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When The Cry Season 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Higurashi Season 1 Blu-ray CoverThe things kids do.

What They Say:
Moving to the picturesque town of Hinamizawa is going to be a big adjustment for Keiichi. For all its beauty, it’s also tiny… so small that there’s only one school, one where most of the students have known each other all their lives.

Fortunately, he soon meets four girls… Rena, Mion, Satoko, and Rika, who’re willing to let the new guy in town join their afterschool club. And for a while, things seem wonderful. Until Keiichi starts discovering strange things, like the project manager for a controversial dam project being found dismembered five years ago.

As he digs deeper, there are whispers and rumors of other murders and disappearances, stories of a town curse, and mysterious rituals. And then people he knows start to die. What secrets have the people of Hinamizawa kept hidden from the rest of the world? And could his new friends somehow be involved? The shocking answers will be revealed When They Cry!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is done with the original Japanese language track and the previously created English language dub, both of which are in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that is very much about building atmosphere so it’s a fairly quiet piece overall with some decently placed dialogue at times and some good background/incidental sounds that bumps it up a bit as needed to promote that. When the show goes all in on the crazy scenes it just gets a bit louder and all-encompassing, but it works well to really provide a change from what the quieter scenes are like. It’s mostly a dialogue driven piece in general but it’s one that’s handled well. There’s no flashy aspects to this but it’s solid and problem free throughout with both tracks.

Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-six episodes are spread across four discs in an arc style format, so we get them broken up well so each disc contains either a full arc or a couple of smaller arcs on it so you can treat them as mini-movies in a way. Animated by Studio Deen, the show is one that definitely shows its age a bit – which is barely ten years at this point – but more that it shows that it was a low budget production stretched out more than anything else. The transfer is solid in what it does, but what it does is capture the source materials. There are a lot of gradients built into it from how it was animated and it definitely has more of an early 2000’s hentai feeling at times than a mainstream show with the character designs and color choices used for it. It’s all solidly put together when it comes to the transfer, but it’s one that’s definitely a show that was made on a budget.

Higurashi Season 1 Blu-ray PackagingPackaging:
The packaging design for this release is a slightly oversized Blu-ray case that holds the four discs inside on hinges. The front cover artwork is one that works well from the Japanese Blu-ray set as we get Rena set against the dam with the sun setting in the distance. Her cute look combined with the decay around her and the blade in her hand really makes for a striking visual. The logo along the top works with the classic version of it and it breaks out on the bottom the amount of episodes, season, and how many discs are included. The back cover goes a bit bloodier with a rough and raw design with the blade cutting across it while we get Keiichi’s face reflecting in it. The premise is well covered as are the extras and there are some decent if small images from the show as well. The breakout of the chapter names is a little surprising but it’s text that serves to remind what violence aways. The remainder is given over to the usual production credits as well as the technical grid that breaks it all out clearly and problem free.

The menus for these releases riff off of some of the Japanese releases where we basically get a negative version of the character artwork covers with lots of dark blacks and reds with plenty of grey, but also the blood red brought in around the edges to give it some pop. They’re different for all three menus and they’re all definitely creepy in a general sense, but effective in setting the tone. The menu navigation along the left breaks down the episodes by number and title, going for overall numbering instead of numbering by arc, but we get each arc broken out with the arc name at the top of it. It’s a good layout and the older style font and color design definitely gives it the right feeling. Navigation is simple with the languages and episode selection itself and the menu works well as the pop-up version in being easy to get around in during playback.

The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences on the final disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the mystery dōjin soft sound novel series produced by 07th Expansion that began back in 2002, When They Cry is a twenty-six episode anime series that was animated by Studio Deen and aired in the spring and summer of 2006. This season of the show was originally licensed and released by Geneon Entertainment prior to their closing and it was one that I definitely had a love/hate relationship with because of the content itself. I’ve wanted to revisit it again over the years and to see the unlicensed works come out so I was both excited and apprehensive going into the show again because of what it does. There’s not a lot of really violent anime made these days in a general sense, especially compared to the gorefests we had back in the late 80’s and 90’s, and When They Cry has its share of it. What it does, however, is to build it all well rather than just be a constant stream of violence.

When They Cry Higurashi Season 1 Image 2The design of the show makes it rather difficult to dig into in a way because what we get are essentially six separate stories that reset after each is done. The show takes place in the early 80’s in a small village known as Hinamizawa where there’s a curse demon known as Oyashiro that causes some bad things to happen each year around the cotton drifting festival. This has been happening mostly since the incident a few years prior with a damn that was going to be built nearby that would have flooded the village and caused everyone to relocate. That plan went south after some protests, some of which went up the government chain in a big way, but especially after a dam project worker was dismembered and nobody was found accountable for it. Suffice to say, there’s a darkness about this village that’s steeped in the families, the culture, and the customs of it all.

What the show does is to bring us a variety of tales revolving around the cotton drifting festival itself but from different angles, and sometimes from different time periods. The opening story introduces us to our core cast that repeats these events in different forms. Keiichi is someone who moved here recently and has come back after going to Tokyo for a while. He’s your standard kind of goofy good guy with a pervy side to him. Since the village is so small all the classes are together in one room so we get a range of students that he’s with, from similarly aged Mion and Rena to the younger late elementary school aged Rika and Satoko. There are all sorts of silly games that they play and the dynamic of a single classroom is used well to show why these very different characters would know each other so well. We’ve seen this classroom style in other series so it’s not new but it uses the characters in very different ways.

When They Cry Higurashi Season 1 Image 3Each tale shifts how we learn more about the village and its dark secrets, some of which won’t exist in some of the others, but they build a fascinating narrative overall in a kind of choose your own adventure way. In each of the instances, there are dark events that happen in the village that invariably leads to some characters deaths that in turn sets others from our main cast to start wondering about the truth. It’s layered with good mysteries and takes the time to let them unfold rather than barreling through it or trying to find a way to make it run over the course of twenty-six episodes. The varying arc lengths are good as well, with the first couple running four episodes each before we get into a two episode arc that steps back a few years to explore other areas with some of the adult cast. The final two arcs run six and five episodes each and they go their own way as well.

The advantage of changing the focal point in each story is definitely one of its biggest strengths. While Keiichi is front and center in the first couple of arcs it changes its pattern as it goes on, letting the younger kids take the lead as well as the aforementioned adults arc. I in particular liked the extended arc with Mion and her twin sister Shion as they look more at their family and what involvement they have as one of the “ruling” families of the village in the curse. The last arc brings its focus onto Rena where she’s convinced that everything is happening because of an alien parasite that is infecting everyone and causing the murders that happen. By doing these shifts you end up with arcs that aren’t repetitive and it changes out how things are perceived because of who is essentially telling the story and who is now on the receiving end instead.

When They Cry Higurashi Season 1 Image 4

Where the show generates most of its controversy is in the violence itself. While a lot of it really does happen off-camera or from certain angles so that you don’t see the depths of depravity, it’s understandable that people would not want to see so much violence among children. While we can sort of accept it in terms of story through high school age characters, When They Cry works with a much younger set as well and they are not spared when you get down to it – both in receiving and giving the damage wrought. These are brutal scenes with bodies strewn about covered in blood, hatchet work, and violent stabbings and so much more. We even get a sequence where one of the older girls has a few of her fingernails removed and that’s just disturbing as hell, even in animated form. I’ve seen worse, which is kind of sad to say, but there have been some OVA series and far too much hentai that really digs into the violent side. When They Cry definitely has its violence however and it is disturbing. Perhaps not as much as I first thought it was a decade ago, however.

In Summary:
When They Cry is a series that in a sense I feel kind of weird in saying that I enjoyed, simply because of the nature of the content. It’s a show that I like a lot because of how the structure of it works and that it goes the distance and really putting the characters through their paces and in truly difficult and insurmountable situations. And I like that it looks at different ways to tell a similar story using the same characters and settings, almost like a writer’s workshop. Sentai’s release is one that I’m thrilled to have simply because it brings it back into the market and gives it a decent boost up. The source material kind of limits it a bit but the end result will be about as good as could be expected if you had seen it when it first came out. With the amount of content here, this is a very easy recommendation if what it’s about is in the slightest bit appealing since there’s a lot of it at a great price.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 15th, 2016
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.

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