You Are Browsing ' Summer Wars ' Tag

By otakuman5000 On 21 Nov, 2012 At 04:36 AM | Categorized As Animation, Featured, Reviews, Reviews | With 0 Comments

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The wonderful land of OZ.


Summer Wars is a mere three years old, but its sheer anime geek value warrants a fond look back. For those who never got around to seeking it out on Bluray, DVD, or a special screening at the local arthouse theater, now is as good a time as any to get the crystal clear Bluray (take note of the string of accolades across the top of the disc case, including the 2010 Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year). Have faith in such a purchase—it has substantial reviewability.

Mamoru Hosoda, who is responsible for Summer Wars’ storyline and directing, is probably (hopefully) more well-known to ROG readers for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006), than for his early work on the Digimon Adventure series and the sixth One Piece movie. He brings to this film a kinetic stylishness that excels in the action sequences, propels the abundant scenes depicting large Japanese family dynamics, and knows just how much to quail itself for some truly dramatic flourishes.

King Kazuma and Love Machine do epic battle. (It’s cooler than it sounds.)

The film’s protagonist is Kenji Koiso—a likeable, but ultimately generic anime high schooler (scrawny, insecure, prone to arousal-induced nose bleeds, but a whiz when it comes to generating computer code). Plucked from his comfort zone in the school’s computer lab, Kenji is recruited by area hottie, Natsuki Shinohara, to accompany her on a trip to Ueda to celebrate her grandma’s 90th birthday with her whole litany of family members. Kenji, of course, abides, but is horrified to soon discover that he’s being used. Natsuki pretends he’s her fiancé when introducing him to her grandmother, Sakae.

Kenji can’t help but forgive such a ruse, given that Sakae proves to be what is likely the most easily loveable old lady ever dropped into an anime, and Natsuki only wanted to make her proud by bringing home a would-be husband. Equal parts cantankerous senior citizen and wistful sage with a fun-loving, youthful spirit, it soon becomes clear that Sakae is practically the family’s demigod. She’s universally revered for her wisdom, compassion, know-how, and flexible ability to fill-in for all the missing supportive figures in each family member’s life. All but one, that is. Adopted son, Wabisuke, had a falling out with the beloved old lady, and he still holds a grudge. We’ll get to him later.

You’ll wish Sakae was your grandmother as soon as you hear her talk.

With all this calibrated sentimentality in place, Summer Wars is just as much an action movie. Seemingly the entire population is caught up in the happenings of a virtual world called OZ. Kenji happens to be a moderator and major player in the inner workings of OZ. These virtual reality scenes are where the film really hits its aesthetic stride. OZ is a sort of netherworld consisting of a white expanse of empty space in which a complex network construct floats. Each OZ member has a cartoonish avatar that resides in the construct and interacts with other members, sort of like The Sims meets Facebook. Multiple battles take place in this space, borrowing the spirit of Pokémon or World of Warcraft as concentrated nerds pound out commands on their keyboards to animate their avatar warriors.

When an anonymous person texts Kenji a long string of code, he intuitively cracks it and sends a response. In doing so, he unknowingly unleashes mass chaos within OZ, threatening the accounts of millions. In this middle act, the film’s stakes start to mount in both the virtual and material realms. The malicious hacker, Love Machine, has an evil avatar, reminiscent of Deadmau5 in appearance. As he starts to wreak havoc in OZ, killing off avatars and deconstructing code, tension builds amongst the family gathering when Wabisuke shows up for a late birthday wish. An argument breaks out and we start to see what it is like when someone challenges Sakae.

The climax won’t be spoiled here, but it manages be mostly suspenseful, unexpected, visually engaging, and an inventive merging of the real and virtual plot threads. Most importantly of all, it is inclusive of the entire cast and each of its members’ personal strengths. It thrives on the film’s persistent appreciation of familial importance, but never really dips into sappy territory. Due to a heartbreaking event midway through the film, the ending also has an emotional resonance that couples nicely with its final showdown in OZ.

Kenji, caught in the grasp of his usual facial expression.

All in all, Summer Wars achieves a multi-layered showmanship that encompasses the drama, action, artistry, and humor of a well-rounded anime. In making its virtual/material split both dichotomous and codependent, it explores the nature of modern human interaction in a world where people can create artificial identities and relationships with international strangers just as easily as they can have lasting bonds with the friends and family around them. It also questions the wisdom of investing so much faith and reliance in the effectiveness of technology and social networking. The real world hangs in the balance just as much as the world of OZ, and it becomes apparent how far removed the characters are from their reality. At the same time, the film counters the cold sheen of OZ with the comforting traditional Japanese estate the family lives in. Can the two realms coexist? We can only hope.

By Charles On 25 Oct, 2011 At 08:24 PM | Categorized As Animation, Editorials, Featured, Tales of Real Otaku | With 0 Comments

No GravatarThis editorial is the second of a two-part series. The first half was published on October 17th, and can be found here.

6: Durarara and Baccano!- Because these two shows are essentially the same. Drrr/B! managed to do for me the same thing FMA did back in 2007- they taught me how to have fun again. Much like the earlier series broke me from a glut of heavy mecha series, Drrr showed me that large casts can in fact be a good thing. And B! managed to include a cast so colorful that it was impossible to ignore any of them. But most important of all, these two series were shows I devoured, and devoured quickly. It’s rare these days that I can marathon episodes of anything, but B! took me just 2 days and a long train ride to chain through, and left me wanting more long after it was done.

Now these two series are far from flawless. Both have anticlimactic endings. Both lose track of what they want to say at times. And both jump around relentlessly during the narration, to the point where you can skip an episode and not even realize it until three down the line. But these are small prices to pay for shows with incredible entertainment potential, that will linger with you long after the last episode ends. And make you beg for a second season.

7: Death Note/Hell Girl/Bleach- Wow look, another multiple series entry. Three this time. Well, actually, these chosen three could have been joined by so many more. Because I’m not referencing these shows in particular, but what they all have in common. Aside from good storytelling and suspense. They all have shinigami.

Ai Enma

Shinigami are something of a passion of mine. One of my oldest, and most potent, interests lies in ghosts, monsters, death and the supernatural. So when I got the idea last year to do a panel on Death Gods, it was these series that I turned to first, alongside Gundam Wing, Princess Mononoke and others to look into the phenomenon of the shinigami in Japanese media. Eighteen months, and some 1000 attendees, later the panel , “Dead Like Us,” is one of my most recognized and requested at conventions, and the one that has allowed me to research and lecture on something wholly my own. More than any other recent series or game, the shinigami-based anime have given me the chance to give back to the medium in ways that I never had considered when I started my work back in 2009. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

8:  The films of Hayao Miyazaki- I’m sure a bunch of my readers were wondering when I was going to get around to Miyazaki-sama. Much like the shinigami in the previous entry, I owe a lot to him, in terms of enjoyment, awareness and furthering my own reputation as a lecturer and academic. Unlike the shinigami, Miyazaki has also had a profound impact on my life through the films themselves.

I discovered Miyazaki-sama through Princess Mononoke, way back in 2000, when I found a VHS copy of the dub at Coconuts (remember them?) for $6.99, and recalling the name from an anime club meeting. I watched the film maybe 4 or 5 times that weekend, I could not look away. It was little surprise then, that when Spirited Away came out the following year, I of course made time to venture to the only movie theatre in Queens showing it just to see it. Or that I changed my weekend plans when I found out Howl’s Moving Castle was showing near where I was going to be that night.

Miyazaki-sama speaks to me through his films. Unlike any other anime I have seen (with the possible exception of Usagi Drop), his films have caused me to look at my life and examine who I really am inside. Unlike any other anime, his are the films I watch the most, and share the most. Miyazaki-sama has a gift with storytelling and crafting that is nearly unmatched in the industry. There is little wonder, then, that he is so respected and loved by so many. Watching just one of his films can uplift the spirit and add to the experience of life. Sound a bit pretentious, or idealized? Possibly, but only if you have never seen a Miyazaki film before. Watch just one, and you will understand.

9: Eden of the East and Summer Wars- Seeing a trend here: this list is a lot more than just ten anime. Which, I suppose, is fitting, seeing how hard it would be to distill over a decade of fandom into just ten series or movies.

I watched Eden of the East and Summer Wars over the spring this year, and the thing they share in common, is they blew my mind. Not just enjoyable or entertaining, but literally mind-blowing. Summer Wars had the same effect on me as Mononoke did a decade earlier, making my jaw drop open and forcing repeated watchings over the weekend. Eden was the latter half of the long train rides to and from Anime Mid Atlantic back in June. Both made me think while they were busy rewriting my idea of what anime was. Both got me excited to be a fan and viewer again. Both left me wanting more.

This is what a mind**** looks like.

I suppose what separates these two from other, similar entires into this list (read: Drrr/B!, FMA) is the emotional connections they formed. The other series taught me how to have fun. These two made me think while I was having fun. They others were very open to marathoning. So were these, but I kept noticing more and more things, and making long lists of notes of other things to look into. The others made me laugh. These made me say “Wow!” And that, in the end, is worth mentioning. Because a lot of series are fun. Precious few make you say “wow.”

10: Gundam Seed- This was the Gundam that changed Gundam for me. Prior to Seed, I had a love for Wing and it’s military-rebellion storyline. I thought G was quirky with it’s take on tournament fighting. War in the Pocket made me cry. And 0083 had some beautiful suit designs, but was over too fast. Then came Seed, and a whole new world opened up to me.

Seed rewrote what Gundam should be, at least from my point of view. Beautiful suit designs, interesting characters, and a story that was close enough to the UC to nostalgic, but different enough to still be compelling. Seed brought Gundam into the 21st century, and set the bar for what could be accomplished in a Gundam series. Dual narratives, counterplots, intrigue and self-discovery- these were what Seed set out to do, and did wonderfully. And while the series (and its sequel, Seed Destiny) left a sour taste in the mouths of some veteran fans, it brought new fans into the series with its flash and flare. I doubt I would be the Gundam fan I am now if not for Seed.

This is my list. What’s yours?