In the first place, if you’re going to complain about the ending of Summertime Render, more power to you but I really don’t want to hear it. Everyone will have their own opinions but for me, this is what dramas – especially multi-cour ones – should always do. The manga apparently rushed the ending – fortunately the adaptation had a director smart enough to fix that problem. Stories – especially ones this good – deserve a coda, not just an end. The characters’ lives go on and it’s important to slow down and give the audience a chance to absorb what they’ve seen and reflect on it. Bravo, Watanabe-sensei – thank goodness it was you in charge.
My second take is that the timing for that brilliant ending couldn’t be worse. This is a show I really sense needs to be re-watched and re-interpreted through the lens of knowing what was happening, and it literally ends on the day the busiest anime season in years begins. I know both Tanaka Yasunori and Watanabe put a ton of Easter eggs in there that I’d pick up on a second viewing, and I feel like I’m doing them an injustice not giving them one. But it’s an impossibility for now, so all I can do is put it in the “someday” file (which is getting so big I may need to rent it an apartment) and hope I have the inclination and impetus to go back to Summertime Render when I actually have time to.
As far as what actually happened, I don’t think there were (m)any surprises here. But then, that’s exactly the point of a coda ending. With the re-rendering of the summer of 2018 engineered by KageUshio, there were no shadows. That means the following people are no longer dead: Shinpei’s parents, Nezu’s, wife, Ryuunosuke (a rare chance for Sanpei Yuuko to voice an adult man), Karikiri Iwao, Shiori, the teacher, and a bunch of other islanders. And Hizuru of course – she’s still around too. There are only two loose ends for me – why did Shinpei still have the weird eye when he woke up in the ferry, but not this week? And how did the islanders survive the Kyouhou Famine of 1732, the whole reason they bonded themselves to the shadows in the first place?
There are still traces of that other timeline lingering in this one like- well, like shadows. Ushio and Shinpei both had a dream which contained elements of that timeline, and caused them to worry about each other (and Shinpei about Hitogasima as a whole). That was why Ushio broke the chill between them and called Shinpei in Tokyo, and why he accepted her invitation. That dream was also why Shinpei knew Hizuru’s secret identity, which annoys yet also fascinates her, as she’s someone who loves a good mystery. Sou is still in love with Mio, and Ryuunosuke has a daughter – named Haine.
Most importantly from an emotional standpoint, Ushio and Sanpei are still in love. She’s a total tsundere about it but when push comes to shove, she pulls her punch. It’s interesting to ponder what would have caused Shin-chan to go to Tokyo in the first place with his parents still around, but Tanaka and Watanabe don’t really broach the topic here. Shinpei apologizes, he’s the one who finds Ushio’s lost pendant on the beach, and in the end the two of them are together as seemingly dictated by destiny. There’s a hint of melancholy in the air because of Shinpei’s sense of what’s been lost, but on the whole it’s a full-on good end.
Shinpei makes reference to a book he’s heard about which seems reminiscent of his dream – Strange Life of Ivan Osokin by P.D. Ouspensky – which Hizuru identifies before he can even name it. And his strange tale is the inspiration for her to write the book we’re led to believe tells the story we’ve just seen – “Summertime Render” by Minakata Ryuunosuke (which reminds me – if her twin is still alive, why is she using his name as her pen name?). So, fittingly, in both the literal and figurative sense we’ve come full circle. It feels like the right place to end this story, even if it does have a sequel manga with a novel scheduled to follow.
There aren’t a lot of anime which end with me saying “I wouldn’t change any of that” but Summertime Render is one of them. It’s a damn good story, and all the credit in the world to Tanaka-sensei for doing the heavy lifting of creating a complex supernatural mystery which is basically watertight and gets where it’s going without cheating the audience. But it’s Watanabe Ayumu that’s the magic ingredient of making this work as perfectly as it does in anime form. Everything feels exactly right – the pacing, the exposition, the narrative flow. “Seamless” is the word I’d use to describe this adaptation – in terms of execution it’s close enough to functionally perfect as to be indistinguishable from it.
I’ve been waiting for a show like Summertime Render for a long, long time. The anime graveyard is full of examples of this sort of series that flew too close to the sun and plummeted back to Earth, their waxen wings melted to soup. Simply put, this is damn difficult to pull off – shortcuts and lazy writing doom any chance of success. There are none of those here – just rock-solid writing and superb direction. I’ll always be waiting anxiously to hear what Watanabe-sensei’s next project is, but the same applies to Tanaka – I hope Summertime Render isn’t the last time we see his works make their way to anime.