I love When They Cry (Higurashi) far too much to be able to write an unbiased review. So this is just me talking about why I love the show so much and how it dragged me down to the dark pits of horror anime. To be honest, I enjoy it down here, and I’m hoping this article will let me find others as enthused as I am, or maybe even drag some of the rest of you down with me.
When They Cry exists in many different incarnations: sound novels, video games, manga, drama CDs, anime, and live action films. I was introduced to the series through the English dub of the first anime season, and that’s where I’ll be focusing my attention in this article. I’m not saying this is the best way to experience the story, just that it’s how I started, and I think it’s a fine place to begin.
The first episode starts out strong, with a really horrific scene. A boy is beating two girls with a baseball bat. Severely beating them with a baseball bat. At this point, I was interested. It was such a strong way to start out a show…there’s no indication of why, you’re just presented with this brutal act. After a few seconds, the credits start, featuring a perfect combination of song and images. They’re so haunting, both seem just a bit off…it’s a great way to set the mood.
So after a few minutes of brutal murder and creepy credits, the mood completely changes. You’ve got our young boy walking to school in a peaceful town, meeting up with his female friends. It’s cute and playful, even funny. Not at all the show I was expecting after the opening. What was going on? Where were my answers? At this point, I was hooked. I had to know what was going on here, and I was going to keep watching until I found out.
That pretty much sums up the core of my interest in the show. I want to solve the mysteries, I want all the answers. Far too many shows spell everything out for you right up front, but not When They Cry. In fact, the format of the show is such that it constantly creates new questions for every answer you think you’ve found out. For example, the first four episodes tell the story of how the cheerful boy walking to school ends up murdering two of his friends. Then, it essentially starts over. You watch the same few days unfold, with very different events occurring, and a completely different outcome. There end up being 8 main arcs. The first 4 are the Question Arcs, with the final 4 being the Answer arcs. Don’t expect it to all be revealed, though. You’ve still got to use your brain, make some of your own conclusions.
Of course, there’s more to recommend than just the mystery. I really enjoyed the characters, in both their normal and creepy versions. With so many different arcs, each character seems to get a chance to shine. The goofy moments are really goofy, and really help drive home how strange everything gets when it all hits the fan. The best time to notice this is at the Cotton Drifting Festival, which appears to be the turning point in every arc. The friends go to the festival together, play games, win prizes, eat food, just act like normal kids. But later that night, the murders start, and everything changes.
So what’s the cause for all the killings? Is it a vengeful demon? A secret cult? A mind-altering drug? Crooked police? Evil spores? Aliens? I don’t actually know. Only the first season of When They Cry was dubbed, which covers all of the Question Arcs, but only 1 of the Answer Arcs. I would love for Funimation to pick up the rest of the show, but I’m not too hopeful about that. Until then, fans can seek out the answers in the manga being released by Yen Press, or the translated sound novels available from MangaGamer.com. If you’re interested, check out some streaming episodes online. If you can’t tell by now, I highly encourage it.
So do you have something you love about the show? Something you hate? Do you have other horror anime to recommend? Feel free to start talking in the comments. Just don’t be hateful, and avoid spoilers. I’m really looking forward to hearing from you! And keep checking back on this article over the next few weeks, there may be some edits as I dwell on this or check out the manga and sound novels myself.