The Atonement storyline comes to a conclusion with a lot of tension, violent tendencies and… aliens?
What They Say
In the sleepy rural village of Hinamizawa, paranoia and rage can drive a person to commit the most vile, unspeakable acts. When Rena discovers that her father is being duped and targeted for blackmail by Teppei Hojo and his girlfriend Rina, she confronts each of the extortionists. Consequently, Rena's growing distrust and paranoia spirals out of control, and she holds her classmates hostage and faces off against Keiichi in a deadly rooftop duel!
Contains episodes 23-26.
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 main front covers for these series have been difficult to really promote, but I have to admit that the last volume does it rather well with the grayscale image of the main cast walking along with their lighter shadows behind them. This one is certainly more distinct than the single character close-ups done in this format. With the back cover, the breakdown of episodes is a bit problematic to use in order to sell the show. 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 colors to it, though this one is fairly muted in comparison to past ones since it’s a sunset shot. 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)
The first season of When They Cry comes to a close and it’s rather tame in comparison to some of the previous volumes, especially for an arc ending piece where everything gets built up. Then again, this chapter is entitled “Atonement” so that could influence things a little bit in trying to keep it toned down a bit. The violence is certainly there, but the body count is surprisingly low and the moments of blood curdling violence isn’t all there either. Instead, things go a little bit bigger as everyone is threatened with being blown up as a finale.
What can I say, I like it when they push me with cringing moments of violence by little girls.
When They Cry picks up easily from where things started in the last volume where Miyo and Tomitake are now found dead and everything seems to be stemming back to Rena in some way according to the police. This is mostly in the background at first however as Rena is completely focused on taking down Ritsuko along with her boyfriend that are screwing over her father and stealing his money and more. After learning previously of the plan that’s in the works, she’s intent on protecting her father. She knows that he won’t believe her since he’s blinded by the little hottie that’s interested in him, so she has to figure out how to deal with it herself. And that means not starting any of those initial conversations that will lead to the next phase of Ritsuko’s plan.
But that never goes according to plan since Ritsuko is intent on following Rena wherever she goes since she needs to move things forward. Not even thinking that Rena could be a violent girl, she follows her to the dump where she discovers Rena’s secret place and the two have a strong confrontation. Each reveals the darker side of themselves, but Rena’s dark side is darker than most as she just lets all control go in order to protect what’s left of her family when Ritsuko utters a trigger word. It’s haunting moment, but one that pales when she finally catches up with Ritsuko’s boyfriend later and… well, the imagination does a good job of keeping up with the reality of what Rena wants to do.
This particular part of the arc is really fun since it lets Rena’s crazy side thrive rather well and we haven’t seen much of it at all. And it also works to foster a closer sense of friendship among the group when they find out what she’s done and they do their best to help her. But a lot of this gets undermined with the past that Keiichi has – and has hidden from everyone – since Rena looks at it as a way of him not being honest about himself with her. And with her having just whacked a few people, it sort of cuts pretty deep for her. Enough so that she decides to start acting on other information she’s received about what’s going on in Hinamizawa with everything.
And ultimately, this is an area where the show starts moving into more of a Twin Peaks sort of feeling. When Rena starts poring through the notebooks she got from Miyo at one point, she starts to understand more of what the secret of this village is all about. But there are so many variables to all of it that with the way everything reboots you can walk away with a number of different possibilities. The initial one, about the swampy area having a parasite bacteria that reacts only in this area, is one that is actually intriguing and provides a surprising amount of plausibility to it. But with Rena going off her rocker, it doesn’t take long until she’s talking about aliens and blowing up the school.
Looking at how this season wrapped up, it does feel a bit anticlimactic, but that’s not really a surprise considering the nature of the show. The way it’s retold its story a few times over from different angles and with different outcomes means that it’s fairly interchangeable. And that does give it a bit of a Twin Peaks feel to me. When They Cry has been an engaging show, but one that I went into knowing that there’s a second season out there and that the anime likely won’t be complete in comparison to the original material. And while these episodes don’t end in a way that wraps everything up, they do provide some really good bits that give you plenty to chew on for what at least some of this may be about. A number of answers are dangled in front of us, but whether any of them fit the actual questions remain to be seen.
Unfortunately, Geneon really didn’t seem to know how to market this title and it’s one of the shows that’s the most affected by their shutdown back in 2007. The series is complex enough to begin with that throwing a year between releases won’t help nor will the generally unappealing cover art and the poor way in which the back is handled in selling the show. This is a show that won’t be big to begin with, but one that could definitely carve out a very strong following but it got very little word of mouth and promotion. Hopefully with FUNimation now distributing it (and having a relatively up to date website for it!), they’ll get it some extra sales and be able to push it harder and better with the box set that’s in the works. This is a show that fits right in with things FUNimation knows how to work like Hell Girl and When They Cry should be out there a lot more than it has been. If you passed on this for various reasons in single form, definitely take the chance on it in box set form because there are few shows as cold, brutal and unnerving as this.
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.