This year’s Sakuracon anime convention took place in Seattle over the weekend, with fans and professionals alike rubbing elbows in the Washington State Convention Center. There were quite a lot of announcements that weekend, including Discotek’s announcement that they had obtained the rights for every City Hunter anime, but for me there was one announcement that trumped them all – the fact that 07thExpansion’s latest game, Ciconia When They Cry, would be getting a simultaneous worldwide release this summer.
The news came from 07thExpansion founder and leader Ryukishi07, who attended the convention and hosted several events over the weekend. MangaGamer, who have already tackled previous When They Cry games Umineko When They Cry and Higurashi When They Cry, will be publishing the title. They will be working in cooperation with Witch Hunt, the fan translation group that produced the first English version of Umineko, for the translation. Ciconia When They Cry is currently set to release at this year’s summer Comiket on August 9 to August 12 and, according to the announcement, will go live on Steam and MangaGamer’s website in English at the same time.
Fans who attended Ryukishi’s panel over the weekend also reported that he said that he had been in contact with MangaGamer and Witch Hunt from the very beginning of Ciconia When They Cry’s development, almost two years ago. It seems like it has always been the plan to release the game as quickly as possible in English, but a simultaneous worldwide release is certainly still a massive achievement. Ryukishi has always been impressed by the warm reception of his works in the west, even naming an organization in Umineko after Witch Hunt, but it is still a rare thing for a Japanese creator to be so conscientious of western fans.
The panel also saw more details on the story of Ciconia When They Cry, which were later released on MangaGamer’s blog. I will quote them below:
In Ciconia When They Cry, World War 3 has come and gone, with nuclear winter only narrowly avoided with cutting-edge technology leading to the development of a new ultimate military technology, the Gauntlet, which allows those wielding one to fly like fighter jets, fight like battleships, and repel attacks like tanks without any additional equipment. The Gauntlets require particular talent and special training administered from a young age in order to control, and the young boys and girls capable of mastering of them become known as Gauntlet Knights.The main characters of Ciconia When They will be a group of these young Gauntlet Knights who, after the peaceful competition in the International Battle Standard Festival, become fast friends vowing to prevent world war together. However, world events are leading directly to World War 4 like a cascading row of dominos, and these “main characters” are nothing but pawns in the global games played by those with a right to sit at the table. Will these youth be forced to murder each other? Can the tragedy of war be prevented by mere pawns? Who are the real players in these games, and will you, the fans of When They Cry, fight for your seat at this deadly game?
From the synopsis, it’s obvious that Ciconia will be less of an outright mystery than its predecessor, Umineko When They Cry. Indeed, MangaGamer’s website states that the game will focus much more on the action and those mystery elements will instead be “scattered” throughout.
Mystery is certainly an integral part of the When They Cry series, so it is understandable that some fans are slightly worried by the fact that it will be taking more of a backseat this time around. But I would prefer for Ryukishi to try and push the series forward with new ideas rather than keep it the same, so I’m quietly optimistic. That’s not to say that there won’t be any mystery at all, though – the synopsis’ mention of “the real players” seems to heavily hint at the inclusion of the meta world once more this time around, most likely featuring characters from previous entries as was the case with Umineko.
Although reception to the announcement has been largely positive, some fans have criticized the fact that this project seems to have taken precedence over MangaGamer’s translation of the Higurashi visual novels. It’s been almost three years since episode one of the series was released on Steam, and yet MangaGamer has only released up to episode six as of the time of writing. MangaGamer’s involvement with Ciconia since the very beginning could be one possible explanation for their slow progress on Higurashi, especially since in that time they’ve somehow managed to release all eight episodes of Umineko, albeit with Witch Hunt’s help.
But I, for one, would much rather see MangaGamer focus on Ciconia than Higurashi. First and foremost because Ciconia is new content, but more importantly, achieving a simultaneous worldwide release with such a titan as 07thExpansion should send a strong message to Japanese developers that there is a massive appetite for their games in the west. Perhaps ZUN might even put Touhou 17 on Steam…
You can read more about Ciconia When They Cry, the fifth installment in the When They Cry series, via MangaGamer’s website.