Meteorological summer, that is, which is what really counts; no one goes outside on December 20th, amid the snow and carols and Christmas lights, sniffs the frigid air, and thinks, "ah, autumn."

A couple summers ago, I had the pleasure of playing through most of Boku no Natsuyasumi 2, a '70s Japanese childhood summer vacation simulator for the PSP. The game reminds me, counterintuitively, most of A Christmas Story in that the painstaking specificity with which it recreates a very particular time and place paradoxically gives it a universality: its brings its setting to life so vividly that it enhances audience identification with the commonalities of childhood experience. (Man, that's a mouthful for a simple technique used to wholesome effect.)

You play a young elementary-school boy who's been sent to a relative's back-country island inn for a month's retreat while his mother delivers his new sibling. During your backyard summer-vacation adventures, you can buy ice cream treats from the freezer from your allowance, have beetle fights with the local kids (no one, human or insect, gets actually hurt), swim around the island and discover sunken treasures, chase & catalog bugs, make crayon pictures chronicling discoveries like a secret waterfall or the remnants of a young engineer's rocket experiment, and, of course, pester neighbors. The only problem is the day is never long enough to pack in everything you wanna do. But that's the problem with real-life summer days, isn't it.

But there are several other guests at the inn, one of whom bears a resemblance to someone from a manga that's been getting much attention here as of late. Gruff and unsociable, Taniguchi (the names are even similar) is always found alone, seeking solitude in nature, brooding at the edges of the young hero's story, alluding to the nature of the troubles weighing on his mind only vaguely - confident, correctly, that the boy won't understand the full extent of his problems. I have no idea of Tagak's criminal past, but Taniguchi's woes lie in an old robbery he helped mastermind - one for which he saw no payoff and for which he is about to, as he says, "pay the piper." My time with Boku no Natsuyasumi 2 came to an end the day he made an ominously sudden disappearance from the story, failing to turn up despite an island-wide search party. I had no appetite to see his story end at the hands of suicide or the shallow young-shit investigator shacking up at the inn under the barest of who-cares-you-hicks pretenses. Even if we didn't talk much, though, the summer days I spent with Taniguchi on the periphery were a little like seeing an old friend.

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