When They Cry (aka Higurashi ni Naku Koro Ni ひぐらしのなく頃に ) is a 26-episode horror series from 20061 by Studio DEEN and based on a Sound Novel by 07th-Expansion.
In 1983 Keiichi Maebara moves with his family to a small mountain village after having problems at his last school. He starts to make friends with classmates from the one-room schoolhouse, mainly the 4 girls who comprise the game club he joins, only to have his summer interupted by learning of secrets buried in the towns recent past with people vanishing during the summer festival and other murders to appease an angry local god. As paranoia and madness sets in Keiichi doesn’t know who he can trust or if he himself is going mad.
And then it happens again. And again. And again- but we’ll get to that.
When They Cry is horror done well. It has all the hallmarks of any entry in the genre, a fairly unassuming start with everything happy which slowly gets more menacing as the towns past is revealed, not to mention a lead who’s likable without knowing if hes actually completely sane or just imagining things. It uses its early-80s setting in the middle of summer evocatively setting up why things feel so cut off in this little town and the growing unease from how hot everything is. Plus its title refers to the sounds of cicadas which it frequently uses as a stinger to things, you wouldn’t think cicadas could be scary until theyre the only sound you suddenly hear after finding out about a bunch of murders being covered up.
Perhaps most importantly, and uniquely, it moves fast. The first story is only 4 episodes long, after which everything resets and it starts anew with a slightly different character focus and things playing out a little bit differently.2 Comprising of a bunch of 4-6 episode arcs keeps any one of them from dragging since you don’t need to deal with filler, and it keeps the tension up as people die at a fairly high frequency when they’ll be back in a few episodes (probably to die again).
There are two main marks people will throw against When They Cry: the character designs and the violence. The designs are, to put it mildly, ROUGH- with everyone having fairly jagged limbs and a bit of fluidity in designs (especially as they go mad) which can make the series off-putting from just looking at stills of it.
The other issue, its violence, is a much bigger issue while watching it since there’s no getting around it- this is a violent series and a not inconsiderable amount of that violence is directed at children. While most of the direct violence happens just off screen, there is copious amounts of blood splattering around and you do see the aftermath frequently. It also has hands down, the most unnerving scene of violence Ive ever seen in anything 3.
Weeb Level: 5/10- Between the character designs and how many of them are very young girls, there’s no getting around you’re watching something made in Japan.
Fanservice: 1/10- Thankfully the show never sexualizes anyone, which would be really hard to do with how angular everyone looks.
Violence: 8/10- This show tells you whats up in the first 20 seconds as it opens with Keiichi beating two people to death with a baseball bat. There will be a lot more blood yet to come.
Quality: 8/10- A horror classic that manages to hold up even almost 15 years later, making the existence of the remake extra odd.
Where to Watch: It was originally brought over by Geneon right as they went under, and then recovered by Sentai Filmworks. While it was on Crunchyroll and Prime as recent as a year ago, it appears now that HiDive is the only streaming service carrying it, through the blu-rays are still readily available.