Anime Review: When They Cry

The silver screen has been filled with American remakes of Japanese horror movies in recent years, all fairly similar, which may cloud people’s perception of the Japanese take on the genre. However, it’s safe to say that “When They Cry” is in a class by itself, almost defying description.
The first chapter of the anime series starts with an extremely brutal scene of a boy beating the lifeless bodies of two others with a bat. What follows the opening credits, though, is a lighthearted school comedy, complete with exaggerated characters and colorful designs. The sudden change is disorienting and even off-putting; how could anyone smile at the playful antics after what the first scene showed? Of course, when talk of deaths interrupts the school comedy, the horror stands out even more in contrast, especially as it becomes clear that the first scene lies in the near future of these characters. This makes the comedic scenes even harder to get into, as viewers may wish to get back to the more interesting stuff. The result is an odd juxtaposition, not blending, of comedy and horror that’s often effective, but it can result in emotional whiplash. It’s an interesting approach, and the psychological tension wouldn’t be as high if everything was filled with scary music and lighting all the time; on the other hand, the lighter stuff might not even be as disarming as it should be, since it goes out of its way to seem like innocent fun but never makes the scenes very interesting – if it was strictly a school comedy, it would be as generic as they come.
The first four episodes have an increasing level of menace and paranoia, as the characters head toward the tragedy already seen and the viewer tries to piece together the larger mystery. The foreseen violence finally happens in episode four, but with it comes the end of that chapter.
Episode five, still on volume one of the series, will really throw viewers for a loop; another chapter begins, with another flash of upcoming viciousness – but everything and everyone has started over again. Chapter two is another take on a similar story, with the same characters from the first chapter. Apparently, the series is built around some central mystery, and each chapter adds a little more while serving up its own little tale of horror. A second season is airing in Japan that contains the “answer chapters,” filling in the blanks provided by the first season. After everything is revealed, it’ll more or less make sense. However, it’ll be a long time before all the chapters are out in the U.S., so it’s best to just enjoy it now as a horror anthology and worry about the larger questions later.

U.S. release: Geneon
Animation by Studio DEEN
Volume 1-2 available
Volume 3 release date: Oct. 2, 2007
Genres: Horror, mystery, psychological