If you are around thirty years old, it would be
a fair assumption that your first exposure to anime was the sci-fi classic
Akira. If you are under the age of twenty, chances are that your first
exposure came in the form of the action phenomenon
anime in the west nowadays seems to mainly consist of
shonen shows, which
succeed in attracting audiences to anime at a younger then in the times of
Akira. But modern audiences still crave those genre-defining films of
the past, so step forward Summer Wars, a film which anime guru Jonathan
Clements has described as 'Ghost
In The Shell for the Facebook generation'. Given that GITS is
arguably the finest piece of sci-fi ever created, the expectations for Summer Wars
The film focuses on the geeky Kenji, a maths wiz kid who spends
the majority of his spare time online so is predictably bad with girls.
That all changes however when high-school beauty Natsuki asks him to act as a
fake fiancé at a family reunion. He then receives a puzzling email which
lead to an A.I. agent wanting to use an online community (which Kenji frequents)
as a vehicle to destroy the real world. The families of Kenji & Natsuki must
work together to prevent the impending armageddon.
Despite the synopsis, Summer Wars was not the complex sci-fi
or apocalyptic film I was expecting. The film
combines romantic comedy, sci-fi and drama to create a piece which
always feels grounded in reality. When the end of the world is
nigh for example, family life still continues around the ongoing threat.
The huge online network of OZ which features throughout the film is, to me, one of the best examples of future technology committed
to celluloid. OZ is a world which is not only used for social
networking, but businesses, government services, satellites and
pretty much anything else. This online world is as ubiquitous as
mobile phones are in Summer Wars, and the world is bright,
colourful and fun. It is certainly not as dystopian as other sci-fi pieces
reflected a similar idea. OZ perfectly compliments the summer
which is happening in the world, but it never feels part of the
world. It feels like the internet feels today, vital to many
but the line between reality and technology is not blurred.
This is one of the reasons Summer Wars feels so refreshing as
it portrays the future of internet continuing to be the useful tool
that it is. Computers will not be murderous beings but will
still be, well, computers. The underlying cause of the
worldwide threat makes that clear.
By using a mix of sci-fi and family drama, Summer Wars can move at more leisurely, uncomplicated pace and, by not moving fast, gives itself time to perfectly capture the feel of a large family. The imposing technological threat also acts as a vehicle for changing attitudes, as well as exploring gender stereotypes. The film does turn this around by the end of the film however, which is one of the many enjoyable aspects of this fine film. Not only will it bring a smile to the face of many a viewer, it will take them through a whole
range of emotions which can only be
experienced by family. By the end of the film the juxtaposition between
the advanced technology and traditional family ends with family triumphing.
But there are many other aspects explored in this film - loneliness of,
independence from and pressure of family life all feature. Despite the
many themes, Summer Wars never feels weighed down and is perfectly
scripted throughout. For me this made it the classic that so many have
touted it as. I was concerned with the well-being of every character and
what was happening in both OZ and the real world throughout the film, genuinely
caring on what the final outcome would be.
Interview with director Mamoru Hasoda, cast interview, stage
feature greeting, trailers and TV spots.