Summer Wars

Original Title: サマーウォーズ
Release date: August 1, 2009
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Story by: Mamoru Hosoda
Screenplay by: Satoko Okudera
Cast: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Nanami Sakuraba, Mitsuki, Tanimura, Sumiko Fuji, Ayumu Saito

I was going to do a stand-alone review of this, but I thought it’d be the perfect start-up for the impromptu Japanese Cinema Blogathon organized by Cinema Fanatic and JapanCinema.

Summer Wars is an animated adventure by Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), in which our heroine Natsuki, is heading home for her grandmother’s 90th birthday family gathering. Her grandmother is sick, so Natsuki believes that she will make her grandma happy by lying and telling her that she has a successful boyfriend.

The problem is that Natsuki doesn’t have a boyfriend, so she requires the help of Kenji, an awkward nerd that’s almost a math genius, and works as a code monkey of OZ — a virtual world that has millions of users and contains a lot of critical real-world information. Think of it as Facebook, but with battles and cute/cool avatars. Way cooler.

During the preparations for the party, Kenji receives a number-coded text message, which he solves opening up the privacy gates in OZ, and letting a vicious bug in.

Summer Wars is part techie-adventure, part family-dramedy. Coming from Japan, home of some of the finest quality animation, it’s got luscious art and flawless animation technique. The battle scenes inside OZ are probably the most amazing, as they stand out from what we’ve come to know as “anime” style.

The story is well built-up, creating a lot of tense situations, which anyone that spends most their time online are familiar with. The threat of everything being connected and having a weak point that can be used to make everything fall apart. It does fall apart, and everyone must come together in the time of need. This is the reason why I think Summer Wars is perfect for this — it is a very touching segment in the film, when everything seems lost, and every OZ user comes to Natsuki’s aid, giving “themselves” up to help this group of people battling the bug.

It’s a very powerful moment in the film… too bad Hanafuda games, even if fun, lack the tension required for such a big end of the world adventure. However, for more on Hanafuda and KoiKoi you can check The Japanese that the Japanese Don’t Know.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

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amy

YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

13 Responses

  1. Castor says:

    Saw this recently, I was a little bit disappointed especially with the OZ world being part of the story. I almost wished it was just a simple meet-cute love story instead. Plus, it was really, really corny here and there ahha ;)

    • amy says:

      @Castor, I think I like the film more because of the timing. I really don’t know what I was expecting, but I popped this in to forget a bit about the earthquake. And the destruction of the world of OZ just brought back those memories… and all the users coming together was really moving to me.

      I liked the family part the best.

  2. JapanCinema says:

    Our page is up!

    Thanks for participating YAM.

    As for Summer Wars, it actually got a nice theatrical push here in Austin, TX. I’m glad you thought there were touching moments and it was quite powerful in places. A real step up for the genre if you ask me. I have it an A rating last year and I still think it desrves high marks.

    • amy says:

      @JapanCinema, we barely get any non-American releases. The market here is about 90% Hollywood, 5% Indie American films, 3% Europe, 1% Asia, 1% Latin America. Even less in those last 5% LOL

      Let alone for a foreign animated film! So gotta count on DVD releases — usually Hong Kong — screeners and/or online.

      I wonder, did Japanese audience liked the Hanafuda inclusion? I was a little at a loss with that, because to me it was just playing cards. I guess I could compare it to wanting someone to win their Bingo card.

  3. Jenna says:

    :( I just watched over the weekend and was gonna review it too. I guess I have to start getting faster since everyone keeps beating me to things I wanna write about. :(

    • amy says:

      @Jenna, awww, you should have let me know. Send me a list of the things to review, so others won’t take them. What did you think of the film though?

  4. ghost says:

    I have seen some people saying that it’s better than The Matrix. Funny. The only remotely similar thing is they both have a virtual world, but that’s it.

    Are you going to be writing about the Japanese spirit in all your reviews? I don’t know what to write for Hula Girls.

    • amy says:

      @ghost, only when I can. The next review was kinda difficult, but I think Hula Girls does have that “doing your best to get through” theme somewhere in it.

  5. julili says:

    Lol, I didn’t read this until now so I didn’t know we are writing about two works by the same director!
    LOL aren’t we in sync?
    Hmm…. I should watch this seeing as I adore The Girl Who Leapt Through Time!

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