I've had chance to actually sit down and enjoy the blu-ray release of 'Summer Wars', and 'enjoy' is definitely the right word.
The story is simple enough: high school maths-geek is persuaded by girl he secretly loves to do some 'work' for her, which he discovers far too late is actually pretending to be her boyfriend/fiancé in front of her entire extended family. Cue humorous confusion/embarrassment etc., before the truth is revealed and boy is arrested for 'breaking the internet'(!) He then has to save the world (and the girl) from the AI now controlling everything. So far so normal (for anime).
But while the core concept may lack originality, the film excels in both storytelling and in the way it is populated by solid, entertaining characters. Kenji is a likeable lad who suffers from neither guilt-ridden angst or misplaced arrogance, while Natsuki, a potentially two-dimensional character (how many 'popular' girls would pay someone to pretend to be a boyfriend?) manages to join him in coming across as likeable and plausible. The whole cast comes across as ordinary people in an extraordinary situation, rising to the un-winnable challenge. And this is what has been one of the things pulled over from this team's previous film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time [DVD], along with the animation style and overall attention to detail. I would encourage anyone who has seen TGWLTT to get 'Summer Wars' without delay.
The film does genuinely live up to its name, it is light, 'summery' and features a rather strange 'war'. The more obvious CG elements are appropriate and blend well with the film as a whole, while the storytelling is handled far more effectively than with TGWLTT. In the previous film, there were distinct lumps in the story, where everything seemed to stop and readjust, whereas 'Summer Wars' flows neatly, everything handled elegantly and effectively; with a simplicity rarely found in some of the more popular anime (Mononoke & Spirited Away come to mind).
The film is not without faults, I would challenge anyone to be able to NAME all of Natsuki's family on one viewing, let alone understand how they're related to each other, but minor issues like this do not detract from the overall enjoyment of what has to be one of the most mainstream-friendly animes of recent years. Think Whisper Of The Heart [DVD] by the TGWLTT team and you probably have the spirit of 'Summer Wars'.
While the film was never likely to overstretch the format, it is clear that some care has been taken in mastering the Blu-Ray edition. The image is crisp, clean and pin-sharp: a flawless transfer that does justice to the animators. The audio is again very good, with the English dub being well-written and performed, comparing well to the Japanese original. The use of the American term 'math' instead of 'maths' is a minor quibble I could live with. The extras are predictable but interesting, with various teasers, trailers and some interviews.
Overall, an excellent presentation and a good overall package.
'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time' appears to have a similar package to its DVD release, just higher quality. I'll update this review when I have had chance to check out the whole disk