Everyone has favorite movies, books or television show episodes that they could watch over and over again, especially when the mood strikes them. For me, this would be my Sherlock Holmes stories, my favorite episodes and specials of “Doctor Who”, and “Summer Wars”, an anime film that I never fail to watch every single year.
I was introduced to anime and manga pretty late in the game compared to most of my friends, who grew up on Filipino dubbed anime like “Princess Sarah” and “Sailor Moon”. However, as soon as I was introduced to it when I was entering high school, I breezed through CLAMP anime and manga, “Fullmetal Alchemist”, “Death Note”. It wasn’t long before I discovered anime films through the various celebrated Ghibli films, and later on, I discovered “Paprika”, “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, and “Summer Wars”, which went on to become one of my all time personal favorites.
From the get go, “Summer Wars” doesn’t seem like much of a film, as the synopsis usually says that the story follows a teenaged boy named Kenji Koiso who ends up getting roped into pretending to be the fiance of his crush, Natuski Shinohara (Nanami Sakuraba), during her family’s reunion over the summer. However, after accidentally solving a math problem , as he is a math genius, that unleashes a massive cyber attack, they must band together and find away to stop it before it goes out of hand, and before it leads to an incident which might cause a global incident that the world might not be able to recover from.
Based on that, it really doesn’t seem like much of a movie. However, looks can be deceiving, as hidden underneath all of that is a tale about the true meaning of unity and family.
This film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda, who also directed “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”; and stars Ryounosuke Kamiki, who was recently seen in the “Rurouni Kenshin” live-action adaptation films as Seta Sojiro, and voiced the main male lead, Taki Tachibana in the recently critically acclaimed anime film, “Kimi no Na wa” or “Your Name”. “Summer Wars” also gained critical praise and won several awards.
From here on out, there will be spoilers!
The film follows Kenji Koiso, as he discovers the Jinnouchi clan during a Jinnouchi family reunion; and shows how the Jinnouchi clan, with the help of Kenji, and the clan matriarch’s influence and legacy, overcomes and defeats an AI wreaking havoc on a global level in the world of OZ, an online system and platform in which real world transactions are conducted in as well.
“Summer Wars”, just like most Mamoru Hosoda films, deals with the theme of family. In this case, it is shown to us through the large Jinnouchi clan that the protagonist, Kenji , gets roped into meeting during one of their family reunions. Here, Kenji also rediscovers the warmth of family, as he himself doesn’t really get to experience that kind of warmth as both of his parents are often busy with work.
Sakae Jinnouchi (Sumiko Fuji), the clan matriarch, is one pretty impressive woman, as she, not only encourages the members of her clan in times of crisis, such what happened when a powerful AI got loose and began wreaking havoc in a virtual world called OZ where real life transactions and accounts are stored, but also goes out of her way to use her influence to unite those she knows and to spur them into action. She is the one who reminds the clan to forgive others, no matter what, especially if they are family, like Wabisuke Jinnouchi (Ayumu Saito), the black sheep of the clan who developed the AI that caused all the problems in the first place.
Even after her death, her fighting spirit lived on within them all, including Wabisuke, as they band together to battle the AI and to stop a space probe from hitting nuclear power plant, and the Jinnouchi ancestral house.
Aside from this, the film also shows us how scary it is if we rely on technology too much, especially if all of our accounts and transactions are done in just one system, like OZ (which is basically like Google if one was capable of conducting everything from business transactions to real life shopping on one platform.) Here, it shows how it affects the real world, and it also gives a visual representation of what exactly happens when an AI like the one in the film hacks into a system and begins to hijack accounts. We haven’t yet come to that, but today, in a world where almost everything is in the Cloud, it is a terrifying thought.
Another thing that is interesting to note is that the moments of triumph, the moments in which they were fighting hard, and the moments in which they were down, paralleled the important baseball match that one of Natsuki’s cousins, Ryouhei, was in during the entire duration of the movie.
The animation throughout the entire film was absolutely wonderful, and I expected no less from the man who gave us “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”. I especially love the fact that the animation within OZ has a different and distinct look as compared to how the real world is animated.(Plus, the action sequences within OZ were wonderful!) Another particular part in which I loved the animation was the sequence in which Kenji slowly holds Natsuki’s hand to comfort her after her grandmother passes away.
The music was great at particular points, especially in the part where the grandmother began to call everyone to encourage them. The script and the dialogue were done well, and the pacing, dividing the film into around three acts was definitely the way to go.
The only downside to the film is that not all of the characters were able to be as fleshed out as Sakae, Kenji, Kazuma Ikezawa (Mitsuki Tanimura), Natsuki and Wabisuke. However, the main characters were engaging, and the supporting characters were engaging enough for the audience to become very much invested in.
In the end, this film is certainly more than it meets the eye, as it explores and shows the meaning of unity and family in the face of adversity and crisis. This, plus gorgeous animation that still holds up until today, and a story that will definitely touch you heart, makes for an anime classic that can be watched over and over again, just as I do every year.
- All of the sequences in which they ate as a family.
- Sakae Jinnouchi calling up everyone she knows, encouraging them to do the best that they can to help out during this moment of crisis. This, plus the music in that scene encourages me as well, and makes me tear up at the same time.
- The Jinnouchi men rallying together and pooling all their resources together, from a military grade antenna, a huge CPU, and a fishing boat that gives off 300 Kilowatts.
- King Kazuma’s battle sequence with Love Machine.
- Kenji slowly holding Natsuki’s hand to comfort her after her grandmother passed away.
- Wabisuke driving home in a hurry after discovering that Sakae had passed away.
- The entire Hanafuda battle sequence that Natsuki and Love Machine has. This includes the tear jerking moments in which the entire world entrusted their avatars/lives to her; that transformation sequence; and the last few cards she threw down on the table.
- That final salvo with Kenji solving the code, Kazuma blasting Love Machine into a million pieces, and Kenji solving the last code mentally and entering the right combination.
- “Never turn your back on family, even when they hurt you. Never let life get the better of you. And if you remember nothing else, remember to find time to eat together as a family. Even when times are rough; especially when times are rough. There’s no lack of painful things in this world, but hunger and loneliness must surely be two of the worst.” – Sakae Jinnouchi in her will to the Jinnouchi clan
- “We can’t fight just because it looks like we’ll win and run just because it looks like we’ll lose.” – one of the Jinnouchi men