Summer Wars

UK Distributor:  Manga Entertainment

BBFC Certificate:  12

Suggested Retail Price (SRP): £17.99 (DVD), £19.99 (BR)

Length:  114 minutes (approx.)

Audio Options:  English 5.1, Japanese 5.1

Subtitles:  English

Release Date:  28th March 2011

Reviewer:  Tom (Webmaster)

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 Naruto.  Popular 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 are high. 

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 which have 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.   

When combined with the Mamoru Hosoda's equally brilliant The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, it will certainly be interesting to see his next project and if he can follow two modern classics of anime. 


Interview with director Mamoru Hasoda, cast interview, stage feature greeting, trailers and TV spots. 


Game:   Extras:


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