The first series of When They Cry, which I wrote about for my Halloween series of anime articles, was effective, fun, a little silly at times, and very confusing. We were left knowing some of the answers about what was going on, but not all. When I started the second series I was a little dismayed to find the same few days still being played out in different ways, basically picking up where we left off. I was even more dismayed to find that continuing across the entire series.
On the positive side, the second series does do a brilliant job of explaining everything and making all the pieces fit together. About halfway through the first series I was thinking that none of this made any sense, and was wondering if it was all simply an excuse to show the characters getting killed in different ways, without any coherent story behind it. The second series happily proved that I was wrong about that. The whole thing builds up to a highly complex story, but maybe not quite complex enough to justify a commitment of nearly 50 episodes. Much time is spent filling in the back stories of each of the characters, which feels a bit like treading water until we reach the latter part of the series and start looking in detail at the lives of the characters who really matter: Rika, and her enemy, who is the mastermind behind the eventual deaths of everyone in the town, a tragedy that Rika is the only person who can avert. I won’t spoil the secret of the big villain’s identity, but his/her backstory is hugely compelling and tragic, and done is such a way to make us feel just a little bit of sympathy, despite his/her horrific crimes. As is so often the case, a broken childhood is where the rot sets in.
We have a new character this series, the demon girl Hanyu, who would actually have been around all along but we have as yet not been allowed to see her. She is an enormously fun character and a great addition to the show, but can be frustrating at times. She is clearly powerful enough to sort out this whole sorry mess, as eventually becomes abundantly clear in the final episode, but instead spends far too much time standing back and watching. Her involvement is key to resolving things, but importantly there are other pieces that need to fall into place as well. Many others.
The moments of silliness and the chibi art at times continued to get on my nerves, and during the first half of the series it features far more strongly than the first series, which seemed like a horrible backward step. Once the series gets on with really telling the story and resolving things these moments fade away, but there is far too much stalling before we get to that point. The overacting doesn’t help either. Unlike the first series, there is no dub for the second series on the blu-rays and the Japanese actors got on my nerves at times with their shouty acting. The one who really did impress me was Miki Ito as Miyo Takano, who brings a creepy tone to her voice that is hard to explain without just listening to it.
The main characters are all reasonably well-served, although there is a clear shift in focus. Keiichi and Rena were the main focus of the first series, but both of them are the least significant characters with not a lot to do in the second series, particularly Rena. In contrast, Satako’s struggles with her abusive uncle are key to much of this series, and Rika is clearly the star of the show. I enjoyed the new balance because Rika is a brilliant character, and Hanyu and Rika together are double the fun.
So we finally have all the answers, and a resolution to this sprawling, complex story. Right at the end of the final episode there is a little coda that seems to change everything and over-write the whole story, which comes close to making the whole thing a pointless exercise. It was an ill-judged moment. There is a third series, of sorts, a collection of five OVA episodes. I’ll write about that in due course. In the meantime I’ll leave you with the gorgeous opening credits for the second series. RP
Read next in the Junkyard… When They Cry Rei