Summer Wars

Madhouse Studio

Written & Directed by Mamoru Hosoda/Screenplay by Satoko Okudera/Produced by Nozomu Takahashi, Takuya Ito, Takashi Watanabe, & Yuichiro Saito/Music by Akihiko Matsumoto

Kenji Koiso is your average teenager, sort of–socially inept, mathematically brilliant, a good student . . . and a part-timer for OZ, an online community that has become so important and popular that nearly every facet of life ties in to it in some way. When the lovely Natsuki Shinohara offers him a part-time job over the summer, he jumps at the chance to earn a little extra cash (not to mention being around such a fun, attractive senpai for the summer). Finding out that the job is playing her fiancé though is a bit much . . . especially considering the magnitude and intricacy of the Shinohara family tree! One thing follows another, and Kenji finds himself framed for letting loose a monster AI program into OZ where it is taking over user accounts and wrecking havoc across the world. Which is when Kenji finds out that whatever differences the Shinoharas may have with each other, when it comes down to it, they’re the sort to set those differences aside and find a solution, no matter what it takes.

I really enjoyed watching Summer Wars, and I’m excited to have discovered Studio Madhouse–I’ll probably check out their other work in the near future. The most immediately outstanding feature of this movie is the animation: it’s beautiful, lush, and lifelike in the “real-world” parts, and the virtual reality sections are eye-catching and imaginative in the extreme. But Summer Wars isn’t just a bunch of pretty pictures, there’s some quality story writing going on there too. The writing, acting, and illustrating all combine to create a vivid blend of science fiction and ordinary family life–I love both parts, and they work well together. I think what I love best though is the depiction of such a large family, all drawn together to celebrate the matriarch’s birthday, yet every individual distinct and sometimes at odds with the others. It seems like a very realistic picture of family–positive, but not dreamy-eyed and unlikely. I would definitely recommend Summer Wars; it’s a delightful, engaging movie.


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