When They Cry consists of two independent yet somewhat related anime series, ひぐらしのなく頃に (“When the Cicadas Cry”) and うみねこのなく頃に (“When the Seagulls Cry”). These two are popular Japanese murder mysteries that have had an anime adaptation, manga, visual novel as well as a video game. For this review, I’ll be covering only the former. PG alert : Both anime have straight up gore and violent death scenes UNCENSORED in manga and in the anime. Gorier pictures follow below. Be warned.
Lets start the ball (or should I say heads) rolling with “When the Cicadas Cry”. This storyline follows the life of Keiichi Maebara, the heir to the Furude Rika shrine. Unfortunately, dark secrets and mysterious occurrences are occurring in what appears to be a peaceful, rural village of Hinamizawa. He soon learns that for the past four years, there has been an annual murder or missing persons case every evening of the Watanagashi Festival, also known as the Intestines-Drifting Festival. In each story arc, either Keiichi or one of his friends will begin to experience paranoia and commit a crime, usually involving the murder of one or more of their friends. Ultimately, both arcs boil down to Rika’s death via disembowelment at the altar of her own shrine.
What drew me in to this anime was that each and every character’s personality has a backstory that perfectly explains their motivations in the events to come (e.g., the abused girl becomes mentally unstable, sibling rivalry stirs up hate and unhappiness, etc.). Different arcs give rise to a variation of behaviors due to slight changes in their background, making it very difficult to predict which character is the murderer.
Another thing that drew me in was the extreme contrast between the character types and their actions. What I expected to be a happy, innocent story about friendship turned out to be the total opposite, with mere 16 year olds torturing elementary school children to death and vice versa. The setting was well designed too, a quiet village with no immediate contact to a city is just begging for something nasty to happen. Let’s not forget the extremely violent deaths experienced by the victims. By violent, I mean smashing in someone’s head with an aluminium baseball bat and stabbing one’s own head several times with a knife (for example, victims of the Hinamizawa Syndrome).
Seldom do the victims die instantly and this only further intensifies the contrast between the characters’ action and their type. The only problem that many viewers, myself included, have is that the storyline can be rather confusing as it bounces from one arc to another without any explanation whatsoever as to how different events in different arcs are connected within a common narrative. Although the sequel, Kai, does attempt to explain the events of the previous season, viewers have to either re-view certain sequences in the first season or have a very good memory of its convoluted timeline. The time loop aspect of it also confuses some people as it is not explicitly stated when one loop or another has occurred and much confusion arises from this.
However, I personally feel that this anime has a very interesting plot and a fantastic setting that builds up the mood and tension very well. For a mystery anime, it fares decently although it is not up to the standard of more famous ones like Detective Conan. All in all, I would strongly recommend this anime to anyone who is interested in the mystery genre and doesn’t mind a little stomach-turning gore thrown in.
Here’s a little preview for Umineko if Higurashi wasn’t enough. Kudos to the mangaka that did the fantastic job of drawing out all the scenes!