I’ve had the exact same thought two weeks running with Summertime Render – damn, this series makes me take a lot of notes. Watching a good mystery series puts the viewer in detective mode, and that’s very much how it is here. The downside of that is that it seems to be in the nature of anime fandom to relentlessly pick apart any such show, and if there are any continuity or logic errors to rip it to shreds. It’s not easy to write one of these things and never slip up, and in the final analysis I think a better yardstick is how entertaining and engaging a series is.
By that measure Summertime Render is doing very well indeed. The big guns of this season are still firing on all cylinders, and while as a writer I might wish they were a little more spread out on the calendar, as a fan it’s a very nice feeling indeed. I really enjoy the way none of the top series of the season are much like each other, because their respective genres each offer a unique sort of satisfaction. This kind of story is almost like a game between the author/director and the audience (which I guess is why murder mystery dinners have been a popular form of entertainment for so long – and mystery VNs for almost as long.
Shinpei is a well-enough crafted character to make a good audience proxy without coming off as a bland self-insert. He’s by nature an analytical and suspicious boy, which serves him well on both sides of the fourth wall. The extensive use of his narration is a bit of a new thing this week, and I’m not sure yet if I like it – his addressing the audience directly took me out of the moment on a couple of occasions. But there’s not much else that didn’t click for me. Bringing Sou (Ono Kenshou) in as a full partner aided the flow nicely, and every scene this week worked very well.
The encounter with Shiori’s shadow at the Kobayakawa house seems to prove pretty conclusively that Shiori (Kugimiya Rie now that she’s talking) was the shadow at the funeral (which I think was always likely). The nosy neighbor’s arrival upstairs seems to have averted Shinpei’s death for the moment but he’s obviously marked. The damage to the floor is interesting – we haven’t seen anything in the shadow interactions thus far that would explain it. Shinpei’s first instinct after this disturbing encounter is to seek out the big-breasted lady from the ferry, but a survey of the island’s four inns reveals that she’s not staying at any of them (though she did dine at one).
The next big nugget is the return of Ushio’s phone, which Totsumura-san (not dead thanks to Shinpei’s intervention) says Ushio told him to give to Shinpei if anything happened. Which obviously implies she expected something to happen. No movement on that yet since Shinpei doesn’t know the password, but it will obviously prove important. As for Sou, when presented with the photo and video evidence he believes Shinpei’s story, which – assuming he’s the real Sou – indicates the depth of their friendship. He suggests they consult with the chief priest of the shrine, which makes good sense. But Shinpei is understandably reluctant to go back there, and gets the others to agree to wait a day and go during the summer festival the next day.
Sou makes good sense. He points out that if the shadows show up on film they’re real even if not necessarily “alive” in the true sense, suggesting they may be killable. His chief priest idea is logical. So is his suggestion of a password to help “out” any shadow imposters. But I’m not convinced yet Sou is the real Sou. We don’t know how good these shadows are as actors, but if I were a shadow Sou something like the password idea would be a very neat ploy to gain Shinpei’s trust. Same goes for Sou’s sister Tokiko (Kawase Maki), though her behavior isn’t at all suspicious and Sou claims she knows nothing about what’s happening yet.
But all these plans fly out of Shinpei’s mind (understandably, to be fair) when he sees what looks like Ushio – or her shadow, or ghost) – at the festival. It leads him down to the beach, where he finally catches up with it as it’s standing in shallow water. The look of confusion on “Ushio’s” face and next week’s episode title (“Jamais vu”) suggest whatever this is doesn’t recognize Shinpei, though that’s just speculation. The idea that the body at the funeral was actually Ushio’s shadow has always seemed possible, and if so would suggest that the real Ushio could still be alive. We’re in conjecture based on conjecture stage at the moment, but we’re barely 10% of the way through Summertime Render – it’s got to guard its secrets for a lot longer.