Summer Wars

As promised, I now bring you Sachi’s grand review of Summer Wars, an epic epic in epic proportions of epicness because it was just that epic (amazing).

While I was attending Fanime this year, I found myself idling around Ballroom B with a few close friends. After the Yamaga panal, after the Otaku: The Series premiere, and after the Dead Fantasy showing, I was beginning to grow restless in my seat and feeling the urge to run around the Dealer’s Room; that was when the premiere of Summer Wars was announced. Prior to this I had heard good things about Summer Wars, so I remained seated, interested in what all the rumors were about. Another movie released through Madhouse Studios, you can think of Summer Wars as a combination between Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and The Girl That Leapt Through Time (another film directed by Mamoru Hosoda), along with hints of awesomeness from various other sources; yet, at the same time, it was completely original in its own merit. So, what makes this such a great movie? Well, lets start from the beginning.

Imagine a virtual world in the internet that everybody is connected to. In this world, you can pretty much do anything: create characters, play games, interact with people, and handle your e-mail. Well, not only does it do that, but you can also pay your real taxes through it, run your real business through, and many other things. Essentially, it is a virtual data bank that manages every aspect of life. This world is called Oz.

Okay, now meet Kenji Koiso, a seventeen year old math genius, such a genius, in fact, that he came incredibly close to representing all of Japan in a Math Olympiad. He has been dragged along by Natsuki Shinohara to her great-grandmother’s home to celebrate her ninetieth birthday and he is made to pretend to be Natsuki’s girlfriend while they stay. The entire family has come to celebrate, and it is certainly full of some interesting characters that Kenji soon becomes acquainted with. On the first night, Kenji receives a large text message on his phone with a number code over two-thousand characters long. Believing it is a math challenge to crack the code, he spends his entire night deciphering it and finishes in time to get a few hours of sleep. When he wakes up, he is surprised that his face is on the news, labeling him as the criminal who hacked Oz. He soon learns that his Oz avatar has been hijacked, and the real criminal is running around in Oz causing havoc not only online, but all over the world as well, due to the real world’s strong connection and reliance on the online network. This marks only the beginning of the long, challenging few days Kenji has as he tries to recover his account and fix Oz, with the help of his new family, of course.

The first thing I must comment upon is how remarkably well the story is handled throughout the entire movie. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, yet at the same time has enough depth to keep you constantly thinking and making connections to other things. The storytelling is handled with such care and precision, such as with The Girl That Leapt Through Time, which at some moments has you cheering, other moments have you crying, and even both at the same time. It’s a lot like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann in that it motivates you, and there’s no way you don’t want to just stand up and yell, “FUCK YEAH!”

Of course, a good story cannot be made without good characters. Each person in the story is very unique in their own way, yet they are very realistic too, none sticking to any single archetype. All the characters, as a family, together look like something you would actually see if you got your (functional) family together for a holiday celebration, or reunion. If one character is not your favorite, there will certainly be another. That’s Yoshiyuki Sadamoto for you.

The animation is also very similar to The Girl That Leapt Through Time, which is not surprising for Madhouse Studios, but it is also very similar to the animation seen in some of the Miyazaki films. Both of which, when they are meant to be, present a very realistic tone and not what you think of when you think of anime. However, in the virtual world of Oz, things are much different, animation-wise. The art style is totally different, and very, very shiny, taking on a surreal, colorful, and “anime” tone. An interesting contrast within the film, adding on to the enjoyable experience.

I’m really not sure what else to say about this film, other than that, overall, this was just a great movie. Perfect in almost every way imaginable, and definitely on the “must-watch” list of all time. Summer Wars is certainly a masterpiece in its own genre, and I would expect nothing less from Hosoda. If you like fun, quirky, yet intelligent films that don’t dwell on being too deep, or too flashy; if you want to cry and cheer at something that is just pure awesome in every way imaginable; or if you just want to watch a good movie, Summer Wars is definitely the movie for you. 10/10, easily.