Film review by Tristian Goik.
Summer Wars is the latest anime in a long line of animation from Japan that has its roots in the Fat Man and Little Boy. It has made me realize that Japanese society has evolved so uniquely that I will never fully understand it. In the Japan of Summer Wars, little children are masters at maintaining perfect balance on a bumpy bus while using two hands on a PSP or iPhone. Their mothers meanwhile gab and gossip over giant bags of groceries and tend to their kids. Sure everyone is multitasking, and you could see the same thing on a bus in New York, but at the end of the day everyone doesn’t go home to a giant ancient ninja-fort to sleep.
This is the new world, according to the director Mamoru Hosoda. It is split in two. First we are introduced to the land of Oz, a super-saturated digital realm reminiscent of TokiDoki USB thumb drives. Everyone has an avatar that is utterly customizable and everyone from your neighbor to your president uses it to work, play, and live. Secondly, there is the physical world we live in. This is a beautiful place with skies and trees pulled from any and all Miyazaki films. It is populated with innocent girls who bike in small skirts and awkward boys who burst into nosebleeds when they get horny (for some unknown physiological reason). Here we meet Kenji.
Kenji is a top programmer at Facebook, I mean, Oz!!! And he’s barely graduated from high school! OMG isn’t that tot def wonderful? I will suspend my disbelief at this, because a girl quickly whisks him away to her family castle ‘for a job.’ At this point in the movie, after they hook you with technological fantasy, they keep you with a strong family theme. There is a large cast with aunts, nephews, and creepy cousins, but the matriarchal grandmother keeps everyone’s stories on track and you are left with a sense of contentment and inclusion in the family.
The antagonist is an evil robot of course. He threatens our very lives by damaging Oz. This strikes close to home because it is very possible that one day the internet will completely run our infrastructure, and we will have to defend against cyber terrorism (Wikileaks?). But don’t worry, Kenji our boy genius will team up with a Kung-fu-Rabbit and that girl to save the day.
Summer Wars opens Wednesday December 29th at the IFC center and closes on January 4th! I think it would be really nice of you to see this film, but I also think it is imperative for any techno-geek or animator. (Summer Wars also provides a nice contrast to another recent techno-fantasy movie). This movie also taught me about hanafuda, which is a Japanese card game similar to Go-Fish. It is nice to see think that in this world where everyone taps little cell phones to communicate, some people still take time to play cards with their friends. Happy holidays everyone.