Summer Wars (2009)

DVD Cover (FUNimation Entertainment)
Genres: Animated Comedy, Animated Drama, Animated Feature Film, Animated Sci-Fi, Animation, Anime
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Mamoru Hosoda Mamoru Hosoda
RyŻnosuke Kamiki RyŻnosuke Kamiki
Nanami Sakuraba Nanami Sakuraba
Mitsuki Tanimura Mitsuki Tanimura
Takahiro Yokokawa Takahiro Yokokawa
Mieko Nobusawa Mieko Nobusawa

7.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Mojokc
Added: May 13, 2011
When it comes to anime, I usually know something or have heard a good deal about the source material prior to watching. Whether it be a magazine article, website review or word of mouth, I always know a little something about a movie or series prior to giving it a watch. This was not the case with Summer Wars. The only thing I had heard about Summer Wars was a basic overview of plot shortly before a friend plopped the DVD into my hands. Now my tastes in anime are as varied as my taste in movies, meaning I like just about a little bit of just about anything and everything to a certain degree. Normally I prefer a nice bloody, violent anime mingled with nudity and foul language, but I have been known to watch and even enjoy some more family oriented varieties of anime and that is what I found myself watching in Summer Wars.

We start our little movie here with an introduction to the virtual world of Oz, a multi-national online space that encompasses any and all aspects of the internet. In Oz you create your virtual avatar and from there you can play games, socialize, compete in virtual tournaments, bank, shop and any other conceivable online experience. The virtual world of Oz is the hub of all big business done in the world, from oil company's to doctors and even governments handle their business through Oz. Its a virtual utopia of knowledge, business, communication and socialization, so nothing could ever go wrong, right? We shall see but in the mean time we are introduced to our main character Kenji Koiso who is a high school student with a gift for mathematics and almost no social graces.

Kenji is approached one day by a female friend of his named Natsuki Shinohara, who offers him a job as her bag boy on a trip to visit her family's estate in Ueda to celebrate her great-grandmother's 90th birthday. Shortly after arriving at the estate, Kenji finds that her family is quite extensive and lively with a rich history and that Natsuki has tricked him into pretending to be her fiancť for the sake of saving face in front of her great-grandmother. The usual business unfolds with these sort of movies, family affairs, jealousy, love and embarrassing moments, nothing new.

One night Kenji receives a mysterious e-mail with a math algorithm imbedded just begging to be solved. Kenji being the math whiz that he is obviously cannot pass this up and breaks the code in one night and upon e-mailing his response back, figures the matter to be solved. A few hours later, Kenji is awoke by Natsuki's family and soon learns that Oz has been hacked and he is the main culprit behind the viscous attack bringing the entire online world of Oz to a halt. After a bit of panic and begging Kenji manages to prove his innocence and soon learns along with everyone else that the real Culprit was in fact a computer AI named Love Machine that sent out the e-mail and used all the responses to hack not only into Oz but all the user accounts it could.

Love Machine is, as we soon find out, a computer Artificial Intelligence with a sole purpose and that is to hack accounts. How and why Love Machine was introduced to Oz I'll leave out because of spoilers but I can say it's fairly interesting and not as much of a shock as one would expect but still enjoyable. While Love Machine is in Oz it begins to cause all sorts of havoc in the real world such as massive traffic jams, power outages and water redirection and backups. Love Machine is capable of this through the hacking of personal accounts, such as the head of traffic control's account would have online access to all the traffic systems and therefor once Love Machine has his account he controls all traffic. All the while we have a budding romance starting to actually blossom between Kenji and Natsuki in the midst of all this terror and hacking and what have you.

Was this an entirely enjoyable experience from start to finish? No. Was it a good movie? Yes. As with anything else there are faults to be found here and some of those faults lie in the pacing of the movie and some of the animation techniques. I realize that all anime these days have a good amount of CG thrown in to add effect or display a certain realm or world in a different light, but the online world of Oz being such the omnipotent thing that it is just seemed like a joke visually. Its as if the animators wanted to speak too much to the younger audience and just throw in a world full of cute cuddly avatars that look like miniature versions of high school mascots.

The pacing in the movie was quite up and down as well, with a slow start followed by an over exposure of new characters to memorize, then a good deal of down time with pointless chit chat that really added nothing to the overall story or characters, then the pace picks up again, then down once more. It was a roller coaster of scenes and characters that sometimes felt a tad jumbled and confusing... hell even at the end of the movie, I couldn't tell who half the damn family was.

Other then the pacing and overly cute factor of Oz the movie itself and the story were quite nice. Nothing here was unique or new but this was a good family movie that I could sit down and enjoy with my daughter and wife. The story itself kept me going even through the highs and lows and I found myself continually wondering what Love Machine was going to do next and how our heroes would counter it and ultimately defeat it. The characters themselves were quite enjoyable, even though there was a shit ton of them to be found here. The core group we get to know extensively are very lively and come across on the screen nicely. I often found myself silently rooting for the heroes to do their thing and also excited to see the budding romance unfold and come to life in front of me.

For fans of anime in general I would say give this a watch, for its few flaws it's still a good movie and a great way to kill two hours with the family in front of the tube. For those of you who don't care for anime or family films in general, I would just steer clear as this won't hold any draw for you whatsoever. When all is said and done I would say this warrants a 6.5/10.
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