What are the rules of the game, you ask? How hard is it? That's for us to decide, so it's none of your concern.
All you people need to do is take pieces and get taken yourselves, entertaining us with the range of your emotions.
Are you listening? You don't want to misunderstand your position.
You aren't my opponent. You're merely a piece that exists for my amusement.
In this next game, I won't give you the privilege of being a player!"
Ciconia no Naku Koro ni (Ciconia: When They Cry), also called When They Cry 5, is the third official installment in the When They Cry franchise by 07th Expansion note . The first episode was released October 4th, 2019 − 9 whole years after the previous entry and the same day as the events of Umineko: When They Cry epilogue. The story is divided in four parts named Phases, in the same manner as the arcs of Higurashi and Umineko.
While Higurashi: When They Cry and Umineko: When They Cry were horror-mystery stories set in the not-too-distant past, Ciconia takes place in a steampunk setting, long after humanity witnessed World War III 100 years ago. In order to preserve world peace, several Child Soldiers were selected to undergo special training to make them wear the finest weaponry of their time: the Gauntlet, which is stated to make its wielder as strong as an army, capable of fighting off tanks and ships.
To be selected as a candidate for the training is already a huge challenge in itself, the number of people who actually obtained the right to wield Gauntlets is even smaller, the few selected being aptly named Gauntlet Knights. The protagonist, Miyao Mitake, is already at the top of his class as a Gauntlet Knight. And so, all of these young soldiers were given the huge responsibility of fighting for their country, and protecting the future of their world forever.
All of the Gauntlet Knights competed against each other in an event known as the International Battle Standard Festival, and quickly became friends, and all of them vowed themselves to preserve the Walls of Peace. However, World War IV is steadily approaching despite their best efforts to prevent it...
These young ones are ultimately pawns in a larger game controlled by many individuals and top-brass players. From now on, the future will decide if they will destroy each other as pieces, wage war, or preserve peace once more. Furthermore, there seem to be greater forces behind all of this...
The usual team returns, with regulars like Dai and Xaki composing the music and Ryuukishi07 writing the story and drawing the character sprites in his amateurish artstyle fans have come to know and love. The English translation is officially handled by Witch Hunt, the team who already translated Umineko and Rose Guns Days − the English and Japanese versions were released simultaneously and you can choose the language in the title screen.
While Ciconia's story is currently incomplete, there are unmarked spoilers below, so please be wary.
We must uphold the Tropes of Peace:
- Adam and Eve Plot: Supposedly the three kings goal, though they seem not to mind if any humans remain after the world's end or not.
- A Million Is a Statistic: Several bits of dialogue mention how hard it is to actually care for the death of strangers on the other side of the world, no matter how many. The story is deliberately framed in such a way that both the protagonists and the readers only learn of the various incidents and disasters through flash news and reports, creating a disturbing distance towards those events and emphasizing a feeling of complete powerlessness.
- Ambidextrous Sprite: Sprites are often flipped, which changes the position of some details. Most notable is the Gauntlets, which are supposedly worn on the left arm, but whenever characters turn around, it's on their right arm instead.
- Ambiguous Gender: Multi-Gendered Split Personalities Miyao and Meow have very clear gender identities, but their biological sex remains a mystery. Despite identifying as a male, several scenes shows Miyao having discomfort with Jayden flirting with him, and the fact that he has a small and frail body is acknowledged by both Miyao and Meow. While Meow promised Jayden to reveal the truth to him during their date, the events in Phase 1 prevented her to do so.
- Apocalypse How: Several methods are used in the story… simultaneously. Apparently, humanity is just that hard to kill.
- World War IV.
- Mass food and water shortages.
- Drone attacks on the whole world.
- Removing the nanomachines responsible for stabilizing the earth. Of note, this also includes the anti-earthquake 8MS and several terraforming 8MS.
- 4D-Printer Satellites going haywire and reproducing Kill-Sats
- Hate Plague.
- Arc Words:
- "All is in the name of guiding humanity down the right path." The phrase is uttered by several characters more or less related to the Ancient Conspiracy; the thing is, not all of those characters seem to agree on what the "right path" is, which blurs its meaning.
- "This world really is worthy of destruction", used to express contempt toward the injustice and corruption inherent in post-World War 3 society, and implicit support for the Three Kings' plan to destroy current humanity so civilization can begin anew.
- An Ass-Kicking Christmas The climax battle, and the end of Phase 1, takes place on Christmas Day.
- Balkanize Me: During the events of World War III, Japan was literally split in two following the use of a solar weapon that annihilated Kyoto and the surrounding area, creating the Glass Sea. Afterwards, Northern and Southern Japan were eventually merged into the AOU and COU respectively.
- Brain/Computer Interface: The "Selcom", used by every character. Supposedly it is safe by only accessing unused areas of the brain. Miyao's generation can use it so proficiently that they can effectively live in two realities simultaneously.
- Cast of Snowflakes: Every character has distinctive faces, costumes and ethnicities.
- Central Theme: Much emphasis is put on how the well-meaning youth have their dreams and agency taken away by greedy adults only driven by personal or national interests. Symbolized by the climax where the Gauntlet Knights want nothing more than to celebrate Christmas and preserve peace together, while the higher-ups on all sides force them to choose between killing each other and being court-martialed for treason.
- Chain of Deals: The Data Fragment "Koshka's WanyaDora Adventure" involves one of these. Koshka needs 800 Stardust Scrubs so she can create a Mon in WanyaDora that can beat Lilja. To get them, she...
- Asks Miyao to get them (since his account has a higher level, so he'll have an easier time). Miyao asks Koshka to show him 10 cat videos he's never seen before in return. Koshka has 7 such videos, but cannot find the remaining 3, so she tries to have new videos made, and Gunhild is the only person she knows who has cats.
- Gunhild is hesitant to film her cats, since she knows some people will accuse her of animal abuse if she uploads videos of them, but agrees if Koshka can convince Chloe to complete a movie she started making but canceled.
- Chloe doesn't want to make the movie (it's implied to be of an erotic nature), but agrees after Koshka threatens to have Okonogi ask her instead. To make the movie, however, she needs Jayden's avatar data (without Jayden knowing why his avatar is being used).
- Jayden is naturally suspicious of having his avatar data used for secret purposes, but agrees in exchange for a ticket to a Finnish beauty pageant.
- Lilja, who lives in Finland, is the best person to ask for this ticket, but in exchange, she demands 800 WanyaDora Stardust Scrubs, so Koshka asks Miyao for them (on top of Koshka's own Stardust Scrubs).
- Child Prodigy: Invoked and deconstructed. The GK raising system picks out talented children early on… and pits them against low-performing students in order to build the confidence of the "talented" ones.
- Child Soldiers: All of the Gauntlet Knights were chosen at a very young age for training, often as soon as they were aware, which explains their youthful looks.
- Children Forced to Kill: Double Subverted. The children initially avoid this by manipulating battles to deal as little damage as possible, however eventually they are discovered and explicitly required to kill opposing Knights.
- Crapsaccharine World: Despite huge progresses in technology, quality of life and averted environmental crises, the wealth disparity between people still exists, and many corrupted people of the generation of old routinely continue their dirty business. To top it all off, it is eventually made clear that the 8MS − the nanomachines spread throughout the planet's atmosphere, soil and water to prevent a nuclear winter − is the only thing currently keeping the Earth suitable for human life.
- Cross Counter: How the first duel between Miyao and Jayden ends. Jayden wins due to his arms being longer.
- Doomsday Clock: After the end of each chapter, it slowly approaches midnight as the plot advances, which is heavily implied to be World War IV. It then goes past midnight when World War IV starts… among other things.
- Doomsday Device: The underground scientists gather to celebrate the completion of a device that will severely damage the nanomachines keeping the Earth inhabitable, slowly bringing the end of the world.
- Downer Ending: The ending of phase 1. While World War IV is on a temporary halt, the earth is still on road for extinction if nothing is done. The heroes still have no clue on the groups trying to bring war and are forced to kill some of their friends or be killed for treason.
- Eye Scream: The prologue's propaganda video shows a Gauntlet Knight practicing "ricochet flying", rapidly changing directions while flying. The narration afterwards mentions that this caused the capillaries in his eyeballs to burst, as he had to use the technique for much longer than normal due to the video being filmed in several takes.
- Expy: The game perpetuates the tradition in 07th Expansion games of featuring an Okonogi lookalike, just like Umineko: When They Cry and Rose Guns Days before it.
- Mitake Toujirou is a slight alteration on Tomitake Jirou from Higurashi. Both are bespectacled reporters who are part of a conspiracy, with the difference being that Toujirou plays a more proactive role than Tomitake ever did.
- Mad Scientist Vier Dreissig is also a spitting image of Takano from Higurashi and Hotarubi (her name actually comes from "vier-und-dreissig", which means 34 in German, a number associated with Takano in Higurashi and Lambdadelta in Umineko.).
- Also from Umineko is a very similar looking Jestress whose hairstyle and face resemble Lambdadelta to a large degree.
- The Federation: Five of them exactly, each with their own upsides and downsides and diverging interests (see the character page for more details).
- The Arctic Ocean Union (AOU), which the main characters represent, covers Northern Japan, Russia, Northern Europe and North America.
- The Central Ocean Union (COU) covers Most of Asia including Southern Japan, and much of the Middle East and Madagascar.
- The Africa Commonwealth Realm (ACR) covers the entire African continent apart from some disputed territories in Northern Africa and the aforementioned Madagascar.
- The Abrahamic Brother Nations (ABN) cover most of Europe, as well as the Mediterranean Middle-East.
- The Latin American Treaty Organization (LATO) covers all of Latin America plus Azerbaijan due to some political circumstances.
- From Bad to Worse: Most of the drama in the first half is about the escalation of political tension that lead to World War IV. Then the second half is a cascade of increasingly large-scale disasters, happening in such an absurdly short timeframe that it becomes obvious someone is behind them − but the protagonists have no way of knowing who. It's telling that by the end of Phase 1, World War IV has become the least of humanity's problems.
- Foregone Conclusion: The "other" Miyao claims that what he announces to Miyao aren't "prediction" but "prophecies", and that they are thus unavoidable − unless Miyao decides to end himself. So far, all of his predictions came true, including Miyao killing Lingji − down to the way he killed her.
- Gone Horribly Wrong: Miyao's idea of manipulating battles to reduce the amount of damage might have alleviated some of the friction between factions, but ended up backfiring horribly in the final battle of Phase 1 when the military command catches up to it and forced the characters to fight to the death.
- Hufflepuff House: Out of all the kette presented in the game, the Cairo Squad (comprised of Noor, Gannet and Mariana) is the only one that doesn't get any significant development throughout Phase 1. They're mostly there to fill the numbers.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: The Gauntlet's Dimensional Container System, as explained in the prologue, allows a single soldier to carry as much weaponry as a warship. It's not perfectly safe, as the prologue explains, as many Gauntlet Knights have accidentally died when they tried to access it only for something inside to explode. So of course, when ambassadors of peace from all factions are gathered in one room to put a stop to the war, one of the Gauntlet Knights tasked with guarding them has exactly that "accidentally" happen to them; the results aren't pretty.
- Improbably Female Cast: The vast majority of Gauntlet Knights appearing in the story are female; justified in story by females having a larger chance for traits allowing them to be Gauntlet Knights.
- Instant Armor: The actual Gauntlets are not wielded at all times by their users, and can be summoned instantly.
- It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: According to Toujirou, this is a built-in mechanism humans have: if an idea becomes too popular, between 5 and 15% of the population will spontaneously start opposing it. Supposedly, this is a fail-safe so that in case a self-destructive idea becomes widely accepted, some people will remain.
- Just Before the End: Phase 1 starts with the shadow of World War IV looming before the Gauntlet Knights, who try their best to prevent it at all costs.
- Mood Dissonance:
- A lot of it is caused by the Selcom AI, a cute cartoonish frog called Keropoyo, which often pops up to break news − even (especially) terrible ones. At one point, an image of Keropoyo literally rolling on the floor laughing announces that eight children have died in a terrorist attack on a school bus.
- The climax is especially riddled with this, as the Gauntlet Knights are holding a Christmas party in a virtual room… while being forced to kill each other in the real world. They try to escape the horrible reality by treating the battle as an afterthought, even as the people in the virtual room disappear one by one.
- Monumental Damage: During the drone attack. We can't have a massive disaster hitting Paris without the Eiffel Tower being knocked over, now can we.
- Mutually Assured Destruction: The Walls of Peace can be preserved thanks to the presence of Gauntlet Knights, with each of them working for the Five Factions.
- Mythology Gag: The emblem of the Warcat Squad depicts a cat wielding a scythe… Not unlike Bernkastel from Umineko: When They Cry.
- Nanomachines: The 8MS, as mentioned in the setting, are a series of nanomachines tasked with regulating most of the world problem relative to humans, such as pollution, smell, or environment. Thanks to that, even uninhabitable regions in Real Life such as the Sahara gained a mild climate.
- Political Overcorrectness: The Data Fragment "Siblings' Day" focuses on politically correct language in the AOU. In some areas, swearing in public is illegal and grounds for a lawsuit due to emotional damage. Also, to hide the gap between wealth classes, it is illegal for privileged individuals to mention how great their life is while talking to less-privileged individuals. The Selcom in peoples' brains has a variety of filters that can be activated to warn them when they are potentially going to say anything forbidden. It's Lampshaded when it's mentioned that such restrictions might seem dystopian to a modern-day person, but it's accepted as completely normal for A3W kids, who don't understand how people in the past could get along if they could freely say hurtful things to each other.
- One-Man Army: Being a Gauntlet Knight allows one to fight off an entire army.
- Out of the Inferno: Darkly played with. The prologue shows a promotional film for the Gauntlet, described by an overly enthusiastic narrator, which ends with a test subject coming out unscathed after having a massive bomb dropped on them thanks to the equipment's Rejection Shield. Problem is, the military officers' discussion reveals that the shield actually failed to activate and the test subject was blown to smithereens, forcing them to edit him back in in post-production to simulate this trope.
- Social Media Is Bad: Subverted, social media allows the characters to communicate across languages and cultures and create the Order of the Public Bath − a secret society of Gauntlet Knights who swore to stop war at all costs. However, social media also are what allows the war fever to spread so quickly among the population in the first place.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The upbeat song Beach plays over a compilation of the Gauntlet Knights killing one another during the Christmas party.
- Speaking Simlish: The military communication in the teaser is delivered in a garbled speech… except for the main character's name. The same kind of garbled speech is used as a background sound effect during some of the news reports.
- Split Personality: Very common among Gauntlet Knights (due to the heavy amount of parallel thinking needed to operate a Gauntlet, which can be split up between the different personalities), to the point that a new politically correct term, "Congenital Parallel Processor" (CPP for short) has entered common use. Ironically, even though Gauntlet Knights are seen as the dream job in A3W society, most of the public is still prejudiced towards CPPs, so most of them keep their nature a secret.
- Suppressed History: Despite being mentioned a few times by the Gauntlet Knights, no information can be found about the exact causes or unfolding of World War III. Research about it is forbidden by an international treaty, explicitly to prevent countries from each creating conflicting versions of the war's history that could spark future wars.
- The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Subverted, the various secret organizations in the background state their official goals and react to the immediately occurring plot.
- Translator Microbes: Known also as "Kizuna", an application accessed from Selcom that allows for instantaneous translation across all languages. It isn't perfect of course, the occasional translation mishap does lend itself to some humourous scenes (such as Jayden's "girl friend" and "girlfriend" quote directed to Meow).
- There are also instances where Kizuna doesn't translate the character's native language, usually polite greetings, slang, and the occasional glitch when Koshka and Lilja are undergoing human experimentation.
- Unusual Euphemism: People who were conceived through sexual procreation and have biological parents are called "ciconia-born", as opposed to the "factory-born" children who get raised in institutions with dozens of "siblings".
- There is also "Humanely disposing of bodies", which entail injecting near-death patients with a sedative that puts them in a relaxed state. Of course, human rights don't mean much when the patients are involuntarily all part of an AOU human experiment program. The narration even likens it to a lethal injection from the B3W era.
- Uterine Replicator: One method of birth used in the world following World War III, in order to restore the population to its prewar level. How moral it is depends on the faction − the AOU and ACR now produce babies in factories and raise them in state institutions, while in the COU, ABN, and LATO, people still give birth naturally. It is mentioned, however, than even men can technically get pregnant now.
- War Is Hell: A central theme within the story.
- Wham Episode: The Christmas Party. The Public House Order's agenda is more or less discovered. Gauntlet Knights around the world are forced to fight, with many dying. Chloe kills Lilja for disobeying orders. Gunhild's shield stops working, which gets her killed in battle. Miyao has his gauntlet knight hacked by his father, who uses it to kill Lingji in one blow. Merry Christmas everyone.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not Political? : Acknowledged in-game, and then promptly subverted. Alongside the "This Is a Work of Fiction" disclaimer is a statement that "This work does not approve of any ideology, nor does it represent the ideology of its creators." While the game is set in a world very different from our own, the sheer amount of political themes that engage with contemporary issues makes it obvious that this is a bit of intentional irony.