When They Cry Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2007
What They Say
Gruesome Murders, Demonic Cults, Bizarre Disappearancesā€¦In the sleepy rural village of Hinamizawa, people and things arenā€™t what they appear to be. Everyone seems to be harboring secrets and some will do unimaginably disturbing things to keep it that way!
As the series reboots itself yet again, we're treated to more tension and vicious ways to kill a fellow person.
When they Cry features two basic language tracks for its release that work well for the material but aren't all the impressive in general. The two stereo mixes are encoded at 224 kbps and provide basic dialogue placement and mild directionality during a few key scenes but are otherwise fairly simple. The opening and closing sequences handle the music well enough and everything comes across clean and clear but it's fairly unmemorable in total. In listening to both language tracks, we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The visuals for the series are essentially in a sleepy country town with lots of soft looking exteriors during sunset or sharper looking interiors at night with lots of black shadows. The look of the show is one that is carried off very well here and looks solid throughout. The soft areas during sunsets with the orange shading looks great and there's hardly any banding going on. During some of the other scenes such as the opening one of the first episode you can see some color gradients there but with the way it's animated it's fairly clear it's a source issue. Throughout the five episodes here the series looks solid outside of a few minor panning motions that look slightly off and maybe a zoom or two. While it isn't an in your face kind of transfer with striking visuals, it's one where the look is solidly maintained and represented here.
The cover art for the series is one that's going to be a hard sell since it's so indistinct and almost unappealing. With a background of dark reds and grays, the foreground character artwork of Rika and Satoko is done in negative form with just black and grey lines. The artwork is nicely detailed and the deigns are certainly appealing but with it being so overly dark and uninformative it's hoping that the way it looks will get you to read the back cover to see what it's really all about. That side is a bit awkward as well. While the opening quote about the premise works well enough, there isn't a general summary of the premise but rather an episode by episode breakdown of the plot. This to me gives away just a bit too much and has the back looking far too text heavy. The discs features are clearly listed and there are a couple of shots from the show that are too dark. While there was a trend with several releases to provide solid technical grids, there isn't one here this time as things are basically kept to a minimum.
The reverse side cover art for this release is completely different and far more appealing. The front side uses the same artwork as the front cover but with a normal color background and completely colored characters. The back cover has numerous brightly colored shots from the show and the few technical basics. While it may not give away too much about the darkness contained within it's a cover that is far easier to sell to someone on the retail racks.
The menu design uses the cover artwork in a static image with the series logo along the top and the navigation strip along the bottom. With no music attached to it the menu is obviously quiet but unusual for a Geneon release. The navigation is quick and easy and provides the translated credits at the top level instead of in the extras. Geneon appears to be moving away from translating the credits at the end of each episode and leaving the opening credits in original form as well. As long as they provide easy access to the credits like this I can't complain as it leaves the video untouched which is a plus in my book. The disc did not read our players' language presets however and defaulted to English language with sign/song subtitles.
None once again though they at least moved the previews up to the top level so there isn't a "fake" extras section this time.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When They Cry entered the realm of a "What the Hell?" kind of show in its first volume for a number of reasons. The shows sheer level of intense yet brief violence made it stand out with the character designs its using but it also stood out highly for the way it seemingly rebooted itself towards the end of the first volume. That's happened once again here as the show plays through another arc that ends in violence and is then rebooted.
The Cotton Drifting arc that started at the end of the first volume continues on here for another three episodes as we get to see a different side of the town of Hinamizawa. Most of the basic elements are still the same as the first volume such as the way the characters interact with each other and their social relationships. Where it differs is in what seems to be the method through which Keiichi must die. Because Keiichi must die apparently. The different comes in who is doing and the method through which it's done. It's almost like this is an anime version of the ending of Clue except that it's made up of an entire series.
For the Cotton Drifting chapter, Rena finds herself on the outs for the most part as the episodes focus more on the relationship between Mion, Shion and Keiichi. Keiichi finds himself being caught up in things when during the night of the festival Shion convinces him to go into one of the shrines that are forbidden. Once inside he sees that it's filled with nothing but torture devices that have been used throughout the centuries for various reasons. Combined with the curse about those who die during the festival and Keiichi is obviously nervous about the entire thing. As expected, people start dying or disappearing and Keiichi and Shion find that they're trapped in something sinister and deadly. It plays out much in the same way thematically as the first arc in the series but it keeps the focus on other characters in order to keep you on your toes.
The third chapter in the series, Curse Killing, starts up on this volume as well and runs for two episodes. This one provides another shift in perspective as it deals with Satoko as its main female character. Mion and Shion have key roles in it as well and Rena once again feels like she's shifted to the background. With its focus on Satoko, we get to understand what's going on with her odd family situation as her parents had died and her older brother is no longer with her. Satoshi's story is covered in different ways as the truth is slowly unearthed amid all the strange character interactions. The usual characters show up to cause trouble, be it Tomitake or Oishi investigating something new with Keiichi, but it seems to be moving forward in the same way that you can only see it ending in Keiichi's death.
When They Cry is a deadly version of Groundhog Day. Similar to the first volume, much of what makes this so engaging is the atmosphere that permeates the show. It plays to the standard horror/thriller music cues and overall pacing of the show but it does it in such a competent and skillful way that it keeps you glued to the screen. This is even more engaging now that you know that there's going to be a reboot of some sort as you have the added mystery of why that's happening and what it will reveal. The course of each storyline now seems to be set so you spend more time looking for the smaller clues that can reveal what's truly going on and finding what's consistent and what isn't consistent among the tales. Simple in its overall nature, When They Cry is filled with details that will keep many very interested in following it.
With its repetition of concepts, When They Cry can lose some of its audience easily. Those that it keeps however will find it to be a very engaging show and unlike most other shows out there. The concept has been done before, often as a one or two episode plot device, so seeing how it's being constructed for a full length series is fascinating enough on its own. This is a show that definitely requires you to be in the right mood to watch however as it is setting out for a very specific atmosphere and a lot of attention to be paid to it. You can't watch this casually and expect to get what it's doing in the way intended. I'm still not sure if this can really be recommended but if you're bored by mediocre and cookie cutter shows, this is one worth checking out.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 1080p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: C+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: When They Cry - Higurashi