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August 9, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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Summer Wars

Summer Wars
Director: Hosoda Mamoru

Coming out of a film that is completely different and much better than you expected gives you this wonderful feeling, a feeling as if you’ve discovered something new. You have a desire to talk about it endlessly. This is exactly the feeling I had leaving Summers Wars. Expecting cutesy Ponyo meets Pokemon with creatures battling each other in the summer, I was instead privy to an intense family drama with rounded characters and a great riff on the dangers of modern technology.

Kenji is a maths nerd who is recruited by Natuski to be her boyfriend for her grandmother’s 90th birthday celebration. The complicated domestic situation Kenji is thrown into is difficult for him to handle, so he retreats to the online world of Oz. Oz is a place where people have online avatars that interact with each other in a variety of ways—a sort of Final Fantasy meets Facebook. Furthermore, Oz is a network that all emergency, military and civil services depend on. When a militant AI starts taking over the network, Kenji, Natuski and her family have to use all their strength, skill and imagination to stop it.

The portrayal of Natsuki’s family is pitch-perfect. Despite being animated, all the characters feel as if you know them. The writing and composition of these scenes are heavily influenced by Yasujiro Ozu, but a moment of comedy or a fast-paced fight in the world of Oz always stops the family drama from becoming too intense.

The film starts to drag around the end of the second act, with the family beating the AI only for it to rise from the dead again and again. Some of the animation techniques, such as a character’s body going red when they were embarrassed, didn’t seem right for the tone of the film but provided comic relief. Summer Wars is a thoroughly entertaining film, where the style of the animation hides so much of the film’s deeper meaning.

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