Special: Summer Time Rendering episodes 1-2

Note: This series is on Disney+ in Japan but is not currently legally streaming in the U.S. This review is based on a stream from a secondary source.

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Disney+ has started to get into the game of licensing anime series, but apparently they are adopting the original Netflix model, and so will not likely show either of their two acquisitions – this series and Black Rock Shooter: Dawn Fall – until after the end of the season. That’s a shame, because this one has potential. However, I do also have to wonder if Disney realized what, exactly they were getting here, as this is a far cry from a family-friendly Disney staple.

Summer Timer Rendering is based on a manga series, but it feels very much like something originating from a late 2000s/early 2010s visual novel instead. (I would be surprised if such titles were not a heavy influence on original manga-ka Yasuki Tanaka.) It is a suspense/horror series somewhat in the vein of a Higurashi franchise title or the isekai series Re:ZERO, one where the protagonist’s (often bloody) deaths result in time rewinds back to reset points, resets which are possibly guided or at least influenced by a recently-deceased childhood friend. Based on the first two episodes, the protagonist needs to figure out how to keep both himself and veritable younger sister Mio alive while investigating the terror lurking on the island.

The scenario is basic enough: Shinpei was raised on a small island near Wakayama City (in Japan’s Kansai region) but left two years earlier. He returns for the funeral of Ushio, a childhood friend who was virtually a sister to him, since her family took Shin in after his parents died years earlier. But even from the very beginning of his return, something is ever-so-slightly off. Ushio drowned while saving a child being swept out to sea, but there are suspicious details about the incident and unsettling accounts from Ushio’s younger sister Mio, ones involving Ushio and her seeing Ushio’s double a couple of days before her death. A local legend speaks of Shadows, doppelganger-like entities who replace an individual and then kill off their family, and one seems to be afoot. And it isn’t shy about killing and replacing anyone in its way, as Shinpei finds out the hard way. But for as-yet-unexplained reasons, Shinpei is getting additional opportunities to make things right.

The bare minimum that a story like this needs to do to succeed is to establish a constant state of tension, one where even little details might matter and everything points towards dark truths. This the first two episodes do well – almost to the point of overkill at times, in fact. Even by the second episode, though, bits of the truth are already starting to come out, and the truth behind some of the seemingly-innocuous details in the first episode are already starting to come into focus. A woman that Shinpei has an unfortunate encounter with on the way to the island also proves to be more than just an innocent, as she seems to know more about what’s going on here. But with people already being replaced by doubles, who can be trusted? The paranoia is already starting to grow.

The first two episodes are solid on the visual front, with character designs and setting porn both being featured characteristics. The first two episodes also have a surprising degree of fan service; these are mild scenes but are already being established as a staple element. So is intensely graphic violence; even with the worst of it shown from angles where the goriest details are not fully visible, scenes involving killings with a gun and a knife can still have an impact.

In all, this is a series worth checking out if horror-grade suspense stories are your thing. I may try to continue episode-reviewing this (perhaps every two weeks instead of every week?) if the streaming source I’m using proves reliable.

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