In Japanese with English and Chinese Subtitles
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Cast: Sumiko Fuji, Ryûnosuke Kamiki,
Ayumu Saitô, Nanami Sakuraba, Yôji Tanaka, Mitsuki
RunTime: 1 hr 54 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Encore
Official Website: http://encorefilms.com/summerwars/index.html
Day: 25 February 2010
From the director of the award-winning 'The Girl Who Leapt
Through Time' Mamoru Hosoda, comes his highly anticipated
follow-up SUMMER WARS.
world of SUMMER WARS is identical to contemporary Japan, except
for the existence of OZ – a mix between a social network
and virtual world, where almost everyone and everything is
connected. All you have to do is register, create your own
virtual avatar and log in.
eleventh-grader and math genius Kenji Koiso is asked by his
secret crush Natsuki to come with her to her family’s
Nagano home for a summer job. Turns out Kenji discovers his
“summer job” is to pretend to be Natsuki’s
fiance, for the celebration of Natsuki’s spunky grandmother’s
90th birthday. There, he receives a strange math problem on
his cell phone which, being a math genius, he can’t
resist solving it. As it turns out, his solution creates chaos
within the virtual world of OZ, translating into anarchy in
WARS provides an incisive commentary on the ongoing transition
from the grandmother's analog world of handwritten cards/letters
to her heirs’ realm of digital devices, in which the
human touch is attenuated — or nonexistent. Will we
succumb to our gadgets and machines?
Back in 2007, a Japanese animation (The Girl who Leapt through Time) by a relatively unknown director Mamorou Hosoda charmed the socks of the MX stable. The creativity, the imagination and the unpredictability of the movie’s storyline impressed us and the storytellers were able to instill strong adult sensibilities in the treatment of the plot, hitting the right emotional chords when warranted. That animation went on to win the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.
Not too bad for someone who was ousted from Hayao Miyazaki's the Howl's Moving Castle project for unknown reasons.
Summer Wars marks Mamorou Hosoda's follow up to The Girl who Leapt through Time and this movie verified that we might just have another Japanese animation powerhouse to watch out for. Just as how they managed to combine two rather unlikely subject together in the previous animation (time travel and school days romance), Summer Wars merge internet technology and family ties into one enagaging motion picture feature.
The advancement of technology and family bonds seems to most unlikely subjects to be link together. Take a look around you and you will find kids that are so engross with their computer games that they are hardly communicating with their parents. But in this Madhouse's hands, managed to make both subjects equally interesting and weave them together into one engaging story.
The creation of the virtual world Oz was a dazzling experience that pushes the edge of imagination to it's max. It's an Utopian state of virtual worlds that Japanese animation could be proud off and a blueprint of what we aspire to achieve with our current technology. It's simply stuff that dreams are made of and it's hard not to get lost in wonderment by this fantastic world of Oz.
But Summer Wars did not only impress with superficial showiness. Beside having impressive looking avatars that users create in Oz, Summer Wars went on to explore how much our lives are connected to technology and how we could be affected by it if the program been affected by a virus. It also illustrate the selfless act of the anonymous internet residents that comes together to contribute in time of need (think Wikipedia).
Outside the world of Oz, we were introduced to Natsuki's huge family who are all quirky and endearing in their own rights. There might be a lot of characters but somehow, this movie managed to make most of them endearing and memorable. There's the feisty grandma who is old but still a tough leader in the time of crisis, the prodigal son who got a seedy secret, the unlikely king of fighters and so on. There are so many characters squeezed into this animation with limited runtime but yet the deftly storytelling makes them shine in their own unique way and by the end of this movie, these 2D animated characters will be as familiar as one's relative.
The best part of the combination of the 'real' world and the world of Oz was how it depict unity and honor while facing overwhelming adversity. The escalation to the final climatic face off features an arousing team effort and it served as a fitting end for the movie that based on family communication and support for one another. Summer Wars not only dazzle but it warms the heart with the depiction of family ties.
A little FYI before this review comes to a close. Summer Wars is in the running for this year (2010) Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year. It's a worthy contender and personally, I hope Mamorou Hosoda and his crew could score a 'back to back' win on the 5th of March.
(Dazzlingly Endearing ... Summer Wars is one of the Best offering from Japanese Animation)
Review by Richard Lim Jr