「闇の中へ」 (Ya I no Naka e)
“Into the Darkness”
Now that was the real shadows house.
I like everything about Summertime Render except the distribution. For someone who works full-time and is trying to keep this place going at the same time, predictability of scheduling means a lot. Having to fit a core series in whenever it surfaces is a nightmare, frankly. But this is what watching anime in English used to be like – you worked around its schedule, not yours. The age of streaming has spoiled us as well as robbing us of most – though thankfully not all, as SR shows – of the groups who used to translate it.
If a show is good enough, you find a way to make it work. And Render is definitely good enough. Even a relatively transitional episode like this one is a chance to watch an auteur director do his thing. And the material is never less than interesting – the dialogue is snappy (probably shared credit to the director and the mangaka for that) and the plot one of the most interesting the genre has produced in years. This episode felt like it was over in a flash (shadow or otherwise). I tell you what though, a few more eps like this one and my notepad budget is gonna be completely blown.
Speaking of Watanabe and Tanaka, they’re certainly doing everything to make us suspicious of the Hishigata clan. We pretty much know the dad and Tokiko are in on the conspiracy, but the direction here certainly wants to cast doubt on Sou, too. I’m still tending to believe he’s clean (we’ve already seen him killed once and nearly killed multiple times) but he may know more than he’s sharing with Ushio and Shinpei. The clinic is obviously a key to all this, so it makes sense both that Shinpei would focus the detective work there and that Sou would be queasy about it, given the family connections.
With the prefectural cops in town too (I’m withholding judgement on how I interpret that, but Tokiko is clearly displeased), things are getting more and more complicated. There’s more infodumping on shadows, as Ushio tells us that she can copy anything “as long as she has space” (there’s something very technology-sounding about that). But we also find out that machines only work when the original is destroyed. That doesn’t apply to a static shape like a key, which can fulfil its function, but to anything that requires energy to move (like a nail gun). This leads to some interesting strategery by Shinpei in using the copy rather than the original on this expedition. Also a crucial point – shadows can sense the presence of other shadows.
Strategy is a big element of the clinic investigation. As Shin says, Ushio is “worth of a hundred of us” in battle. But even more, if she dies first there’s no telling if she’d be able to join Shinpei for future loops. It makes sense for him to take the big risks, even if that doesn’t sit well with the others. Still, it’s Ushio (clever way to justify keeping her in the swimsuit, Tanaka-sensei) who has to go boldly in the clinic because of the spaces – the second floor, the crack in the walls – only she can get to. The real action is (of course) underground – accessible via the key she copies from the stomach of the Hiruko idol the kids find in the clinic.
More than anything that cave plays as a kind of shadow nursery. Certainly these shadows are different, and there’s something about them that feels very infant-like. I’m very curious about this notion of “feeding” – if indeed shadows have to eat this would be the first we’ve seen of it, and in fact we never actually see the shadow in the hallway consume that rat. It’s possible that the destruction of a flesh body (what happens to the rat is more or less what we’ve seen happen to people) is “consumption” to these creatures. Maybe they eat our “data” the way a living animal eats vegetables or meat.
It’s mostly speculation for now, but I’m vibing on some sort of World War II military connection to all this. Certainly the shadow phenomenon is older – the clinic is Meiji Era according to Sou, and the implication is that the island religion is connected to them. But we know the island has military connections too (as many Japanese islands do), and while these tunnels may be used by shadows now it was probably the military that built them. The Japanese military got up to some horrifying stuff during the war, and that’s been the MacGuffin of suspense manga and anime more than once – maybe there was an effort to groom shadows as super-soldiers or the like? Pure speculation on my part, as I said, but I’ll be keeping a close watch for clues that support the notion.