Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer Wars

Turn off your cellphones and prepare your virtual avatars for battle, we're reviewing Summer Wars!

Summer Wars is a crazy new anime movie that feels like an amalgamation of at least twenty other movies. It's laughingly predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Kenji is a math wizard who does maintenance for the massive online company Oz, which is a futuristic amalgamation of Second Life, Facebook, and the entire Internet rolled into one. Everyone uses Oz for everything. When school ends for the summer, school friend Natsuki offers Kenji a job at her home. Little does he know that the job is actually to pretend to be her boyfriend! While this is going on, Someone hacks Kenji's account and takes down Oz, crippling the country. Now Kenji and his friends must fight to clear his name and restore Oz!

Let's get this settled out of the gate: I watched the dubbed version, and you should too. For those of you who aren't familiar with anime, there are versions with the original Japanese voices and English subtitles, and there are versions with English voices dubbed over the Japanese voices. Some anime purists will only watch the subtitled version, but there's a slew of anime I love with the English voices.  Why should you watch the dubbed version here? Because Dean Venture voices Kenji. Let that sink in. Dean freakin' Venture. The rest of the cast does a stand up job with their parts but that's the main selling point.

When you watch this, you'll get the sensation you've watched this movie before. Off the top of my head, this pulls from The Matrix, The Proposal, Inception, Yugioh, Second Life, very heavily from Digimon, and every high school anime ever. It's cliche and crazy predictable(at one point I made a joke about what would happen next, and then it actually happened!). Not great for the story.  It can also get really slow and overly emotional at points.

Having said all of that though, it's still really enjoyable to watch, mostly for the animation. Everything is animated beautifully, from the cartoony action in Oz to the quiet little moments in real life. They seamlessly integrate 3D animation with 2D in the Oz sequences, and it works great. All of the Oz fights(and there are quite a few) are incredibly well choreographed and utterly awesome.  The characters themselves are also fun; Natsuki has a full and eclectic family with clashing personalities.

What I really like about the story is that it's a very relevant idea.  Everyone is reliant on Oz, using it to communicate to each other, check their mail, pay their bills, even do their jobs. When it gets shut down, the country gets shut down, and people go crazy! Then the hacker starts messing with electronic devices, GPSs, life alert buttons, alarm systems, medical equipment, and people suddenly become lost. It's not such a crazy thought that we'd end up using one program to do everything; looking at one of the social networks and seeing what we expect it to do now, that looks like where we're headed. And if we ever lose that, we'd be lost.

Overall: It's fun and enjoyable. I'd recommend you check it out.
Why you should see it: The crazy amazing animated fight scenes and the relevant subject matter.
Pitfalls: It's familiar and overly predicable story.
Movies like it: The Digimon Movie, Paprika, Porco Rosso
One Scene Metaphor: There's a huge fight scene with the hacker and the best player in Oz. SPOILER ALERT: Predictably, the best player in all of Oz is one of Natsuki's family members. I'm sure you can guess who.

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