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"When They Cry": The Devil’s in the Delicious Details

by on May 8, 2009

Cute kids, isolated mountain village, curses revolving around festivals, and murder. Lots and lots and lots and lots of murder. Sounds like your standard Hollywood slasher flick. Admittedly, When They Cry bears more than a bit of a resemblance to one at first glance. But there’s a difference. When was the last time Hollywood actually scared anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

When They Cry will scare you. No, I’m not just jerking your chain. It is by far one of the truly scariest things you can find on the selves of your local Best Buy, or at Amazon.com. It’s also excellent, provided you don’t mind things like, say, kids killing kids.

When They Cry is also not a typical show. It is neither strictly serialized nor is it episodic. The show is composed of a series of arcs, a total of six in the season that wraps up in these discs. Each arc offers a different explanation for the Curse of Oyashiro. Some arcs may involve two or three murders, and others may involve … more than that. Each arc open with the same basic characters: brown-haired middle school boy Keiichi, red-haired middle school girl Rena, blonde-haired elementary school girl Satoko, blue-haired elementary school girl Rika, traveling photographer Jiro, local nurse Miyo, out-of-town police officer Oishi, and the twin, green-haired high school sisters, Mion and Shion. Each arc also includes a different set of side characters (a.k.a., cannon fodder, for the most part). As the arcs unfold, different aspect of the history of Hinamezawa (the village the show is set in) come into play along with a different conclusion.

I will warn you this show is seriously violent, bloody and disturbing. The rating on the back of the DVD case is no joke. It is absolutely not an appropriate show for anyone under at least 15. In no particular order you will see murder by taser, saw, gun, burning, falling, and knife; abuse of a corpse; blackmail; torture by fingernail removal and I’m sure quite a few other acts of insane violence that I’ve just blocked out. If you are in any way squeamish about blood, well, you’re probably in for a bad day if you watch this show. If you’re a gore-hound, well, you’ll probably have a field day, though creative expression of obscenity really isn’t what When They Cry is about. You’re probably better off with something like Basilisk if that’s your cup of tea.

The arcs on discs 5 and 6 cover the majority of the “Eye Opening” chapter and the totality of the “Atonement” chapter. “Eye Opening” is probably the most violent arc of the entire show, as one character, Shion, pretty much decides that the entire village should die in vengeance for the death (or was it murder?) of her boyfriend some time back. “Atonement” is the first of the so-called answer arcs, where the truth of what happened in the previous story arcs begins to come out. Unfortunately, most of that is contained in the second season of the show, which has not yet been officially licensed for US distribution. Even the distribution of this part of the series has an interesting history, thanks to the shut down of Geneon in the middle of the show’s production and subsequent pick up by Funimation.

I’m really trying hard to not spoil too much of anything in the stories, as it is a mystery show at heart, so talking too much about it would really ruin some of the very delicious surprises each chapter contains. I will say that you shouldn’t even try to start the show with these volumes, as you basically won’t have any clue as to what’s really going on if you haven’t seen the earlier episodes, even more so than with some other shows. You also end up jumping in right in the middle of a story arc on each disc. So, start with disc one, since they’re all available now from our good friends at Funimation, and enjoy. I would also recommend the Japanese language track. There’s nothing wrong with the English track per se, but it is a very Japanese show in terms of the cultural grounding, and that comes across better in the Japanese track than it does in the English track.

When They Cry is a devilishly good time. Just don’t watch it before bed.

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