As Shinpei nods off, he dreams of his childhood friend Ushio. But this Ushio isn’t quite right. She’s glitchy, and tells Shinpei that she won’t be able to go with him before asking him to take care of her sister, Mio. Alas, it’s just a dream. Ushio is dead, having drowned while saving a young girl, and Shinpei is on his way to his island home for the funeral. But the melancholy and pain of loss aren’t all that await Shinpei on the island of Hitogashima after two years away. Other things are awry. And concerning. Strangers have come to the island. Ushio was found with ligature marks around her neck, indicating strangling. Mio is sighted outside of her home, looking upward at the house with a dazed look. The girl whom Ushio tried to save goes missing the day after the funeral, along with the rest of her family. And Mio explains that Ushio was being followed. Nezu, an old man, explains that the threat is not human but a shadow, a curse that may have returned after many years of absence.
Nearly nine months after it premiered in Japan, Summer Time Rendering finally hits our shores! And boy oh, does it land with a splash! In the 22-minute run time, the series goes from dreamy and ecchi to violent and terrifying, setting the stage for a big adaptation of one of the most popular horror series of recent years. I’ve read the first two volumes of the manga, and based on them, I’d been highly anticipating the anime: it is full of surprises. Episode one captures the opening of the original work well. In fact, I appreciate how concerned the animators seem to be to capture a certain tone. This series feels very much like a throwback. The animation is excellent but not in a 2023 way; it looks like it’s from 2010 or so based on the character designs, line work, and muted colors. Other facets establishing the atmosphere go back even further, evoking the feel of a horror anime work from the early 2000s. Like the original Higurashi, there’s lots of quiet and focus on intentional, stilted dialogue. It all adds up to an uneasiness that lasts the entire episode. This is purposeful but admittedly takes some getting used to. It’s also not quite as uneasy as it should be, though I can’t pinpoint quite why. Nevertheless, I was able to get into the appropriate frame of mind by connecting this series immediately to a beloved classic, Evangelion, which also makes use of silence but also sometimes fills it in with loud horror music or the constant chirping of cicadas. Summer, regret, nostalgia, curses, fright: all these ideas are established not only by the actual plot, but by the animation and sound. The care demonstrated in this adaptation through episode one has me optimistic for the series as a whole. I’ll continue forward with it. In fact, I can continue immediately right through to the end—the entire run is now available on Hulu.
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