Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Anime Review: Summer Wars

SUMMER WARS: Welcome to the virtual world of Oz, if it’s for sale, you’ll find it here!

The story follows Kenji, an eleventh grader who is unusually good at math. One day, his friend Natsuki invites him in the birthday of her grandmother. While on the occasion, he is wrongly accused in the hacking of the virtual world Oz by an artificial intelligence called the Love Machine. Together with Natsuki’s relatives, he has no choice but to start a cyber war with Love Machine, before it could do major damage not only to the virtual world of Oz, but also to the real world.

What first captured my attention is the adorable art style of the virtual world Oz, which I immediately see in the first sequence of the show. The vibrant colours, contradicted by a plain white background, give off a cute impression.

Mamoru Hosoda has a very distinctive art design. His characters are not very detailed, juxtaposed with the dynamic backgrounds and environmental objects. I’ve seen this style in his other major works, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Wolf Children Ame and Yuki, but I think Summer Wars easily takes the cake in direction.

There are two interweaving stories in Summer Wars that the audience will subscribe to -- the story of Natsuki’s family and the story of Kenji and his attempts to conquer the Love Machine. How the stories are interwoven is not that smooth however. The show has the tendency to dwell too much on the other. But in the long run, this is actually not a problem. They blend well soon enough.

But these stories have flaws of their own. The story of Natsuki’s family has some convenient coincidences, and the story of Kenji really requires suspension of disbelief before you could enjoy it fully. Other than these minor setbacks, the stories are good. The story of Natsuki’s family is very emotional and successfully portrays familial love. The story of Kenji triggers adrenaline rush with its thrilling battles and concepts of unity and such.

Speaking of the thrilling battles, I must admit that its utilization of a cute art style has been effective. It gives a sweet atmosphere, and it is quite contradicting to the intensity of the fights. These battles are animated really smoothly, and in their background is also a musical soundtrack that is worth noting.

The music is not groundbreaking, but I consider it as something of high quality. It successfully triggers the emotion the show wants to portray. It also gives off a cutesy impression when it needs to.

So intense yet so cute.

As for the characters, they are nothing complex. Kenji is your usual timid guy. There couldn’t be any plainer girl than Natsuki. The other prominent characters, Sakae and Wabisuke, are actually more interesting than them -- as a personal opinion. But this weak characterization is actually understandable. Summer Wars is not a story that requires deep characters. The characters herein are enough to deliver what the story needs to deliver.

Overall, Summer Wars is an anime worth checking out. The art is superb. This is Mamoru Hosoda and Madhouse at the top of their game. This is supported by a story that is both thrilling and touching, a musical score that delivers unusually well, and a characterization that is good enough to convey the messages of the show.

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  1. As usual, I agree with just about everything in your review! Summer Wars was a really fun movie. I need to post my review of it that I wrote a while back, but we share many opinions of it. The movie balanced a lot of the family and Oz elements of the story surprisingly well. And, even though the movie is not heavy on technology commentary, some of the ideas are surprisingly believable in terms of how much shutting down such a large network would have on everything. However, some aspects of it were definitely unrealistic, although I notice those type of things more since I am majoring in IT.

    The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is still my favorite Mamoru Hosoda film, but I am bias since the time-travel genre is one of my favorites. Also, Wolf Children Ame and Yuki is probably going to be the next anime movie that I will watch.


    1. *SPOILERS* I really find it weird that the kid (forgot his name) was actually a famous icon in Oz, and Wabisuke was the one who developed Love Machine. It's just weird that everything major is happening in their family alone, when there are so many people on, you know, Earth. I have to overlook that before I could actually enjoy Summer Wars.But yeah, overall, I find it enjoyable too.