Pros:Well use of horror elements, becomes more focused later
Cons:Cutesy and saccharine character designs, unfunny comedy
The Bottom Line: Highly recommended to the die hard otaku. Not at all meant for those who prefer for the characters to be more adult oriented.
Transfer student Keniichi Maebara has grown a liking to his new town, the quiet village Hinamizawa. He becomes fast friends with four girls around his age. Although the town appears to be quite the humble place, it contains deadly secrets that can and does affect people's lives.-summary
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When They Cry is a series that I put off for a very long time. The whole premise concerning murderous children, with the ultra anime cuteness gimmick is something that had left a very bad taste in my mouth. I blame my life scarring experience on the abomination Elfen Lied. Still, for reasons unknown, I had an interest in this series anyway. Although I do not consider it to be the anime masterpiece that so many think it is. It's still a good series to me because it gets so many things right. This series reminds me of Elfen Lied in some ways, but unlike the aforementioned series there are glimpses of brilliance found here.
One thing among many things that Elfen Lied did terribly was the meshing of its genres. The comedy clashed with the violent content, and the fan service clashed with the horror. Therefore, in the end, I couldn't take any of it serious. However, in regards to When They Cry, the comedy is well paced and it isn't presented to "lighten up" the mood. The comedy normally takes place in the beginning of an arc, and it actually works into the characters three dimensional development. It's meant to establish the kids innocence and care free nature. But when things become serious, the anime maintains the tempo through well paced suspense and story build up.
The meat of the series for me has to be the story and plot. The anime is broken up into six chapters using a horror-mystery backdrop. This is where the series takes some getting use to. At first, the series utilizes a repetitive story and plot elements that becomes quite predictable. Normally, I hate this method of storytelling, but it actually works here for several reasons: For one, the stories continue to add background, and present different perspectives to the story. Second, the stories are just plain interesting with the focus being on different individuals. Finally, the ending ties up everything making sense of it all in the process.
The series tells its tale by exploring the myths surrounding the villages history and traditions. I found the anime to be gripping once the plots began, and I believe the horror elements worked out rather well. The anime did a great job exercising its themes such as paranoia, revenge, and obsession.
One of the elements that most fans mention about the series is the violence. The violence in the series can be very over the top, but it doesn't take place to carry or mask an incoherent plot. It also isn't used as a cheap and repetitive gimmick, shades of Elfen Lied. The violence is meant to shock the viewer, and I do believe it's effective, but it also serves in supporting its themes.
The characters will work for some folks, but at times, they were too saccharine for my taste. I understand the reasons for combining cute with violent. Still, this is an approach that can spell disaster for some, and I found a couple of the characters detestable on certain occasions. Overall, they are well developed and each of them becomes the center of a story arc.
The series does a great job handling its soundtrack and sound effects. The sounds of the cicadas adds to the series atmosphere creating a sense of ambiance when it's needed. The soundtrack also works well making the drama and even the horror stand out a tad bit more. I enjoyed the artwork concerning the beautiful backgrounds, but the character designs really didn't do a thing for me. The animation really wasn't anything special to me. The budget was conserved because there were frequent uses of stills, along with stationary characters and lots of dialogue. In any case, I found it to be very watchable. I also don't recall any fan service at all.
Overall, When They Cry is an anime that surprised me. I think the series did it's job in delivering a gripping experience. Some people think multiple watches are needed to fully get the story, but I disagree there. The twists are nothing very special, but I do think the ending was one of those "wow" moments. When They Cry is among the best anime series with a horror twist. I think it's far beyond Elfen Lied, it surpasses Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne, and it edges out Requiem from the Darkness. Had the character designs been more mature, and the comedy non existent, then this series could have been the masterpiece that so many swear it is. If you're the type who has a deep disdain for cute-like characters. This is something you will more than likely hate. The series is 26 episodes with a 650 minute run time.
Other Anime Horror Titles:
Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne
Portrait de Petite Cossette
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