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Summer Wars (2009) December 29, 2009

Posted by ayasawada in Anime.
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Summer Wars

Having discovered the wonderful talents of Mamoru Hosoda last year with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki wo Kakeru Shojo or ‘Tokikake’ as the fans call it), I really was eagerly anticipating his next film. In hindsight,my expectations may have been a little too high. Summer Wars is certainly not TokiKake, but is enjoyable in itself and every bit as imaginative.

The story, as I’d understood it before watching the movie, centers on a math nerd who gets the unexpected opportunity to accompany the prettiest girl in school to a family get-together, on the false pretence that he is her boyfriend. However, the plans are thrown into disarray when he inadvertently becomes involved in a plot to bring down OZ, the ‘internet’ (or some amalgamation of the internet/Second Life/the biggest social network ever) of this world.

I was expecting something a bit more straightforward from there, but the movie surprised me by taking far more unexpected turns. As the story progresses, the film interestingly accentuates the very traditional aspects of Japanese family life (particularly a large matriarchal family such as the Jinnouchi’s) but also the hyper-real online world of OZ. This incongruous mix seems to be what Hosoda was going for, with the peculiar avatars mixing with the realistic blend of gaming, business and communication that takes place in the online world, but facilitates our real world activities, from healthcare to travel. The details really make this — I particularly liked how the many characters in the story interacted through OZ via a variety of devices, from mobile phones to laptops and DS consoles.

But at the film’s heart is the matriarchal character of Grandma Jinnouchi and her emphasis on communication and community. That’s what matters, not the medium used to facilitate it. At a time when many naysayers are condemning new social networks as isolating, it’s refreshing to see a film emphasising how, even in an online environment, community can flourish. And it acknowledges that such communication networks are here to stay and likely to be integrated into our everyday lives (while also acknowledging some of the dangers that come with an ultra-connected society).

I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the themes explored, even if, as I say, the incongruity meant the various plot elements didn’t quite blend for me (it got a little cheesy at the end for me). I also felt that some narrative threads and characters were a little underdeveloped (always likely to be a problem with such a large cast of characters, compared to TokiKake, which focused on just three main protagonists).

Nevertheless, I did enjoy Summer Wars and its beautiful animation and imagination themselves make this worth experiencing.

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1. Japanese film at #LFF 2012 « Canned Memory - October 21, 2012

[…] and the sole anime offering in the LFF this year. I have to admit, I was a little underwhelmed by Summer Wars and when I first heard the story of Okami Kodomo it sounded a bit meh. I was pleasantly proved […]


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