Tomoya Sugisaki, along with two other young people he's recruited named Aoi and Ryo, all go to an abandoned airfield where it's said fireworks can summon a ghost, to see if it's true.
I remember reading that Cher (of the former Sonny & Cher) had been seeing a psychic to communicate with the "spirit" of Sonny (after his well-known unfortunate encounter with a tree.) The article noted that she was talking with Sonny's spirit about her shoes.
Now, that just isn't right. I mean, here's someone who's crossed the river Styx (I believe in Japan they'd say the Sanzu), who knows all the mysteries of the afterlife- the place where all of us, sooner or later, will be for all eternity- AND YET ALL THEY TALK ABOUT IS HER FREAKING SHOES??????
Still, even in popular fiction it seems difficult to get straight answers from spirits or ghosts (they often seem preoccupied with bloody revenge, you see), and Summer Ghost's title character (in-life name Ayane Sato) is just as evasive about these things as any. "It isn't something that can be explained", she says when asked what it's like to be a ghost. If "Summoning A Ghost" can be the topic for all these kids' "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" class paper, for Ayane I'd suggest the topic "Compare and Contrast Your Perceptions and Experiences Being Dead with the Ones You Had When Alive." Even the ghosts in the Harry Potter books were more forthcoming than THIS. (Rowling's ghosts apparently just experience a more meager version of our own reality.) Really, with all this difficulty in getting straight answers from the spirits, it's no wonder that Necromancy has gone out of style.
Of the three humans conducting Ayane's initial interview, her non-answers cause Aoi and Ryo to lose interest, but Tomoya summons Ayane again, and it turns out that Ayane wants to ask a favor. Ghosts DO like to ask favors, as we know from The Sixth Sense. (Summer Ghost also appropriates another concept from The Sixth Sense, but that would be spoiling.)
Now I had a couple of issues here. One is that Tomoya seems to me the least interesting of our three ghost summoners. His particular life challenge is NOTHING compared to those faced by either Aoi or Ryo, yet he's the central POV character. Ayane says only those "contemplating death" can see her, and presumably Tomoya's contemplating suicide because the adults in his life (his mother especially) are forcing him to excel in academics, but art is his true love. They say "write what you know", so I would expect it was easier for the writer/director of Summer Ghost, who the box copy identifies as a well-known illustrator (he goes under the penname Loundraw), to put himself in Tomoya's shoes than in those of either of the other two Summoners. (Tellingly, Aoi and Ryo don't even seem to have complete names.)
But, Mary Sue character or not, Tomoya seems to develop a crush on Ayane, going on spectral dates with her (though she continues to be vague as ever), and these, combined with her problem (the ONE thing she IS specific about), consume most of the show's ultra-short running time. (Ghosts often seem to be "stuck" on Earth due to some issue requiring the help of the living to achieve closure. Same thing with another show I'm watching, Raven of the Inner Palace, though Raven is a much more substantial show.)
That short (40 minutes) running time's my other issue. Back when I reviewed Lights of the Clione I mentioned that short running time required careful planning and determination of plot priorities if one is trying to present a fleshed-out, complete story. Summer Ghost just didn't seem to me to make that cut. I gather that the idea that friendship makes personal pain bearable is supposed to be in here, but it's a point just barely made in passing; the show would rather dwell on Tomoya's relationship with Ayane, and the solution to HER problem, than with the much weightier problems faced by Aoi and, especially, Ryo.
Since a longer running time might have alleviated many of the show's inadequacies, why not take the time to tell it properly? I can't believe what we have here is all Loundraw wanted to say. Maybe (pure speculation here) the problem was money? It's often hard for a "new" director to raise sufficient funds to do a project the way they might want to.
To be honest, though, I'm not really much of a fan of the art either. All the characters, ethereal and corporeal, are done in the same pale, "sketchy" style, though I suppose the inability to tell the quick from the dead here is useful to the show in the end.
I do have to concede the originality of one thing here, though: spirits going through solid matter are depicted as going through water. (Complete with bubbles, for some reason. I didn't say it made sense, I said it was original.)
As it is, this is more a mood piece (like Hakubo) than what I'd call a fully realized story. But as a first effort by a new director I'm less inclined to judge it harshly than I might be for a similar product from a more experienced director. And, after all, I went three stars on Hakubo, and THIS takes even LESS of your time to watch. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: No MPAA rating. RightStuf suggests 13+. Themes of death make it unsuitable for small children.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 Blu-Ray
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Summer Ghost © 2022 Flat Studio
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