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Kenji Koiso, an eleventh grade math genius, agrees to take a summer job at the Nagano hometown of his crush, Natuski. When he arrives, he finds that her family have reunited to celebrate the 90th birthday of the family matriarch. His job is to pretend to be Natsuki's fiancé. Meanwhile, his attempt to solve a mathematical equation causes a parallel world's collision with earth. Written by
When taking a look at the history of Japanese animation, it's fair to say that for the western audience at least, Japanese animation films can be severely butchered and be heavily criticised. However, I think films such Summer Wars are exceptions due to the fact that they offer up something different to all audiences and deliver on the entertainment value.
'Summer Wars' directed by Mamoru Hosoda (who also directed 'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time') is a film that explores the endless possibilities when it comes to our use of technology and blends that with the theme of family/romance. the story which takes place in a near- Utopian future where everyone integrates themselves with the world of OZ (an online platform that is used by everyone)is focused around the 17 year-old high schooler Kenji Koiso, a mathematical genius who like most geniuses is shy, uncoordinated and inarticulate. Being disappointed not representing Japan in the maths Olympics, Kenji finds himself in an odd predicament where the girl of his dreams Natsuki Shinohara 'hires' him out to be her fake fiancé to please her great grandmother Sakae Jinnouchi who's turning 90 years old. While Kenji tries his best to fit in with Natsuki's large family, things get even more complicated when he receives an odd encoded text message one night which although Kenji easily solves the 250-character algorithm, the next day it is known that he actually released a malevolent A.I called 'Love Machine'. With 'Love Machine' purposefully creating havoc in the world of OZ, the repercussions are slowly being felt within the world and as things get more and more chaotic and the stakes are raised even higher, Kenji and family slowly realise that this A.I could pose a big threat to the world than anyone had previously been imagined.
What I found out within this film that I really appreciate for doing is it's attention to detail. Not only in terms of animation and visual quality does Summer Wars look great, but the way it eludes to the themes of technology/family is interesting. Probably the most coherent and obvious theme that this film represents is technology and how it certainly gives us, the spectator,an in depth look at the advantages and implications technology can do in our everyday lives. Not only that but the film also gives us this message that technology is always evolving; We have progressed immensely over the past decade through technology and we will enter many more decades to even brighter and scarier society driven sources. While the core of the film does revolve around the technology aspect for the majority of the running time, the other key theme that remains current throughout is 'family'. The actual Jinnouchi family is pretty much the heart and soul of Summer Wars and outlines how on a metaphorical term how important family is in our lives and how that extends through the bonds of friendship. The family it-self felt like one massive character that again delivered this films heart and soul; the way each individual character played each other's response whether it may off been a violent retort or a cheesy joke was played out with such realism which goes to show how good the dubbing was for this animated piece.With such a large cast you could argue however that the weakest part of this film was actually the development of the main characters. Kenji being the usual shy,quirky teenager living his normal high-school life can be depicted as just an ordinary anime character with no back-story apart from being a super genius which is the only interesting quality of character. While the dialogue and voice acting of Natsuki is well-done and charming at times, her relevance to the doom- narrative is very limited and is only perceived as a love interest to help advance the character of Kenji.The only individual that stands out is the great-grandmother as she does add a lot of warmth to everyone and gains a lot of respect from each character .In terms of the visual aspects however, Summer Wars is good-looking film. The action/fighting sequences are fluid and smooth and barely any moments where it just looks stone still. Hosoda's contrast between the standard but detailed real-world setting and the world of OZ which is bright and vibrant and funnily but weirdly looks like the internet has had sex with Nintendo is professionally done and certainly adds to tension of the story snapping back and forth from OZ to the real world.The depth of detail such as the little kids playing with their Nintendo D.S's and Wabasuke (developer of 'Love Machine')with his Iphone was something I enjoyed thoroughly as again it brought this sense of verisimilitude. On top of this, the soundtrack consists of orchestral music which feels very Disney-ish in the up-beat and comical moments but still manages to diverge it self whenever the narrative gets emotional. Besides having an orchestral music-score, there are other types of music which certainly deliver and add to the important sequences. A good example of this would be the theme of 'King Kazma' as the uplifting techno-beat really syncs wells with the adrenalin and high tension of the action-packed scene. In terms of the narrative however, there are certain elements that call-back to the Digimon movie being that there is a digitised world in both and that both are directed by Hosoda. However Summer Wars completely makes better use of this doom- destined story line as it does coincide with the technological aspect of the film.
All in-all... Summer Wars alongside many other well-established animated films is a great piece of art. The mixture of the highly-stylised animation mixed in with the characters and this dooms-day narrative make this film what it essentially is
Alex Rabbitte - 8/10
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