By Michael De Martino
(Mamoru Hosoda, 2009, Japan, in Japanese, Science-fiction, 114 minutes)
Time and time again, Japanese anime proves that the field of animation extends farther than that of Disney, Pixar or Dreamworks, and what a marvellous little gem of an example this film is!
Kenji, a 17 year old maths-wizz school student and moderator of the online interactive world, OZ, is asked to stand in as the boyfriend of 18 year old student, Natsuki, for her grandmother’s 90th birthday party. While at the party, Kenji is sent a mysterious numerical code. Kenji cracks the code, thus unknowingly allowing OZ to be hacked, creating a super avatar which takes over the security systems.
At first you wonder why that’s such a big deal, a couple of people lose their account and that’s all, right? Wrong. So very, very wrong.
OZ is much more than a social network or online role-playing game. As it turns out, the world has put so much faith into this program such as major corporation accounts and emergency services contact details. As the super avatar wrecks havoc in the OZ universe, consequences are felt in the real world, growing progressively more disastrous as the program is corrupted.
Aesthetically this film is to the point of masterpiece. Intricately crafted backgrounds with precise detail are illustrated in every frame. From the cute avatars of OZ, to the humanoid characters and rendered sceneries, every aspect of the animation is executed with great precision.
Summer Wars is a very modern film which communicates a powerful statement on the way the rapid expansion of online communities can not only create a global village but also have catastrophic consequences that are much worse than we could ever imagine.
Summer Wars is an elaborately executed and highly enjoyable work of imagination which teaches a powerful message to citizens of our time. The Japanese anime can be very addictive, and this film is an apt example of how the obsession begins. Even so, I recommend this film not only to the animation fans, but to everyone, for it is an overall enjoyable film.
Special features include a detailed interview with the director, theatrical trailer, TV promotional spots, footage from an exclusive theatrical promo, and interviews with several cast members.
The highlight of these special features is the informative interview from director Mamoru Hosoda. Sometimes learning the inspiration behind a film can add to its appreciation, and this is certainly the case with Summer Wars. Hosoda speaks of his views on the prominent involvement of technology in Japan today, as well as Japan’s culture. This interview alone makes the separate Special Features well worth it.