Original Run: April 5, 2006 - September 27, 2006 Number of Episodes: 26 Genre: Horror, Mystery, Supernatural, Thriller Based on the Visual Novel: When They Cry
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Higurashi – When They Cry. Reader discretion is advised.***
June 1983 in the village of Hinamizawa, and it is once again time for the annual Watanagashi Festival. Although the town is buzzing with anticipation, there is a palpable sense of dread. For the past four years, on the day of the festival, a person has died.
These events were unknown to Hinamizawa’s newest resident, Keiichi Maebara (voiced by Souichiro Hoshi). Despite his recent arrival and lack of local knowledge, he has managed to befriend several of his classmates:
- Rena Ryugu (voiced by Mai Nakahara)
- The twins Mion and Shion Sonozaki (both voiced by Satsuki Yukino)
- Sotoko Houjou (voiced by Mika Kanai)
- Rika Furude (voiced by Yukari Tamura)
Life is happy for this close-knit group. But it is not to last. Soon, their perfect world becomes a never-ending nightmare.
The infamous curse descends upon the town. In a sick twist of fate, Keiichi and the other townsfolk must forever relive the terrifying fallout of this tragedy. Friends and family turn on each other, and paranoia leads to many gruesome deaths.
When They Cry was excellent. From beginning to end, it was as fascinating as fascinating can be. I love me a good horror-mystery, and damn it, this series delivered.
And I can already hear some of you thinking, “How can this be a horror anime? Just look at it. Everything’s so cute and adorable. What can be so scary about…”
NO! No. This show’s visuals are a trap. When push comes to shove, When They Cry can shove.
Yes, this series’ style projects an innocent atmosphere. However, this slice-of-life-esque art, if you’re not careful, will lull you into a false sense of security. Once you’re comfortable, When They Cry will utterly blindside you. This show becomes violent, deranged, and twisted.
When They Cry isn’t out to leave you laughing and feeling peppy. No, it wants to make you uncomfortable, unsettled, and uneasy. This show takes your perception of what a horror anime should look like and throws it out the window.
And that’s only the beginning.
When They Cry is a top-tier mystery. This was true both in its content and the way its story was told.
This show was split into six arcs:
- Spirited Away by the Demon
- Curse Killing
- Time Wasting
- Eye Opening
At the risk of sounding overly complicated, When They Cry’s six story arcs took place during the same time but in different realities. The basic formula for each was:
- Establish a basic understanding of what’s happening
- Get more insight into the events before June 1983.
- Leave things often with more questions than answers
Additionally, know that this was season one of two. The overarching mystery was never going to be solved in this installment. And speaking of the overarching mystery, that was also an interesting question mark. After all, When They Cry’s real unknown was why this town was stuck in a perpetual loop of death and suffering.
Due to its setup, there were some details in When They Cry that didn’t sync. There was nothing huge, but when this did happen, it was impossible to miss. Although I’m sure one or two of these instances were deliberate, I can’t say that for them all.
To go along with this, you’re not going to learn everything. And while I’m confident we will get our explanations in the next season, this installment, frustratingly, didn’t spend a lot of time addressing obvious questions.
Granted, these weren’t questions that needed answering right away. Nevertheless, it would’ve been nice to see some interest in, at least, acknowledging a few of the contradictions.
In a sense, When They Cry’s mystery relied more on confusion than on misdirection.
This series leaves you in a state of not-knowing, which is the mark of any good mystery. Still, you always feel as though you’re not being told everything. Part of the fun with these kinds of stories is trying to figure out the ending. In When They Cry, you’re not meant to know anything until the storyteller is ready to tell you.
But maybe this is just my personal preference coming out.
This show challenges the way we think of horror anime. This series created a terrifying atmosphere that many of its contemporaries can’t even hope to imagine.
This story doesn’t let go of you, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself watching all twenty-six episodes in one sitting.
And do you know what’s even better? There is another season to go.
When They Cry has earned a recommendation.
But these were just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise When They Cry? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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