Summer Wars Review
How can one place Summer Wars?
Think of a movie that allows elements of a hacking nerd vs a huge virus, with a sprinkling of romance and plenty of a motley family naturally imbibed with lots of quirks. I guess that you have elements of The Royal Tenenbaums mixed with some Ghost in the Shell to make one of the finest anime ever made, I kid not.
Kenji is a super maths nerdy wizard who gets roped into impersonating his crush’ boyfriend and gets dragged to meet her great grandmother for her 90th birthday. Along the way, he meets all the quirky members of her extended family, each with their own hang-ups, and foibles, some small and others larger than you expect.
In his spare time, he manages part of a virtual world known as Oz, and he inadvertently helps to facilitate the spread of a AI program which threatens to take down the entire internet, and send a wayward asteroid probe on top of the family home.
When I first bought the disc, I figured I had acquired some disc on summer battles ala the bloody classroom brawls found in Battle Royale, but I guess I should have done more homework first. Yet, I emerged from watching it with a great warm feeling, that my time was well spent.
This was a movie about family first, the ties, and the energy of the matriarch, who held the family together, and always had the right concept to handling difficult situations. This was the most important theme, and the hacking wars, good versus evil, plus the tinge of romance were the supporting story lines.
Sure, there were elements borrowed from a variety of movies, and director Mamoru Hosoda unabashed borrowed heavily from many movies about hacking, viruses and the pervasiveness of the internet. Yet the story becomes totally his, and he infuses each of the characters with strong traits. In particular, the main characters work well, not because they are perfect, or that they are total losers, but each has redeeming qualities, and we can see ourselves in them.
It might be an anime, and one that was Japanese, but the elements of flaws and strengths make the theme universal. The pacing is also spot on despite it’s length, and you are brought from the first act, where the internet and Oz is introduced, into the second where the two young protagonists meet, then onto the family setting, leading into how the Oz melts down and finally the big battle.
Surround fans will also get a good workout, but this movie has little of the blockbuster bass, and instead uses the surrounds to paint that image of a rural Ueda setting. You will hear crickets and lots of ambient noises which help to bring you into the movie.
Most fans will be familiar with the Ghost in the Shell series, and of course the work of the director of Spirited Away, but with this effort, Mamoru Hosoda, who also made The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, will now join the heralded ranks of the top anime makers of all time.