With summer only a few months away, Disney probably thought it would be nice to license this bright looking anime called Summer Time Rendering. But if they looked a bit closer at the key visual, they would’ve noticed most of its characters are holding violent weapons. There won’t be fun summer vibes here, but there is an interesting psychological thriller.
Episode one “Goodbye, Summer Days” introduces us to the quiet isolated Hitogashima Island and its friendly natives, but we quickly learn that there’s something nefarious going on. Having left for Tokyo years ago, our protagonist Shinpei returns to the island to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Ushio. We’re initially told that she died from drowning while saving a child, but it turns out there were also strangle marks on her neck. Turning this somber trip into a murder mystery, which then becomes supernatural as evil doppelgangers start to appear.
There are several anime this show reminds me of for different reasons. Its summer aesthetic, depressing tones, and character interactions reminded me of Anohana at first. But then the almost empty town, ominous dialogue, and purposely disconnecting sound of cicadas immediately brought to mind Higurashi. And that twisted horror suspense quickly builds up as time goes on. Especially when an old man casually rambles about the island legend of shadow people, who will kill you and then pretend to be you.
However, Summer Time Rendering also utilizes the main narrative technique from Re:ZERO, where death makes the protagonist respawns with all his memories of events. Essentially giving us a mystery island story with time travel mechanics. Mechanics which I’m sure will play some role in the existence of the doppelgangers. The time travel mystery here could also go in the directions of Steins;Gate and ERASED, where they want to prevent the inciting incident from happening in the first place.
While the supernatural mystery premise is compelling, it remains to be seen if it’ll become its own unique narrative. As it stands now, many of its characters don’t stand out. The episode tries to promote Mio, the sister of the girl who passed away, but so far she’s just the childhood friend meant to feel cute and emotionally vulnerable. Which is then used to shock the audience with a psychotic shadow version of her. And the island setting only serves as an excuse for an isolated location. To be fair though, this first episode seems more focused on establishing its core plot rather than flesh out those elements. There’s still time for those aspects to naturally develop later.
My hope with Summer Time Rendering is that it doesn’t allow itself to be overshadowed by the weight of every other anime it’s taking influences from. If it doesn’t find some way to make itself stand out, this might become a forgettable knockoff of several shows (mostly Higurashi). But so far it’s doing decent at what it’s trying to accomplish, and that’s keeping you invested in the mystery.
Summer Time Rendering is licensed by Disney+ and currently has no starting date for its worldwide release. The original manga by Yasuki Tanaka is published by Udon Entertainment and is available on Amazon.