I really feel like Summertime Render would have been a massive, massive hit in the West if Disney hadn’t completely sabotaged it. It’s hitting big in Japan, and it’s perfect material to cross over. It has everything you need to click – it confidently rests at the center of the Venn diagram where commercial appeal and artistic accomplishment meet. A really smart and telegenic manga in the hands of of one of anime’s greatest directors, with the expected result. It’s almost as if these American mega-corporations hate money – though since we know the opposite is true, Occam’s Razor tells us it’s a matter of willful ignorance about how anime fans consume material (and spend money).
I can’t help but hold SR in a certain amount of awe, especially given the way Another and most other anime ventures into this genre self-destruct when they get to the third act. The credit there goes to the mangaka Tanaka-sensei, but Watanabe Ayumu’s influence is what gilds the lily. There’s an irresistible cheekiness to the way he approaches the material, which keeps the dark and heavy subject matter from becoming bleak or despairing without ever diminishing it.
The conversation between Shinpei and Ryuunosuke was a perfect example, a hilarious yet also poignant illustration of how the three years between 14 and 17 feel like an eternity for boys, and of the distinct personalities of both boys in question. Theoretically it didn’t need to be where it was, right smack in the middle of some of the weightiest plot yet – but it added so much emotional context. That delta between what’s “necessary” and what connects to an audience is the difference between good and great fiction.
We’ve heard Ushio referred to as the “Egg” before, though never by Shide. She – and the eye still in her possession in this timeline – seem to be the key to Shide’s plan to no less than destroy the world (though seemingly as a means to becoming master of the universe). That’s solid big bad motivation, to be sure. We finally cross over to “the other side”, the place Haine pined for – and it’s Tokoyo. In Kanji it’s 常夜, which more or less translates as “eternal night”, and in Summertime Render’s context it’s the land of the dead. There are implications there regarding what shadows may actually be, but in practical terms what matters for now is that it’s where the final battle – this phase of it anyway – between Shide and Team Shinpei will take place.
One box is checked as Shinpei officially tells Ushio he loves her, which pretty much eliminates the possibility that he pursues any end which sees her disappear along with the threat to humanity. Even following her (and Shide) to Tokoyo is a confession of sorts, since when he does it Shinpei believes he can never return. Shide goads the enemy into following him, knowing they have no choice but to do so. As it turns out there is a way to return – there has to be, since Shide plans to do just that once he’s plucked the eyes back into his possession and can execute his grand scheme (and the entire human race).
Tokoyo is beautifully realized by Watanabe and his team, the aesthetic something like a surrealist painting with a touch of Van Gogh. It’s an eerie and foreboding setting with an odd beauty to it, and its existence seems directly connected to Hiruko’s memories. She’s reverted to infant form and is basically an appendage for Shide at this point, but her Haine half has split off, with the original human personality now in ascendance. And she allies herself with Team Shinpei, which after all includes the twin of her only friend. That twin takes control of Shinpei’s body, shouldering his pain as he did with his sister, so that Shinpei’s body can keep transcending its human limits.
There are good reasons why Shide wanted to fight this battle here, not least that in Tokoyo Shinpei can no longer leap. That’s because as the land of the dead time stand still there, which has another important impact – Ryuu’s two-second preview is also nullified. Shide reaches into Hiruko’s memories and pulls out an air raid from WW II, with a squadron of B-29’s firebombing the area (remember those military installations), planning to burn the enemy to a crisp and steal the eyes back. This is a terrifying and primal memory for the Japanese, and it’s definitely playing literary hardball to summon it here, but I think that’s exactly the point.
This is surely the early stage of the final battle, spanning dimensions and reaching back into the past. KageUshio has apparently eaten some of her real body, giving her regenerative abilities which take Shide by surprise, and she’s figured out that his real body remains back in the mortal realm. That’s obviously where this climactic tussle will eventually conclude, and given what we’ve seen to this point I see no reason to expect it to be anything less than spectacular.