’s no more chance!”. Now that I think about it, during EP2 or 3 it might have been better if I had just delivered the killing strike and said “This is a perfect locked room” in red truth. But even if I had, it wouldn’t have eliminated theories like “there was poison gas” or something. So I really despaired about my lack of power when I thought if it might reach my limits as an author, when I tried to explain the concept of a perfect locked room murder to the people who were thinking centered around a illusion locked room.
K: During the story there was also Beatrice’s Definition of a Locked Room.
R: Of course this was something taken from the classic definition of a locked room. I expected there to be people who wouldn’t bother to research the term locked room definition, but it seems it was almost not researched at all. Even though I let Beatrice give her locked room definition, “it was not made in red, so everything might be a lie” was the main thought that surfaced, so they did not think about perfect locked rooms, but doubted them as illusion locked rooms.
K: It was pretty important not just to stick to interpreting the Red, but also to search for alternate patterns.
R: I wonder if it would have been better if I had Battler say something like: “No matter how much I think about it this locked room is flawless. So I just have to search for a way how that crime could have been committed even though the locked room is perfect.”. But I did not want to give out such an important hint at the time of EP2 or 3 *laugh*. But I wonder if I might have been to hard with not telling that hint at all. But there were people who noticed this and as long as you can reason and squeeze out an answer it’s alright, right?! Many of those people who deduced by arming themselves with logic while reading, if they were to play Umineko again without any memory of it, they would find that way again, I think.
I would like you to read the deduction of those who arrived at the truth and try playing again.
K: EP1 was pretty tame overall. If you take out the locked rooms you immediatly notice the pattern.
R: Even those parts you don’t get right away, if you just take 3 possible patterns, at least one of them will be able to fit into the scheme.
K: The hypothesis for the first twilight, the “banquet of the witch”, surfaced pretty much right after the series started. Like “Eva and Hideyoshi are the culprits, Shannon faked her death and is actually alive, if or if not the bullets available and the number of victims match, that the victims might have been transported away from the dining room…”. Back then I pretty much formed my reasoning, that “They were carried away after they had been killed in the dining room”.
R: That was pretty common. But it’s really not that difficult to doubt that, isn’t it?!
K: Because carrying those corpses is a painfully heavy task, I quickly dropped it. Carrying 6 corpses through a storm is impossible, right?!
R: It’s difficult, yes. If we are talking about the storm, if there is one thing that does not fit into a mystery in Umineko and can clearly be identified as fantasy, there is one kernel part, there is not even a thought spent on getting wet in the rain. It is one part that I cut right out of that world.
K: Is that so?! I have actually had some thoughts about references towards the culprit getting wet, but I never really bothered about it.
R: If you do something in the storm and return afterwards, you will be pretty much drenched, in case of a woman your makeup might be smeared, or there might be wet spots left in the room, there should be plenty of things. But throughout all the story there is never an explicit mention of something being “wet”, which is slightly fantastic isn’t it?!
K: I think that is a really important element, especially during the part when it’s in question whether Eva snuck out of the guesthouse during EP3. Back then, because Eva was lying down with a high fever, it was questioned whether she was slightly wet because she had sweat a lot or if that was a deception.
R: It’s quite decisive to say that, no matter what, once you return to your private room there are endless ways to get dry again. Because Umineko adopts the world view of a logic puzzle more than that of a orthodox mystery puzzle, rain only becomes a topic once it is important, so it’s safe as long as it doesn’t come up. That’s because in the world of logic puzzles it’s okay to omit those parts that you don’t need as a hint.
K: You really felt the power of those puzzle elements. It is comparatively easy to solve each crime scene individually, but to connect them into a line of reasoning from twilight 1 to 9 is quite hard.
R: At the stage of EP1 there is the possibility of guessing, but there’s not enough to actually answer who did what and why. That is why it’s great to advance towards EP8 finding out along the way that “this is the culprit” and “that is the motive”. But I really want to apologize for the motive coming out so late. That was because in orthodox mysteries it is alright to ditch the motive at first.
K: In many cases you only learn the motive at the very last possible moment. Many times only when the culprit confesses to it.
R: Yes. Whoever the culprit is, whatever the outcome is, it is something that you should be able to draw a hypothesis on.
K: If you went through it all and thought about it, the scope of a deduction of motives does not only encompass the gameboards, but also becomes a deduction of the heart of Yasu in the real world. I think it is possible to solve that part when knowing about the “why”.
R: Yes. It might be easier to get to the end by giving out the culprit, but I prefered to start with the motive. By doing so one could better understand the heart of the culprit and see through his actions. If you understood that and know about Yasu, it can be quite fun to go back and reread EP1. Even I thought “Battler is mean!” while writing it *laugh*. When he read the scenario BT was laughing out hard as well.
K: The scene at the beach was especially harsh. And during EP7, during the scene with the letters I also thought, “Damn Battler, you’re bad!”.
R: There are many ways to think about this scene though, maybe there was no bad intent and they just forgot, maybe George decided not to hand the letter over. I won’t say what’s the truth, but I want you to think of different possibilities.
K: So it’s about whether we want Battler or George to be the bad guy, right?!
R: There’s more. Maybe Kyrie told him “Write to all of your cousins”, so he just wrote to his cousins, there are many ways to think about it. A riddle like that is a way of, if I had to say it with Bernkastel’s words, my way of trying to make you enjoy parallel worlds. At the core it is about whether the player wants to believe in Battler or George. Maybe it’s just about for whom of them you have love. This is what Ange was told about during EP7 and 8, no matter what truths exist, in the end there is only the one in the heart of the person approaching it. That’s because in this world there are so many truths that can only be guessed. It’s always about how the person approaching it thinks about it, whether he has a heart for it or not, that is what changes the truth. If I entertained you with that, I am happy. And in that sense, EP7 was the heart and soul of all the hints and answers. And EP8 is something like an afterword to round up the story. What I wanted to portray in EP8 were two things. One was a message towards those who has arrived at the truth. The other was a party feeling to those who did not find it, saying “You may not have understood everything, but it was a hell lot of fun.”. Though in your case KEIYA, EP8 might have not been much of a festival, but at least I seem to have moved you at many points.
K: Why do the two parties need to fight? The epilogue where Ikuko and Tôya reunite with Ange. When I saw those scenes it all came rushing back to me. Aah, so that’s what it was about.
R: In that part are so many interpretations, I think that is fantastic. You can easily divide the deductions of those who arrived at the truth and those who did not. That’s why it’s enough to just look at your thoughts and say, “Yes, he arrived at the truth!”. But because you are one of those people, I think you will sadly never understand how the opposite side feels.
K: I’m sorry. I don’t really follow other people’s reasoning, therefore I don’t really understand.
R: We have looked at so many deductions by now. How should one judge those parts which are not in red, that’s what I’m talking about. Or, even though I had the feeling that I made it quite clear, there are people who even ask “What is it?” about the Golden Truth. On the other hand, there were those who understood it. It’s not really about who is right or wrong, but because the story had the theme of “challenge the witch, reach the truth” from EP1 onwards, I think I made it more enjoyable for those who arrived at the truth. Like you said at the very beginning, it became an ending which many people weren’t able to forsee, because the answer was not put bluntly on the table, but I still wish for at least those who arrived at the truth to keep that dear. And for those who did not reach it, I would like you to read the deduction of those who arrived at the truth and try playing again. In the end Umineko still is put together from two stories, and those who were not able to see the other story, can now take one of the deductions like this one and become able to enjoy both.
The solution of the epitaph was dragged down into the ocean of the internet.
K: EP3 was written so that it appeared that Eva and Eva-Beatrice were the same existence, but I often had thoughts that maybe “The entirety of the murder is not restricted to Eva”. “From which point on did she murder?”, was an important topic for me from that point on. “Is it really okay to connect them equally?” or “Must I think of the actions on the gameboard and in the meta world as different things?” were things that really pained me.
R: That a really difficult point here. The meta world and the real world are linked at certain points, at other points there are differences. It’s really difficult to be certain of those. I don’t really want to give a model explanation for this. I would rather wish for the readers to look up famous deduction collections on the internet, read through different ideas and then form their own conclusion.
K: At first I thought that EP3 was pretty easy compared to EP1 and 2. It’s easy to get an idea of the plot structure. But when I read through Will’s deduction I thought again and found, that the difficulty is not that much lower. In the end it was maybe the first or second hardest battle among EP1~4.
R: In the case of EP3 I gave my best especially in the area of tricks. I think we talked about this during the discussion on EP3, but I think EP3 has the most beautiful locked room tricks among them all. But because I gave so many hints in the aftermath of EP2, maybe it seemed easier when looking at the surface. Still the riddle in itself experienced a level up compared to EP2.
K: That’s true. I despaired about the mystery of the linked locked rooms until the very end. Will said that “The end and the beginning overlap”, but…
R: It’s a metaphor, so even the people who understood the hint, seem to have done so only barely. But because I wrote it that way to distract the people who did not understand, I won’t explain it further now.
K: I made a guess that “The guestroom on the first floor is the key”. It’s the pattern that Shannon and Kanon are alive, I think.
R: The keyword is “Among the 6 locked rooms, there is only 1 on the first floor.”. If you give it some common sense, at that point there was no hypothesis made about the locked room of the chapel. No one came close of the chapel, it was just thought of as locked. If you exclude the chapel, there is 1 locked room on the first floor, then 2 rooms on the second floor, 1 on the third floor and the one in the downstairs boiler room. And if those were locked from the inside, and there was no key to open them, then…
K: Then it’s natural to enter through the first floor window.
R: And if you look at it like this is all scatters. In this chain of 6 locked rooms where each locked room can be broken that way, there was a big hint which room was entered first, at least I think so. For me it’s actually quite embarrassing that I have to answer this right now *laugh*.
K: Among all the locked rooms, I think this one was the one everybody was most interested in.
R: Linked locked rooms has a nice ring to it, hasn’t it?!
K: Will did not really talk about any of the mysteries in the later half of EP3. Was there any special meaning that he did not talk about anything that happened from George vanishing, to the death of Nanjô?
R: It was probably a bit brutal towards the logic of the investigation quarter, but I judged that “from all the hints that had been given out so far, it should be possible to guess those”. But now that you start asking me about them, I start thinking “was I mistaken in my dose of hints?” *laugh*.
K: No, no. If you prepare the proper pattern for the deduction, it’s quite logic, I just thought that maybe those were hints that would be inserted later on.
R: At the end of EP6 there are two quite logical tricks, which is when Erika was talking about “the right solution to the trick with a method not introduced to the party of readers”. And “That you have to crush them all at the same time”.
K: That is something which can be countered with many different hypothesis’. If you think about it, there are several people insisting that “you don’t need to decide on one truth, there can be be several of them”. But when I do that, I think the story starts to crumble.
R: But that is something that I said since even before the release of EP1, right?! You can just keep observing from start to finish and you will understand, I wouldn’t create an incident where the truth changes along the way.
K: So that’s something we needn’t worry about. But, Ryûkishi, which gameboard was the most difficult, what do you think?
R: Hmm, good question. If I look at it from the perspective of the investigators I’d pick EP1 to be the most difficult. That’s because if you look only at EP1, there is no Red and therefore no hints. If you have already advanced to EP4 it’s probably pretty easy, but taking only EP1 I think it’s pretty hard. It would be like entering the fortress of the dragon emperor on Level 1. EP2 is, even though on first sight the scenario might appear quite harsh, there is a lot of red truth and therefore you can think a lot. And if you make it to EP3 you start understanding how you have to think, even though the level of the riddles itself rises, it becomes easier because there are so many hints. So even though the difficulty of the riddles increases with each Episode, EP1 might still be the most difficult to solve. Every time I took a look at the reactions of the players and created the difficulty and the pace of the story based on this. Because this is still supposed to be solid entertainment, there was no gain in leaving anybody behind. But always considering this was quite hard.
K: No matter how much you adjust, I think there will always be people who can’t keep up.
R: It’s quite difficult, because when there are no people who fail, the people who succeed won’t rejoice either. Because if everyone made it, there would be no sense of completion. But if there are too many people who don’t make it, it’s bad as well. But it’s the massive information age because of the internet, isn’t it?! If there are ten people and one of them arrives at the truth and says “I understood the truth!”, it will still vanish in the ocean of the opinion of the remaining 9. That’s the weakpoint I see. The voices of the people who don’t understand are so much louder than the one voice that understood.
K: And if it’s buried, nobody will notice it.
R: The mystery of the epitaph is such an example. Even though the correct solution in form of the Taiwan theory surfaced at quite an early stage, it didn’t gain many followers back then. There were some people who noticed it as “Awesome”, but there were at least as many voices claiming it to be “definitely wroooong!” it became just one of many quite soon. To be honest, I followed some of the message boards live back then. When I typed the F5 key to refresh the page, things like “Taiwan has trainstations” popped up… and I thought, “Nooo, I’ve been found out!”. So I talked with my circle members about it, but it soon became swallowed up by other famous theories. That’s why I think the internet is so fascinating. If 1 person among 10000 has arrived at the truth and he writes it down and the other 9999 agree with his idea, then they can work together. But while there is this strong point, there is the danger that ,because the voices of these 9999 people are so strong together, the voice which is just 1/10000 can be swallowed up. Because of that I often grieved about whether it has become to difficult to publish serialized detective novels in the internet age.
K: Even now there are countless deductions which have drowned in the ocean of the Kakera, aren’t there?!
R: While there is the danger of them drowning completely, I find it amusing that some of these theories resurfaced now.
K: I have heard and researched a little about that person who solved the epitaph, it seems it was someone who did a homestay in Taiwan, right?!
R: It seems like that. I have a faint memory of reading something like “I am overbroad in Taiwan right now”. But, even those this theory was basically the correct answer, it was still following another popular main theory. It’s really like in Umineko itself, isn’t it?! I thought to myself that this was actually close to the final answer of the riddle that I wanted to give in the main Episodes, but even though there are many followers, there were as many people who wouldn’t believe it and kept searching for alternatives saying, “I don’t buy it, let’s look at it differently!”. I think people’s perception can be quite brilliant at times. It’s like with parallel worlds. I think I really reached my goal of making it a game “where you enjoy thinking” with this. Though some like you started despairing, because they could not adapt to the style of “having multiple tricks ready to explain a mystery”. Battler talked about an “all out deduction”, that was just to instigate that very thought-process in you readers. Many people started out thinking “it has to be all O, if one is an X it’s a failure”. They weren’t able to think of their one answer as being correct on it’s own. That is why many people dislike it, if there is the possibility of two answers. Because in every existing logic puzzle, there has always been the limitation to one correct answer. But in Umineko there is the possibility of two answers coexisting. Even though one of the possibilities might be denied in the later Episodes, what I expected in Umineko from the very beginning was, that people would rip out my locked rooms and release many different thoughts and solutions on the internet, saying things like “Ryukishi, you’re not so great! Don’t you dare messing with us mystery maniacs!”. But against my expectations, nothing of that sort happened.
It’s the players turn to decide wether it’s a Mystery or an Anti-Mystery.
K: You said that at that time there were almost no people challenging your locked room murders.
R: There were many people who said, just like Battler during the Main Episodes, that “there is not enough information”.
K: They wanted more hints.
R: Yes. “We can’t trust Battler’s inspection of the crime scene. Everything that Battler does not inspect could be a gap.”. If Battler’s inspection is so full of holes, then why not use the holes and draw a deduction on that? That’s what I was thinking, but sadly I saw no really fascinating theories surface. In those over 100 years of published mystery fiction, there should be enough grotesque and unique tricks to draw inspiration from. Among those there should have been plenty to crush my meager locked rooms in Umineko easily.
K: It’s a theory we talked about in the last discussion, but do you mean something like “the chain of the chain locked room being unnaturally long”?
R: It’s a theory so absurd that it’s fascinating, isn’t it?!
K: At least it hasn’t been disproven by the red truth *laugh*.
R: The chain as a seal has been verified, but the extent of the opening was never proven.
K: It’s a blind spot, yes. If the chain was longer, then there would be no problem in constructing that scene.
R: It would be as amusingly absurd if it was, “there was no ceiling!”. If we are talking about orthodox detective fiction it’s something you need to consider. It may be something that would be inexcusable when writing a Shakai-ha (society-genre: a mix of thriller and hard boiled) story, but it’s no problem if you’re writing orthodox.
K: But essentialy, it’s not much different from saying “the chain was cut and then later it was welt together again.”.
R: That’s true. It’s basically the same.
K: If you take out that, that only leaves a simple answer like the locked room being replaced by another room.
R: A substitute locked room would fall into the category of a fake locked room or an illusion locked room we already discussed. You think they are talking about a locked room, but it’s actually about the room next door.
K: I actually thought about something like this. That maybe the trick is that the magic party made us mistake one room for another.
R: The locked room tricks featured in Umineko are really the oldest of the classics. There is not one new, original trick among them. They are all classics.
K: I thought that I could solve most of them with variations of the classics.
R: The only difference is that the stage has become Rokkenjima. If you would just read some of the great classics of detective fiction, you would start thinking, “so he just changed the name of that trick”, they are all that simple. I may have said it before, but Umineko features almost no fake locked rooms. Most of them are perfect locked rooms. Those people who thought “this can’t be a locked room. There has to be a gap.”, they never seemed bothered thinking about a hypothesis if it really were a locked room. I think I wasn’t able to communicate that skillfully. Even though Battler should have pressed that possibility into the hands of each of you.
K: Will described the chain locked room in EP1 as having a “chain of illusion”. I really think that in this case it was an illusion locked room and not a perfect locked room, how about that?!
R: What do I say now?! I think I have no choice but to answer *laugh*. That portion was all based on the descriptions by the witness’. But who was it who observed that “those two had died within a chain locked room”? If you start out like that, the people you should doubt come right to mind. And if you do that, the trick itself becomes rather unimportant, doesn’t it?! If you think about it, there are only two simple solutions to destroy this chain locked room. Whoever it was who they started on, it’s the same result. The important thing is that they were stabbed with a knife, beyond that there’s only the difference wether the culprit grabbed the weapon normally or backhand. But that has nothing to do with the core of that locked room. That is why this is really not a perfect locked room, but an illusion locked room. Because it was a locked room born out of the illusion created by what the observers told us.
K: If we are talking about locked rooms, I have the impression that there are almost no people using the term internal bleeding locked room. No matter now whether it is the truth or not, it’s one of the basic tricks, isn’t it?!
R: Hmmm, I think it would have been better to take an easier locked room at that point. But my pride wouldn’t allow that. I would have liked to discuss a thoroughly difficult locked room. On the internet there are countless of those, right?! Because I expected the really great ones to be solved quite easily, my pride dictated, “because you’re going to serialize this over 4 years, take one that won’t be solved during the first years already!”. Actually right after EP2 was released, there were already some great theories floating around. Even though they were all by people at Seikaisha.
K: What kind of deductions were those? Do you have any comments on those?
R: I can’t go into details now, but they were really great. I think some of them were also published on the board of our homepage, but it seems they are deleted by now.
K: At the time of EP2 I was still thinking that the culprit was somebody else each time around.
R: But that is not wrong, is it?! One of the ideas that Umineko was created from was the fact that “the accomplice was somebody else every EP”. And one of the traps was that “the person who you assumed to be the accomplice in the last EP is among the victims in the next.”.
K: Like Shannon dying at the first twilight in EP3, right?! You really had me confused there.
R: I thought of it as a way to surprise you with the order of the murders every time again by making “the ones that didn’t die at first the last time, die right at the beginning.”. And those who were claimed to be suspicious on the internet, I killed those right in the open, right from the start. Through that I think I was able to skillfully manipulate you.
K: If some people always survived together in every EP, it became quite easy to grasp I think.
R: But I didn’t do that. I killed them all without any mercy *laugh*. Beato said it as well during EP3. Something like, “Because you doubted the servants, I killed them all.”.
K: If I look back now, I wrote it down myself, “the culprit from the second twilight on is somebody else than the culprit of the first twilight”. But I didn’t come around to doubt Shannon, I was deceived there.
R: Most people only read things once and don’t go back to read it again. Because it’s so damn long. Even though they would notice the parade of hints if they read it again. With that in mind I read all your impressions you readers had while reading new Episodes, and prepared tricks to mislead you based on those impressions and expectations. That’s why my honest emotions right now, are not only a feeling of completion after a 4 year serialization, but even more a feeling of freedom and that “I can finally stop comparing the knowledge of my readers.” *laugh*. I have actually become tired of writing while always considering my readers. Next I want to write what I want to.
K: You already said earlier, “I can’t go on playing catchball with the players after 4 years”.
R: If I would just be able to throw the ball in any direction I want to, then it would be comparatively easy to keep it up. But having to return it properly, no matter what kinda ball they throw me, that’s really tiring.
K: If you don’t return it properly, the mystery might break down this time. It’s about that, right?!
R: Exactly, it’s really hard. That is why Umineko, rather than a simple story, is more about my thoughts while writing and how it became more enjoyable with deep and hard thinking.
K: Compared to Higurashi, it seems to be written with the spirit of making it unsolvable.
R: In the end Higurashi had a simple and clear answer written for it. Because the answer was the message that I wanted to convey. So in that sense, Higurashi might be acting more according to the rules of a mystery. Because the answer was spelled out plain and clear. On the opposite, while it appears to be a mystery at first sight, Umineko does not follow many of those rules. But that is because it is a detective fiction that does not spell out the answer, just like Higashino Keigo’s ‘‘Who of them killed her?’’ (‘‘Dochiraka ga kanojo o koroshita?’’).
K: I think the word Anti-Mystery is something that is often discussed, but it is also something used to describe works that use “a structure in which the solution to the mystery is not part of the plot”.
R: I think the word Anti-Mystery is quite difficult, because it changes according to the place where it is used.
K: It’s because of the people who defined it. My own is limited to connecting it to this one great novel An Offering to Nothingness (Kyomu e no kumotsu) (Kôdansha, Nakai Hideo), though of course there are several different definitions for it.
R: Yes, it’s quite hard to find a proper definition for that word. Maybe, when you attack it with the attitude “all of it can be explained with tricks and logic”, then it’s a mystery, and maybe you can really say that an Anti-Mystery is nothing but the aggressive stance of “thinking is useless”. So when people say “While the players are reasoning, Ryukishi is changing the story around and betraying us, so it’s useless thinking about the truth.” it’s really a stance that’s fitting for an Anti-Mystery.
K: A stance that denies the Mystery.
R: What’s left is “Don’t give up on finding the truth!”. If it is a mystery, than it is absolutely just to arrive at the truth, but thinking of it as just a narrative, there is no absolute need to arrive at the truth. If you think about it, maybe not unnecessarily uncovering something through showing the truth, that is also part of an explanation for an Anti-Mystery. A way of thinking, like at the end of An Offering to Nothingness, is also quite fascinating when considering an Anti-Mystery. If you take it like that, then my work is an Anti-Mystery as well. The more your deductions advanced while reading EP1, 2 and 3, the more the difficulty increased and while not solving and not solving, the plot escaped further and further. And the tragedy you all kept asking for kept occurring, and when you said “that’s not the culprit, so he will probably die first next time!” it actually happened that way.
K: If you look at each of the EP in continuity, it’s actually following that structure.
R: But because you can of course read it like this, but you can also solve it like a proper mystery, it is not a pure Anti-Mystery. It’s more something that “can be enjoyed as an Anti-Mystery”.
K: In An Offering to Nothingness the culprit of the serial killings and the tricks are all revealed as well. But in the end it gets this double-layer structure through the lines: “What actually made the incident an incident was…”. That Umineko is similar in that fashion was already discussed in the last book.
R: It were the people who had read An Offering to Nothingness before, who made this theory right from the start and brought up the comparison between the two works. But it was never my intention to remodel ‘‘An Offering to Nothingness’’ into a soundnovel. Well, in the end it’s the players turn to decide whether Umineko is a Mystery or an Anti-Mystery.
K: I was glad that there were many people who eagerly faced “Bern’s Trial”.
R: When you uploaded your playmemo of EP8 I immediately read it. When I came to the part where you wrote, that the character who had been saved by Ikuko in her car was Ange, I thought “Yes, yes, I got him!” *laugh*. I actually thought while writing that passage “Will KEIYA fall for that trap?”.
K: Yes, I really fell for it *laugh*. The scene right before it made it easy to get the idea that it’s Ange.
R: Yes, I mixed the time order up to create that mislead. There are almost no people who noticed immediately.
K: If you read it casually, every player would think it was Ange.
R: I think so too. And that’s why your impression wasn’t wrong.
K: And on top of it, there’s the fact that later on you learn that “it’s actually Battler!”.
R: Rather than a mystery, this was a stylistic device used in novels. Or what would you say?
K: I think people who doubt this part are pretty rare *laugh*.
R: To doubt that plot point is rather useless, isn’t it? By the way, the first thing you concentrated on was Bern’s Trial and “Whodunnit” and “Whodidn’t”. Many people on the staff did the same thing during debugging *laugh*. I thought that about 30% of the people would go for the Whodunnit and No Check, so the first thing I did was adding the professional hints. Though most of the text didn’t make it in time.
K: Well if you can’t crush the possibilities, it’s okay to just advance. In some sense Bern’s Trial seemed to be something like a higher version of an Umineko lecture, something like a tutoring mode. When I compared it to the Halloween party, I really got that feeling.
R: I was really happy that so many people tried solving it for real and actually did solve it. Because I allowed several parallel realities to exist during the main arcs, there could be several explanations for one locked room. But for Bern’s Trial you really had to aim for one clear answer. I checked so that there was actually no other reasoning possible for that answer. And after I perfected this, I reread it with the thought in my head “if there was anything left at all except the Battler culprit theory”, and the only answer sticking out was “well, there is the chance that George had killed somebody before he came to Rokkenjima.”. I didn’t plan this at the beginning, but because of that I made Erika talk about the George culprit theory. While it is foul play to use elements in your deduction that happened before the actual incident in a logic puzzle, it was an answer I had to keep in mind, dealing with people who came in contact with something like the 4 years of battle of red against blue truth.
K: The more you thought about it the more the possibilities shrunk, so it was really fun. At first I wondered whether I should ditch the servants or not. But no matter how much I thought I couldn’t fit them into it and so I decided they had no connection to the case.
R: I created it to make you feel exactly that pleasure. It’s so difficult you have to stop and consider again and again.
K: I really glared at my text files back then *laugh*.
R: And I think even those people who couldn’t solve it, got a feeling of achievement when reading the hints.
K: From the perspective of someone who reasoned towards the truth, I think it’s quite important that this trial was held by Bernkastel…because she’s representing the party that wants to tear everything down in search for the truth. The scenario really matched the Tea Party during EP7.
R: Haha, maybe I wouldn’t go that far with it. There was a reason to Bern’s Trial that is correct. To have fun and enjoying so many grotesque things. Though it was a digression, the trial was fun, right? If it was to your liking, maybe I should create something different, based on the same rules. Something like “Furudo Erika’s Case Files”.
K: That would be great. The game really was fun.
Considering that you thought that the players abilities to reason and to think increased during Umineko, Bern’s Trial was a great way to test that, wasn’t it?!
R: I wonder if they really increased. I think most of the readers had had enough of Ryukishi07′s mysteries by then *laugh*. I was really bashed on the internet.
K: I think because Umineko uses so many tricks from the classics of mystery, the people reading it as a mystery expect many riddles which they can solve. The trick with the murder weapon which vanished automatically into the well after a suicide, in EP4 was a good example for this.
R: There are many mysteries which use a trick like this, aren’t there?! That you could use the fact that a body still moves at the moment of death to transport a weapon outside of the locked room, is something that everybody should be able to imagine.
K: That it was Shannon and Nanjô who lay there was suspicious yet again *laugh*. Though I had Nanjô as my suspect back then during my deduction.
If you don’t believe that you can solve it, then you can’t.
R: I went into this during the story itself as well, but as long as you don’t read it thinking you can solve it, I think you won’t. “If you don’t believe that a jam-jar will open, then it won’t no matter how hard you turn”. And just like if you confront it with the idea “with those hints I can solve it” you will solve it, you will never be able to get a clear thought if all you think is “the hints up until now aren’t enough, it’s impossible to solve.”. I might be wrong but I think I never said anytime before EP4, that “with these hints you can solve the mystery”. And even though I did say it after EP5, I’m really regretting not saying it at the time around EP4. No matter how many hints you give, as long as I don’t make the players believe that they can solve it, even the most trivial mystery will never be solved.
K: At the time of EP2 there were heavy discussions whether we should trust Beato or not.
R: That’s true. Your deduction process changes depending whether you believe the red truth or not. If you doubt the red truth reasoning becomes almost impossible, it’s like claiming “I won’t reason at all”.
K: It’s the same as not agreeing to the rules of a gameboard. Because during the story there were those comparisons to chess and sentences like “a game has to have rules” or “I will hold my promise”, it becomes impossible to reason if you don’t believe them.
R: I have begun saying this at the time of EP2 and repeated it several times during Chiru. Especially Will is insisting on this. “If you don’t believe it to be solvable, you won’t solve it”. All those passages clogged with “Without love it cannot be seen” were actually meaning, “you cannot solve something that is made to be solved if you don’t believe”. Will is the one who did some very cynical comments on this during EP8, too.
K: He said those things during the fight against the goats, right?
R: Exactly. Those goats who appeared at that point really had guts, hadn’t they? It was Will and Dlanor who said that, but I too actually have some respect for those goats who kept on making theories, even though they were attacked by the red again and again. I accept them as adversaries. Who I am really mad about are those goats who actually gave up thinking.
K: Many people who criticize that scene seem to be missing that Will and Dlanor are accepting the goats as well.
R: I really didn’t do a good job with that part, I seem to have screwed up majorly…
K: I guarantee you that if you don’t stop thinking, then you will arrive at the truth.
R: By now I have fallen into the dilemma of thinking, “for what reason am I writing my works?”. Am I writing because I want to pamper my readers? Or am I writing for the joy of writing itself? Of course I want to see wonderful deductions like yours KEIYA. To have their works read and find reactions towards it, that’s one of the greatest joys of every writer. But if I go online now and search for reactions, it’s much easier to find really harsh impressions. If they do have a point, then I’m glad, but there are actually many people who seem to have never read the work at all and just looked up some of the answers, who are now saying “it might have been in the story, but…”. If I read something like “Can’t he write on his own?”, then I lose my confidence. Though, when I read thoughts like yours, then I actually get better again. After the release of EP8 it became especially harsh. I thought about retiring after Umineko. That is why Umineko has a culprit who can only be understood by people who think. I wanted to give it a culprit that cannot be copypasted. In that sense, I think YASU is a groundbreaking invention.
K: Now you’re talking about The Portopia Serial Murder Case (Pôtopia renzoku satsujin jiken), right?!
R: Of course. You can definitely deceive some people, because “The culprit is Yasu” has become such a stereotype. It’s a bold move that can only be done once.
K: The day Yasu became a witch, the 29th of November, was also the release date of the Famicom version of Portopia. Did you really match it up with Battler’s birthday, the 15th of July, which is the original release date of the Famicom console?
R: That was actually a coincidence *laugh*. What I read quite often is that ,at the time of Higurashi I was neglecting any processes and just copypasted “who is the culprit” and “what is the truth”. And I found that really saddening, if this was all the critique that people could come up they surely hadn’t read it. To read even a negative review of your piece is part of the fun too, but the right to do that only lies with those who actually read it. That is when I had the idea of Yasu. So I created something where not even the truth could be copypasted. After that Mr. Ôta from Seikaisha said to me: “You’re really heading down an exceptionally thorny path with this.”. Of course, normally you’d think of displaying the solution of your work in the end. But I am not an author who writes on paper, but one who publishes over the internet, so doesn’t this way of doing it kinda fit that?
K: Somebody who writes everything including the solution, is sure to gain the praise of the readers.
R: I am not so sure about that. “I liked it better when I didn’t know everything. Knowing everything kinda ruined it.” there are many novels like that. That is why, when I’m asked whether or not I would reveal the truth on the Fandisc, I answer “I don’t really want to do that.”.
K: Well, maybe I didn’t think of an all out spoiler.
R: Doing that is also rude towards the people who arrived at the truth. I also wanted to write a story where you can only get to the truth by reading it, for all those people who kept on thinking. But the only guarantee I can give you in return is that, if you read the thoughts of those who arrived at the truth now, even the people who did not arrive there can come closer to it. And I guarantee you that if you don’t stop thinking, then you will arrive at the truth. And by guaranteeing that, maybe some people will arrive there only through that.
K: That there have already been people who arrived there is prove of just one truth in itself, isn’t it?
R: Yes. And I didn’t want to spill it out even now. I want the players to find it themselves. But the one message I can convey in this book now is probably the one, that Umineko can be solved. If you did it, please let me know over KEIYA’s site so I can read several other theories.
K: Last time you also said that, when we wrote about the thoughts on gameboards, that it would probably help instigate some deductions to be published on the internet. But nothing much happened. Even though we made sense of almost everything from first twilight to the end. I even heard stuff like, “You haven’t reasoned about the gameboard at all” *laugh*.</font>
R: Didn’t they read at all?
K: I think it’s quite a steep hurdle to make good sense of everything from start to finish in a deduction, but I had the feeling that I came pretty close with EP8. If you just stop at, “that trick could have probably been done like that”, you will never get to a solution. If you just think of each crime scene separately you will never reach the truth. You have to make sense of it from start to finish, then you can solve it.</font>
R: If you put it like that, it really is a fair mystery, isn’t it?! “Those of you who have read up to EP8 have grown used to face a mystery on your own, so stand up and fight one last time.” That’s the thought I had when creating the quiz and Bern’s Trial.
K: That was also huge criticism like that back then when the Answer Arcs of Higurashi came out, yes?!
R: Yes, there was.
K: So based on that, because you built up on those points was the reason why the critical voices increased with such readiness.
R: I’m glad there was criticism. But there are also things that I need to protect. Those were the people who actually gave their best and arrived at the truth in the end. I think I need to protect the honour and hard work of those people at all costs. After all, it’s impossible to create something that gains no criticism at all. I would dare to say that even godlike people like Nasu Kinoko or Maeda Jun experience the pressure of criticism here and there. The more critical the work is, the less one has to wonder that the people disliking it will increase. Therefore a work that pleases every reader there is, would be a genre of it’s own. And I think it’s something that a mystery cannot achieve. There is no mystery that satisfies all of it’s readers. Well maybe the Shakai-ha mysteries are doing a pretty good job at that. And to be a bit cheeky, I would say that my work has turned quite casual in a bad way. I always wanted to write something for people who were searching for a certain edginess, even with Higurashi. And even though I’m still grateful for it, I think the manga and anime adaptions have turned me quite casual, and I extended my aim beyond those people whom I wanted to read my works. It’s like with a shop that sells incredibly hot curry, which is suddenly broadcasted on television and has people flocking to the shop, even though their not into spicy food, crying out “Too hot!! You can’t eat that!!”. Even though it was originally a hidden little in-spot for people who loved extra spicy food, they now get the feeling that “because it’s all so spicy, we should start selling sweet stuff, too.”.
K: During an earlier interview you said that you wanted to enable those people who did not want to reason their way through, to enjoy the series for it’s fantasy and battle scenes.
R: Of course. There are a lot of people like that and it shows that this idea worked. Who I think are a bit in the wrong are the people who claim that I never wrote an answer, without ever trying to reason or deduce. I always thought that it’s logical, if you don’t think you won’t understand…though that might sound overbearing now, I still take pride in knowing that I was able to make both the people who enjoyed the fantasy parts with the battles and the ones who fought honestly to understand the mystery.
If you put love into it, a Winchester rifle can become even a bunny.
Numbers and NamesEdit
K: The numbers associated with the characters names, like Ikuko (many children) or Tôya (10-8), are put there deliberately, right?
R: I loved playing with numbers since Takano Miyo (Miyo is read 3-4).
K: Because she followed in the footsteps of Takano Hifumi (read 1-2-3), if you continue from there you get 3-4, right?!
R: That kinda playing, right.
K: Because from the very beginning numbers played an important part in Umineko, I never stopped thinking “where and how are they connected?”.
R: But it seems that not many people except you came up with that idea.
K: The first thing that I noticed was the 6.
R: Yes. The place where the incident took place is Rokkenjima (Island of 6 Houses) or at the first twilight, 6 people die. I would have liked to play around with the 6 a little more, at the beginning when I was designing the plot I wanted to include the 6 on the island-level as well. But because there were already over 18 characters, the mansion, the guesthouse and the chapel, that would have been way too many landmarks to remember, that’s why I ditched the idea to build up on the 6.
K: Was that some intention of Kinzô that had to do with the number 6? Or was it supposed to be an implication regarding the plot?
R: When I planned the mystery of the epitaph and at the first twilight 6 people were dying I was like, “6, 6, 6, 6…Rokkenjima! The Island of 6 Houses!! Now that I think about it, you can read key as Ken as well. The Island of the 6 Keys!” were the images that gushed forward. In a certain well known mystery, there are two almost similar mansions build on each side of the island…from that I got the idea that maybe I could have hidden mansions who nobody knew about in 6 different directions on the island, and that’s how Kuwadorian was born. In the very beginning I was planning to have 6 buildings all ending with the sound “AN” and alluding to the numbers 1 to 6, like Kuwadorian or the guesthouse Toraian. And then I even thought of having a mansion which is not in line with those numbers inserted into the plot, but there were already so many elements to remember and the chance of the player not being able to remember was too high, so I dropped it.
K: I also thought about whether there is a building anywhere donned to the number six, having a name like Sextillion or something like that.
R: I am very sorry. There are many ideas in Umineko that I prepared but never cam around to use though. I named the guesthouse Toraian, because I wanted to bring it into the mix as well, but that’s also an idea that I dropped.
K: Within the plot it was build by Krauss, right? But it was Kinzô who chose the name?
R: Exactly. Kinzô became aware of the fact that a new building was being constructed…and I thought a lot about it. Before EP1 was even done there were already many twists and turns in the plot.
K: The pilot and the captain have the same name Kawabata, was that a dropped idea as well?
R: Ah, the Kawabata line is it?! In the PC gamemaker software Leaf there is a long-existing family line, you know?! And as an homage to that I decided in my head to make the Kawabata family appear as a captain or a pilot again and again. I wish I could have inserted them more often. Maybe in my next work the Kawabata’s will appear as bus drivers or conductors *laugh*.
K: I also thought about wether the name of the Siesta sisters had it’s origin in the number 6. Is it?</font>
R: That thought is quite intersting, but if I would have to answer that honestly, it comes from the Chester in Winchester. That’s why the name Siesta really doesn’t begin with an S but a C. If you enter an I into the word Chester you get Chiester. And isn’t it fascinating how even a gun can become a bunny if you put love into it (= 愛 (love) is read Ai in Japanese).
K: So that’s how it is.
R: Well, it really is a pun. That’s why we had the spelling of Siesta 4100 in Ôgon Musôkyoku corrected so that it starts with a C. That’s how we revealed the final answer, that the Chiester are actually a personification of the Winchester rifles.
K: Was it a coincidence that it sounded the same as the Spanish Siesta? (Siesta means free time)
R: Yes it was. Though I leave it to the broad imagination to count it as a mislead as well, because it would imply that through imagining that I get another point.
K: It seems I went a bit far with my imagination and read a little too deep here.
R: No, not at all. Sometimes the ideas during those deductions are so great I start thinking, “It would have been great if I had done that”, I get really moved by that. We already talked once about the theory of the Siesta sisters being a symbol for sleeping pills.
K: Imagined probably because it was associated with an afternoon nap.
R: Yes. I really thought it was fascinating when the connection to sleeping pills was made over an Italian custom like that. There were many scenes that appeared like Eva was mixing sleeping pills into something.
K: That’s the scene when Eva was handing out the coffee, right?! But I never saw any people doubting the coffee in EP3. I was quite surprised when I heard that “This is the one scene you have to doubt!”
R: Was that because there were so many scenes where they were depicted as drinking coffee?
K: It was probably mostly because I thought there was virtually no chance of drugs being on the island. Even though I often thought about the connection between drugs and Nanjo.
R: That meant victory for those who had fun. There is the one big goal of reaching the truth, but there are also points you get in between, you get a lot of them by just imagining. And those who just enjoy imagining a lot are those who have the most fun. There are even people who arrived at the truth, just by thinking about the things that they actually enjoyed thinking about.
Because the heart lies at the center of this work, even Van Dine’s 20 Rules cannot destroy love.
K: Do you have any opinion on the thoughts concerning the mysteries I have had so far? Will made a lot of deductions concerning the truth of the mysteries but…
R: Concerning my own viewpoint, I made Will verbalize most of those answers.
K: While I read the part concerning EP3 where it said “Concerning the moment of death, there was no adjustment”, does it count for all who died?
R: Yes. This line means something like, that there is no problem with accepting the way it was presented to you almost literally.
K: So it seems that my deduction of solving EP4 with a single culprit is wrong. However you think about the crime being accomplished, an accomplice is always necessary. So I thought a lot about who would conspire with whom. It is central that Kanon was the 9th victim, so I thought up several patterns that would include that point.
R: The point of “very many accomplicees” was one of the original gimmicks in Land. And I wanted the deception to be that “very many” *laugh*.
K: Concerning the accomplices I was very surprised when I read EP5 and thought “does he really want to reveal it like that?”. It was as if you were just writing down the answers. I really thought “so now suddenly the Answer Arcs start”.
R: *looking at the Forgery Author Test* Certainly, most of the things about EP5 in your self-evaluation are O’s.
K: I really had self confidence about EP5. The subjectivity of the detective was proven. I was actually pretty suspicious about Battler’s subjectivity until then.
R: That seems to be so. You can’t really have faith in him, can you?!
K: Can I really trust that guy…
R: The Battler Culprit Theory was something that was dazzling until the very end, was it?!
K: Though I think he never murdered.
R: Isn’t that because of the sentence “Concerning every game there is, Battler has never killed anybody.” being said in red?!
K: I was actually wondering and bargaining with myself whether I should accept this just like that… Finally I decided to grasp it like this: “Battler never killed anybody, he just witnessed a terrible reality.” By the way, at a point before EP7 came out, I was thinking that Witch-hunting Wright would have a much more intense entrance. I actually thought he would ruthlessly use Van Dine’s 20 Rules of Detective Fiction to cut the element of love out of the story, so I was pretty surprised when it was the other way around.
R: Because the heart lies at the center of this story, you can’t cut out the element of love.
K: I expected the dragging out of the guts to happen along with the denial of love.
R: Will became a character who was actually sick of that method. Because of something that seems to have happened to him in the past.
K: When I saw “Quit the SSVD” written in the character bio, I was like “What?!”. If it’s like that, then the plot is actually satisfactory. I really grew to like Will.
R: If everything happens in complete accordance to Van Dine’s 20 Rules of Detective Fiction, then the motive becomes basically obsolete and is removed from the cornerstones of the story. So that’s how it became my goal to eliminate the 20 rules and how they vanished from Umineko.
K: Most of Will’s 20 Van Dine Rules were never claimed to have effect during the story. Many of them were also interrupted. And many of those claimed to have effect were written in plain white letters.
R: Yes. I thought about using them a lot actually, but in the end I didn’t. Even if you count in the war against the goats, there are just about 3 or 4. If you express it in the sense of an Anti-Mystery, who brought up Knox and Van Dine within the story were the players themselves. Since they were always pulled out even at the time of Higurashi.
K: Now you mention Knox, were there any intentions about the true form of Dlanor?
R: True form? You don’t mean the fact that Dlanor is Ronald spelled backwards, do you? No, you know that.
K: I was implying, if there was any true form, like with the demon stakes and the seven sisters.
R: No. She just personifies the idea of Knox’s 10 Commandments being tied to the story. It’s similar to Gaap. She is just a personification who became a witch, symbolizing the notion of “things often vanish”.
K: The one Van Dine Rule I pained myself about which actually appeared in Red was “It is forbidden for servants to be the culprit!”. Is there a gameboard to which it can actually be applied?
R: I actually inserted that Red to test whether a player had understood the true culprit in the fullest sense. People who did not understand would clearly be mislead.
K: I thought really hard about what to do with Genji because of that Red. That’s because most of the mysteries can be solved without any problem if he was the culprit. If you take him out on the other hand, some of the locked rooms become far too difficult.
R: That’s probably true. If you go as far as saying that Genji commited no crimes at all, what happens to helping somebody to commit them. Maybe he just pretended to see or not see certain things, or maybe he did not commit murder but helped by carrying the corpses.
K: Still, the locked room in Natsuhi’s chamber is a special case. If Shannon actually committed suicide, there is nobody who can get rid of the weapon. If you think of Genji finalizing that, then it just happens smoothly, but…hmm *laugh*.
R: Because we have come so far, I think I can give you an answer, though it is basically the same trick as with the well. Shannon died face down, slumped over the makeup cabinet. It’s a really simple trick. You tie the weapon to a heavy object with a string, then you throw the heavy object behind the cabinet. And then it’s the classic trick, when you commit suicide, the gun is pulled behind the cabinet towards the heavy object.
K: So that’s how it went?!
R: I thought, because you solved the riddle of the well as well, that you would get this trick without any problem. I especially wrote that she was “slumped over, face down, over the makeup cabinet”. And while the other two in the room were actually pierced by the stakes, Shannon was not. That is why you can imagine her being the last to die in that room, because there was nobody left to insert the stake into the gunwound. There was never a full inspection of that special room, so that means that the weapon was left within it.
K: Ah, now I see. I never thought of that.
R: And during EP4 the same trick was used to drop the weapon into the well in the end. Because of the image of well = trashcan, I imagined that everybody would find it easy to get that trick. And because in EP2, even before the incident in Natsuhi’s room happened, there was the atmosphere of “Let’s preserve the crime scene until the police arrives.”, it could have been behind the cabinet or even in the space under the bed. Even if you cast only a little shadow over it, it will already be out of view.
K: That was probably the most difficult part of EP2.
R: Yes it would probably classified as being barely hinted.
K: If you have Will’s deduction and knowledge about Kanon’s disappearance you can solve most of EP2, but Natsuhi’s room was still a handful.
R: That really is a model of a perfect locked room. If you don’t think of Shannon’s suicide, it seems pretty skillful. There is just no gun in that room. So what became of the gun? From then on it depends on imagination. I am actually thinking about revealing the part about the gun in one panel in the comic-version of EP7 which is in production right now. The fight between Will and Clair in the comic is still at least one year away, but I think by that point it will be okay to make this public.
K: So you plan on revealing the truth for those who keep demanding for it, slowly, bit by bit?!
R: Basically yes. But more than just being told that they can believe, I think people will come closer to it just by reading your book KEIYA.
George’s idea of their future after marriage might have put severe pressure on Shannon
K: I thought about this just now when we were discussing the events in Natsuhi’s room, but would the piece Shannon really be able to kill George? That is something that really bugs me.
R: While the body is Shannon, it’s worth thinking about whose body this was originally. Because in the end it is just a question of software. Even though the clothes belong to Shannon, if what’s within is another being then that person would surely be able to kill George. Clothes are not a personality. And so, even though the cloths and the hairdo might be Shannon’s, but there is the possibility that it was another person, when she started asking questions about George.
K: I see. I thought I had to accept the restriction that the rule is decided that pieces always act in accordance to how they were depicted on the gameboard. So it’s probably wrong that I did not think deeper about Shannon’s actions.
R: Shannon is probably the character with the most spirit in that world. I am now talking about the background story of the scenario, but Shannon probably started asking George some questions at that stage. I think George might have given her some answers that she would have not expected to hear. And as a result I think she embraced the idea of lover’s suicide, even though that might not be among the most simple answers. If you think like that, you arrive at the fantasy depiction in that scene. Beato and Shannon are endlessly discussing and fighting over their view of love. I imagined that you would read it as a depiction of a conflict of the heart.
K: And it’s definitely a fact that Shannon has some conflicts within herself.
R: And I think it is plenty possible to arrive at the solution, that George’s idea of their life after marriage pained her quite much.
K: To have many children in a happy home…
R: “I want to spend my future surrounded by many grandchildren!”, said George recklessly, already cementing a future with children. But it’s his desire to have children, right?! And I think you can guess that this put a lot of pressure on her.
K: Yasu said in EP7 that she has “a body that is unable to love”.
R: If you take this expression as a basis, you can imagine her sad fate of a having some kind of imperfection on a sexual level. I think it’s possible to get to that point.
K: At first I was thinking that it was maybe a terrible wound that chained Yasu to the bed. But that does not seem to be the case at all.
R: It is a pretty adult topic, so I had to obscure its depiction.
K: Because there were expressions like “I hate it to even look at a mirror”, I was doubting the part that she was honestly in love with George.
R: Those solutions were around a lot. I think that is something which she herself wondered about. “Do I really love George, or is he just a replacement for Battler?” was one of her conflicts. She did not really understand those feelings, I think. But it was alright as long as only George was around. But when Battler returned suddenly, the conflict between “I still love Battler!” and “No, George isn’t just a replacement!” was born. Isn’t that something that you can understand when you look at the conflict between the three people in the trial of love during EP6? It was done so that it can be understood at that point if you just think. But I left many blanks within that scene so that interpretations could be enjoyed freely at first.
K: Somehow I feel that I wasn’t able to squeeze the answer into one. Every answer is logical here and there.
R: At the point of EP1 or EP2 that might have been so, but it’s constructed in a fashion that if you add everything together then you should end up with just one logical solution. Though there don’t seem to be many people who go through the trouble of rereading past Episodes after a new one.
K: Understandable, but regretable. I am now rereading EP2 and it’s extremely entertaining. In my playmemo back then I wrote about the meta world which appears from EP2 on, if it was maybe “A battle within Battler’s mind”, amused over the fact that “without Battler this would never even appear”. I often thought about this and doubted it.
Originally I wanted far more and difficult mysteries to appear.
R: I have put all my mental capacity into this project. That’s why I want it to be received with force and to be thought about without inhibitions. I still want to create stories that enjoy a great many people, but something like Umineko which cannot be solved unless you think is probably something that cannot be released to many people.
K: Until now it was mostly epic works, but do you maybe plan on publishing short stories?
R: For a while I don’t plan to write something long. Until now, because I was writing only full blown stories, I always had to avoid short-story-like elements because I was thinking “This is far too spoilerish, I can’t feature that in the next 4 years”. So right now I’m planning to write a shortstory incorporating the ideas I ditched in the planning stage of my long serializations. I also want to practice writing in a short story tempo.
K: I really want to read a short story written by you. Will there be mystery-solving elements in your next work as well?
R: It will be something like a collection of short stories. It won’t be a detective story, but because it has some social topics, it will be enjoyable in a sense of “it’s no detective story, but it still invites you to think” similar to Higurashi. The title won’t be “no naku koro ni”.It will be announced pretty soon and the design of the homepage will change quite a bit. It has been the Umineko inspired brick wall and Roman letters, but because I know that there are many people supporting Umineko it won’t change completely during the summer, but by winter it will probably be all gone except Tsubasa. But now that I talked with you, I’m in the mood to write even more. I am so glad that you took up all those plots and mysteries that I had put up.
K: When thinking about something it is as important to often return to the original work, but many people don’t do that, right? If you forget how something was expressed in the original, then all your thinking will never lead you to the truth. Even though it’s sad.
R: I really wanted to write even more difficult parts to be honest. If almost nobody hat succumbed at the time of EP2, I was prepared to show you a really mean scenario with an even worse difficulty.
K: And Land was among those?
R: One of them, yes. It was supposed to be just the vanguard.
K: You told me about this in an earlier discussion, but there was something like “Battler arrives at the island and decides to imprison them all into one room…” if I remember correctly.
R: Did I really say that? Yes, that was one of my ideas. Even though it was a different one than Land.
K: I think it was, “imprisoning all of them in the same place and still having the witch appear and bodies piling up”.
R: I really did think about that. “If you keep all of them in one place, then nobody should become the culprit.” that would have been the execution from the meta-world, but still the incident would have taken place. Still there would have plenty of logic to connect.
K: It seems you had many different patterns in store there.
R: I thought about being much more aggressive with a much more active and mean scenario if more players with a sense for active reading like you would have appeared. Because once EP8 is over, it’s really quite easy.
K: Once you understood it, poison cannot harm you anymore.
R: I think those people who did not understand did so more than they needed to, but the people who did did a pretty good job. It’s the same with the red truth becoming a hint.
K: Earlier you said that the next piece won’t be a “no naku koro ni”. Is it because you want to have that thinking as an element in the “naku koro ni” series?
R: To tell the truth, that was not really my goal, though it seems many of you think that. If I did make a new “naku koro ni” and it was a casual love story without the slightest hint of any puzzle solving, I think all of you would rage. That is why I heavyheartedly decided to lay my “naku koro ni” series, which I have grown so fond of, to sleep. Until I create another such title. If some decades have passed, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say “After so many decades, “naku koro ni” revives once again!” *laugh*?
K: Bernkastel and Lambdadelta announced that in the end, didn’t they?
R: The two of them might reappear somewhere, but if there will be a meta-world ever again, I don’t know yet. Maybe it was just some wild babbling that comes up while doing an afterword. But it’s quite possible that in the new piece I will shamelessly feature another character with a name like Furude Rika. In what way is something the future will show. In the beginning of Umineko there were some complaints “When Bernkastel appeared, I knew that people who don’t know Higurashi can’t solve it!” or “I hate it that characters from Higurashi appear!”. That’s why it’s probably best to only do that some years in the future, when the number of people knowing neither Higurashi nor Umineko has grown.
K: I had the feeling that at first there were many Higurashi fans who believed in everything Bernkastel told without doubt. I had the feeling that they thought of her as basically Rika who was playing gloomy and it was just a slip of expression.
R: Well it’s possible that she just liked playing the bad guy *laugh*. It’s the same for Bernkastel, isn’t it? Your view of her changes depending on whether you have love for her or not. But originally there was no plan to involve Bernkastel or Lambdadelta into the story that far. At the end of EP1 Bernkastel was no more than a secret character who served to give out hints. But above being there to explain something and guide the readers; and instead, Virgilia, who kept appearing even though there was no more explanation to validate her existence, her appearances improved during the series. That both of them appeared so much more often was something that I controlled based on the reaction towards my work. Back then, what I was planning at the time of EP1, was a much more difficult mystery inspired story. But when I came to know all your impressions and reactions…
K: That sounds kinda grave?!
R: I wonder if there really were so many people who were not used to mysteries. From that point on the battle scenes increased as well.
K: Is that why Lambdadelta was so active during EP8?!
R: Well, that was because I love Lambdadelta *laugh*.
If you have no experience with love, you cannot solve Umineko
K: The stance of Lambdadelta and Bernkastel felt a little like the inner conflict of Tôya (Battler) wether to protect the catbox or to reveal everything. And they’re there to protect the catbox from the readers and the public in form of the goats.
R: It’s the thought whether to reveal everything or not to reveal and keep on playing forever. Or to say it with the words of Featherine during the core arcs: “If you get to know the truth flat out, the story will end and it’s boring again.” that would be a part of the final answer.
K: I was quite surprised when I learned that many people thought, that the Trick-Ending is the true Happy End.
R: Because the Trick Ending is for those who really know their stuff. I wanted to write this trick ending from the very beginning, but if I had made this the true ending to a 4 years series, nobody would have followed me on that. So I want the people to watch the True End first and then go back knowing about that and approach it with a stance, that it is a Bonus Ending. And then I can expect them to approach the Trick Ending with a thought like “Ah, so that’s another way to solve things”. “That is really something like a reverberation that you watch after the ending. Something like a Gaiden” that’s what I expect most people to think. That’s why I expected most people wouldn’t watch the Trick Ending first.
K: But if you’re used to Adventure Games, you would want to see the Bad End first.
R: Ah, I see, I see. Yeah, such people might be there too, right. And if there are any people who say, “Hell, I will never accept the witch, I choose the trick!”, that’s alright as well. I think it came out pretty good, I don’t dislike it at all. But I will never see it as the True End, because it reeks of a Bad End.
K: I have seen the thought that, proven by the fact that Lambdadelta said “Let’s meet again in the Ending”, the Trick Ending is the True End, because that’s where her name pops up in the Staffroll.
R: That is a really fascinating theory. So they really think it’s the True End, eh?!
K: Maybe because no matter how much Ange pursued the truth, she couldn’t get a hold of it.
R: I see. But as long as Ange does not accept it, it will never be enough to become the truth. I had this feeling even back then when I did Higurashi, but most people are just pretending to search after the truth, when in reality they are just expecting the truth they pictured themselves and won’t waver from that. They just want to be told the truth that they are expecting. If this were a zombie flick, most people would expect a result like, “because a combat bacteria made by the military leaked out, people are turning into zombies.”. That is why they are watching that piece while thinking “I wonder when the military will appear” or “the special unit will go and steal the secret material”. And so these people would not be satisfied with a result that “corpses revived due to irregular electric waves out of space”.
K: That is another technique, to create a work meeting those expectations, but Umineko wasn’t done like this, right?!
K: This feels really similar to the reactions that appeared concerning Yasu’s motive. Many were understanding the motive, but because they weren’t satisfied with it they denied it.
R: I have this feeling that most of the people who arrived at the truth were women, because the key is being able to imagine Yasu’s feelings. Umineko is something that cannot be read by people who never fell in love with somebody. It is something that people who have no experience in love and relationships have trouble understanding. “Love can become a motive that has more power over you than life or death”, that is something which is pretty hard to explain to people without this experience. Most of them will think that it’s just “an overdone motive”. But for people who have known love and experienced how much it can make you suffer, they understand that love can turn your world upside down. If you are told “I will come for you again!” and for 6 years there is nothing, it can make you go crazy, but people who have even slightly suffered due to love will say “those 6 years must have been hell”. But people who no nothing of that pain will probably wait for nothing less than a dramatic gadget to appear, like the heroic story of “at age X her mother and father were brutally murdered”.
K: When I compared my own experiences with love to it, I had no problem with accepting Yasu’s motive.
R: It is an important experience for your social development to love honestly, no matter if it goes well or not. Many of today’s children, because they only know the information that “I am scared of being used. It hurts.”, decide based on that “as long as I don’t fall in love it won’t hurt and it won’t be difficult!”, which is a really strange logic I think.
K: Love is really a sufficient motive even for murder, isn’t it?!
R: And I think people who do not know that, will sadly never understand Umineko. Because Umineko is “the story of a single girl who arrived at that point because she imagined an incident because of the love and madness in herself”, no matter how much I express that, people who don’t share that feeling will never do so. If I had to compare it, it’s similar to a kick in the crotch or menstrual pain. No matter how much more I pile up on my writing by explaining it, it won’t reach the people who don’t know the feeling. How scary must it be, to be told that your partner “wants children”, when you have a body that cannot make love. That’s why Shannon couldn’t speak honestly. Because she thought she would be hated if she were honest. But to be honest, I think if she really told him that, George would be more than happy to modify his plans for the future. But Shannon was far to scared to hear that. And if you turn this around, it means that George really wasn’t just a replacement for Battler. Maybe he was a replacement at the beginning, but at some point she began completely seeing George for the man he was. If you think about that, his comment about children, must have kept haunting her in silence.
K: Then I think it is also a clue that nothing happened between them, while they were staying at the same place in Okinawa.
R: It is a clue. To just blurt it out spontaneously was more than Shannon was ready for. “I will reveal it sometime”. Because she was so scared of herself, she couldn’t confess. If it had been because of one action that George took, she wouldn’t have had any choice, that was the balance of passivity she upheld. While she did not hide it actively, she also wouldn’t talk about it openly. Because of that thinking, going on that trip to Okinawa was an experience to her like being a carp on a high slope, “He prepared separate rooms for us *twitch*?” *laugh*. That knightly George came all the way to Okinawa only to dare and prepare separate rooms? Shannon must have been like “What?!”. But there are many scenes like that which show how Shannon left the decision to fate. For example at the first twilight in EP1, when George was told by Hideyoshi “You should not look at this corpse!”. If he had gone in, not minding that there would be no face, he would have seen that there was no corpse. It would have meant the end of the incident. Or even if Battler had actually squeezed Shannon’s breasts, he might have noticed that they are fake. Shannon was in a state of mind that said “if it comes to light, let it”.
K: Will called that walking on a tightrope.
R: And it really was just that. She had no intention to create the perfect crime from the very beginning. And that is how, even without turning the chessboard over, we return to the question “Why did the culprit send a letter announcing the incident?”. If somebody wanted to commit the perfect crime, it would have been better not to send an announcement and to murder everyone in their sleep. In the end it shows that the culprit had the internal longing to be discovered.
K: No matter how you look at it, it seems like she was already accepting death. Both the letters before the incident and the message bottles seemed very much like a will.
R: While there was enough desperation to actually carry out the incident, there was also the wish for somebody to stop her. Many criminals sending out announcements of their crimes might actually be screaming “Somebody, please stop me!”. Even though of course they can not be forgiven.
K: That is why she painted herself as the sole culprit and wanted for Battler to solve it, right?!
R: Yes. In the end, concerning those two who had a bond through mystery fiction, wether it was “I will construct those mysteries with all my might” or “I will fight those mysteries with all my might!”, as long as they didn’t trust each other, they wouldn’t be able to do it. Umineko itself is a good example for this. People who think “Ryukishi can’t write a proper mystery” probably won’t be able to solve it. If there is not bond of trust, then the mystery crumbles.
K: But people who cannot understand the motive of the culprit or feel with her as you say, only have to look at real-life crimes, don’t they? Even the police says, that the most bizarre murders can happen if love is in the mix.
R: You can create the most bizarre cases from the one phrase “the entanglement of men and women”. You cannot deny that.
K: But even people who went to the crime scene seem to be ready to doubt that possibility.
R: New gamemasters will have fun on new gameboards
K: Many interpretations can be done concerning the suicide by drowning in the finale.
R: But isn’t it fascinating that there can be so many interpretations concerning a riddle posed at the end of a story. In a good story there should be mysterious things left at the end, at least that is my concept of it and I hope that you can accept and enjoy those lingerings. There were so many interesting thoughts on those last scenes.
K: Another thing you can have different ideas of is the question, what the meaning of the final scene with the Golden Land in the Fukuin House could be.
R: You may as well think of this scene as just showing something nice, as well as showing something sinister. A true solution is not really necessary, all your active thinking is wonderful. I want to give you 100 points just by hearing all those beautiful final ideas. To people who were able until that point, this is like a bonus stage. More than only arriving at the truth, they can now explain how the story ends however they want. People who came this far have reached the stage of Game Master. They can now create a gameboard for Umineko themselves and enjoy it.
K: Because, when Battler leaves the island, it is the only scene where he does not scream “I’m falling, I’m falling!”, this can also be treated as somebody’s fantasy. For example because Ange heard from captain Kawabata during the scenes in the real world in EP4, that “Battler was always making a fuss about falling when on a boat”…
R: That is a truly wonderful deduction, therefore it’s probably better if I say nothing at all *laugh*. Because with everything redundant, I’d say I’ll only narrow down all your ideas. Because this has become the gameboard of a new gamemaster, I will keep my mouth shut.
K: The ideas about what actually happened in the real world are really diverse.
R: One of the things that you can really know from within the story is that “Eva knew something but decided to never to tell Ange about it.”. Based on that many different things have been said in the meta world, and there were also several depictions that hinted at the truth, and it might be a common factor that interpretations on that will diverge. If you start thinking from that point though, even if some small parts are different, you can guess that on this island “a regretable incident happened because of certain actions that those people took”. It’s sufficient if you start thinking further from there. Why was it that Beatrice said so often “It all becomes easier once you accept the witch!”?!
K: There is the chance that the culprit is human. But, if Eva was the culprit, then it’s strange that George isn’t alive.
R: Exactly. From that point on it is pretty clear that this is not a plot about Eva, right?!
K: No matter how you look at it, Eva just can’t be the one pulling the strings.
R: Simply put, the incident would be quite lame if Eva was the culprit. Though if you force it a little bit it might be possible to keep the Eva Culprit theory up. Eva is not talking after all. But if you approach the theme of the story like a book critic, then you are supposed to build the theory, that Eva is not the culprit but knows the real culprit and is shouldering the blame and accepting the hatred for that person, and that might be because she is hiding something to protect Ange. Ah, I shouldn’t say so many unnecessary things. It’s improper to blabber so much *laugh*.
K: That Eva was a culprit within the forgeries, was one of the biggest misleads. Why did Battler write EP3? That is just one of the possibilities, but maybe he wanted to push the charge on somebody.
R: If you think about it including Hachjô Tôya, it’s fascinating on many levels. “In what condition is his memory of that time?” or “What intention was there?”.
K: I thought about whether it was actually Ikuko who had read Eva’s Tome of the One and Only Truth. Even though she said that she herself “did not have the qualification to read it”.
R: The Tome of the One and Only Truth is something, if you take the depiction of the higher plane, something that Ange unlocks herself with a key and then reads. You might also see this as a symbol for Ange “maybe reading it on accident on her own”. Maybe by reading it, she was able to create her believe in the Golden Truth. Or maybe it was by reading it, that she decided to head for the Trick Ending.
K: There is also the chance that this book holds something that will very likely make her commit suicide, right?!
R: This is something that the player can understand as he likes, so I won’t say anything further. Though, if you turn this scene around a bit, you can actually arrive at it’s truth. This work is studded with such hints. If he can arrive there is something that is up to the player. In that sense, Umineko is probably a pretty adult game. I have the impression that Higurashi was a pretty casual story, aimed at a young audience, but Umineko is a pretty bitter story.
K: When I though about Battler’s and the other’s intention, I wondered whether it was a bad thing to pursue the truth of the catbox. But this cannot be true on the reader level. Even though the main direction of the solution process is the same for everyone, there seem to be small parts that everyone interprets differently.
R: I think it’s really fascinating that you can see the differences in how those people lead their lifes in those small things.
K: Do you think that having this many different theories in that certain range is better than denoting one truth?
R: Of course. Because I wanted to leave this margin. I never had the intention to give just one answer, like in Bern’s Trial. But I made it in a way that, if you investigate deep enough, you will get an answer that is beyond doubt.
K: So is it that there is only one truth, like you just said?
R: Of course there is only one, but because by telling it I would have limited the scope of ideas, I made it a bit looser. I was designing a concept that expected a little bit more effort from the reader side. Depending on whether the pivot leg is Beatrice or Ange, many parts of how you look at the story change.
Kinzo’s Beatrice is not a witch, but a human
K: At the stage of EP4 I thought that “Beatrice’s true form was Battler’s heart”.
R: As the answer to the question “Who aaam I?”, right?!
K: Yes. While I was already having the idea of a bomb, I thought of a more encompassing true form of Beatrice which also incorporated the psychological. What do you think?
R: I think it’s fascinating. In that scene there is practically nobody alive except Battler. That of course raises the question “What is Battler?”. The Battler Culprit theory used this line as it’s basis most often. Even though it is interesting how a totally different, material term like “bomb” can also come up there.
K: When I return to past Episodes now, there are many scenes that raise my interest. For example the scorpion charm in EP1.
R: Ah, the good old times.
K: It really seems like there was an enactment on the gameboard that Natsuhi’s room could not be entered because of the scorpion charm.
R: Of course, if we assume that the culprit entered the room once. The culprit entered the room with the intent to kill Natsuhi, but looking at the door found the scorpion charm dangling from the knob. And when remembering that the rule was created that “rooms guarded by the symbol of the scorpion cannot be entered by witches”, left the room unable to murder her. And then, as a sign that somebody tried but was unable to enter, left the marks with paint on the door as if someone scratched at it.
K: Is that the truth behind that scene?
R: And when I asked you about the person who knew about that rule concerning the charm and could commit the crime…
K: There is only one, isn’t there?! I was doubting that there was a chance she overheard how Natsuhi accepted the charm on the corridor, but I never thought about the fact that she could just go into the room.
R: But she has a master key, didn’t she? And with that another person, outside those who were planned, had to be killed.
K: You can also think of it as being connected to the camouflage murders. To have even just one person less killed is impossible.
R: The real culprit created so many rules, also in connection to the murders. And there were many rules which were selfmade and also restricting.
K: Let’s go on to the real names of Kanon and Shannon, was there any meaning in their names, Yoshiya and Sayo? Apart from being able to see numbers in them.
R: It’s quite close to the number theory, but I would rather not reveal it.
K: And what was your intention behind the chess motive? Chess terms are something like an omnipresent philosophy, so that’s why it’s popping up in different places in Umineko.
R: Many of the great chessplayers are poets, that’s why they left many famous sayings behind. While Higurashi was a very Eastern work, Umineko is very Western, that is why I chose to use a Western motive like chess. And because in chess there is the old method of “reading your oponents moves”. Because the bishop can move as far as he wants on the diagonal lines, he might appear quite free in his movement at first. But the black bishop can only move on the black tiles and the white bishop only on the white ones. And when the white tiles have other pieces piling up on them, the black bishop can easily be defeated. I thought this aspect was extremely fascinating, so I decided to go for the chess motive.
K: The white bishop and the black bishop will never gather in the same spot and so even when they are attacking the king, they can never achieve checkmate. If you look at the gameboard and the meta-world in such a way, it really feels similar and it’s a really fascinating motive. So let’s continue to the series No.1 chesslover, Kinzô. Now when I think about it, I find it fascinating that he donned his study with so many magical guard items. When he always wailed about wanting to meet Beatrice, why did he build such a tight protection around himself.
R: For Kinzô, Beatrice is a human being which might truly still exist in his world, not a witch. What turned Beatrice into a witch was not him, but rather the ghost stories told about her. It were Kumasawa and Shannon who turned her into a witch. If you exclude the fantastic depiction of her, then Kinzô’s Beatrice is just pointing to a human who might be his daughter. And when he talks about “his most beloved Beatrice” he means his lover and not any kind of witch. That is why the magical charms are just magical charms to Kinzô, but within Shannon it was already incorporated into the setting that “the witch is weak towards magical charms”. That is why for Shannon it becomes “Though you are ‘my most beloved Beatrice’ you cannot enter my study”.
K: So that’s how it was. Fascinating.
R: Because it becomes more and more boring for you readers the more answers I give, I really want to reply “Well, what might it be?!” to each question *laugh*.
K: So to Kinzô the magical charms held no special meaning?
R: For Kinzô himself they had no special value, but they were extremely important for Shannon. That is why it was always such a trouble, but important, to lure the people out who were shutting themselves up in Kinzô’s study. Because in Shannon’s way of thinking it was clear that “if murder was to occur in this mansion, the safest place to lock oneself in would be the study”. That is why she thought up so many different tricks to lure people out of the study. If you just try it once you will understand it, but a story about a serial murder becomes difficult to write once all the surviving characters lock themselves up in a safe place.
K: Because you cannot destroy that safe haven.
R: To destroy that, the golden phrase, “You are in such a place? I will make you return to your room” is really important *laugh*.
K: That was really interesting right now. From the beginning of the depiction of magical events within the story, there were many scenes were golden butterflies appeared in front of the people. Latching on to Rosa’s back, Genji throwing a knife at one, I always thought that this was to show when something illusionary is depicted, but what would you say?
R: It’s almost that meaning. To just come out and say it, there are no golden butterflies. When somebody starts seeing them, he is starting to go insane. But for example the scene where it latches on to Rosa’s back is pretty meaningful, because she can’t see it. That is why I think that the golden butterflies were a pretty simple to understand identifier. Maybe it was the influence from Higurashi back the, but there was also the theory that “on Rokkenjima there might be a special species of golden butterflies who give of a dust that causes illusions” *laugh*.
K: I remember seeing many ideas which incorporated the special features of that island *laugh*. But to go on, Bernkastel said at the end of EP1, that Beatrice “does not limit herself to being one woman”.
R: That is one of the hints that Bernkastel gave. Yes. Because in the end it’s not like you can’t call her an assembly of multiple personalities. And she is also a construction, recreated several times in the form of the ghost stories or the Beatrice legend.
K: But there were also several scenes hinting towards Shannon. So it’s not wrong to see her as just one girl in one body as well. Especially in the scenes depicting events before the incident.
R: That's right… Well the discussion is getting a little out of hand, but in the case of the Umineko anime and PS3 version I did not tell Battler’s voice actor Ono Daisuke or even Shannon’s voice actress Miss Kugimiya the truth. When we did the scene where he said the line “I will come for you on a white horse!” I said “If he’s killed now, it’s his fault!” and Mr. Ono replied with a simple “Why that?” *laugh*.
K: Just like Battler. He doesn’t notice his own sin *laugh*.
R: That’s why I didn’t tell them anything. But to Miss Ohara who played the role of Beatrice I told the whole truth, so she would know what lies behind her words and so she could base her acting on that knowledge. That is why both Battler and Beatrice deliver such a solid performance. And the reason for not letting Miss Kugimiya know anything, was because the Shannon personality herself was not the culprit.
K: Let’s return to the discussion about Kinzô. Genji once said about him that “The master is not very fond of Miss Maria.”. Can we see that as being the truth?
R: It’s a good question how we should react towards Genji’s line. But if we look at EP8 it’s hard to believe that. It looks like Kinzô really loved his grandchildren. But it is true that there was a struggle with Kinzô when it came to naming her. Even though he had prepared such a wonderful name for his sweet, sweet granddaughter, she got such a dumb-ass name *laugh*. So it is true that at this point Rosa was told by Kinzô persistently that she “had better named her XX”.
K: Not only in the last volume, but also right before I started reading EP8 I often thought that there is a possibility to interpret that Kinzô might have been a pretty loving person. The event about Maria’s name is one of those hints.
R: That is one of the things that can’t be seen without love.
K: Because it was said that he changed at some point and became weird, following his occult hobbies, it implies that, though he might have been strict, he was once a normal grandfather.
R: Because Kinzô is someone who died before the construction of the gameboard, his depiction is without any doubt controlled by the stance of the people who had power over how he is depicted.
K: His image changes wether you base your idea of him on the Kinzô in EP7 or EP8.
R: The Kinzô that Ange expected and the Kinzô that Battler wanted her to see are quite different as well.
K: Because of what happened to the Kuwadorian Beatrice, many people see Kinzô as a bad guy.
R: Even though they do not know what life in Kuwadorian was like in reality.
K: And concerning the Kuwadorian Beato, there are also many scenes that make you suspect she has a blood relation to Battler. For example the scene where Rosa attacks him in EP2. But we can believe what Rudolph confessed in EP8 to be the truth, right?! Still I often thought that he might be the child of Kinzô and the Kuwadorian Beato.
R: I have to admit that those scenes that hinted towards a direct blood relation to Battler were a mislead, I inserted them as one of the first misleads to widen the scope of the imagination. It was something so that I could enjoy the spawning of theories, that the blood of the true head might flow in Battler and that he might be the true head of the house.
K: That’s why he also got the first place in the competition for most suspicious character on the homepage, right?!
R: To doubt the main character was an influence left over from Higurashi and so it was easy to make you doubt. That is why it was a simple mislead in itself and this is no special secret information. This also intertwines with the red truth which first appeared in EP2. While Battler doubts wether the red truth is “actually the absolute truth” , he cannot respond to with clear prove to Rosa’s question “Are you really Battler?”. Those are self-contradictions I wanted to portray as well. I cannot prove if the me who is talking right now is actually the one who wrote Umineko *laugh*. That is why I often skipped the parts where it says “This is the truth! That is really that person!” and went right for the believing part.
K: That is because in reality it is difficult to prove something with "certainty".
R: There is no certainty at all. If we follow that Rosa’s logic is true, “The only thing that can be proof is your own corpse”. And Erika even expands on that “The only corpse you can trust is the one you killed yourself”. If you just went around and killed all the people you met, you would actually be completely safe.
K: But it would be a world where you are alone on a mountain of corpses.
R: That is the very reason why a mystery begins with the question whether you can believe the result of an autopsy.
K: The last question. In your story the word furniture came up quite often. The scene where Yasu started the self-application of that definition was also shown within the story, but it’s not only Kanon and Shannon, even Genji calls himself furniture. Does it imply knowing the truth? Or is it some kind of concept administered by Kinzo himself, where everyone has to pretend to be furniture? How is that?
R: I a book I can’t seem to recall there was this line that “Servants have to be like furniture”. And I thought, “wouldn’t it be fascinating if servants would not just call themselves furniture but become them and thus completely devoid of humanity?”. Beyond that there is the attitude pointed at by the word furniture, as it can be understand as Shannon being seen as something less than human. This is because she likened herself to something inhuman because of her body, unable to love, and that is why she sarcastically called herself furniture. I assume the term furniture must have created several images.
K: There were also many magical scenes depicting Kanon and Genji as doing spy work. It really relates to the stealth work as a servant.
R: Maybe that is Shannon’s view of their image as “being always present but cloaking their presence” *laugh*. But it doesn’t lead anywhere when I say too much.
K: Shannon often imagined things excessively, didn’t she?!
R: The first and most powerful spectator of this world is Shannon. This also counts for the worldview as well. So whatever Shannon sees or hears, what she thinks of it starts deforming her view of the world. For example the fact that Beatrice cannot enter Kinzô’s study is something that Shannon added to the setting. What Shannon had heard from Kumasawa about evil spirits and witches, as well as the ghost stories whispered among the servants, mixed together and became the basis of her beliefs.
K: Many of the things appearing in the story are a reflection of the heart, aren’t they?! Someones filter has been set over everything.
R: But that is because in classical mysteries it is also one of many tricks to have an unreliable narrator. But that was only a plot point that I thought would be discovered from the very beginning because it was something that I already used in Higurashi.
K: Onikakushi was made like this, right?!
R: I put special care into that one. If you cut out the pictures and the text, nobody is saying anything suspicious at all. But I think everyone fell for that back then, because nobody knew anything about me back then. If I ever made a similar story again, I think the cover would be blown in the first 48 hours.
K: And now at the end, from the both of you, after a 4 year journey that you have spend on Umineko, one last comment each.
R:I am really glad that I got to connect with people like KEIYA. He is a representative for all the tough readers with guts, for whom I am so glad to have created this story. I am so happy that I got to deliver this story to such wonderful people. I am planning to write many more stories after that, but when I am thinking that there are readers out there like KEIYA, I want to try even harder, so please stay with me. And because KEIYA’s thoughts have brought forth such a wonderful piece of work in comparison to my own writing, please support him as well.
K: Thank you very much. I have now spent four years thinking about Umineko, and compared to Higurashi it was much more information, I have changed my mind and ditched ideas so often, it was a really tough piece of work. I am so glad that all of you readers have kept on enjoying those thoughts with me and made it possible for us to advance to higher levels. That is because I believe is what made Umineko into the work it is. There might still be mysteries and elements you can analyze left, but I think we should be happy over the fact that they exist. And I am really looking forward to Ryûkishi’s new work.
R: I will give it my best. I think when this book comes out around summer, there will definitely be some kind of announcement.