Summer Wars is a film directed by Mamoru Hosoda, who you may know for the movie The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which I listed as one of the top 10 anime films of the decade. Upon hearing this news, I was instantly interested in seeing this film. Hosoda seems intent on ramping up the scale of the production in every way he can, almost as if he were never going to get to make another movie. Set in an alternate 2010, the film centers around 17 year old otaku Kenji Kosio, a socially inept maths genius, who spends most of his waking hours immersed in the virtual reality world Oz, the ultimate convergence of communication technologies that has fused social networks, online games, telephone systems and just about every other form of internet related activity into a single, all encompassing interface.
Natsuki, who just happens to be the most popular girl in school, asks if anyone needs a job for the summer because she needs someone to accompany her to her family’s traditional home to help out preparing for her great grandmother’s ninetieth birthday party. Seeing an opportunity, Kenji jumps at the chance. Just when Hosoda has lulled you into believing it may be just another, all be it exquisitely crafted, romance tinged family comedy, he reminds you of Summer Wars‘ science fiction roots. Summer Wars is a moving picture book, a family photo album turned back a few decades. The vibe is really Showa Era Japan, the good old days. There are kids everywhere, families are together and homes display a wealth of love, food and money. None of this is true in today in Japan, where births are dropping, kids are moving to the city and entire areas of the countryside are falling into poverty.
The important parts of his films aren’t the flashy bits but the quiet ones, the little asides, the subtle nuances of his characters. One of my favorite little things was when a character stayed up from the middle-of-the-night to early morning and we see the potted morning-glory flower buds going from being unopened to opened. It’s a very small thing but it’s such a simple way to communicate to the viewer that many hours have passed. Summer Wars was also one of those movies that made sure that every scene played an importance in the long run, which I always love to see!
Ultimately, this is a film about real life human interaction triumphing over the virtual existences many of us now live. You will come out of this film with a warm, fuzzy feeling that will make you want to hug strangers purely for the joy of them being in the real world. Yeah…yeah it’s that moving of a film. I had high hopes for Summer Wars going in. It not only met my expectations, it surpassed them by a mile. Too bad my anime list of top films has already been posted and long been published because it would have to be re shuffled at this point. Summer Wars is absolutely beautiful. Smart, funny and very moving. If you get a chance to see it, snap it up.