「軌道共鳴」 (Kidō Kyoumei)
It sounds a bit odd to say about a series like Summertime Render. But a show like this, if it’s going to work, has to be smart. I get that this is on some level a pulp thriller, and those tend to be about doing relatively simple things really well. But because of how ambitiously the mangaka Tanaka Yasuki is constructing the story, any cracks in the logic have the potential to become structurally catastrophic. While I respect that ambition, it’s a big gamble, because not every writer has the chops to pull it off. But so far, so good.
Anime is littered with the Icarus and Phaeton-like corpses of series whose reach exceeded their grasp. And while I’ll worry that Summertime Render could be “another” right up until the credits on the final episode scroll, that’s not based on current evidence. Every reveal so far had made sense, and while I can’t credit Watanabe Ayumu for that (though there’s a lot in these first six episodes you can), it’s reassuring that a director of his caliber saw enough in this material to take it on.
The focus – for the first time to this extent – shifts off of Shinpei here, to “Nagumo Ryunosuke”. Except we now know her name is Minakata Hizuru. Nagumo is certainly her pen name, probably her alter ego, but apparently not a full-on split personality. She knew Alan and his daughters before leaving the island 14 years earlier – a departure seemingly prompted by the death of the person whose name she adopted. Was Ryunosuke her brother, or just her friend? Either way he died, in circumstances Alan feels are similar to what happened with Ushio, and she left the island without sharing her contact info even with her closest friend.
What brought Hizuru back was not Ushio’s death – she didn’t find out until she arrived. Someone tipped her off that the shadows were rising, and it seems very likely that was Nezu. She gives him her spare cell phone and gives Alan a coded message on how to call it – a message Shinpei decodes based on his knowledge of her novels. She pops in at the funeral, where she’s recognized by Karakiri Masahito (Konishi Katsuyuki). There’s also a run-in with the doctor from the shadow clinic, Hishikata Seidou (Ohtsuka Akio – some serious star power joining the cast this week). Yes, that is the same surname as Sou and Tokiko – especially ominous given Tokiko’s suspicious behavior last week.
Hizuru also takes the time to save Alan from his shadow – who was about to off him in his toilet stall (the Tywin Lannister exit plan). In the process she shows us a pretty cool way to eliminate shadows. Hizuru generally comes off as quite a fun and strange character, with her sledgehammer-in-a-suitcase and her love of hanging upside down like a bat (or a ninja I suppose). She’ll make quite an ally for Shin, who needs all the help he can get. He’s doing his level best to make use of all the info he brought back with him (see, those weren’t just panty shots – they were plot-relevant!), but the first thing he does when he finally gets to Hizuru is ask for her autograph.
That meeting between Hizuru and Shin (and Nezu), set at an abandoned military base, is a superb bit of direction by Watanabe-sensei. This episode is loaded with great Watanabe moments, like the ant tipping Shin off that all of the Kobayakawa were already shadows (it probably happened that way in the manga, but it’s just so cleverly staged here). Shin is so relieved to finally have someone who understands his situation that he’s moved to tears – indeed, it seems as if this is the beginning of the real counterattack. But it’s also Episode 6 (of 25), so it’s a pretty safe bet things are going to go ass over teakettle for our hero a few more times at least.