When They Cry, Season 1 — Anime Review

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2 Stars
Hey, do you want to see cute anime characters die horrible bloody deaths? If you are sure of the answer then you probably already have enough information to decide whether you want to watch this series.

  • Original Title
    Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When the Cicadas Cry)
  • Genres
    Mystery, Horror
  • Demographic
  • Contents
    26 Episodes on 6 DVDs
  • Languages
    English, Japanese with subtitles
  • Based on
    A series of video games by 07th Expansion
  • Director
    Matsuo Asami
  • Script
    Rika Nakase, Toshifumi Kawase
  • Character Design
    Kyuuta Sakai
  • Art Director
    Chikako Shibata
  • Animation Studio
    Studio DEEN
  • Broadcast
  • Region 1 Publisher

This series aims to frighten and disturb, and it succeeds. It includes a startling amount of violence. As I have said before, I am not opposed to violence in entertainment for adults as long as it serves an artistic purpose. In this case I’m not so sure that it does.

However I think the studio deserves credit for being willing to try something risky and different instead of just making yet another mecha-fest. In this case it paid off. The show was a big hit when originally broadcast in Japan. A second season is currently being broadcast and a live-action movie has been announced.

The show does have a certain horrid fascination which may keep you watching if only to see if they can come up with a satisfactory conclusion. In my opinion the answer is “No”.

Part of the problem is related to the fact that this is a video game adaptation. Movies and television shows derived from video games tend to be unsatisfactory. It is sometimes possible for a sufficiently talented writer to start with the non-linear, multi-path structure of a game and produce a single linear narrative that is satisfying to watch, but it is not easy and in practice it rarely happens.

In this case they hardly even try. Watching this show is like watching someone else play a video game, trying different strategies and game options. This is rather interesting at first, but soon the whole exercise starts to seem pointless.

When judged by the usual standards of Japanese television the animation is fairly cheap-looking and unimpressive. It is better than most of the stuff shown on American TV, but that is very faint praise.

Parental Advisory

Given the cute character designs, children will probably want to watch this. Given the high cost of psychotherapy they should not be permitted to do so under any circumstances. The show includes graphic depictions of murder and torture, not to mention children being brutally beaten by their caregivers.

To be fair, this is no bloodier than a typical Hollywood R-rated slasher movie, and a lot more stylish. Still, if you don’t think your children are old enough to watch the slasher movie then they shouldn’t be watching this either.

Premise and Characters

The time is the summer of 1983. The place is Hinamizawa, an isolated village whose inhabitants have kept to themselves for centuries, regarding outsiders with suspicion. Four years ago the village was threatened with destruction. The government was planning to build a dam that would leave it deep underwater. These plans were canceled after the leaders of the Sonozaki family, the largest local landowners, made a special appeal to to government in Tokyo, and after the director of the construction site was found murdered and dismembered.
Since then there has been a series of deaths and disappearances. Every year, on the night of the local Summer festival, one person has been found dead and mutilated, and another person has vanished and never been heard from again. Is it the work of a single serial killer? Are the closed-mouthed villagers involved in a conspiracy? Or could it be the curse of Oyashiro-sama, the grim local deity?
Keiichi Maebara Keiichi Maebara is a teenage boy who serves as the viewpoint character for most of the series. His family moved to Hinamizawa from Tokyo only a month ago, but he has already made some nice new friends. At least they seem nice. Keiichi himself seems normal enough, but he has a dark secret in his past. Actually he will probably fit right in.
Rena RyuuguuRena Ryuuguu is a cute girl the same age as Keiichi. You certainly wouldn’t think to look at her that she has any sort of dark secret in her past. She loves to collect cute things and can often be found browsing in the local landfill seeking to add to her collection.
Mion SonozakiMion Sonozaki is next in line to inherit the leadership of the Sonozaki family, the most powerful of the Three Families that have traditionally ruled the village. She is strong-willed and used to having her own way. She has organized a club which meets to play games after school. Cheating is not merely permitted, it is required.
Rika FurudeRika Furude is a cute little girl who sometimes displays knowledge and wisdom far beyond her years. Her father died and her mother vanished during one of the earlier festivals, presumed victims of “Oyashiro-sama’s curse.” Since her father was a priest, she serves as a miko at the local shrine. She is the heir of the Furude family, one of the original Three Families.
Satoko HoujouRika’s roommate Satoko Houjou was also orphaned by the curse. She seems high-spirited but is actually traumatized by her past.
Shion SonozakiShion Sonozaki is Mion’s estranged twin sister who lives in the nearby town of Okinomiya. Confusingly, they often impersonate each other.
Kuraudo OishiSince the village is too small to have its own police force, the responsibility for investigating the killings rests with Okinomiya’s police force. Police detective Kuraudo Oishi approaches Keiichi, seeking his help in the investigation. Oishi can be a useful source of information but those who fail to cooperate will find him a dangerous opponent. Yet cooperating with him can also be dangerous.
Jiro TomitakeJiro Tomitake is a wildlife photographer who often visits the village and knows a great deal about it.
Miyo TakanoMiyo Takano is a good friend of Tomitake’s. She works at the village clinic and has made a hobby of investigating the legends of Oyashiro-sama.
Kyousuke IrieKyousuke Irie is a kindly doctor who runs the local clinic. He also manages a youth baseball team.
Satoshi HoujouSatoshi Houjou, Satoko’s beloved older brother, mysteriously vanished two years ago, probably another victim of the curse.


Anime News Network listing.

Wikipedia entry (spoilers.)