When They Cry or Higurashi no Naku Koroni started off as a graphic novel on PC made by 07th Expansion with several different endings.  Unlike a lot of graphic novels adapted to comics and TV, When They Cry chose to keep the separate story arcs and deliver an experience that is faithful to the original story arcs.  Many things that were true in one story arc carries over to the others, except for how Oyashiiro's curse affects the main characters.

The setting is always Hinamizawa, Japan, centered around 1983.  Five years prior to the story, in 1978, the government planned to build a damn in Hinamizawa, which would have flooded the town and displaced all of the residence.  The site of the damn was to be the dump, the same place Renna treasure hunts and hangs out in.  The people of Hinamizawa protested.  It was later revealed that there was corruption in the officials who planned the damn, but not before a man was killed.  One of the victims arms was never found.

Oyashiro's Curse

It is said that the patron spirit of Hinamizawa, Oyashiro, was greatly angered by the government's attempt at building the damn and seeks atonement from the people of Hinamizawa by killing a person and spiriting another person away at the anual Cotton Drifting Festival.  Satako Hojo's parents and Rika Fuerude's parents are said to have angered Oyashiro, and were killed in mysterious ways.  The Hojo's died in an accident while taking a vacation away from Hinamizawa.  The subsequent year, Rika Furude's died (father from poison, mother lost in swamp).  Satako's aunt and uncle are considered to be victims too and her older brother, Satoshi, vanished, presumed to have run away.

In 1983, the victims will be Jirou Tomitake (a frequent visitor to Hinamizawa, photographing local birds) and MiyoTakano.  This remains constant, even though the Cotton Drifting festival occurs in the middle of all story arcs.  Jirou Tomitake was found in a phone booth, and scratched his neck so much that he severed an artery.  Miyo Takano was said to have spontaneously combusted into a fireball.