I really, really liked When They Cry
the first anime series based on a game of the same name.
It was an eerie and macabre show that
consisted of several stories taking place in a small town over the same
time period. The unique thing is that
each story was in a different reality:
some characters would die in one story but still be alive in the
next. That added a lot to the
otherworldly feeling of the show. So I was
excited when I heard that NIS America, one of my favorite anime
releasing the sequel series, Umineko:
When They Cry, here in region one.
Having seen this second series I have to admit that it does not
the original. Still, it's a good show
and has some spooky sections and some rather grisly moments that make
Every year the prosperous and powerful Ushiromiya family
gathers on Rokken
Island, the home
elder, Kinzo, to go over the business dealings.
This year is a rather special meeting, because Kinzo has just
that he's fatally ill and only has three months to live.
A successor will have to be chosen to run the
family business, and the various siblings are all hoping they will be
and are jostling for position. The likely
heir, Krauss, is accused of embezzling money from Kinzo to fund a
that he has built that lacks customers.
The others have their problems too though. One
couple's company is the target of a
hostile takeover and they need a large infusion of cash to hold him off
other has lost an expensive law suit.
No one is sure how sane the family patriarch is either.
The story he has told about the creation of
the Ushiromiya business is a little... odd.
His ancestors were rich and powerful too, until an earthquake
their factories and they went bankrupt.
Kinzo says that he met a lady named Beatrice, the Eternal Witch,
gave him ten tons of gold in exchange for his soul when he dies.
He only saw her that once, but Kinzo fell in love with the
witch. In the last few years he has been
trying to contact Beatrice, his one wish is to see her once again
dies. To that end he commissioned a
life-sized painting of the mysterious woman.
Some say she's really an old mistress and others think she's his
illegitimate daughter, but everyone is surprised when Kinzo announces
whoever can solve the riddle of Beatrice's Epitaph, a poem inscribed
her painting, will win his ten tons of gold as well as becoming the
As soon as everyone has arrived, a typhoon blows in and the
phone lines to the mainland go out isolating the family and the
people in all. Soon after that, people
start dying in gruesome ways and seemingly impossible circumstances. They are often found in locked rooms with no
way in or out. Could the Witch Beatrice
really be killing the members of the Ushiromiya family as the epitaph
suggests? Many are starting to believe
that she is, but not one member of the group, Battler Ushiromiya. He's convinced that there's no such thing as
witches and he refuses to believe in them, even when Beatrice shows up
Like the original series, this saga replays the events on
the island on that fateful weekend again and again, examining what
people do. It's not a Rashomon-like
story though because the
main events change with each telling.
There are major characters that are added and there are some
differences between each retelling. But
that's one of the show's flaws: they
reinterpret the same basic saga several times (as where the first
different stories with the same characters).
Yes, things are different, but the third time that six people
die on the
first night, it's not really a shock or surprise.
The other mistake that the creators made is that they
created a sort of framing device after the first story (I won't explain
fear of giving too much away) to explain why the same tale is being
repeated. This device seemed forced and
convoluted, and I would have preferred if they had just left it out,
does become pretty integral to the story by the end.
I liked the way the first series did things
better... it just told creepy stories and let the viewer worry about why
who died in the last one was alive in the next.
Having said that, I have to admit that I really enjoyed
watching this series. There were some
wonderfully grotesque murders, some very odd mysteries, and some pretty
surprises sprinkled through the show. I
have to admit that it did keep me guessing the whole way through, and I
wanted to watch the next installment, even if it was getting late. If you've only seen mecha anime, you might
not want to branch out with this particular program, but if you're a
fan of the
odd and unusual, give it a try.
Like NIS America's other
Premium Edition releases, this story comes in a quality package. The 26-episode series arrives in two Premium
Edition collections (available separately... the first one contains 18
and the second the final 8 installments) each with two Blu-ray discs in
own thinpak cases. Each set comes in a
sturdy board case that's nearly 8 in X 11 in.
The case is attractively illustrated with characters from the
show. In a nice touch that shows a fine
to detail, the UPC code in hidden inconspicuously on the side of the
that the artwork isn't marred. Also
with each set is a very nice hardcover art book. Scroll
down to the extras section for more
details on that.
This release arrives with the original Japanese soundtrack
in lossless LPCM stereo. It sounded very
good, with full range and some nice separation.
There are optional English subtitles, but there is not a dub
which is fine with me. I prefer watching
anime in Japanese since that was the way it was created to be seen.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looks very good. The
colors are strong and solid and they're
accurately reproduced and come through clearly.
The level of detail is very good and the lines are tight. Digitally it also looked very good with
aliasing, which often plagues anime, being nonexistent.
The discs themselves include a clean opening and three
virgin closings, something I really enjoy seeing, as well as a pair of
'original picture dramas." These are
still images with clips of animation from the series that tell a couple
stories. The two stories, Gala
Preparations and Little Spirit Theater, run 19 and 15 minutes
they're almost as long as a full episode.
Worth checking out.
In addition there's also a very nice hardcover book included
with each set. This time the book reads
left-to-right, the way books are read in the US
(as opposed to reading right-to-left the way it's done in Japan). The attractive full-color books include
sketches, 'newspaper' articles detailing all of the mysterious events
place in the series, and (what I appreciated most of all) the full text
Epitaph Riddle that plays an important part in the series.
They are printed on high quality glossy
paper, and is really very striking.
This is a hard show to rate.
While I realize it's not prefect and that there are some flaws
way the story is told, I did enjoy watching it.
The show kept me guessing, and while it was hard to keep all 18
characters straight, it's not terribly important to do so.
By the time the story is half way over you'll
know just who all the players are and how they're connected to each
Umineko: When They Cry
is a solid program and is recommended.