Grim_Noir’s Off-Kilter Filter Movie Club: Summer Wars (2010)

Summer Wars Poster

Title: Summer Wars

Director: Mamoru Hosoda

Screenplay by: Satoko Okudera

Story by: Mamoru Hosoda

Animation by: MADHOUSE

Distributed by: FUNimation

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

At midnight every Saturday night/Sunday morning in December 2013, Cartoon Network will be showing an anime movie distributed by Funimation. Last week, it was the ’80’s classic Akira. This week, December 14-15, they bring us something more current…

The movie: Summer Wars

Ever thought to yourself, “What the world needs is a really good movie that combines, the original Matrix movie, The Royal Tennenbaums, TRON, Risky Business, Can’t Buy Me Love and Wargames?” Of course not. But Anime has…

Way back at the beginning of 2011, our fearless webitor-and-chief, JD, assembled a list of Top Ten Movies of 2010 from anyone who wrote for the site. My list included Summer Wars. Through technical difficulties, however, my list never did get read that year. This is my chance to get another bite of that apple.

MAN! I love, love, love this movie! For a few of you, that may be enough. For everybody else, please stick around and I will justify my gushing:

Summer Wars - Boat

The film starts off very rom-com: Kenji Koiso is a 17-year-old math geek and part-time moderator for OZ. In the near-future, OZ is an all-encompassing online service that replaces Facebook, World Of Warcraft, MAC machines and even cloud computing. One day, this geeky boy is asked for a favor from an older female student, Natsuki Shinohara. All Kenji has to do is come home with her for her great-grandmother’s 90th birthday. Natsuki neglects to mention to him that the birthday party is in the to-Hell-and-gone prefecture of Ueda AND that Natsuki has claimed to have a fiance (to be played by Kenji).

So, Kenji is trapped for a weekend-long visit in a country house with 80 strangers, who all think he is Natsuki’s fiance. Bored and unable to sleep in a strange house, he receives a text challenging him to solve a chain of complex math formulas. As a known math genius, this is not unusual for him and he spends the night making calculations until he falls asleep.

He awakes in the morning to find that he is suddenly “Public Enemy Number One.” The computations he performed the previous night have enabled a self-aware virus (calling itself “Love Machine”) to penetrate and take over OZ. The real world has been thrown into complete chaos and Kenji has been set-up to be the patsy.

Summer Wars - Family

 If the plot sounds familiar, you may be feeling echoes from your childhood: Creator-Director Mamoru Hosoda started his career working for Toei Animation and directed a lot of Digimon. Summer Wars takes the plot threads from the second Digimon film and makes a much more fleshed-out and nuanced film.

Screenplay scribe Satoko Okudera had worked with Hosoda before and she handles the far-ranging ideas in this tale with the deftness of the 20-year industry veteran that she is. This IS a big “digital world” sci-fi actioner. And the stakes ARE the end of the world, but the personal drama of an established, very proud, multi-generational family rallying around “one of their own” is what makes the film fresh and involving. Small character interactions and minor facial expressions are as important as the jaw-dropping action set pieces.

Fluid animation and vivid backgrounds (real and imaginary) have always been hallmarks of Madhouse Studio. And this flick will not disappoint you. The digital world and the IRL world are each unique and appear to be animated by two very different teams. Anyone who calls themselves an anime fan, or a film fan, or wishes to get into anime, should have Summer Wars on the same list with Akira and Ghost In The Shell.

Summer Wars - King Kazma

This film isn’t just on my “Top Ten Movies Released In The U.S. In 2010”, it is probably around Number Eleven in my list of “Top Ten Films Of All Time”: Not perfect, but, damn is it close.

Supplemental Viewing:

Director Mamoru Hosoda is the driving force here and if you enjoyed Summer Wars, it is well-worth a deep dive into the rest of his catalog.

  • Hosoda allegedly hid veiled references to all of his grievances with Toei Animation in his last film for them, One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island.
  • The first Hosoda-Okudera collaboration for Madhouse was an adaptation of the famous Japanese science fiction novel, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. It is a fun tale about the consequences of time-travel which falters slightly in the third act.
  • The most recent Hosoda-Okudera “joint” is Wolf Children, which again deftly blends fantasy elements with real characters you care about. Clockwork_Hamma and I saw this at Otakon this past year. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Wolf Children has won film society awards out of its wazoo. And it deserves every single one of them.

Ol' Grim Hisself

* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter, Facebook and Good Reads to end his self-delusions.

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