Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer Wars

 
Summer Wars is a film by Hosoda Mamoru that premiered in the Summer of 2009. It follows Koiso Kenji as he takes a job pretending to be the fiancee of Shinohara Natsuki as the two go to Natsuki's family reunion. Kenji runs into some trouble after the ruse is found out, and he is framed as a cyber-criminal. The film borrows heavily from one of Hosoda's earlier directorial works, the second Digimon movie (Our War Game). Though some have criticised this, most appriciate the movie for what it is, a technological thriller with a cultural twist.
 
A good amount of the movie's goings-on occurs in Oz, a global Social Network.
 
Koiso Kenji is a math nerd with a part-time programming job for the biggest social network on the planet, Oz. He and his friend Sakuma Takashi both work as minor moderators for Oz, which 4 billion people across the globe use to socialize, play games, do business, finance, and many other applications. The two are approached by Natsuki with a job offer, though only Kenji gets to take it. The two ride two trains and a bus out to the countryside, gathering people along the way; it is only once the pair are to the Jinnouchi Family estate that she reveals that he is to play her fiancee to keep up appearances with Great-Granny Sakae, whose birthday is in a few days.
 
Oz Avatars come in all shapes and sizes. All these people are related, by the way.
 
As the movie progresses, Oz is hacked into by an unknown force, revealed to be an AI known as Love Machine. This causes problems for Kenji, who is framed for the crime, and subsequently arrested by Natsuki's second cousin, Shota. With Takashi's help, however, it is revealed that Kenji is indeed innocent, and he (with the help of the Jinnouchi clan and Takashi) works to take down Love Machine and fix the problems in Oz before the AI drops a bomb on them.
 
LOOK INTO THE FACE OF EVIL
 
Summer Wars is set in the Ueda area of Japan, about an hour and a half outside of Tokyo. Hosoda grew up near Ueda, and his fiancee at the time was from the area. Ueda was also controlled at one point by the illustrious Sanada Clan, on which the Jinnouchis are based. Studio Madhouse and Hosoda capture the look and feel of the Japanese countryside beautifully, in addition to the grandoise traditional archetecture in the Jinnouchi estate. The movie has a strong Japanese element to it; unlike other anime movies, it is emphasized that they are in Japan, with the cultural references, uniquely Japanese clothing and objects, and historical accounts of the Jinnouchi Clan's exploits dating back to the Muromachi Era. This can be an interesting introduction into Japan's culture, as it deals with it without falling on the tired WWII or Samurai Film tropes. While the film is fiction, the historical battles are loosely based on history, and the estate is based on an actual location, Ueda Castle. The film should not be taken as an accurate education on the culture of Japan, but it's good to start people off.
 
Madhouse really outdid themselves with the movie's scenery.
 
The characters of Summer Wars, especially the Jinnouchi Clan, are all interesting and lively. Each one is as unique as a snowflake and as ballsy as a biker. Great-Granny Sakae in particular is quite the badass, being as skilled with her words as she is with her Naginata. She leads the family with an iron fist and a silver tongue, all while living under the guise of this sweet old lady. The rest of the family follows suit to some degree, especially the fisherman Uncle Mansuke and his grandson Kazuma. The women of the family, following in Sakae's footsteps, sometimes outshine the men, despite taking somewhat of a backseat role in the events of the movie. Perhaps it is due to him being out of his element, but Kenji shares a certain meekness with Ikari Shinji, the lead character of Neon Genesis Evangelion (the two also share some other traits, such as a similar voice, lack of parental influence and hair colour). Thankfully for the viewers, the story, the Jinnouchi Clan, Oz, and the world, however, Kenji manages to man up when the time counts.
 
I think we all wish we could have a grandmother as badass as this.
 
All in all, Summer Wars was spectacular the first time I watched it, and hasn't lost potency with subsequent viewings. Every dramatic moment makes me shout with excitement, and I still tear up at the sad times. For those looking for some family bonding, Jinnouchi Style, then give this one a try. For those critical of the rehashing of the plot of Our War Game, bear in mind that it's been said that in making Summer Wars, Hosoda took all the ideas he couldn't use on Our War Game, and put them into Summer Wars. With that in mind, it's more of a 2.0 version than anything, and I commend Hosoda for doing it, since one of the worst feelings out there is having unused ideas. With a product like Summer Wars, too, there's not much anyone can argue about.
 
Honestly, I don't think anyone WILL argue with this.
 
Summer Wars is available from various torrent sites, including NyaaTorrents and TPB. It is also distributed from AfroDistro, and by Funimation on DVD and Blu-Ray in North America. It has audio in both English and Japanese.
 
Leave it to Madhouse to make an antique card game look badass.
 
5/5
 
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