It took awhile, but When They Cry finally completely creeped me out and made me cringe.
What They Say
In the sleepy rural village of Hinamizawa, people and things aren't what they appear to be. When Shion Sonozaki drops out of private school and surreptitously returns to Hinamizawa, she incurs the wrath and severe punishment of her estranged yet powerful family clan after becoming involved with murder suspect Satoshi Hojo!
Contains episodes 15-18.
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 look 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 continues to be a hard sell with its indistinct and almost unappealing style. With a background of dark reds and grays, the foreground character artwork of Satoko and Rika 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 correctly read our players’ language presets and played accordingly.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Of all the series that Geneon is getting back into gear with, I think When They Cry will be the toughest to return to. The series, with its short chapters and retelling of the story from different angles, is not one that allows for an easy drop into things after nearly a year since the last volume. If you’ve got the time, definitely rewatch the first three volumes again before getting into the fourth, especially as this one finishes out a brief chapter before starting into the next one. That said, difficulties aside, returning to this creepy world is engaging and fascinating as well as quite welcome.
The opening episode, the second and final episode of the “Time Wasting” chapter, returns us again to the police officer who is investigating along with Oishi the kidnapping of a minister’s son. The two have made some good progress on it but as is often the case with these situations, it’s more luck than anything else that brings them into contact with the young boy. What this small chapter does, taking place back in 1979 I believe, is to illustrate how desperate the people were and how some of them were trying to call out for help in less than clear ways. The young officer, Akasaka, has a real brush with what’s going on through all of this and it paints an interesting picture as to why he’s come back in 1983 to try and set things right in his mind and from his worldview.
Once past this arc, the “Eye Opening” chapter gets underway as one of the “Answer Arcs” to the series. This one takes us back in time a bit as well as we’re “introduced” to Shion for the first time. The origin of her and her sister Mion is something that is given a bit more detail as the Sonozaki family has a very particular way of dealing with twins being born. In order to avoid having any sort of conflict take place as to who will become the head of the family, one of the twins is supposed to be killed at birth. That obviously didn’t happen, so Shion is sent away to a school far away for a few years in order to give Mion the chance to really learn what she needs to in order to be the next head of the family. For Shion, she can do this for only so long before wanting to get out on her own and start living some.
And this is where the show gets to be really troublesome to watch in a certain way. In order to get out and about in the world, Shion and Mion agree to switch places at times while also having it set up so that Shion’s known as Mion while working at their uncles place. With the only difference between the two of them how they do their hair up, and that they change it regularly when becoming the other, it gets rather confusing as to who is who during any particular scene unless it’s made explicit. The life that Shion is intending to lead isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but through an accident she ends up meeting Satoshi Hojo, whose parents were killed recently because of the curse of Oyashiro. His role in events isn’t exactly large, but because of his family he’s persona non grata among the Sonozaki’s. So when the actual head of the family finds out that not only is Shion out of school and members of the family helped her, but that she’s involved with someone she shouldn’t be, she must pay a heavy price for it.
And that price was cringe inducing to say the least. When They Cry hasn’t exactly been a light show from the start as it’s had plenty of blood and violence, chilling and disturbing scenes and imagery. But the price that is extracted from Shion was one that made me cringe and really want to look away, even as tame as it was visually. The confrontation that occurs among the Sonozaki family members as they deal with Shion is chilling, especially with what’s not actively on the screen as a threat for her. And that they force her to give herself the punishment is simply extra cruel, but fits in with the quasi-cult status that the family has apparently been cultivating for so very long. With the variety of anime I’ve seen over the years, this scene was one of the most disturbing, and that’s saying quite a lot.
When They Cry is fairly difficult at first to get back into, simply because of the way the series is designed and how it goes back and forth in time with numerous characters. Once you get back into the swing of things though, the series really does a solid job of delivering disturbing moments, a lot of great atmosphere and some surprising answers as to what’s been going on. A lot of things have been set up during the previous arcs we’ve seen and the answers are slowly coming out now, unpleasant as they may be. This is a series that is definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re tired of seeing cookie cutter shows out there, but it is one that you’ll want to spend time by revisiting the earlier volumes with first. Few shows are as chilling as When They Cry is and that alone makes it worthwhile.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.