What the Hell is Going On In Summer Time Rendering? – This Week in Anime

Nick and Nicky try to decipher what is going on in this supernatural mystery series full of otherworldly entities, doppelgangers, and time travel!

These series is streaming on Hulu.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Nicky, I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that we’ve been trapped in an ever-repeating time loop where we have to solve a supernatural mystery with life-or-death stakes. The good news is we’ve been taken back to just about the perfect time to talk about the first half of Summer Time Rendering, so we can pretend it wasn’t in Disney Purgatory for nearly a year!


Talk about a curse! This show was missing for SO LONG that most of us thought it was dead. Then, out of the blue, the entire 24-episode run turns up labeled as a Hulu exclusive. Since two whole cours is a bit much to cover for the format, we’re only running down the first twelve. There’s been a lot of hype for this show, so getting a release with nary a word feels strange. But in a way, I feel blessed to binge this show blind, and I recommend everyone who was waiting for it go and do the same right now! We have a lot to dissect.
This show lends itself to binging! However, I can’t help but imagine how big this show could have been if people could actually watch it. But Disney is another in a long line of media conglomerates that fumbled the bag upon wading into anime streaming. I imagine somebody up top wishes they could go back and redo things, but they don’t have a magic dead girl in a swimsuit to let them Re:Zero back to 2022.

While decisions made by the House of Mouse and time travel might be out of our realm as humble anime reviewers, we’re not entirely powerless here. Right now, we can tell you whether or not this show that spent a year lost at sea is worth a swim.

I would say so! Summer Time Rendering isn’t the most profound show, but it’s a precisely crafted thriller that, if handled properly, could have been a breakout hit last year. It’s got that perfect mix of suspense, action, and expertly timed twists that make for compulsively watchable television. Also, it’s from the director of Mysterious Girlfriend X, so all the erudite perverts who follow me on Twitter are obligated to watch it.
The first episode blew away most of my skepticism about it being worth the hype. People who know me might know I’m a mark for mystery stories, and it’s a niche that certainly has its place in the hearts of anime fans. Some people still push through visual novels hundreds of hours long for a good mystery. Other series with similar gimmicks, like time travel or a small town with strange occurrences, do well. Though, mysteries are not dissimilar to magic tricks. To captivate an audience requires clever sleight-of-hand. A bad mystery feels clumsy and aimless, but Summer Time Rendering has a sense of finesse thanks to the talented production staff. I mean, look at the detail of this food! Now that’s just showing off.

And on the narrative side, it’s evident that a ton of thought has been put into the moving parts of this whole story. Even from the first episode, before you ever know about the time looping stuff, there’s a constant stream of scattered details that tell you, “PAY ATTENTION, THIS’LL BE IMPORTANT.” On his first go-around, Shinpei isn’t too good at picking up anything that isn’t set down in front of him.

It might seem overwhelming or dull to throw a bunch of information at the audience. It doesn’t let up as discoveries are constantly revealed, but the previous “magic” I described works to ensure the audience keeps engaged with these details. We don’t get to talk about sound much in our column, but you can always stop and tell when something is important by how the characters speak. The audience can enjoy the tricks, and someone like me, who’s more knowledgeable about certain mechanisms, can still get drawn in and appreciate the craft surrounding it.

It’s a really sharp production and pairs perfectly with a great concept for a mystery. After years away from his island hometown, Shinpei returns to attend his friend Ushio’s funeral and gets roped into a mystery surrounding her suspicious death. It’s that same heady hit of isolated small-town paranoia that made Higurashi so good.

And then it ends with a perfect twist that shows us this story’s moral: trust nobody, not even yourself.

The setup is more than just sifting through a bunch of cold-hard facts. Our guy, Shinpei, takes one step off that boat, and already the vibes are atrocious, both tonally AND emotionally. What’s supposed to be his cozy tight-knit island hometown is thrown off by Ushio’s untimely and tragic death.

There’s an equal amount of time spent soaking in the character’s feelings, their sorrow or surprise, as there is about moving the plot along. This helped it feel more like the story was portraying people, not just pieces on a chess board.
True. Shinpei has an entire freight train of baggage regarding Ushio and her surviving (for now) sister, Mio. Since their family took him in as a kid, he views them both as sisters, but there was also an obvious adolescent love triangle. And now all that is wrapped up into an apparent murder, AND an old guy is walking around town talking about curses.

Just entirely too much to deal with. Shinpei needs more problems like he needs a hole in his he-

Look, Shinpei just played a lot of Persona 3; he knows what he’s doing.
Does he? Does he really?

Also, while the OP’s visuals are mostly neat abstract filtering of clues across the screen, the song riff leading up to that (gun)shot is amazing.

That OP is a remarkably chill theme for a show where nearly every cast member has died multiple times already. Real smooth groove to get stabbed in the dead of night.

I feel insulted whenever streaming services tell me to skip openings and endings without an option to stop prompting me, but the first half’s ED is a great song like “No, I would never want to miss these 2 minutes panning over ocean waves.” They’re critical forms of relief.

How else do we cope with watching everyone we love in the aforementioned small town get brutally murdered and replaced by an unknown supernatural force trying to use us as food? How do you feel when you can’t tell the enemy apart from innocent people? Give me the waves.
If Shinpei’s anything to go by, you feel like this most of the time:

Though it’s worth noting that Shinpei is pretty sharp, after two go-rounds, he catches on to what’s happening and starts setting up resourceful plans to keep Mio’s shadow clone from murdering the whole family.
Oh yeah, Shinpei has few distinct characteristics as a protagonist. He’s intentionally quite average, but not in a way that’s aggravatingly hand-holding the audience or making him seem too competent in a situation he knows he’s at odds with. He’s a good balance. Natsuki Hanae‘s performance makes him super emotive so that those bad ends can stick in you like a knife.

It’s easy to sympathize with him just as much as it is entertaining to see him struggle against a mind-boggling situation. He gets put through a lot.
A lot is accurate. The other thing that makes STR so watchable is how it never stops throwing new elements at you. Just as Shinpei’s getting a grasp on the threat of Mio’s shadow, and you think he might be making progress, a familiar-looking wrench gets thrown into it all.

You could say this episode decided to end on a real banger, huh?

It’s a real heavy hitter, yeah.

Since this is anime, there is still a lot of teen shenanigans between the cast. It helps lighten the mood and shows how close some of them are. Other times, we get a touching moment between people grieving. It seemed like Shinpei himself was avoiding entirely processing everything that happened by focusing on taking care of Ushio’s younger sister, Mio. Still, it’s not easy to let go of the dead when THE DEAD IS STANDING RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF YOU!

Personally, I quite like Ushio, or Shadow Ushio, or whichever one she is. Compared to the rest of the cast, she’s got a wild, impulsive personality that helps move things along while also bringing some much-needed levity. In a show where most of the cast is at least sensible and grounded, having a true blue dumbass is an important balancer.

Her “I Am Not The Supernatural Doppelganger of Your Dead Friend/Sister” shirt invites a lot of questions already answered by the shirt. Though Ushio rarely wears that shirt in lieu of that swimsuit.
Oh, I love her. She’s a riot. Re-introducing her to the story as a benign help/hindrance assuages some tropes about innocent dead girls and women. Too often, a loss becomes more about the loss itself rather than measuring what value that person had to you. While we get a brief framing of what Ushio was like before her death, the structure didn’t give us a solid image of what kind of person she was other than she was “too pure and good for this world” and not the adorably loud and brazen idiot that she turns out to be.

And lord knows the show needed some levity when basically everyone we know has been killed by episode six! In times of true darkness, you need a dumbass who’s just up for punching the four-armed shadow abomination that sacrificed hundreds of humans to an evil god.

Granted, it’s not much to liven up Shinpei’s mood at the moment. The kid’s still going through some stuff.

It’s impressive how much of a shitshow things quickly become after only a few “loops” to emphasize the stakes. It’s not an “Endless Eight” where it’s determined to show you everything that repeats, either, only highlighting the key variations. Shinpei using his lives to make actual progress is dramatically different than watching Subaru getting stabbed in an alleyway over and over. They’re just different approaches.

Shinpei certainly handles things with fewer existential crises! Mostly because he has a remarkable ability to compartmentalize. It’s not that seeing all the slaughter – and dying repeatedly – doesn’t faze him. It’s just that his brain is good at focusing on practical issues, even as the stress starts to mount. Why, even in the midst of drowning in his own blood, he picks up on subtle clues:

I respect the show coming up with semi-plausible justifications for its fanservice.
Right in the first episode, two of what end up being key events are: Shinpei wakes up from a bad dream and accidentally falls face-first into the huge anime boobs of the woman who happened to be sitting across from him and the other being that Mio trips over her bike coming to meet him, falling into the ocean. Of course, that random woman turns out to be crucially tied up in the plot.

Two parts of her, in particular, are extremely tied up in the show’s direction.

I also still stand by what I mean when I say the first episode won me over. I saw some people groan about this bit of juvenile anime clichés, but I wouldn’t call this a fanservice show, or it put me off. I didn’t feel it lingered when Hizuru’s humongous chest jugs were on screen. If anything, the juvenile bits, like walking in on Mio in the bath (confirming she isn’t dead), remind me of the kind of thing I’d see in an Uchikoshi game.

Oh, I’m not complaining. While the chesticular fascination would be eye-rolling if it was Hizuru’s only trait, there’s way too much wild shit going on with her to get bogged down on it. Who cares about boobs when we’re bringing back “Le Chevalier D’Eon” in reverse?

Technically this means Shinpei’s first act in this show is accidentally motorboating a pair of twins. Chad move.
The weird two people/personalities in one body are peculiar, but it’s a neat concept. But going back to their role, after the bad end at the summer festival, the story becomes more than what’s going on in Shinpei’s head or him doing it by himself with the Minakatas acting as an adult counterpart and mentor. They’re framed equally as protagonists. Hizuru serves as the thinker and the writer of Shinpei’s favorite mystery novels, and Ryunosuke (her pen name) works as the muscle who can throw a mean sledgehammer!

If Shinpei weren’t the one who somehow came to possess the magic time-loop eye, Hizuru and her soul-bro would be the main characters of this story. They’re the most active combatants, have the most experience fighting shadows, and even get all the action movie one-liners.

What I like about it most is that with the two of them working together, it shows that Shinpei isn’t the only one “going through it.” Like, he allies himself with his friends, but here’s an adult who has experience with what he’s going through that he can learn from, and, most importantly, Shinpei doesn’t have to hide his feelings from them. You feel a sense of relief knowing that there’s another person with the same trauma.

It also allows us to get different events in the story, so we’re not stuck with the limited perspective of one dude, allowing the overall narrative to be much more complex and compelling.
And that extra perspective becomes important as this half of the show goes on. The mystery gets deeper and more complicated, and seeing two different investigations gives us clarity that sticking with Shinpei wouldn’t. We even (sort of) get an episode from the late Ushio’s perspective.

So, the shadows in Summer Time Rendering feed by taking information about a person. They then use this information to Xerox them, copying their appearance and information about their personality, thoughts, etc. This allows them to blend in almost seamlessly to lure more prey. But then, how different is the copy from the original if you make a Xerox of a whole person? Some people would turn their brain into pretzels over that kind of dilemma, but fortunately for Ushio and her own Shadow, thinking doesn’t concern them.

There’s presumably some deeper, unexplained reason why Ushio’s shadow alone never tried to murder her. But I think it’s just that the shadow only copied her single brain cell, so it doesn’t have the capacity for murder.

Again, I gotta respect that they even BS a justification for Shadow Ushio always wearing a school swimsuit.
What I like best about the element of Ushio’s Shadow Clone Jutsu is that it allows Ushio to have a proxy for her perspective in a story that’s ABOUT her demise. The backstory episode, in particular, adds weight by showing that Ushio was always her agent. When she died, she wasn’t an unknowing victim but someone who was, like Shinpei, just doing what was within her power. It’s still just a memory using whatever shadow powers to show what happened, but it’s a better picture and even shows Ushio as someone who valued the life of her shadow equal to that of herself.

It’s a brilliant choice that ties together some loose ends about our inciting incident and gives us a stronger central relationship to root for since Shadow Ushio is the only person who can loop back with Shinpei. And that becomes extremely important once they start getting to the bottom of the island’s mysteries:

Take it from somebody who slept in graveyards as a kid: don’t fuck with that thing. You see something like that, you book a ticket off the island or start swimming.
Even with all the ground covered in this first half, it’s still hard to see how any investigation is supposed to be effective when their enemy is, like, a god.

Of course, this is anime, so god looks like she just graduated preschool.

Well, small children ARE terrifying. Especially one that’s a little mad about Shinpei taking her (eye)ball.

Well, then, you don’t want to go into the underground tunnels. There are some REAL messed up kids down there. Just gruesome little bastards.

It turns out Shinpei’s heterochromia wasn’t just his character design but the source of his power. Not that he has any idea how he got that. There’s a lot about Shinpei we’re not exactly privy to.

Yeahhhhhhhh, it’s starting to look like that narrative device where Shinpei imagines himself as an observer outside his own body miiiiiiiiiiight be more literal than we thought.

Look, it’s totally normal to have internal arguments with yourself at random instances. Totally normal guy here.

That’s what makes this such a great thriller. It’s got layers to its mysteries that are set up in really clever ways and pay off at just the right moment to up the stakes and beg even more questions. It was genuinely hard to restrain myself from watching past episode 12 because there’s always that perfect hook to keep you coming back.

I’m in the same boat! It was dangerous how much Summer Time Rendering‘s plot managed to reel me in. However, the real siren song is how well the execution makes scenes move like running water. As you said earlier, it might not be deep, but the central mystery’s underlying current of suspense creates a momentum strong enough to carry any viewer wishing to be whisked away at a fast pace. Furthermore, for all the sharp twists and turns created by the narrative, the focus of the atmosphere and the characters act as a guide to keep a smooth course. It’s a great measure of skill for a production to make you feel like you’re gliding. Complex stories with many moving pieces are perilous and require a seasoned captain. In fact, watching Summer Time Rendering felt refreshing. I drank up this first half like nothing, and I could see myself chugging the rest. Don’t worry if it looks like I’m drowning; I’m just enjoying myself.

If anybody thought this looked interesting but forgot about it with the passage of time, I encourage them to try it out. I promise you’ll enjoy it. You can trust us, after all:

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