Review: Summer Wars

Thanks to giveaway winner Margaret Smith’s suggestion, this is the first of my recent anime movies I’ll be reviewing.  I was expecting everyone to pick Vampire Hunter D for the nostalgia, but this was the movie that was suggested by the vast majority of you.  Having never seen this movie before, I went in with high expectations since most of the giveaway participants had suggested it.  After watching it I can definitely see how the movie attains such high praise, but at the same time there were points of the movie I had slight problems with.  Still it was an overall joy to watch, and I’m happy to share with you my impression of…

To start this story we are introduced to a world that is completely interconnected by a large internet program called OZ.  OZ runs everything that could possibly be run remotely, and spans the globe with the ability for the people of all nations to communicate with one another.   It is here that we see the OZ avatars of Kenji Koiso, and his friend Takashi Sakuma hard at work maintaining the OZ security system as a part-time summer job.  When Natsuki Shinohara burst in asking for help with a summer job Kenji quickly volunteers to help his beautiful upperclassmen, before being reminded that he’s already working by Takashi.  However Natsuki’s announcement that the job will merely be accompanying her on a trip to the country, Kenji abandons his previous job and follows Natsuki.  It is only after he meets a large number of Natsuki’s family that Kenji is told that he is to play the role of Natsuki’s boyfriend/possible fiance!  Natsuki begs Kenji to play along with her lie, since she told her family the lie in a moment when she thought her great-grandmother was going to die.  Thus begin’s Kenji’s adventures with the Jinnouchi family!

Natsuki asks Kenji to come with her.

After meeting the family Kenji’s world turns upside down, as a seemingly innocuous mathematical puzzle allows a hacking AI into OZ. The avatar this AI uses to corrupt OZ is none other than Kenji’s, and he is immediately suspected of criminal activity. From here the family finds out about the lie that it his and Natsuki’s fake relationship, and endures the hardships brought on by the destruction of the OZ infrastructure. The world quickly falls into panic as all major systems are linked to OZ, and gridlock becomes a world wide epidemic. With everything on the line, and family tragedy in their wake the Junnouchi family (along with Kenji) must face down the AI known as Love Machine to restore balance to the world. With this mission comes the realization that they can achieve more as a family then they ever could alone.

It’s funny to me that a granddad has a 3DS.

This movie is brought to us by the acclaimed director of “Wolf Children”, Mamoru Hosoda. Wolf Children is the newer of the two, but the art style of both movies really speaks to the director’s aesthetic preferences. Furthermore the narrative of both movies, says a lot about the directors feelings about family ties. In another director this might seem like an unvarying style of storytelling, but Mr. Hosoda really makes each incarnation of his stories unique in their own way.  I still haven’t seen some of his other works like “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, or ” The Boy and the Beast” but if they’re as good as the first two that I have seen then I’m sold on them.  Though I will say that I hope the other two movies are more slow paced like “Wolf Children”, since the break neck speed in this one was a little jarring.

Seriously, this movie moves pretty quickly.

My feelings on this movie are somewhat conflicted, so let me start with the bad and work my way to the good.  First and foremost is the story had way too many characters for me to really get to know all of them.  I sometimes felt like it would have been better suited as a series rather than a single movie.  There was also the fact that some of the family members (Shota) were unbelievably stupid.  How did not one person notice he was taking ice from the room housing the super computer?  I also frequently found myself thinking, “I’m sure hacking is nowhere near this exciting”, but I chalk that thought up to petty nit-picking.  The one thing that really bugged me was the incest angle.  Why must they soil perfectly good story lines with this?  I know nothing happened between them, but the relationship between Wabisuke and Natsuki early on made my skin crawl.

I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to like him early on anyway though.

Despite my objections above I really do love this movie.  The animation was spectacular, especially in the key scenes in OZ, and I really liked the background animation on the old fashion Japanese house.  The soundtrack was fantastic as well, and it really pulls you into the more high tempo scenes of the movie.  Though there were a ton of characters the overall family had an interesting lineage, as often outlined by Mansuke Jinnouchi.   Even though I did mentally nit-pick the hacking scenes, I thought they were well done in that they did a good job displaying the kind of devastation that can be wrought in that kind of all fully online society.  Each act of “hacking” also represented the AI’s love for games, and it’s lack of understanding towards the ramifications of its actions.

Love Machine’s animation pretty well captures the anarchy that is his programming.

The aspect of the movie that I enjoyed the most was the what the narrative seemed to be centered around. Throughout the movie the running theme seems to be a sort of “united we stand” type of message, whereby the family comes together in dire times to overcomes adversity.  They become stronger for having faced that hardship, and as someone with a very large family this is a message that rings true to me.  There also seems to be a slightly internationalist viewpoint towards the end.  When Natsuki gambles against Love Machine for the fate of mankind, we are treated to a scene where people of every nation give their accounts to her to use as gambling credit.  This scene seemed to speak to the fact that when humans are at their best, they are more than the differing labels (nationality, ethnicity, ect) that are placed on them.  When the chips are down we cease to be the sum of our differences and we become what we all were in the first place, simply human.

Natsuki’s avatar in “spirit bomb” mode.

In the end the good aspects of the movie definitely outweigh the bad ones.  If I had to put it on a list of anime movies, it would probably be somewhere in my top ten.  That’s a decent spot but let’s face it… you aren’t moving some of those Ghibli films out with anything short of your studio’s magnum opus.  I’d watch this movie again, though I’d probably skip over the parts I disliked.  This is in stark contrast to movies I’d put in my top 5, that I often rewatch the whole way through.  Given how many people requested this movie I expect some to be a little disappointed with this review, but like it or not that’s my stand on this movie.  Still if you have an opinion on the movie, or my review of it drop me a comment here on my social media pages.  One down, a mountain of anime left to go.  Don’t let my tone get you down though, I still love doing this and I hope you will continue to enjoy my content.


Arigatō my fellow BrOtaku!





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A gamer, otaku, and booze enthusiast. I pursue writing for the love of my interests, and the joy of sharing them with others. I am currently studying Journalism at my local community college.

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