「ライツ カメラ アクション」 (Raitsu Kamera Akushon)
“Lights, Camera, Action”
To be honest, when Summertime Render was announced the first thing I wondered was what made Wayanabe Ayumu decide to direct it. When you get to the stage he’s at in his career – successful theatrical features on the resume – you can pretty much pick and choose whatever project you want if you’re going to work in TV. I’m sure Watanabe isn’t rich by Hollywood standards but in anime terms, he’s a major player. So for him to decide to take on this relatively under the radar supernatural thriller implied that there was something “it” about it.
Well, at this point I’m getting it. To an extent we don’t know how much of the anime’s success is Watanabe’s superb direction and how much is the source material, but – while I have no doubt Watanabe can (and has done) take mediocre material and make it entertaining – Summertime wouldn’t be this good unless there was “there” there. A series like this doesn’t have to be photo-realistic but it does have to make sense to a point – structural integrity, in other words. It has to be built around a sound premise and have engaging characters. All those boxes are checked here, and it’s obvious Watanabe knew that.
I imagine directing this sort of show is fun for a guy like him, and it’s certainly fun for us. His budget is obviously not unlimited (though clearly adequate) and he’s marshalling it for episodes like this one, the biggest battle royale of the series so far, by far. This was, frankly, a bomb – an absolute cracker of an episode. This battle of wits between Shinpei and Ushio and Haine/Shide has become quite compelling. And Ushio has emerged as someone who’s a lot more than she initially seemed to be. Was the actual girl this clever, to go along with the fearlessness and stubbornness?
As most had guessed, Shinpei’s death at the end of Episode 15 was Shide taking him out with Nezu’s sniper rifle. The interesting thing is the way this chess game really resembles a game of chess. With each move the one side can do damage to the other’s cause, but they are sharing information – their attacks reveal their strategy, allowing the opponent to adjust. Shinpei gives us (and his team) the cleanest account yet of what’s happening with these loops – time is literally catching up to him. He figures he’s got one more loop in him after this one, and then that’s it – only darkness awaits after that.
That, in effect, makes this loop the real ballgame – there’s no margin for error here. Which means we’re headed for a serious showdown and damn, SR doesn’t disappoint. Shinpei opts for the direct approach – though he’s lying through his teeth when he says he’s looking for a straight-up battle. I don’t need to elaborate much on what happens (which is rare with this show) – events speak for themselves for the most part. Shide taking out Nezu’s scope with a pebble was pretty boss, but the old codger digs deep and proves he’s a marksman even without a scope. The tide of the battle ebbs back and forth, with Team Shinpei eventually appearing on the verge of triumph with the “burn it with fire” approach.
We’ve got ten episodes left, so obviously that’s not how it’s gonna play out. One interesting question here is who the human inside Shide – and I think we always knew there was one – actually is. It looked female to me but I don’t think the identity was supposed to be obvious (mind your manners in the comments or there’ll be hell to pay). This gives us an idea of Ushio’s true power, as she can selectively burn who and what she wants to with her “copy” fire. Also, Tokiko has turned a couple of “strays” (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, ROFL) to her side, which proves crucial in the B fight against shadow Mio (who Tokiko effectively admits she’s in love with, just like her sibling).
The last-ditch counter by Haine – copying the air in the “vessel” of the gym and turning it into a vacuum, killing the flames – is a truly brilliant stroke. It does buy her and Shide a chance to escape and regroup, but not the victory they imagined – which hinged on Shide having shot Shinpei multiple times so he’ll die slowly enough for him to kill Ushio first. That’s thanks to Shinpei’s own brilliant countermeasure, a homemade bulletproof vest. That leaves this battle balanced on the head of a pin, but those odds look a lot better for the good guys than they did a week ago. And with shadow Mio about to be turned, the momentum has clearly swung – for the moment..