Japanese Title: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
Related: When They Cry: Kai (season 2 – included in review)
Watched in: Japanese & English
Genre: Supernatural Horror Mystery Thriller
Length: 26 episodes (season 1), 24 episodes (season 2), 5 OVA
- Faithful to its visual novel roots.
- Interesting story structure.
- The art.
- Epitome of moe trash characters go full retard.
- Wasted setting.
- Lacks subtlety and plot weaving for a satisfying conclusion.
- Mystery answer recalls Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Trust no one! Everyone is after you, especially those moe wenches. Keiichi finds himself in one such scenario when he moves to the small rural town of Hinamizawa, where someone dies each year at the cotton festival from the supposed ‘Curse of Oyashiro.’ In this fifth year, like all other times, a man dies, somehow slitting his own throat with his fingernails. Keiichi investigates, but everyone in town acts strange whenever he mentions the curse. The last kid who asked questions “transferred” out of town.
Watching When They Cry is a rollercoaster of enjoyment. The first episode is utter garbage – possibly the worst first episode ever made. It’s no more than a bunch of moe trash character doing moe trash things in this quiet town. I understand it’s meant to juxtapose against the brutality later on, but these peaceful episodes are so boring, so meaningless to the story that I wanted to kill myself to end it all – forget the killer. The writers knew this, for the opening scene is one kid caving in another kid’s skull with a bat. One can all but see the text scrolling over this opening scene: “You are about to watch the trashiest moe for a couple of episodes, so here’s a kid committing murder as a promise that it isn’t trash forever. Please enjoy.”
Once the mystery kicks in, the story is engaging enough to remove gun from temple. By the end of episode four, you forget episode one. Then episode five goes back to episode one, except a little different. The moe trash, even if in new scenarios, still makes stabbing a pencil through your trachea seem tempting. But wait, the mystery is back, only, someone else has died at the festival. This could be interesting. So it resets to one with some changes again.
However, after a few such arcs (four episodes each), you realise they are meaningless. At first, I thought this was similar to Erased, where the protagonist keeps getting another try after failing, taking a different approach to the murder each time. I expected to uncover the mystery bit by bit based on different decisions made in each ‘retry.’ Instead, most timelines reveal nothing, so much so that you can skip the first season.
It doesn’t help that characters are inconsistent between retries. In one, a girl can be normal, in another, a psycho, with no justifiable events to bring about such drastic change. When a character is evil, it’s because the writer needed them to be, not because the story events made them such. It tries too hard with the ‘cute but psycho’ trope instead of making an effort at subtlety and nuance. Furthermore, character reactions to murder or other psychotic acts often don’t make sense. In one arc, they say what amounts to “You only tried to kill someone, I’m sure they’ll be totes okay with it!” …
They also could have made an effort with the world. Hinamizawa is based on Shirakawa, a World Heritage village tucked away in the Japanese mountains famous for its gassho-style houses, some of which are 250 years old. Having visited this secluded village with a population of ~1700, it took me no effort to imagine it closed off, a creepy setting dripping with atmosphere, danger beneath every straw roof. When They Cry never has that – no world building.
Reading a plot outline for When They Cry sounds good on paper, but once seen executed, character idiocy and poor plotting on display, you apply logic and it falls apart. It’s a genuine shame because When They Cry is the most faithful anime adaptation of a visual novel. It goes through the choices a player can make, bad endings included, which could have been fascinating if woven together better. This anime frustrates me because I wanted it to be great.
Art – Very Low
We have a contender for worst art right here. Flat, ugly moe that makes Clannad look polished, and has poor animation except when using CG, but that stands out like a broken dong. These are just the start to this travesty. The first season looks so bad that it makes the second look good – until you watch another anime and realise, no, season two is also hideous.
Sound – Low
All voice work is rather bad, save a character or two. The girls sound far too cutesy, even for moe trash (they don’t sound like children whatsoever), and it gets worse when they try imitating this in the dub. Poorly localised stilted dialogue, too literal a translation. The opening song is good – unusual.
Story – Medium
A mysterious curse grips a small town, killing someone every four years, which a boy wants to unravel, no matter how many attempts it takes. Fascinating idea and structure with horrid execution distracted by moe trash and poor planning.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: Try it. If you can stomach the art and acting, When They Cry isn’t wholly bad. I recommend starting with Kai, season two, as it skips the fluff and covers what little is important from season one, and works to reveal the mystery, unlike the first season.
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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)
8 thoughts on “When They Cry – Anime Review”
I actually really enjoyed this. The v contrast between sleepy sweet village with dark undercurrent and full psycho murder kind or worked for me and on rewatch it is fun finding all the little bits of information that come together at the end.
No argument about the quality of the visuals though. Significant improvement is needed there. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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I still don’t think I have the balls to visit the village Hinamizawa was mapped off of. Glad to see another Kai fan here, as most people favor the first season more. You need the two as a complete set, so I see the argument as invalid. The first is creepier, but the second is more clever. A thrill ride for sure!
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I have to respectfully disagree on the “characters acting inconsistently” bit. Disclaimer: I’ve watched season 1 twice, but never got around to season 2 because I’m a dub-only watcher (can’t stand Japanese voice-acting, sorry). I’ve heard a lot about how the second season ties up all the loose ends left hanging by the first, but frankly, I found season 1’s ending to be rather satisfying.
SPOILERS HERE: Oyashiro (spelling?) has apparently possessed Rika and ultimately reveals that he’s simply toying with the inhabitants of the village by continuously rewinding time and having them kill each other. Presumably, he holds the power to decide who’s good and who’s evil on each individual repetition. SPOILERS END.
Of course, having no knowledge of the second season, I don’t have a clue whether my understanding matches with the actual resolution of the series, but juding this season alone, the ‘erratic’ behavior of the characters makes perfect sense to me.
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Spoilers as well (some possibly from season 2):
The inconsistencies aren’t just between the possessed characters. Furthermore, there is little possession; the madness comes from the disease (seen as worms coming out of arms in the final S1 arc). Oyashiro’s purpose is to save Rika by rewinding time every time she dies.
The second season is mostly about the government’s involvement in the village and why they haven’t done anything to clear out the disease.
I was compelled to watch despite being legitimately weirded out simply because I had no idea what was happening. Unraveling the different layers of mystery surrounding the Watanagashi was exciting to watch just as much as its creepily interesting to watch cute “Moe” stock characters turn into crazed psychopaths and commit atrocious murders.
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Check out Madoka Magica and School Live. They aren’t similar is story to When They Cry, but they use the Moe style in an opposite setting for that similar craziness in tone.