Quick Hit: A frenzy of animation styles, full of relatable characters, and a great story to boot.
This post is for Enoch and Rachel, at Enoch's request for more Anime on the site. More coming soon, I promise.
I often relate a lot to characters in movies – I think most people like movies the best when they find pieces that they like. Sometimes this can be simple – “I wish I was as cool as Liam Neeson” is probably the lamest of things I’ve thought in a movie. But more often, it’s when you really see yourself as a character. I was a really shy young boy, afraid of speaking to others for fear of being judged. In some ways, I grew from that – I dove into literature and math, and began very early in life to write stories. This allowed me to open up – but in some ways I’m still that math-obsessed young boy. That’s why when I see a well-written character like Kenji, I can’t help but love some of his surroundings.
Without diving too much into the plot for fear of ruining things, allow me to give you a quick rundown. Kenji accompanies Natsuki to her family’s home, posing as her fiancée. This is mainly to give her Grandmother, a strong matriarch, a reason to be proud of her and continue to live life longer, Natsuki’s family is huge. Meanwhile, something very akin to Ready Player One’s Oasis takes place in the world of Summer Wars – here – it’s Oz, and it’s a digital world that has now taken over many aspects of life and work.
One of my first observations about Mamoru Hosoda’s film was the fact that it mixed the different animation styles. The scenes in the real world feature a softer, more hand-drawn animation. The style is similar to some of Studio Ghibili’s bigger films, like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. But Oz is a whole different animal, featuring a style that is more akin to digitally animated characters. One of the closest comparisons I can get to is a mix of Dragon ball-Z and Adventure Time. But all the hallmarks of Japanimation are still there, giving the film an even flavor despite changing styles frequently.
Besides the obvious parallels to Kenji, who goes from zero to hero and has a fairly traditional arc, I loved the Japanese focus on the family. There’s not a character that doesn’t get a moment to come on screen and shine, at least for a moment. The film has no problems allowing the different characters to really come alive, and show their importance, even in the most menial of skills. However, this does get a little bit too out there for me, particularly when it seems that everyone is super connected or super skilled. Not the worst thing in the world, but maybe a bit too convenient.
I loved the ending though. I love giving Natsuki, the moment, and in many ways advancing the feminine cause that started with Granny. The way it occurs is nice because it’s not overtly “girl-power” way. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s both triumphant and willing to acknowledge loss. One of the things about electronic worlds, no matter how great they are, is that they aren’t real. This extends to virtual reality, The Oasis, Oz, The Sims, or even Call of Duty. What really matters is learning who you are, learning to be confident in yourself, that’s the important part. Even if it takes an AI gone wild to do it. I’m giving Summer Wars an “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"