Summertime Rendering - 18: Face-to-Face

Title:Summertime Rendering
Episode:18: Face-to-Face
We are told the story of how the Goddess Hiruko first appeared on Hitogashima island back in 1732. What had seemed like a miracle to the starving islanders--a dead whale washing ashore--transformed into an exact copy of Haine, an island girl, and proceeded to devour the original. The people could only conclude that this being was somehow divine and worshipped her as Hiruko. Back to the present day, at the shrine, Ushio confirms that priest Karakiri is not a Shadow. He sits down for a talk with Shin. They discuss things like the priest's affinity for MMORPGs. Shin mentions Nagumo's Swamp Man novel, which the priest has heard of. Shin theorizes that Hiruko was originally a alien from outer space, who had the ability to make perfect copies of anything. He attempts to convince Karakiri that Shadow Sickness is real and that is how it got started. But Shin secretly knows that Karakiri is already quite familiar with this topic. He shows him a pair of old photos, taken 70 years ago, that show him (Karakiri) present way back then and he hasn't aged a day. Shin gets to the point and accuses Karakiri of actually being Hishigata Shidehiko--Shide for short. Apparently (a flashback) he was also present when Hiruko copied Haine on the beach. Shin (now holding a revolver) argues that Karakiri/Shide is neither a Shadow nor human. We flash back to Shin and the others trying to make sense of things earlier. They note that Shide doesn't seem to have the Shadow ability to transform into someone else, but can 'print' things. Hizuru theorizes that Shide is a human encased in the black mud that Shadows are created from as a sort of armor. And he must want to hide his identity because they would recognize him. They conclude that Karakiri is Shide. Shin wonders if Karakiri sent a Shadow in his form to Ushio's funeral. Nezu and Hizuru are ready to just plain kill him, but Shin wants more proof. Hizuru notes that Shide suffered a serious burn on his left arm in the fight at the gym, and that might be used to identify him. At the clinic, Dr. Hishigata confirms Karakiri's true identity. "Shide is Haine's guardian and the first child she ever gave birth to" he says. He says the Karakiri family is an offshoot of the Hishigata one; in fact, Haine's surname is Karakiri. The Hishigatas came to handle medicine while the Karakiris handled religion on the island. "Eventually Shidehiko produced a child with Haine"--apparently a conventional pregnancy and birth. The child grew up identical to Shidehiko--the Doctor describes it as a 'clone' of him. Shidehiko made Haine copy his own personality and memories and transfer them to the child. This practice has continued since then, hence the old photos of spitting-image Karakiri. "Shide has continued this secret rite and been reborn by Haine over and over" for 300 years. Doctor Hishigata's father delivered the current Shide and took one of the photos. Back at the shrine, Shin argues that Karakiri/Shide is a 'human-Shadow hybrid". Karakiri admits he was present back in 1732. The islanders were spared from the Kyoho famine not by Hiruko granting them more fish, but by there being fewer islanders who needed food, since many had been transformed into Shadows. He snidely claims credit for saving them. Karakiri also admits that he killed Shin's parents after they stumbled upon Haine's cave. He says Shin's mother was 'delicious'. Shin demands that he turn Haine over to them, but he refuses. Ushio (hidden as a small object carried by Shin) urges him to shoot Karakiri, but Shin senses that something is wrong. Karakiri has no burn marks on his left arm. Ushio materializes and lashes out, taking the top of Karakiri's head off. He seems quite dead. But another Shide appears and slashes Ushio nearly in two with a naginata, a bladed spear. Shin shoots him but the hits have little or no effect and Shide impales Shin. "The only things you will take with you on your loop are despair and regret" Shide says. Shin finds himself with the children he and Ushio saved on Mt. Takanori--but Ushio has vanished. Is she permanently dead?
So, though Shide has gone through numerous bodies, each has had the same mind, thus granting him a sort of immortality. Just who was the decoy in the Shrine? Ushio hadn't sensed any Shadows. Can they create an identical copy of a human--not a Shadow, but a second human? How does Shin's party know for sure that Karakiri would have burns on his left arm? Maybe that black ooze would prevent them from happening. Why didn't the bullet hits on Karakiri's human body have any effect? Did he stop the bullets, using his (limited) abilities?

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