Summer Wars is a 2009 anime film by director Mamoru Hosoda, with a screenplay by Satoko Okudera based on an original story by Hosoda. I’ve been wanting to see this film for quite a while (a couple or three years now), but I only just recently got around to seeing it. I’m now kicking myself that I didn’t find time before now to watch it as it is well worth the 115 minutes required to view it.
Cute high school senior Natsuki Shinohara asks her friend and fellow physics club member, junior Kenji Koiso, to come with her to her great-grandmother’s 90th birthday party. While there, Kenji gets a mysterious email message containing a numerical cipher, which he promptly solves and sends back. Unbeknownst to him, this cipher is part of a plan by an advanced artificial intelligence planning a takeover of OZ, a social network integrated into every part of human society. The AI takes over Kenji’s account and avatar, then takes over thousands of other accounts, causing widespread problems all over the world, and Kenji is blamed by authorities for causing the problems.
The way Hosoda has the characters resolve the issue involves Natsuki’s huge extended family, all of whom have accounts on OZ. The colorful and striking uniqueness of the online virtual world is expertly crafted by the the animation masters at Madhouse. The resolution to the film is well done, and I love how Kenji and Natsuki gradually begin exploring their feelings for each other through the course of the film.
The settings and backgrounds in the film are very reminiscent of those from Studo Ghibli, and the animation is very fluid and mostly natural-looking. That’s really the only sticking point I have with the film: sometimes the animation made the characters’ limbs appear floppy and rubbery instead of having a natural fluidity of motion. This pulled me out of the enjoyment of the film a couple times, and is the only reason I dropped my rating to four stars.
The music in the film is very enjoyable, and the ending theme song is by one of my favorite Japanese singer-songwriters, Tatsuro Yamashita. This film can be enjoyed by those who don’t generally go for science fiction as the sci-fi elements are minimal (the virtual online world and the intelligent AI), and they only add to the depth of the film. This one is definitely a keeper!
Release Date: August 1, 2009 (Japan), February 26, 2010 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Language: Japanese (English subtitles)
Original Title: サマーウォーズ
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (some minor alcohol consumption during a meal)
Nudity: 1 (partial during brief bath scenes)
Violence: 2 (some mild science fiction violence and fighting)