Review: I must admit that upon hearing the synopsis of this movie, I felt that it sounded strange, if not downright lame. A summer vacation that leads to a cyber battle, virtual terrorism and apparently the world is at stake? That sounds like an amateur trying to do something revolutionary, daring, thinking big but would eventually learn a hard lesson. In most occasions, this would be the case but to my delight, Summer Wars proves to be a rare exception.
Summer Wars clearly displays fear of the advancement of information technology which gradually becomes essential part of daily lives. When OZ system fails, everything shuts down and the world is in chaos. Kenji is on a summer vacation with Natsuki’s family of over twenty people. The cyber catastrophe throws the entire family into extremely hard time and they all are forced to stand up to the culprit behind the incident and ultimate save the world.
The show may present the down side of technology like most of other science fiction but, as I’ve mentioned before, Summer Wars is no ordinary show. It also provides the viewers with a counter measure, one that does not mean denying science and technology but one that makes people and science coexist smoothly. I’m talking about something unbelievably primitive and something that is mostly forgotten in society plagued with individualism. That thing is family or more precisely, each other.
Even someone who sleeps through half the show will still be able to recognize the main theme of this anime which is family. Everyone needs a backup which help gets a person through obstacles and suffering. Nowadays, people share less and less physical contacts and families get smaller or utterly disappear. Considering this problem, it is amazing that two contrasting subjects are harmoniously presented in one show; family and cyber technology. It is like the past and the future holding hands. The family units which are breaking apart finally find the place in the new high-tech society and their importance reminded to the audience once again.
Though some might say that the characters in this anime are quite one dimensional, I think Summer Wars is family driven, rather than character driven. Not much detail is put into any single character but instead, the family is presented as a single unit, like one leading person. To my surprise, I feel like I know this family so well even though I can’t remember every member’s name.
Though the creators obviously try their hardest to make all the technical details as believable as possible, the cyber battles and other intriguing technical stuffs still seem quite over the top. I have too little knowledge about the technology to pick up flaws or discuss the credibility of the technical details but it is unfair to discredit the anime because of these matters. The most important thing is the context and drama of the fights, not the credibility of the stage and the weapons.
Summer Wars’ animation is wonderfully crafted. Different style of animation is used during the online portion of the show to distinguish it from the real life part. The musical score effectively enhances and empowers several critical moments of the anime making it not only extremely intelligent but also very emotional to the viewers.
Summer Wars is simply exceptional. It’s solid in terms of storytelling and production. It manages to gather so many great ideas together and miraculously makes everything works. And above all else, it is so entertaining and heartwarming. This is anime making in its finest.
Title: Summer Wars
Genre: sci-fi, drama, action
Release date: August 1, 2009
Running Time: 114 minutes
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Animated by: Madhouse