Review: Summer Wars (2009)

Directed by:
Cast: , , , , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

The Reel Anime Festival 2010 is finally here! Thanks to the good guys at Madman, I have the opportunity to preview for you the spectacular Summer Wars and exhilarating Evangelion 2.0: You Can(not) Advance. Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone, which I reviewed earlier this year, will also be screening. So this is a great opportunity to catch some of the best recent animes on the big screen, and I urge you not to miss it.

Summer Wars is about a timid nerdy maths genius Kenji (kind of sounds a bit like me when I was young) who gets the lucky chance to go on a summer vacation with Natsuki the most popular girl at school, and as a bonus, he gets to pretend to be her boyfriend in front of her family! While Kenji is having a jolly good time though, the world is being turned upside down as the virtual world of Oz, where people carry out all of their daily activities, is penetrated and taken over by an unknown force called the Love Machine. Soon Kenji gets involved in the fight against the Love Machine, and it quickly turns into a fight to save the world…

Following the release of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in 2006, director Mamoru Hosoda was hailed by some to be the next Hayao Miyazaki. While it is certainly complimentary in every sense, Hosoda’s style and approach are really quite different from Miyazaki’s, and Summer Wars goes on to establish him as a director in a class of his own. His ability to tell stories, in particular about subject matters that are contemporary and relevant to today’s young people, is probably the best amongst today’s anime directors.

The film is technically flawless. It features dazzling visuals, with beautifully drawn backgrounds and characters. The screen is constantly bursting with rich colours. The virtual world of Oz is a creation of wild imagination. What happens in the computer world is presented in a most visually inventive way that should appeal to young people but also be understood by older audiences. There is a large cast of characters, but all of them have their own unique personalities. The filmmaker has somehow made them all likeable, and this includes even the noisy kids, which I think is quite an achievement. The voice acting is top-notch and really makes the characters come to life. The music is also wonderful, and adds much to the emotional impact of both the exciting and tender moments of the film.

What stands out is how entertaining and intelligent this film is from start to finish. There is not one dull moment, and many scenes are laugh-out-loud funny. Many themes are touched on, including love, family and the spirit to fight hard even when it looks like a losing battle. It is also a cautionary tale about the danger of over-relying on computers and technology, and brings a warning that we ‘can’t do whatever you (we) want just because it’s the internet’. The chaos and turmoil described in this film are frightening real.

Summer Wars was a crowd favourite at both this year’s Sydney Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival, and it is not hard to see why. It is certainly the best film I have seen so far in 2010, and I believe it is pretty perfect. However, if the score that you see below happens to be something less than 10 out of 10, it’s probably the result of the Love Machine fooling around with our system.

10 games of Hanafuda cards out of 10.
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