Summertime Render – 18 – Final Fantasy MDCCXXXII

Hizuru tells the story of a famine in 1732 that threatened to wipe out Hitogashima’s population, until a whale washed ashore. The whale was a shadow, and it copied the first human to come close to it: a little girl named Haine. Back in the present, Karikiri offers Shinpei some cold barley tea and conversation. While initially presented as a friendly or at worst neutral party, there’s a tension and building dread to the ensuing one-on-one chat.

The thing is, Shinpei already knows that Karakiri is really Hishigata Shidehiko, AKA Shide. He’s not a Shadow, but he’s not quite human either. In previous loops, Hizuru and Dr. Hishigata’s information paints the picture of how Haine birthed a child with Shidehiko, and the resulting child grew into a perfect clone of Shidehiko.

He then had Haine transfer all his collected memories into the clone, thus making him indistinguishable from himself and enabling him to live for over 300 years. Considering how crafty he must have grown in those years, it’s pretty impressive Shinpei and his pathetic band were able to get this far.

While in the loop flashbacks we see that Shinpei’s group gathered all the information they can and prepared the best they could for a confrontation, with Shinpei insisting that he wanted to know why Shide killed his parents before deciding whether to kill him. After all, if he’s human he can’t be reasoned with, right?

Wrong. Shin made a critical error in confronting Shide in human form, and especially in letting Ushio accompany him. Sure, he’d have easily fallen into Shide’s clutches without her protection, but when she’s had enough of Shide’s blathering and slices half his head off, Shide gets exactly what he needs, all because Ushio insists on doing the dirty work so Shin’s hands remain clean.

When Ushio is on the phone, a copy of Ushio casually plunges a spear into her shadow, and then slices upward, killing her. Shinpei empties his gun, but Shide puts up his Shadow Armor and catches the bullets, then throws the spear at Shinpei, impaling him and sending him flying out of the temple and into a tree.

Shin loops back to when he and Ushio saved the kids from the Shadow that took the form of their old teacher, only this time Ushio isn’t there. She’s gone, presumably for good. That’s a punch to the gut, but as Ushio said, she was happy for the “bonus time” after her human self was killed by Haine, and she and Shinpei got to reunite and kick some ass together.

The episode closes with Shin crying blood, wallowing in despair. But even if Ushio isn’t coming back in any form, the fact remains she’d want him and the others to finish the job and save the village. They can’t turn Shide, but they still have a Shadow Mio, two Shadow Babies, and guile. It’s not Game Over quite yet.

Summertime Render – 17 – Hands Not for Hurting

Since we’re now only 17 episodes into a 25-episode series, it was only a matter of time before the momentum slowed a bit and our intrepid band of shadow hunters took a bit of a rest. This week we get a calm-before-the-storm episode that allows for moments that deepen our understanding of these characters, as well as give them an opportunity to bond more, for better or worse.

Ushio worries she may go crazy like Haine did in the memory of Hizuru’s she saw, but Hizuru promises she’ll kill her if that happens. Shadow Mio, who knows all the little ways Mio Prime hates herself, urges her to tell Shin her feelings before it’s too late. Sou’s pops hid the truth from him because he knew his son’s heart was too good to bear the darkness. Tokiko suggests that Shin, who has developed pronounced bags under his eyes, to catch some shut-eye while he can.

That night Nezu tries to sneak out but Ushio catches him and insists on accompanying him. Turns out Nezu is putting the last of his affairs in order before shit starts going down. Ushio learns that he keeps the Shadow of his wife Kaoru pinned in his garage, having not had the heart to kill it until now.

Shadow Kaoru is beastly like so many of the Shadows, but Ushio urges Nezu to hold his fire, as her hacking might be able to restore her. Nezu’s not interested; Ushio may still be Ushio, but his wife is gone; this is his “wife’s enemy” who copied her body. So Ushio gives Nezu his privacy, and sheds tears for two more lives among the countless ruined by Haine’s appetites.

The next morning the group splits up to investigate various family homes in hopes of reducing the number of Shadows as much as possible before the festival. The two Mios are put in the same team, and Shadow tries to egg Mio on, but she clutches onto Sou as a sign she won’t let Shadow push her buttons.

Mio also has a thoughtful gift for Ushio: hairs from her original body that she found around the house. Ushio is able to use them to restore the length of her hair (adorably done with a Sailor Moon-like aesthetic) and, perhaps all too death-flaggy, tells Shin she has something to say to him when he and Ushio return.

Shinpei and Ushio end up having to kill the Shadow of their old teacher, nicknamed Bucchi, and Ushio remembers when she beat up a couple of bigger boys teasing her for her blonde hair. Bucchi, ever the gentle soul, told Ushio her hands weren’t for hurting people, but for holding hands, patting heads, and the like.

Unfortunately, Ushio doesnt’ really have a choice in her present scenario, though it’s arguable that the Shadow’s are “people” so much as unrelenting killing machines bent on wiping out the village. So she and Shin work together to save three kids from Shadow Bucchi and her two Shadow sons.

The little kids mock Ushio and Shinpei for looking like a classic couple, to which they respond in unison that it’s “not like that.” Isn’t it though?

In a creepy moment, Ushio seems to be taken over by…someone, neither Haine nor Shide, but maybe another deity observing what’s going on and briefly using her as a vessel. The two teams then regroup and report on their investigations. Turns out the Shadows don’t seem to be preparing a direct attack on them, but are primarily focused on the upcoming festival when the great slaughter and feast is to commence.

Naturally, if the festival can be cancelled, there won’t be a convenient huge group of people ripe for the picking. To that end, Shin heads to the shrine maintained by Karikiri—a place where he just happened to die the first time. Karikiri welcomes Shin warmly, but whether he’s a friend, foe, or neutral party in this struggle remains to be seen. I just hope that’s Ushio on Shin’s wrist, and he’s not really alone up there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 16 – One Mio, Two Mio, Red Mio, Blue Mio

Once successfully hacked by Ushio and disconnected from Haine’s control, Shadow Mio is no longer a killbot, but retains her distinct deadpan delivery (in contrast to the real MioCoy’s higher, more bubbly lilt). As with Hikasa Youko and the two Minakatas, credit is due to seiyu Shirasu Saho for producing two distinct Mios.

Times may be desperate, but there’s still room in STR for a little bit of comedy as the two Mios act like opposing twins (and seriously throw off Sou, who as we know is in love with Mio). Mio II offers further insight into the nature of Shadows. Since she’s a “child”, she can only birth one child Shadow, and if Mio I doesn’t die in six days, Mio II will revert to black goo, essentially dying.

Mio II also has a little fun with Shinpei, whom she’s killed perhaps dozens of times, but points out she hasn’t killed him nor does she wish to. She also knows that Mio I is in love with him, and almost spills the beans but for the arrival of the truck. It’s interesting how there are aspects of Mio I’s personality baked into II, but she’s also her own person. She even asks Shin if he has a girlfriend in Tokyo, something Mio I could never ask.

Bottom line, Mio II is now on the good guys’ side, which is certainly a boon, and she promises she’ll keep her original safe. Shin decides their next objective is to track down Tokiko and Sou’s father and confront him about Haine’s true plan. That means heading to the clinic, which is also the Hishigatas’ home. They find all the furniture has been erased, as if the Shadows were trying to hide something.

While the Mios, Tetsu, and Nezu wait in the truck, the rest of the group heads deeper into the bowels of the dark abandoned hospital, freaking out Ushio even in Wristwatch Mode. These scenes have a great atmosphere and dread; if last week was a gory thriller, this is a slithering horror movie where you never know what might creep up behind you.

They find Tokiko and Sou’s mom’s wheelchair, but in the basement morgue where Ushio’s body is supposed to be, the body has vanished, and along with it the possibility of Ushio recovering fully from the battle. They follow an alternate underground tunnel to Haine’s nest, and find Tokiko and Sou’s mom lifting their dad by the neck and choking him out…never something kids need to see their parents doing.

Ushio runs up to the mom and hacks her, releasing her from Haine’s control, and she passes out, but the dad isn’t breathing. Tokiko and Sou show they’re doctor’s kids by administering CPR, and for their trouble their dad knocks the little Derringer out of an enraged Sou’s hand and shoots Tokiko with it for being disloyal. At first I was like “Oh no, they didn’t kill Tokiko again…”, but turns out it isn’t Tokiko…it’s Mio II.

Tokiko let Mio copy her, probably well aware her dad might pull the very shit he tried to pull. Back in the truck, Tokiko tells Mio that when a Shadow copies you they copy everything—right down to the depths of a person’s heart—but she’s fine with it. She’s done with secrets and hiding things. She’s lkely glad that one of the Mios truly understands just how much she means to Tokiko.

Having saved everyone, Mio II asks Shinpei if he trusts her now. He says he does, and if she doesn’t believe him she can copy him. But there’s no way Mio II would do that, as learning the inner depths of Shin’s heart would confirm to her that while he loves both Mio and Ushio, he’s only in love with Ushio.

Even after he’s been defeated, Sou’s dad keeps ordering no one in particular to kill for him. Then Mio tries to copy him but fails, because he’s already had a Shadow of himself made and died, giving him immunity. This comes as a shock to him. Then his assistant Negoro appears deeper into the cave, carrying Ushio’s body.

Ushio wants to go after her, but Shinpei tells her to stop, as she’s clearly trying to bait them on behalf of Haine and Shide. Shin’s been through enough that he’s not going to fall for the usual tricks anymore. Now that Tokiko and Sou’s dad knows the Haine have released the Hishigatas from her service, he has no further reason to hide anything, and reveals the location of a buried safe, which they dig up.

Back in the morgue, Ushio gives both of Tokiko and Sou’s parents all of the amassed information from the loops, as she did with everyone else. Now the mom finally knows she’s a Shadow. Pops reveals Haine’s ultimate goal is to “go home” with her amassed Shadow family, to a place far beyond the ocean where time doesn’t exist. He and his wife, and eventually Tokiko and Sou were to all become Shadows and join her in that eternal country.

He also tells Shinpei that if he achieves his goal of killing Haine, all Shadows will die, including Ushio. In response to this, Ushio says she’s ready to die if it means eliminating the threat to her family, friends, and island. She considers the time she’s lived since being killed to be “bonus time” anyway. It’s such a noble, selfless, and brave sentiment that Shinpei is ashamed for thinking his Ushio would feel any differently. It’s probably a big part of why he loves her.

Dr. Hishigata’s wife Chitose tells him that even if she dies, he still has his children and the people of the village to care for. Dr. Hishigata also isn’t done revealing secrets. Inside the safe is a list of all the people he diagnosed with “Shadow Sickness”, but actually became food for Haine. That list includes Shinpei’s parents, who discovered Haine’s cave and were killed for threatening to expose it.

Finally, Pops also knows the true identity of Shide: he was once his ancestor Hishigata Shidehiko, the founder and first director of the Hishigata clinic. Family ties, indeed. One Mio stronger in number and armed with all this information, it’s going to be an interesting final nine episodes spanning the final two days before the Shadowpocalypse.

Summertime Render – 15 – Shadow and Flame

No sooner does Shinpei loop back to the kitchen does Ushio arrive with Mio to fill him in on what happened: the enemy got to Nezu and used his own sniper rifle to kill Shinpei. We also learn that the creepy vision Shin keeps having is a visualization of his situation.

The past is crumbling behind him, and should he loop back where there is no more solid ground, he’ll fall into nothingness. He figures he has one loop left, if that. If they’re going to make their stand against the Shadows, it’s now or never.

Shinpei’s plan involves using himself as bait, since Haine wants to kill him until he’s out of loops and no longer a threat to her plans. The part of Mio’s personality Shadow Mio copied can’t help but admire how cool her big brother is by doing this, but forgets that Ushio can transform into a watch.

Ushio transforms and runs with Shin in her arms as an angered Mio gives chase. The real Mio, Sou, and Tokiko block her path, with Tokiko using two Shadow Babies Ushio freed from Haine’s control for defense and offense. Hizuru gives herself over to Ryuunosuke, who takes on “Shiori’s” corrupted family and friends.

When Haine and Shide get involved in chasing after Ushio and Shinpei, Ryuunosuke takes a bullet for them, buying them enough time to regroup in the gymnasium. Back outside, Shadow Mio shows off just how graceful and diabolical she can be by merging her body into one of the babies, but ends up getting burnt by her original and shot with nails by Sou.

Back in the gym, Ushio narrowly avoids getting shot to shreds by Shide and his trusty revolver, taking the stage as Tetsu switches on the stage lights to keep Haine and Shide’s attention on her. Haine and Shide, always convinced they have the advantage, are sorely mistaken in this case.

Still floating just over them are Ushio’s hairs, which are transformed into six masses of gasoline that then fall and soak the two. Then Shinpei, who was lurking on he balcony above them, tosses a match that starts a conflagration, then brandishes a revolver of his own. It’s a very cool action movie scene.

Hell, everything in this episode is incredibly cool and cinematic. A great deal of time and effort went into the animation; clearly STR was holding a large chunk of its budget for this episode (and probably a couple of future ones). While some suspension of disbelief normal “civvies” in Shin’s group survive as long as they do, great care is taken to ensure the weaker (Shinpei, Tetsu, Sou, and Mio) are protected by the stronger (Ushio, Tokiko, Nezu and Hizuru).

Thanks to their preparation, coordination, and vast amounts of misdirection, along with exploiting the arrogance of the enemy, Ushio is on the cusp of deleting Haine…only for Haine to use Shiori’s face, voice, and tears as a psychological weapon that cause Ushio to hesitate for just a moment. In that moment, Shide, who was playing dead in the fire, shoots Shinpei in the chest several times, then grabs Ushio and pulls her into the flames.

Shide intentionally missed Shin’s vitals so that Ushio would die before he did, and all the information on the previous loops will die with her. But once again Ushio pulls a fast one on him, as the body he grabbed was just a dummy. The real Ushio, in shell pendant form, reforms into a human and stabs Shide through the heart, promising to delete him.

Shide is only saved by Haine pulling off the most impressive Shadow stunt to date: deleting all of the air in the gym, killing the fire, causing Shinpei and Tetsu to nearly asphyxiate, and blowing out all of the gym’s windows from the air outside, allowing Haine and Shide to escape.

When Ushio collapses, a distraught Shinpei rushes to her side, but she’s fine; she’s only exhausted from all the copying she did. Like Haine and Shide, Ushio laments that Shinpei has been mortally wounded by the gunshots and doesn’t have much time left, but he reveals that a homemade bulletproof vest under his shirt protected him.

At the sight of the vest and upon realizing her Shin is okay, Ushio pulls him into what must surely be a very painful (due to the bullet impacts) but also very welcome hug. It’s an incredibly sweet and moving hug, the reward for going through a literal trial-by-fire.

While Haine and Shide are still out there and sure to regain their strength soon, it’s about as good an outcome as you could ask for. None of Shinpei’s friends or family were killed, and they’ve even captured Mio, whom the real Mio says Ushio should hack so she can become one of them.

Along with Toki’s Shadow Babies, Ushio’s hacking looks to be the potentially decisive key to victory: being able to turn enough of Haine’s minions to their side so they can fight on more even terms. The only problem is time.

Summertime Render – 14 – Trouble Out of the Gate

As Shinpei and Ushio continue to watch Hizuru’s past interactions with Haine unfold, it’s clear Haine was not always evil incarnate, but more of a timid, frightened little girl Hizuru just couldn’t let be. Haine’s story of how the rest of her family starved is probably a big part of that; no doubt Hiruko inherited that story from the host body.

But the more Hizuru fed her, the more hungry Haine became, and she could no longer control herself. Hiruko’s instinctive drive to devour took over just as Ryuunosuke encountered a bloody Haine while looking for his twin sister. This is the day Ryuunosuke died, then in short order became a part of Hizuru.

Hizuru’s split personality wasn’t due to emotional trauma, it was an actual thing that happened as a result of Ryuunosuke’s copy bouncing off Haine (who is momentarily her former, innocent self) and imprinting onto Hizuru. Ryuu has powers similar to Ushio in the present, but by using them in his sisters body he puts immense strain on that body.

That said, he manages to kill two shadow babies and rescue Hizuru and a younger (but still old) Nezu. But Hizuru couldn’t do anything about the loss of her brother’s body, and her family soon moves off the island, much to Asako’s distress. As her boat departed, Hizuru spotted Haine wearing a patch where her right eye had been, promising the next time they meet she’ll kill her.

The memory ends abruptly, and Shinpei and Ushio end up back with Hizuru and Nezu about to confront Shiori. Ushio uses her memory transfer ability to bring the two up to speed, and they decide to regroup for now. Shinpei has Mio, Sou, Tokiko, and Tetsu meet him, Ushio, and Hizuru at the school, where he gives a speech about not wanting to run away, but to stand and fight…and for that he’ll need all their help.

Now knowing what awaits her by dutifully continuing her family’s practice of aiding Hiruko (betrayal and grisly death) even Tokiko agrees to help fight, leaving the cowardly holdout Tetsu no choice but to also agree. Nezu, keeping watch outside, ends up like Muldoon in Jurassic Park when he looks the wrong way at the wrong time and a “clever girl” kills him.

Just as Shinpei’s new plan is about to commence with everyone filled in and on board, there’s a flash and he loops back to when he was making sandwiches in the kitchen of his house. Clearly, one of Shiori, Shadow Mio or Shide (the four-armed one, embodiment of greed) killed him with Nezu’s sniper rifle. Shiori has realized that the starting points of Shinpei’s loops are getting later and later, so the faster she and her ilk make Shinpei die and loop, the faster he’ll run out of time.

That said, his starting point here is getting very late indeed with most of a second cour left; surely something in his favor has to happen soon. That is, unless, perhaps, reaching that point where there’s no time left is his natural next step on his journey…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 13 – The Rules Have Changed

When Ushio materializes beside Shinpei, she pounces on a confused Hizuru. Nezu prepares to aim his rifle at Ushio, but Shin asks him to stand down. Then Ushio takes Hizuru’s hand, sees everything she’s seen, and knows that even though she’s a Shadow, Ushio is their ally.

She’s always been their ally, ever since she printed the looping eye and brought Shin to the island. And since she’s a novelist, she’ll consider the incredible credible, and the unreal real. Shin believes their worst mistake last loop was splitting up, and having heard she died, Hizuru concurs.

They head to the Kobayakawa home just like before, only this time they have Ushio, and after Haine tried to corrupt her, she now believes she has the ability to erase a Shadow if she wants to. Since Shiori is Haine’s way of moving about outside the cave, she’s hoping erasing Shiori will eliminate that way at worst, and destroy Haine at best.

Hizuru cedes control to Ryuunosuke, who heads into the house…and gets their ass handed to them. The “four-armed one” smashes Hizuru’s head in with her own sledge, and Haine!Shiori reveals that thanks to the brand on Shinpei’s arm, whenever he shows up in a new loop, she can find him “lickety-split”.

With Hizuru already dead and Nezu following shortly thereafter, it looks very bad for our heroes. Then the four-armed one wraps those arms around Shinpei, and PreCure Ushio swoops in and beheads him with her hair. So ends the fifth loop; we hardly knew ye! In the timeless corridor between loops, Shinpei thanks Ushio (in wristwatch form) for her quick thinking.

He laments how he let his naivete get Hizuru and Nezu killed so quickly and let another loop go to waste…but there’s no time for sulking. Ushio reports that when she tried to scan four-arms she found no data, but he “smelled” like Haine. She also believes Haine is using the brand to pull her along with him through the loops.

Both agree that in the next loop they’ll have to be a lot smarter and more careful, since they no longer have much of the element of surprise. But to their surprise, they appear not on the 22nd as usual, but in front of their family restaurant, in the rain. Two students walk past—the twins Hizuru and Ryuunosuke.

Shinpei follows them inside with Watch!Ushio and learn that this is most definitely the past; back when the restaurant was celebrating ten years, and both of Shinpei’s marine archaeologist parents were still alive. Hizuru tells Asako and Ryuu that she’s met a friend…up at the clinic on the mountain.

Shinpei/Ushio follow the three (he’s not visible to anyone in this projection, which is one of Hizuru’s memories), and when Hizuru’s friend doesn’t appear, Ryuu and Asako split. Then the light in the window comes on as usual, and Haine (with two identical red eyes) greets Hizuru.

I thought we were going to spend some time in the fifth loop, but it’s smart for the second cour to subvert expectations and up the ante when it comes to the dangers Shinpei and his family and friends face as they continue to meddle. Even more ominous, Sou’s dick of a dad is aware of Shinpei and Hizuru snooping around where they shouldn’t, and also knows Ushio’s shadow is causing trouble.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S., The new OP is…fine, and I even find myself not skipping it for future episodes, but it’s no first cour OP, which really captured the heat and bittersweet longing of summer. This new theme (and the ED, for that matter) sound a lot more generic.

Summertime Render – 12 – The Kitchen’s Closed

Tokiko reveals Hiruko no Mikoti, Mother of Shadows and God of Hitogashima, also known as Haine, the form of the first human Hiruko copied. To the outrage and disgust of her friends and brother alike, Toki also reveals her family’s solemn duty to feed Haine the bodies of the dead to restore her power.

When Sou bristles, Toki hits back, saying she had no choice; with Sou “being the way he is” he could never be told about the fam’s secret, while feeding Haine is the only way to keep their mother, now a Shadow, alive. As for Ushio, Toki says she got herself killed sticking her nose where it didn’t belong out of her own sense of justice.

Among the two bodies presented for Haine tonight by Nurse Negoro is Ushio’s original corpse; a double was cremated and the bones printed. When Ushio frees herself and snatches up her original body, she’s able to repair her arm and fight at full strength, which is good because Haine transforms Nurse Negoro into a musclebound monster.

Shinpei tries to take advantage of the chaos to shoot Haine with his nailgun, newly printed from Ushio’s hair, but before he can shoot both the gun and his fingers are sliced off by Haine’s Shadow bodyguard, who is holding an unconscious Mio by her head and threatens to crush her skull if anyone moves.

The bodyguard shoots at Tokiko, who was unaware that Haine plans to kill and eat everyone on the island, but Sou takes a bullet for his sister. It doesn’t matter; the bodyguard simply shoots her dead too, now that she and the Hishigatas have fulfilled their duties to Haine.

As Tetsu finally encounters the wounded Hizuru and agrees to carry her deeper into the cave, Haine decides not to kill Ushio, but reprogram her brain and use her as another tool. She also snatches Shin’s time-looping eye—the one in which he “renders” different realities—but it soon disappears from her hand and returns to his socket; not even a god can take away his power.

But what Haine and her hulking bodyguard can do is restrain him and keep him alive until her plans come to full fruition. The bodyguard kills Mio, and Shin’s last chance to be killed and loop seems to rest with Tetsu and Hizuru, who arrive just in time. Tetsu distracts the bad guys with his boobery, giving Hizuru a clean shot at both the bodyguard’s head and Shinpei.

Alas, the bodyguard shields Shinpei and kills Hizuru, so Shinpei uses his last resort: drinking an entire bottle of mercuric chloride from the abandoned clinic, which will most definitely kill him, albeit slowly and painfully. He uses time it takes for the poison to do him in to promise Haine that he’ll defeat her and save everyone. At the same time, Ushio’s powers have advanced to the point she can not only resist Haine’s corrosion, but reverse it and free herself.

Ushio’s final effort is to lunge to where Ushio is dying and take his hand, and she goes through the time loop with him. As long as they’re together, Ushio promises to go anywhere with him, as many times as it takes. But lest we forget, every time he returns to a new loop—this newest being the fifth—he starts a little later. He and Ushio arrive hand-in-hand just as he’s telling Hizuru and Nezu that he’s a time traveler, her book in his hand.

Shinpei now has a lot more information about the bad guys and their plans, but less time to act. The good news is Shadow Ushio is with him, along with all of the amassed memories of the previous loop. Her powers may also already surpass those of the weakened Haine. This episode at the series’ halfway point delves into the bloody depths of despair but ends on a note of hope and optimism that Shinpei and Ushio can turn this train wreck around.

Summertime Render – 11 – Prelude to Feeding

Shinpei, Sou, and Ushio with her nifty Shadow powers are looking like a great team against their Shadow adversaries…at first. As they go deeper into Shadow territory they find themselves increasingly outnumbered and outmatched.

Two other groups head into the sewers: the well-armed and prepared Minakata and Nezu, and Mio and Tetsu, the latter just hoping for some tough guy cred, while Mio wants to follow someone who is clearly Shadow Shiori, who isn’t lying when she says Shin is “down there”.

After another wave of Shadow Babies is defeated in a cave full of undersea life (shades of Nausicaa), Ushio collapses, and finally comes clean to Shin and Sou about her arm. Since Shiori damaged her main body, she needs data from the original Ushio’s body to repair it…but Ushio was cremated, so she can either endure the pain and bleeding or delete the arm, limiting her abilities.

While Tetsu and Mio continue to tread far too close to their demises (and Tetsu gets himself copied; as we know Mio is immune), suddenly Tokiko turns up to confront Team Ushio, with a pair of Shadow Baby heavies. Shinpei waits for her to get close enough, then shoots her shadow full of nails and…nothing happens. Tokiko isn’t a Shadow…she’s just Tokiko.

If there’s one complaint I have with this tripartite excursion to the Hiruko Caves, it’s that it’s hard to gauge where each group is in relation to one another. You’d think Shinpei, Sou and Ushio, not to mention Tetsu and Mio, would hear Minakata’s shotgun blasts in a cave. And yet, the three groups never meet or even realize they’re all in generally the same place.

Undefined spatial relationships aside, one lesson that applies to all three groups is Never wander into the caves. Minakata and Nezu end up facing off with Shiori (who only pretended to be killed earlier) and her much bigger and tougher multi-limbed pal, who copies a shotgun, shoots Nezu in the chest, and Minakata in her liver as she’s fleeing.

This just shows that there are dark and deadly things down here that either no human has ever seen and lived to talk about, or in the apparent case of the Hishigatas (sans Sou), they’ve known about all too long. It’s a family secret, but back at their dad’s lab, it seems clear that he’s taken an active role in the cultivation of Hiruko and/or Haine.

Knowing they’re out of their element, Shinpei surrenders to Tokiko, who agrees to show them everything and come clean to her brother—as long as they don’t tell Mio, one thing Toki-chan apparently couldn’t bear. They arrive in the core of the cave where both Hiruko and Haine dwell, and their stomachs are growling. Usually a joke in anime, here it makes the skin crawl.

It’s now 9:00 PM, and “time to feed.” With the next episode ominously titled “Deadly Night”, I’m with Ushio in thinking Shinpei has probably abandoned this loop as a viable chance to fix everything. Progress has definitely been made, but much has gone wrong.

At this point, all Shin can hope is that he gathers enough info for to make the next loop more of a success before dying and returning. That probably means heading to the caves much earlier next time, and preventing Ushio from getting wounded.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 10 – A Leaf in the Forest

This week is a no-holds-barred Scooby-Doo adventure almost from start to finish. After watching what Ushio went through to warn Shinpei, there’s no way Sou isn’t going to tag along as they head to his family’s old abandoned clinic up in the mountains. Ushio also struts her Shadow Power stuff, able to transform into a shell necklace Shinpei wears, and explaining how her swimsuit is her armor.

Her abilities combined with Shinpei’s courage and Sou’s loyalty make them the perfect team to investigate a creepy haunted hospital. One great detail is a rare statue of the ancient Japanese deity Hiruko-sama, in the form of a limbless leach-like fertility idol. The fact that legend suggests it was heteromorphic creates an enticing connection to the clearly equally-ancient Shadows. Shinpei, Ushio and Sou end up in what seems to be a Shadow nursery.

Turns out there’s something even more terrifying than a Shadow … a baby Shadow, one that seems docile and harmless enough right up until Shinpei tries to shoot it with a nailgun. It dodges and rolls and bounds all over the place until Sou hits it with his baseball bat.

But then it wraps around the bat (again, Shadow) and very nearly kills him, only Shinpei has been practicing his nailgunning and gets three shots into the Shadow. Ushio finishes it off with her Shadow hair, and cue Victory Fanfare for the Scooby Gang. As much as I fear for their safety, it’s a hell of a lot of fun watching these three old friends get shit done.

At the end of the battle, Ushio gives Sou a playful shove forward as the three continue their investigation, but her arm starts bleeding, like the injury that occurred to a previous copy of the arm has returned. After her powers are essentially a cheat code for most of the episode, it’s good for the episode to self-level and demonstrate she’s far from all-powerful.

Shinpei knows this, and he also stands by his promise to always protect her (which made her blush earlier), and his foreknowledge of the nightmares to come even make a dark cave full of Shadow babies seem…not that bad? He knows firsthand it can always be worse! That said, considering how much effort it took to defeat one baby, the trio have their work cut out for them.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 09 – A Tale of Two Ushios

The video on Ushio’s unlocked phone shows both the original Ushio and her Shadow delivering a joint message to Shinpei. The original assures him her Shadow isn’t evil like the others, but an ally, then proceeds to tell the story of how she ended up dying, and why that’s not the end of her story, because ultimately she is her Shadow and her Shadow is her.

It started with Shiori telling Ushio about seeing her own Shadow and asking her for help, since no one else will listen to her. Then, while Ushio and Mio were cleaning up the beach, there was a flash from above and just like that there was a second Ushio, who runs away before she can learn anything more.

Ushio comes home for a bath to find the other Ushio is already in the tub; she went home because it’s her home, same as Ushio’s. Once she determines that this other Ushio isn’t a threat, the two join forces to seek out Shiori’s Shadow on Mt. Takanosu, the locaiton of Sou’s family’s old clinic, believed by most of the island to now be haunted. It is haunted, but not by ghosts…by a monster.

A Shadow in its black goo form copies Ushio’s copy and tries to kill her, but Shadow Ushio figures out on accident that the copy’s weakness is not its body, but its shadow, and that she can use her own body—like her hair—as a weapon to slice through that Shadow. She can also repair her physical body, and tells Ushio that the instinct to kill her original “fills her brain”, even though she has no intention of doing so.

The two Ushios return to the beach to record a message for Shinpei, and after the present-day Shadow Ushio watches it with Shinpei and Sou, she suddenly regains her memories and knowledge of her power. She uses that power and her phone to “transport” the three of them into a recording of the tragic events of July 21st on the private beach where original Ushio breathed her last.

Original Ushio had Shadow Ushio turn into a seashell necklace and wore her, so that when Shiori was washed out to sea, not one but two Ushios were there to rescue her. However, under those waves Shadow Shiori kills her original and drowns the original Ushio—the one Sou was unable to revive and ended up being cremated.

Struck by her original’s sacrifice for both Shiori’s sake and her own, Shadow Ushio vowed to help Shinpei wipe out the Shadows when he returned to the island. As Sou and Shinpei weep over what they witnessed, Shadow Shiori suddenly grabs Shin’s arm and transforms into Haine, who promises he won’t escape her next time.

Shadow Ushio switches of the recording so she, Shin and Sou are back in the present, but Shin now has a sinister black mark on his arm where Haine touched him, proving that it wasn’t just part of the recording, and that Haine is apparently capable of transcending time and space like he can.

That adds an extra layer of difficulty and dread to Shinpei’s task, but the recordings he and Sou watched proved one thing: Shadow Ushio is indeed their ally, and they need all the allies they can get against an increasingly menacing enemy.

Summertime Render – 08 – Curry Rhythm

Shinpei finds himself in a similar situation as Akari in Virgin Road—his loops aren’t as repetitive as he expected. New and unexpected things are happening, which means the utility of his foreknowledge (beyond broad strokes) is limited. Rather than meet Ushio the day of the festival by the water, they reunite right there in his kitchen. Not only that, Ushio knows that something terrible will happen on the 24th.

Perhaps whatever of the original Ushio is in this Shadow was drawn to his curry, but the why doesn’t matter; she’s there. At first, Shinpei follows Minakata’s advice, and even prepares to kill “it” when Ushio is wide open. But he can’t, because even though her shadow tickles when he touches it, this Shadow also happens to be Ushio Reincarnate.

There’s no hint of malice in this Ushio…until of course her swimsuit disappears, giving Shinpei a peek of the Full Ushy. Shinpei trusts this Ushio, who also wants to protect their family and friends like the original would. That means keeping her secret from Mio, though how Mio doensn’t hear her hollerin’ from the next prefecture I don’t know.

The first Mio to peek in is the real one, but the second is Shadow Mio, switching up her game by entering the Kofune household for the first time. She goes straight for Shin’s heart, but Ushio comes between them, sacrificing herself to save Shin for the second time in as many encounters. Nezu then manages to blow Shadow Mio’s head off from outside with a sniper rifle.

Shinpei uses that moment to stab Mio’s shadow, but before she vanishes she still tries to convince Shinpei that he killed the real Mio, demonstrating again how one can’t trust a Shadow for a moment, because that moment might be your last. Even so, Ushio is different—Shadow Mio even considers her a traitor—and when Hizuru in Ryunosuke Mode comes in to kill her, Shin shields her.

Hizuru naturally assumed Shinpei has fallen for a Shadow’s tricks, and they have no reason not to. And yet, even she has to admit there’s something different about her. Not only that, she has to credit Ushio in some form with bringing her to the island in the first place. She still has the recording telling her to go back, find Shinpei, and save everyone.

That said, Hizuru still isn’t ready to trust Ushio quite yet—she only just barely trusts Shinpei—lest the evil Shadows either “fix” Ushio (by making her evil like them) or use her like a conduit to foil her plans to rescue the island and kill her. Before they part for the night and possibly longer, Shinpei tells her not to die, like she did the first time they met on the island.

The next day, Shinpei recruits another person he can trust—Sou, whom Ushio surprises by popping up behind him in a disguise. Sou’s reaction is only the latest in a long sequence of excellent contorted faces that are this episode’s specialty. Sou is a self-pitying mess, but Ushio literally kicks him out of it, telling him that they don’t have a use for crybabies in their quest to save everyone from the Shadows.

Whatever he regrets, he can make up for it now. Can these crafty kids, with help from an author and hunter, prevent that future calamity at the festival? Judging from this series’ two-cour run, perhaps not at first. More loops are almost assured, but Shinpei has already made progress. Perhaps he and his friends will make a little more before Return By Death kicks in again.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 07 – Tools of the Trade

Deciding to tentatively trust Shinpe, Hizuru and Nezu fill him in on some details about the Shadows. For one thing, if you destroy a Shadow, like Hizuru just did with Alan’s, the Shadow can’t come back, and you can never be copied again. Hizuru’s brother was killed by one fourteen years ago, but a part of him lives on…as the second of her two personalities. When she puts her hair up, Ryuunosuke comes out.

That means it’s game time. The Kobayakawa’s are her target. Her old friend welcomes her in warmly, but Ryuunosuke takes a sledgehammer to her face. Then the monsters show their faces, and while her parents are relative pushovers, Shiori proves to be the toughest of the three. Ryuunosuke has to stab himself with chopsticks to injure her, but she manages to dodge fatal sledge strikes and slithers out a window.

Nezu is ready for her outside with “Plan B”—a nailgun—but he’s unable to get three consecutive nails into her Shadow, which is key to pinning her down. Shinpei proves to be an indispensable member of the party by tackling Shiroi when she tries to give them the slip. Nezu pins her, and Kugimiya Rie gets to chew some scenery as Evil Shiori until Ryuunosuke has had enough and finishes her off.

Later, Ryuu tells Shinpei that he’s not the author of the two, but he does come out when his sister is forced to deal with things she doesn’t like: interviews, meetings, and killin’ Shadows. Hizuru regains control by punching herself in the face. Shinpei now has one quirky ally, but you can’t say she—or rather they—aren’t capable.

The next task is to try to deal with Shadow Mio, whom Shinpei knows will stand outside his house at 9. When he heads in, for a moment he thinks Shadow Mio is already there, but it’s just regular Mio, trying and failing to cook for him. It’s a pretty great fakeout.

I was almost yelling at Shinpei to not let Mio out of his sight, but thankfully the episode had a different cliffhanger in mind: that of the Ushio variety, as she suddenly appears with a growling tummy when he starts sautéing some onions. We know Ushio is a Shadow—Shiori admits to killing the original—but we also know that she acts just like Ushio without a hint of malice, so her arrival isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 06 – The Kobayakawas Were Dead to Begin With

Much of the episode’s first half takes place through the eyes of Nagumo Ryuunosuke, AKA Minakata Hizuru. When she watches Mio send herself and Shin into the sea, and wonders if this “Shin” is Ajiro Shinpei. She attends the funeral, meets old friends, and we learn she frequented the Kofune diner as a middle schooler, before Shinpei was taken in by Alan. She was also friends with Shiori’s mother Asako, whom she learns is a Shadow when her shadow moves to avoid Hizuru’s feet.

Hizuru can’t trust anyone on this island…anyone, that is, except Nezu, whom she seems to trust implicitly. Not only does she invert herself in his presence, she even cries. She uses Nezu as a sounding board, reporting that the entire Kobayakawa family has been killed and replaced by Shadows, and that Ushio drowned because a Shadow attacked her. There’s a Shadow that can make other Shadows, and it’s been busy. How Hizuru and Nezu intend to end its free reign remains to be seen.

That brings us to Shinpei, who tries to act normally, but still warns Shiori about Shadows, inviting the suspicion of her parents. In one of the creepier moments in an episode full of creepy moments (what with all the body-snatching) and ant creates and ant-sized hole as it crawls across Shiroi’s parents’ shadows. Then Alan gives Shinpei a note written in a seemingly indecipherable code…unless you happen to be a fan of Nagumi-sensei’s work.

We see Shadow Mio create a Shadow Alan, who tries to replace the real Alan when he goes to the bathroom. However, Hizuru is already waiting for it, and smashes Shadow Alan’s shadow with a sledgehammer, thus destroying it. But it’s a hollow victory; so many lives have been taken already, and so many more hang in the balance. Hizuru and Nezu wont’ be enough … especially if neither of them can travel through time.

Enter Shinpei, who cracks the code and calls the number for Hizuru’s second phone, which she gave to Nezu. Nezu makes sure Shinpei isn’t a Shadow by getting him to stand in a certain place, then shoots his shadow with his sniper rifle. Once that’s settled, he takes him to Hizuru, and Shinpei immediately asks for Nagumo-sensei’s autograph.

Of course, Hizuru knows for a fact that no one but Nezu knows that she’s Nagumi-sensei, which means the only way Shinpei knows is because he’s lived July 22nd before, likely multiple times. When she tells Shinpei this, he can’t help but tear up in relief: somebody knows and believeswhat’s happening to him. Someone who can help him save Mio and the island.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

%d bloggers like this: