Top positive review
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A superb, accessible anime movie that shouldn't be missed
on 15 November 2010
Coming from the creators of 'The girl who leapt through time', which was one of the best pieces of anime to come out in the past few years, I had high hopes for Summer Wars and thankfully, it delivered on all my expectations and more. It is every inch the animated marvel it has been hyped as.
Telling the tale of Kenji Koiso, a high school computer whiz who is approached by Natsuki, the girl he is in love with and is duly tricked by her into accepting a "job" posing as her fiancee on a vacation to her summer home with her huge extended family in full attendance. Out of his element around the eccentric characters that make up Natsuki's relatives and the various dramas that are causing friction among them, Kenji finds distraction in decrypting a mysterious code he receives on his phone... little realising that in doing so he is helping a rapidly evolving AI program to take control of the world's largest online community, setting in motion a chain of events that sees him, Natsuki and her wacky family become the only ones capable of saving the entire world from nuclear armageddon.
Summer Wars functions as both a moving character piece in it's exploration of Natsuki's family, and the problems caused when their mass summer vacation is disrupted by an estranged "black sheep" member of their family reappears after a number of years and also as a sci fi thriller showing the colourful online world that represents the world's biggest online networking site in a completely different visual style from the real world scenes, utilising cel shaded CGI to show an impressively huge universe filled with unique 'avatars' as it slowly comes under attack/invasion by the raging AI. It's a visually striking movie, switching between it's two distinct styles effortlessly and offering a real visual treat that you don't usually get with most anime movies which adopt familiar studio set styles and play it safe. It looks fantastic.
Voice work (In the Japanese version I saw at least) was top notch, with effective cast choices doing a superb job in a cast of a really large number of characters which could easily see some get lost in the crowd. The soundtrack work is equally effective, most especially during the "action" scenes in the online segments.
This is a fantastic film however you wish to take it, as it really has something for everyone and doesn't disappoint for a moment even when it slows down in the more drawn out character centric scenes. It is well written and effectively executed in a way anime movies rarely manage so flawlessly. If I had to pick out a problem with the movie, it would be(And this won't mean anything to most of you I'm sure) that Summer Wars bears a LOT of similarities to ten year old anime movie 'Digimon: Our War Game'(Which was actually created by many of the staff of Summer Wars) in terms of visual style, plot, and themes. The online sections in particular are very similar in the two movies, but it's probably irrelevant as pretty much none of you will have seen the older movie.
Some minor quibbles about unoriginality shouldn't take away from what an enjoyable film Summer Wars is to watch and one which easily stands alongside the likes of Studio Ghibli's offerings in terms of how accessible a watch it is for those who don't normally watch anime movies. It is just a fun movie. Give it a try.