I’ve been playing/reading my way through the re-release of Higurashi: When They Cry, one of the big names in the visual novel field, for the first time. Now, here’s something that’s a total experience. It’s deep, layered, and twisty enough that even just the very act of knowing what genre it actually is changes the experience you have with the story. If you know anything about the novel other than “It’s good and you should try it,” you’re experience is already impure. The story is that complicated.
So, I got to the end of what’s currently available in English on the re-release. The first two entries in the Higurashi series. And they took me through a trip. Such a trip, that I was wanting to go online and explore them further. Figure out what other people have going on. And that led me to a problem.
See, the re-release, the one with the actual good translation, better art (and don’t you even), and overall improved presentation is being doled out bit by oh-too-small bit as the translation is finished, while the overall series has been out in other releases and mediums for a decade now. And I was far from the first person to feel the need to go online and talk about things.
So, I was spoiled. I was actively trying to avoid spoilers, and I was spoiled nonetheless. I know big reveals that already change the way I looked at what’s been going on in the story, and are going to keep me from arriving at the conclusions the authors are hoping to lead me to before throwing the table down the stairs. I know some space where things are more than what they appear, and how. And I knew of some surprise characters well before they actually arrived.
I was angry, at first. Most places have spoiler policies for just this sort of thing, and for very good reason, and yet I so easily wandered into spoilers, completely by accident. I was looking to settle and enhance my experience, yet I ended up ruining parts of it. And if this were not the kind of story it was, that’d be totally valid.
In most instances, it’s just the basic level of respect to mark your spoilers, to help people avoid them and make sure they get the experience they want. Here, though, well, this has been out for a long while, and accessible in a variety of formats. And although that’s not an excuse on its own, as people are picking up new works all the times, I didn’t start looking until after I already knew what kind of story this was, how complex, twisty, and easily spoiled, and that I only had part of the same picture as everyone else. And it wasn’t like these were being posted on Twitter, Facebook, or another uncontrolled forum like that. I was actively going out and looking for material. It is one thing to be throwing unmarked spoilers out there when they’re completely unavoidable, but Higurashi is the type of work that it’s really impossible to have any sort of meaningful discussion about without spoilers. Really, that was all on me. It was my responsibility to avoid the spoilers. Marking and hiding spoilers is a lofty goal, and one should always be respectful enough to do that when possible, but when it’s not, the discussion can’t make way for it.
People need to be able to talk about the works they go through, to help themselves elevate and better appreciate them, getting something more out of it than just their first watch. Conversations need to happen. And when it’s impossible to talk about something without bringing up spoilers, well, it still needs to happen. As long as those who come first are doing what they can to protect the experiences of those who find a story later, the due diligence really falls to the spoilees to ensure their experience. The conversation needs to happen regardless, and it can’t wait for everyone to reach the same level.