NOTE: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: Higurashi: When They Cry Season Two
Anime Studio: Studio Deen
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Horror / Mystery / Supernatural
Released: November 26th 2018
The first wave of madness that consumed the town of Hinamizawa in 1983 may be finished, but the nightmare is far from over as the time loops that have ensnared the populace continue to wreak carnage and mayhem. As the survivors struggle to cope with the lethal aftermath, the annual cycle of betrayal and murder continues, and only Rena-ironically spared as she was safe in jail after her arrest for her part in the bombing and massacre-may hold the keys to unlocking the mystery. Get ready for a grim post-mortem as Mamoru Akasaka and Officer Oishi dig into the past to solve the hidden secrets of the Great Hinamizawa Disaster, while Keiichi, Rika, Satoko and the others fight to stay alive as the nightmarish Curse continues in WHEN THEY CRY series two.
Originally airing in 2007, the second season of When They Cry actually became embroiled in a little controversy during its first run. In September 2007, a Japanese police officer was murdered by his daughter, and the media began relating the crim to violent series such as When They Cry. As a result, a number of stations – though not all – cancelled the show. With that in mind, you may expect the series to be just as brutal as the first, but in truth, I found it be a little different.
The characters have had some visual tweaks here, though the only one this affects drastically is leading male Keiichi, who now looks a little older. Had all the characters been given the same aging, it would have perhaps reduced the impact of the more violent moments, at least as far as creating the tonal disparity like the first season did. You can still tell that the characters are children though, and this is really rammed home by the first non-prologue episode, as this is where we see the kids playing childish games and generally having fun. Despite there being no sudden death here, those who saw the first season will know that death and torture are likely to pop up sooner rather than later. As a result, you end up on tenterhooks waiting for the characters to start the cycle of suffering all over again.
In many respects, this season does a far better job of creating this tension than the first. While the intrigue was decent there, it’s the sheer brutality of it all that prevents you from becoming desensitized. Had it toned down, the amount of suffering would have run the risk of leaving audience numb, I feel. In season two, the balance shifts a little and the more brutal moments seemed to take a bit longer to build. This means that the impact remains firmly in place without the show resorting to using the exact same trick as the previous run had. At the same time though, it’s so effective because you know that these moments will come, so without that initial run to play off, it perhaps would lose some of the impact.
When They Cry season 2 is often cited as having superior animation to its predecessor, and for the most part, this rings true. While it still has an old school feel to the designs, the overall quality of the season is certainly higher. As to what it is that achieves this effect, I don’t really know; It just feels smoother in execution. Oddly though, the second half of the season does suffer from inconsistencies in this department. In particular, adult characters are occasionally drawn with some strange proportions (such as abnormally large necks) that make them seem out of place against the main cast. In much the same way, there are scenes later on where it looks like there are less frames of animation during conversational sections. This is a shame, because the show really steps up when its important.
The story here follows on in much the same style as season one, with different arcs presented as appropriate. We reach a satisfying conclusion here too that finally gives us a solid end to the tale, which is excellent given how much it tends to jump around. The opening theme is also of note, as it does a fantastic job of setting tone, and the episode ending shorts are wonderful little inclusions.
In all, the only real shame with this release is that it’s subbed only, while season one was a dual language release. The series itself is a great release though, and well worth owning if you can handle to harder hitting scenes. Much as with season one, it scores an easy 4.5 out of 5.