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When They Cry: Rei Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Higurashi When They Cry Rei Blu-ray Front CoverNew truths, darker secrets, and a different kind of violence.

What They Say:
Having finally escaped the brutal cycle of madness and murder that transformed the town of Hinamizawa into a hell on Earth, Keiichi, Rika, and their friends are looking forward to simply being teenagers and living a normal life. But as strange things keep happening, it soon becomes apparent that fate hasn’t finished toying with them yet. Especially when the incidents escalate dramatically, transitioning from relatively benign and even humorous… to lethal.

Struck by a truck, Rika awakens to find herself in another reality, one where most of her friends are gone, yet other elements of her life that she’d previously lost are back. And in order to find her way back to the life she knows, she’ll have to destroy something from this new life forever. No matter what… or who… she has to sacrifice. It’s an all-new ordeal where every solution comes with a horrific price in WHEN THEY CRY – REI!

The Review:
Audio:
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’s no flashy aspects to this but it’s solid and problem free throughout with both tracks.

Video:
Originally released in 2009, the transfer for this five episode OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is kept to one disc as there are just a few episodes so it’s pretty straightforward here. Animated by Studio Deen, the show is one that definitely looks better than previous incarnations as there’s a bit more pop of color to it as well as a bit more detail to the animation overall. It still hews to what came before but it’s not quite the usual low budget affair. The transfer makes out better for it as there’s little in the way of gradients to be had with it and the visuals just come across so much cleaner and clearer throughout.

When They Cry Rei Image 4Packaging:
The packaging design for this release is a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the single disc inside against the interior wall. The front cover artwork brings Rika to the forefront while having the rest of the gang, Hanyu included, lined up behind here. There’s no Keiichi though as they do try to keep the male side of the series out of the visuals for the male viewers The logo along the top works with the classic version of it and it breaks out on the bottom the amount of episodes and season. 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 Mion along the left that playhs up her seuxality a lot. 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.

Menu:
The menu for this release works with the same kind of background design as the first two seasons 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. What we get layered over that is a good group image of all the girls together hanging out in their usual outfits with a mixture of positive looks about them. 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.

Extras:
The only extras included are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With two seasons of the TV series behind it, When They Cry shifted gears a bit in 2009 with the release of the five episode OVA series under the Rei banner. The TV series themselves were certainly problematic in some quarters for their violent content and you could imagine things being opened up a bit more for an OVA series. Amusingly, this is probably the least violent batch of episodes overall in the franchise so far and one that plays up sexy fanservice more than the show itself every did. It’s an odd turn even as what we get kind of explains away a lot of what’s going on and brings it to a seeming conclusion. The show is certainly a good one here and I like that it’s kept fairly tight overall with two bookend episodes of fun and a three-part story in the middle that digs into the mythology.

When They Cry Rei Image 1The bookend episodes themselves, I’ll admit, were probably the highlight for the set for me if only because after burning through 52 episodes of material in the last few months the main arc feels like it ends on a bit of a whimper. The opening episode is definitely my favorite simply because it does shift gears so heavily with the gang, now in this new timeline where everything is fine for Rika, end up at the pool for the day and just have a lot of silliness with it. There’s a minor arc of seriousness mixed in as Keiichi is wearing a pair of magic swim trunks that if worn for three hours will have the girls all over him. Except that it’s actually messed up with what he was told they would do and if he wears them too long he’ll fall in love with himself. So we get a lot of fun with Shion and the others trying to get them off of him – and into something really cute – while he’s doing his best to resist. And then the other guys, upon learning the truth, do their damndest to get the suit without realizing the true truth that the girls know.

The last episode of the set is one that also works with a lighter and sillier tone, though it didn’t click as well for me as it centers a lot of mahjong. The premise involves another old family trinket that will actually bring two people together if they each ingest the beads. Reina ends up with one of them and that has the gang searching high and low for the other. That she ends up being caught up with Oishi as he ended up with the white bead to her red one is cute since she’s all adorable with him while also playing mahjong like a mad manga character with serious skills. There’s a lot of character silliness here with how it unfolds, but mahjong is a game I’ve never been able to figure out and it just kind of washes over me as it takes up a decent chunk of real estate in the episode.

With the main arc that runs for three episodes between it all, When they Cry digs again into the story of Rika above all else. The shift with the focus toward her is certainly understandable as she’s the witch that walks with the gods in order to understand all these worlds and find a way out. We’ve seen and heard how she’s liked a hundred years to do this so far and the mental toll is hard to grasp, as is wondering if she’s truly aged mentally during it all or is still just a little girl thrown into some intense experiences. With her having found a world that works and is safe, navigating their way through it, she’s now just enjoying that life and a little recklessness enters the picture. You know things are going to go bad as she races the others downhill on bikes and working it so that an oncoming truck hits her and basically crushes her head is brutal. It’’s mostly off-camera at least, but it sets things in motion where she’s thrown to another world to deal with things and understand what’s happened. Considering all she fought for in order to get to the world she was just at, it’s understandable and not that she acted like she did as she was able to finally feel alive. And pays the price for it.

 

When They Cry Rei Image 2

What becomes interesting about the world she ends up in is that Hanyu cannot be there as there are significant differences in how things unfolded and her connection to Rika won’t work the same way. As she begins to figure out all of these differences and just where she ended up and how this iteration of her lived, it’s an interesting exploration for her to go through as new details come into play. A lot of this is through the reveal of Oyashiro and how she worked events with her own daughter a thousand years ago to try and break free of a cycle of pain and misery and how Rika in other timelines follows the same path as Oyashiro’s daughter. There are, I suppose, answers and closure in all of this with how it plays out, but mostly it’s that last little trudge back to a timeline that works and Rika having to make the hard choices about how to get there. Coming on top of the past two seasons, especially the second season, it’s a little anti-climactic and quieter than I expected, though I’m just glad that it seemingly brings things to resolution for her.

In Summary:
While there are a few more When They Cry OVAs out there, this one does some good stuff overall with its characters and manages to have more fun than you’d expect it to. The bookend episodes are just a delight after so much serious material throughout the first two seasons, but that shift and lack of similar violence in the main arc here is off-putting. You keep waiting for something drastic to happen that never does and it results in a somewhat quieter arc overall. It’s certainly not a bad arc and I like what gets revealed and what Rika has to contend with in understanding the world that she’s thrown into, but it’s just ending more on a whimper than with a bang and that feels a little wrong.

Features:
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: July 26th, 2016
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 150 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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