Violent, brutal, disturbing and confusing. When they cry, I start to cry as this series is a close look at twisted evil in the guise of cute girls.
What They Say
Gruesome Murders, Bizarre Disappearances, Unspeakable Horrors...The enigma that is the sleepy rural village of Hinamizawa continues to slowly reveal itself, while raising more disturbing questions. Obsessed and enraged over the mystery behind Satoshi's unexplained disappearance, Shion passes herself off as her twin sister Mion, to exact revenge, resulting in grave consequences for various townfolk. (Contains Episodes 19-22)
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 Rena 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 though not all that more appealing unlike previous volumes. The front side uses the same artwork as the front cover but with a normal color background and completely colored characters except this time it’s Rena in the darkness of shadows. 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)
When They Cry moves easily through its fifth volume by working mostly through the Eye Opening chapter some more, bringing it to a conclusion. That takes up three episodes before it begins the final chapter of this season with the Atonement storyline that gets a single episode to tease with here. The Eye Opening chapter has been brutal to watch, which says a lot considering some earlier parts of this series, as it starts to almost revel in its brutality and become more blatant about it. The cruelty shown in the previous episodes were certainly powerful, but with what goes on here it moves to a different level.
With the Eye Opening chapter, what has been difficult to deal with during it is the way that the twins end up becoming easily confused. Perhaps it’s the delay between volumes as well as the lengthy delay in general with the distribution issues, but this storyline’s use of Mion and Shion with Shion taking over Mion’s identity really get problematic at times. It’s easy to lose track of who is who as the violence escalates and the personalities seem to change because of the demon possession and events at hand. The two are similar enough in appearance and name that when Shion starts dressing up and altering her hair to look like Mion, you can forget who is who before you know it.
Shion’s single mindedness is what drives this storyline as she’s intent on having revenge for what’s happened to Satoshi. She’s so far gone at this point with what’s happened that nothing will stop her madness, albeit a controlled madness for the most part. Using the tools available to her as a member of the Sonozaki family, she’s able to take Mion out of the picture surprisingly easily and shift her to the underground dungeon area where she can intimidate and confront her about what she and their grandmother have done to Satoshi. Mion is completely thrown by this since she doesn’t know anything about what happened to Satoshi and even believes her grandmother when she told her previously that all debts were paid. But little bits of knowledge here and there continue to surface as Shion investigates that pushes her to believing that everyone is lying to her.
And everyone is responsible for what happened as well. Tomitake is taken out rather easily with the entire ritual tool event and that paves the way for her to take down Keiichi as well since she wants to eliminate him. Where it becomes brutal is when she starts to deal with the younger children in the show, such as Rika and Satoko. Rika’s role as the head of the Furude family is intriguing to be sure as she’s intent on eliminating the problem that is Shion, and that produces a scene that’s both chilling and amusing as they fight it out over the needle that Rika has brought to deal with her. Shion’s insanity is quite strong at this point and nothing is going to stop her, nor does she want it to end simply or quietly. The way she brings Satoko into the picture and explains to her in stabbing detail about why everything is happening is almost beyond the pale. It’s brutal, cold and very chilling to watch Shion take out everything that she’s been feeling on Satoko. But it’s Satoko’s reactions that make it tear inducing.
The close of this chapter is one that does come across as almost comical as Shion deals with her situation in an almost chaotic manner. That leads to the quiet opening nature of the Atonement chapter to be even more unnerving. The shift to having Rena’s storyline take center stage is quite welcome since she was one of the first characters we got to know. The things that led her to Hinamizawa set her apart from the others in a different way as we find out why her parents divorced and why she ended up with her father. The events that are starting to reveal themselves here are laid down differently than the previous chapters as there is more of the “real world” outside of Hinamizawa involved here. The introduction of Ritsuko, a woman taking advantage of Rena’s father, brings a new wrinkle to the storyline that looks to be intriguing. But it’s how Rena handles the situation that looks to be the most disturbing, at least after she stops spending her time in the abandoned bus with all her treasures contemplating how her life has gone downhill.
When They Cry is a show that continues to draw me in and push me away at the same time. It’s a brutal piece of work that makes me want to turn away from it but it’s also something that’s very rare among the TV anime world, or even the OVA world. It doesn’t shy away from the violence, it doesn’t glamorize it and it doesn’t hold anything back. When so many shows deal with these events off screen or minimize it so it lacks some semblance of reality, seeing a show that embraces the reality in a very cold manner is incredibly engaging. When They Cry is a show that will challenge the viewer on a number of levels, but is also one that requires patience and attention. As a full season set, I imagine everything will come together even better, but it may be too much to take in marathon form. As much as this series disturbs me, I still hold out hope to see more.
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.