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(Movie Review) Summer Wars

September 5, 2010

It’s like Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh! had a baby and that baby was raised by Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.

As I’m sure most if not all of you might have noticed, I haven’t done much outside of music reviews since I revived drizzly rain. So, while it’s still fresh in my mind, here’s drizzly rain’s first movie review.

Title: Summer Wars
Director/Studio: Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time)/MADHOUSE (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Death Note, Highschool of the Dead)
Release Date: 08/01/2009 (Theatrical)/03/03/2010 (DVD/Blu-Ray)

Story:

Summer Wars is the story about a high school math genius who, while pretending to be the boyfriend of his crush at her grandma’s 90th birthday, unknowningly plunges the world into chaos by cracking the security encryption for an AI to a virtual reality named OZ that has access to most if not all of the world’s resources. This AI then proceeds to wreak havoc under the pretense of it all being a game, while out protagonist tries to stop the AI from causing the end of the world. Sound familiar? Summer Wars’ plot has been done before, in the film WarGames as well as the second Digimon movie, Our War Game (which was also apparently directed by Mamoru).

However, it’s not so much the basic strings of the plot rather than how those strings are woven together. Summer Wars does a gorgeous job at doing this, making the pace move seamlessly throughout the film and keeping hold of its audience. Underlying the basic plot you can see the parallels drawn to today’s modern dependence on the internet, and how those internet communities might evolve. For all we know, Facebook will become the central hub for communication of all types, ranging from standard social networking to debates about nuclear strategies. With these underlying tones of how the internet affects reality partnered up with a fun, easy to understand story, Summer Wars’ plot has something to entertain everybody.

Rating: 9/10

Characters:

Perhaps the strongest part of what makes Summer Wars a great film are the characters. The cast of Summer Wars is incredibly vast, starting with out protagonist, to his best friend, to his crush, to his crush’s family and extended family. And by family and extended family, I mean way too many characters to keep track of. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t force you to know and be attached to each and every one of these characters, but instead focuses on a fraction of the cast instead of the entire family. That’s not to say the family’s not important, in fact, the family is one of the key parts to Summer Wars’ greatness.

While their personalities are not fully explored, the family is incredibly lively and perfectly embodies the warmth and energy a large family brings. There’s the loud uncle, the annoying little cousins, the cool aunt, and all of those other family archtypes that seem to be apparent. One of the best characters in the family is the Grandma, who’s young personality does not match her 90th birthday. She’s one of the coolest anime grandmas in existence, which I admit isn’t really saying much since anime grandmothers rarely ever do anything cool at all.

As far as depth goes, none of the characters are really all that deep, but the fun and energy of all the characters is more than enough to compensate for the lack of depth. The only relationship that I would probably consider deep is the relationship between the Grandma and the relative who left for a decade, but I can’t say much without spoiling things.

Rating: 10/10

Art/Animation:

Summer Wars is a visual treat for the eyes. The sequences in OZ are all done in well rendered, clean CGI reminiscent to the digital world scenes seen in Our War Game, with plenty of motion and flashy action sequences. The real world scenes are done in a traditional minimalistic style, allowing more budget to go into the animation than the character design. All the animation in this film is very fluid and is seldom still (unless the situation is calling for it). The animation keeps the family always looking lively, and the smoothness and quality is one of the best I’ve seen in anime films. The cinematography and animation of the climax is so visually amazing that my computer actually lagged in some spots. It’s a beautiful film with superb animation rivaling those of Ghibli productions, and I’m willing to say that it actually surpasses Ghibli’s works.

Rating: 10/10

Music/Sound:

While not exactly one of the strong points of this film, the music does its job pretty well. Maybe it’s because I’m more in the industry of reviewing album music than movie soundtracks, but in the soundtrack of Summer Wars, nothing really jumped out at me. That’s not to say any of the music is bad, all the tracks do their jobs of enriching the scenes and building up tension. There just wasn’t any tracks that stuck with me after I finished watching.

In terms of the sound department, everything sounded really good. Breaking glass, screeching tires, waterfalls, punching, and that timer noise, all of it sounded very clear and real. MADHOUSE certainly wasn’t slacking in these aspects, as Summer Wars is a treat for the ears as well as the eyes.

Rating: 9/10

Enjoyment:

This last section is really subjective, but I thoroughly enjoyed Summer Wars. The pace was excellent and at no point made me bored, and the ending was so perfect that I could stop smiling for the next half hour or so. Just the sheer awesomeness of that ending rearranged some of my face muscles. That coupled with the fact that the rest of the movie was incredibly entertaining makes this one of the most enjoyable anime movies I’ve seen in a while.

Rating: 10/10

Overall, Summer Wars is an excellent anime film that’s sure to find a permanent place on my hard drive library, and I wouldn’t mind watching it over and over again. Speaking of rewatching, apparently Funimation is going to have a theatrical release late this year? I’m definitely going to that.

Overall Rating: 10/10, would watch multiple times.

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