What They Say:
The first wave of madness that consumed the town of Hinamizawa in 1983 may be finished, but the nightmare is far from over as the time loops that have ensnared the populace continue to wreak carnage and mayhem.
As the survivors struggle to cope with the lethal aftermath, the annual cycle of betrayal and murder continues, and only Rena — ironically spared as she was safe in jail after her arrest for her part in the bombing and massacre — may hold the keys to unlocking the mystery.
Get ready for a grim post-mortem as Mamoru Akasaka and Officer Oishi dig into the past to solve the hidden secrets of the Great Hinamizawa Disaster, while Keiichi, Rika, Satoko and the others fight to stay alive as the nightmarish Curse continues in When They Cry Season 2!
Contains episodes 1-24 of the second season.
The audio presentation for this release is done with the original Japanese language track only which is 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’re no flashy aspects to this but it’s solid and problem free throughout with both tracks.
Originally airing in 2007, 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 since you can see how the original animation wasn’t all that smooth or designed cleanly.
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 brings Rika to the forefront as she should be where we get the similar image to the first season but with it being at night and even creepier with the lantern lights along the path. 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 with splatters across it and a really good image of Rena that plays her a bit older. The premise is well covered 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 awaits. 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 work with the same kind of background design as the first season 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.The difference this season is that we get full-color artwork of the various women of the series as they’re in their festival garb with different configurations of characters for each of the volumes. There’s a lot of brightness to the designs and it has some good pop to it because of that. 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 first season of When They Cry was a real treat to revisit when it came out recently because my experience with it originally was through the single volume releases that took some time to come out. Being able to marathon it over a couple of days definitely changes your perception of it as does having the arcs broken out like they were. I definitely came away from the show with a different and more positive view of it through this iteration than before because of those reasons and it left me even more excited to dig into the second season that never saw release here. This season is essentially more of the same in some ways but it’s also an expansion and pulling back of the big picture to really take in what’s happening.
While the opening episode essentially serves as recap, it’s a critical episode to put us in the right view of how this season is going to move forward since it’s really just three main arcs. Through this opening episode we’re brought into the view of things through Rika as she talks with the ghost/spirit of Hanyu, the only other person completely aware of what Rika is going through. Revealing that she’s lived these events hundreds of times, the resets that we saw are basically an attempt by some force to play everything out in such dangerous fashion for her to show just how far things can go. Through it all, we’ve seen Rika trying to find a way to break out of the trap that she’s in – life does go on for others as we see here as well as it kicks off some twenty years after the 1983 events – but she’s mostly consigned herself to this cruel fate.
What we see with Rika is that she’s attempted to find ways to stop this but it seems like fate wants to ensure that nobody survives. The paths may be different but the endings are the same. Her run through of the various explanations remind us of just how twisted it got, from aliens to curses and everything in between, but the results were always the same. This season looks to expand on it as we see more of the players that function and exist in here and understand their stories more with what takes place before the events to a good degree. But we also get a run through of the main event itself that takes a radically different course that’s highly engaging. The opening arc is almost the most forgettable as it works to bring us back into mind of who everyone is and spends most of its time with the playfulness of the young characters before it gets dark, but it’s a useful reconnect for audiences when taking in the new knowledge we get from Rika in the opening episode.
The arc that really interested me is the one that involves Rika realizing that things are finally starting to go her way – to some degree. While she’s tried to save everyone before, and Satoko in particular, she’s had no real luck with that. This time, however, her involvement and pushes are leading to all those familiar encounters from the first season being navigated properly and everyone surviving for the most part. That’s a huge thing for her as she was growing increasingly despondent and weary from it all. Her interactions with Hanyu were helping her to some degree, but as she gets further and further along here it’s exciting to see just what might happen – all while knowing that fate demands things go in the expected direction. What really becomes intriguing is that as it progresses we get more involvement from the rest of the kids as she reveals what she knows and they believe her, making them into quite the team as they get closer and closer to the Cotton Drifting festival and the way things can go so wrong for them – and Rika in particular.
That the show expands as much as it does and showing some new facets to the cast while also giving us time with more of the outside world through the politics and connections there is hugely appealing. Yet, at the same time, it also diminishes the show just a bit because it does take the focus away from what had dominated the first season. That was such a closed and claustrophobic season as everything was drawing tight and focused on the core character and the regular deaths that going to something where they’re surviving and the village as a whole is rallying around trying to save Rika shifts the flow and feel of it. It’s a thoroughly engaging arc with lots of twists and turns along the way and while you know there is no “good end” to be had here you can’t help but to feel like we get closer and closer.
What that arc does provide is a new clue for Rika when she goes through the next rest as to what’s behind at least some of what’s going on. Where this shifts the focus, again in a way that’s difficult depending on what you want out of the show. We get plenty of dark moments with the kids, but shifting the focus onto Takano for a lot of it and her experiences as a child – which are tragic – and shifting into more about the government organization that’s involved in what’s going on in Hinamizawa ends up taking the show into some pretty big levels. Part of the appeal for me was the closed off nature of it all, the isolation aspect. Revealing these larger and grander plans is intriguing and Takano’s place in it all, but at the same time it really does change the nature of the show. And with these arcs being about eight or so episodes each, it’s something that really does take its time in exploring and digging into all while keeping to Rika and how she’s trying to survive all of this.
When They Cry: Kai is a solid expansion of the franchise in its second season but it has that problem for fans; do you want more of the same or do you want it to explore new things? The show does its best to try and accommodate both aspects of this and I definitely appreciate that they’re not looking to just keep repeating the cruelty but rather to give more reason behind it and look at it from new ways. But some aspects of the expansion simply feel drawn out more than it needs to be and I almost wish that we had a couple more arcs here where all of them were shorter so that it felt more defined and less languid in its approach. It’s also a show that I suspect I’ll appreciate more on a second and third viewing by knowing what’s coming and soaking up more of the details and intentions.
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: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 31st, 2016
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.