Friday, May 25, 2012

ANI-MOVIES, *Summer Wars

Mamoru Hosoda followed up his Academy Award-winning sci-fi shojo movie of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time with an extended remake of his original Digimon short movie(which was the second chapter in the American release of Digimon: The Movie). Summer Wars is a full-length feature blending in high school romance with digital armageddon.

At the beginning of summer vacation in Japan, math whiz Kenji is working with his buddy Takashi as a moderator for the massive online network called OZ(no Wizard Of Oz puns present)which is a virtual world similar to WOW, but with less of a midevil setting and more like playful icons involved in fighter tournaments. Kenji’s cute energetic classmate Natsuki offers him another quick job to help her prepare for her great-gramma’s 90th birthday. He accepts, and the two of them go off to Natsuki’s family estate in the country. They are a large and diverse family descended from a samurai clan, and the great-grandmother Sakae is about everything you’d be looking for in granny. Kenji is shocked though when Natsuki claims to her family that he is her boyfriend, but she says that in order to make her grandma feel safe about her. Confused during the night, he gets a strange text message send in code, which he uses his math skills to crack, and sends it back. He awakes the next morning to see on the news that OZ has been been hacked into and that he is being blamed for it. It turns out that an A.I. program masquerading as Kenji’s avatar, calling itself Love Machine. It proceeds to take over OZ, which Kenji tries to stop with a new avatar Takashi made for him, along with Natsuki’s cousin who is really the brilliant game fighter, King Kazma. They tangle with Love Machine, but after absorbing a few other avatars, it goes all Super-Saiyan and kicks them out of the system. It then proceeds to infect computer systems all over the world, causing mass confusion and hysteria. Its later revealed that Natsuki’s estranged uncle is the one who actually created the A.I. that the American military try to use, but it escaped into OZ. This news infuriates Sakae as she banishes him from her home. The ensuing action causes Sakae to pass away in her sleep. The family believes that Love Machine is responsible, so they pull all the stops to try and pull the plug on it. They call in resouces from all over the country, even by bringing in a huge supercomputer to back them up. Natsuki uses her superior skills at tea ceremony card playing to challenge Love Machine to a final card game. She gets help from players all over the world to shut him down. However, it causes a satellite to begin falling towards their location. Kenji hacks into the satellite’s system, and has it crash near the estate.

Summer Wars features some impressive digital effects, specifically in the online world, although you sorta wish there was more added to it than the cartoonish avatars. The style used for the offline parts are a little more standard, at least for a generic non-Ghibli anime movie. The main appeal for this movie though is the compelling story, and the tightnit seperate world the family of characters exist in. They’re very believable, despite some of the standard anime tropes that are present, and you can recognize at least one member of your own family in Natsuki’s. This film makes for a great watch, at least as a gateway anime since it takes alot of what makes for a great story and an engaging syle.

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