Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
When They Cry: Rei
In these three stories, which take place outside of the events of the main series, Keiichi comes into possession of a bathing suit that may or may not be magical, Rena accidentally swallows a love charm with disastrous results, and Rika finds that perfection may not be what she's really looking for when an accident lands her in a Hinamizawa where the dam war never happened.
Spoiler Warning for the ending of When They Cry: Kai
Based on a fan disc released in late 2006, this 2009 OVA is the third of five When They Cry anime – the remaining two are When They Cry: Kira (licensed by Sentai but with no release date yet) and When They Cry: Outbreak, which as of this writing remains unlicensed. Containing only five episodes, this is basically a bite-sized journey into Ryukishi07's world, largely ignoring the conclusion of When They Cry: Kai, even in the more serious Die Killing Arc, which takes up three episodes and had a manga version released as well. Basically, this is a set for die-hard Higurashi fans only, not adding a whole lot to the overall mythology of the series but pretty fun if you're simply a fan of the characters.
Die Killing, as in the singular for “dice,” is sandwiched between the other two stories, possibly as a way to make the disc flow better. It's a drastic departure from the other two storylines, and for those who prefer their Higurashi to remain dark, the best of the batch. It opens directly after the swimming pool antics of the Public Embarrassment episode with the main group biking home to Hinamizawa. Rika, giddy with her success at breaking the cycle, isn't paying attention and gets hit by a truck, which kills her. When she opens her eyes, she's in a totally different Hinamizawa, because Hanyu used the last of her power to send her soul to another fragment. In this world, not only did the dam war never happen, but Hifumi Takano, Miyo's adoptive grandfather, was never ostracized from the medical community, indicating that either he was believed about Hinamizawa Syndrome or it never existed. So Reina never became Rena, Keiichi never moved to town, Satoshi never vanished, and Rika's parents never died. In all the obvious ways, this fragment is an absolutely Perfect World. But is perfection really what Rika wants? This is what she has to struggle with, and as a viewer, it's difficult to fully understand what's driving her. Is it worth destroying the happiness that everyone has in this world to return to the one where they've all been through horrors? Rika barely seems to struggle with this, making her appear too jaded and damaged by all that she's been through to think of someone other than herself. This is nicely shown when she stares at the box of beer and wine on her parents' porch and then later is seen drinking in her room – she's become so used to holes in her happiness that she can't cope with the real thing. In this respect, as well as her final lines in the arc, Die Killing really exists to serve as a segue into Umineko - When They Cry, where Rika appears as the witch Bernkastel, and it sets up the general discontent expressed by the characters of that series rather than adding to the one it's nominally a part of.
The other two stories, Public Embarrassment and Daybreak, are much less concerned with high-falutin' philosophy (which Die Killing's ending gets bogged down in) or connecting to other worlds. They are pure comedy, both at least a little risqué, and both have their moments that really work. Public Embarrassment is a tale of escalating insanity when Keiichi forgets his bathing suit on the way to meeting the girls at the Okinomiya pool. His panic is momentarily assuaged when Mion's uncle, a shopkeeper in Okinomiya, offers him a supposedly magic swimsuit that will render him super popular with the ladies if he writes his name in it and wears it for three hours. (Of course, the girls have a swan suit with a swan's head and neck mimicking an erection all ready for him.) Unfortunately, it turns out that the suit will make Keiichi fall in love with whoever's name he wrote on it after three hours, and Mion panics that he'll be in love with himself and never look at her. The whole episode is thirty minutes of the girls chasing Keiichi trying to get his bathing suit off, with the “Soul Brothers,” comprised of Oishi, Irie, and a ludicrously buff Tomitake, trying to get it for themselves. It's totally absurd, rife with fanservice for both genders, and with the improved animation and art, almost stands on its own as an episode even if you don't know the main story. Do you need to know why Miyo has hypodermics to enjoy her trying to nail Keiichi with them while barely clothed?
Daybreak, on the other hand, does require knowledge of When They Cry. Because an incense burner in the Saiguden is broken, two magical love charms that had been sealed away are on the loose. When Rena swallows the red one, she falls in love with whoever has the white one, leading the gang to chase her all over Hinamizawa and Okinomiya to get both charms back in the temple where they can be deactivated. Over the course of this half hour, Rena falls for Tomitake, Oishi, and Miyo, in whom she even triggers a lesbian awakening. This is the most uncomfortable part simply because it's treated as a joke; even Rena throwing herself at Oishi is handled decently in terms of reaction. This episode feels like a hybrid of When They Cry's standard horror and romance comedy, and if it weren't for a way-too-long mahjong game towards the end, this would have been relatively good. In some ways, it functions as a reverse of Public Embarrassment, although the fanservice is toned down quite a bit.
The major issue viewers may have with this disc is that it really does ignore large parts of the original, most notably Hanyu's new human state at the end of Kai. While this isn't a problem in either of the comedies, it does feel off in Die Killing, especially when she goes into her past. The flow isn't particularly good in either of the second two stories, although all of the players do remain in character, no matter how off-track the storyline gets. The new opening theme has a driving beat that makes it very catchy, and its imagery is good as well. All in all, When They Cry: Rei isn't a particularly meaningful addition to the franchise, but it is good light entertainment in two of its arcs, while the third may help Ryukishi07 fans connect this series with Umineko. For the most part, however, this is a release only major fans of the franchise are likely to enjoy.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Public Embarrassment arc is good silly fun, nice art and animation, new opening theme works well, everyone remains true to their characters
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