Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Nanami Sakuraba, Mitsuki Tanimura, Sumiko Fujii
Summer Wars follows a young high school student and mathematician named Kenji (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a moderator of the computer system known as OZ, a online server through which all communications and computerized mechanisms work. When he is invited by his crush Natsuki (Nanami Sakuraba) to attend her grandmother Sanae’s (Sumiko Fujii) 90th birthday, he has no idea that he has been recruited to play her boyfriend/fiance. Meeting her boisterous and huge family is intimidating enough, but when a rogue artificial intelligence invades OZ using his administrator account, he becomes marked as the one responsible for the havoc caused. When the AI’s actions cause disruption and seemingly lead events towards a disaster of epic proportions, it’s up to Kenji to prove his innocence and team up with this family of amazing but strange people to save the world.
Mamoru Hosoda directs the film with tenderness, heart, and a whole lot of humor. Very entertaining, the film easily navigates a gamut of tones that would be difficult to manage with a lesser director. The art is phenomenal and the production house, Madhouse, makes what may be their most beautiful animation ever. The two worlds of the real world and the virtual OZ are brilliantly realized and compelling story threads flow through both with an amazing ease.
The cast is near flawless as the voice actors provide very nuanced and heartfelt performances. There are many times where I’d forget I was looking at an animated character and the voice acting helped to develop fully dimensional characters for nearly all the principles. A huge family also equals a huge cast and while certain characters have more to do than others, overall you get a feel for everyone in the group, even if you don’t necessarily recall every name. The music by Akihiko Matsumoto is well concieved with electronic music used in OZ and a good solid mix of music for RL. He is able to truly capture emotion and when he presents his music for action scenes, you are involved.
Summers Wars may very well be one of the most entertaining animated films I’ve seen in years. While many times the term is thrown around easily, I can think of no better identifier than ‘instant classic’ to describe the film. It is imaginative and beautiful to watch and it clearly shows a true visionary director in Hosoda. While not as acclaimed as the works of the venerable Hayao Miyazaki, I truly believe him to be the one most likely to become the next true anime master. Along with the independently based Makoto Shinkai, the next generation of animators in Japan is in good shape.
You may enjoy this film if you enjoyed: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, just some damn good anime.