It appears that MangaGamer will be continuing onwards in their translation of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni without the help of Sonozaki Futago-tachi, according to the twins’ latest post on their blog. However, MangaGamer does seem to be serious about the translation, and has modified their translation workflow for Higurashi. Furthermore, it also appears that the license given to MangaGamer for creating an English translation of Higurashi happens to not be exclusive. Therefore, Sonozaki Futago-tachi will also be continuing their own translation project.
The main entity that brought together Higurashi and MangaGamer is apparently HOBIBOX, a seemingly new member of an increasing number of companies behind MangaGamer. HOBIBOX, a multifaceted company with divisions that work on things like PC games as well as anime songs and drama CDs, has actually been working with 07th Expansion, the doujin circle that created Higurashi, for five years now. Some fruits of this collaboration include a port of Higurashi to the mobile phone in Japan, as well as a collection of drama CDs corresponding to each of the arcs. They were also at Anime Expo 2009 in side the MangaGamer booth, selling various music CDs and physical discs of the Japanese version of Higurashi. Before Anime Expo, HOBIBOX, not knowing about the fan translation for Higurashi, approached MangaGamer and sublicensed them rights to produce a commercial English release. This deal was sealed in June of 2009, literally weeks before the announcement at Anime Expo 2009 in early July. Furthermore, HOBIBOX also contacted and negotiated rights with the various music artists who provided music for the games so that they can distribute the music within the games as well, since 07th Expansion is not the primary rights holder of the music in their games.
Sonozaki Futago-tachi, real-life twins who were working on an English translation patch for Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, eventually received an email from MangaGamer asking for their cooperation, both in proofreading their release and in the removal of their current patches. The twins agreed to remove their patches, and were in negotiations with MangaGamer on whether they would be able to help out with the official translation. However, due to the extremely fast schedule that was required of them, the twins felt they were unable to properly do the job and thus turned down MangaGamer’s offer for proofreading.
However, it appears that the rights on an English translation held by HOBIBOX and thus MangaGamer were not exclusive. That is, it would be possible legally for other translations to exist concurrently. Furthermore, given 07th Expansion’s attitude towards fan translations, as can be seen in emails both public and private, it appears that 07th Expansion still can and will likely still allow for fan translations of Higurashi, despite MangaGamer’s plans to publish a commercial English translation. Therefore, Sonozaki Futago-tachi have decided to continue in their efforts to translate Higurashi, but they also suggest MangaGamer’s version as well for people who do not want to wait as long.
Meanwhile, after some correspondence with MangaGamer staff, it appears that they have modified their usual workflow for translation. Instead of having a single editor and single proofreader follow the translation stage, there will be now a few proofreaders who will each read through the entire script. In fact, the rumor is that they’ve also managed to hire a well-known bilingual proofreader who is also a hardcore fan of the Higurashi games.
For the future, Sonozaki Futago-tachi are also working on enabling other translators to translate Onikakushi into their own languages. Meanwhile, HOBIBOX has written in an email to us indicating that they wish for people to stay tuned to the MangaGamer website for various Higurashi announcements in the near future. Higurashi is going to be released in two parts — the question arcs are projected to be released in October, and the answer arcs are projected to be released in December.