Summer Wars was easily one of the best movies I have ever watched. (I just got back from China, so, no, I have not seen Inception yet.) Personally Miyazaki movies always go over my head a little bit, so I was never a big fan of a lot of his movies like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away because they never quite grab my attention that well. This movie completely grabbed my attention by the neck and held it until the end. It was freaking awesome.
In essence, there is a math nerd named Kenji Koiso, who has a crush on a girl named Natsuki, one of his school’s most popular girls and a senior. (Kenji is a junior.) In Kenji’s world there is a virtual net called OZ, which everyone uses. Large businesses are on there, and you can shop, play, interact, or even work there. Kenji and his friend have a summer job there, up until Natsuki bursts in and asks to hire one of them to essentially hang out with her for four days with her family. Kenji gets chosen and he’s whisked off to meet Natsuki’s eccentric and extensive family, as well as sort of break OZ. By accident. Bad things happen, stuff gets real, and now the fate of the world that’s too closely tied to OZ is riding on his shoulders.
Personally I thought the plotline was great and very unique, though I saw huge parallels with Digimon: Bokura no War Game which was also directed by Mamoru Hosoda. (He also directed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.) I won’t list them off because of spoilers, but if you’ve seen Bokura no War Game before, you’ll see what I mean. It ruined part of the climax for me because I already knew what was going to happen, so watching the other movie basically spoiled this one for me. Funnily enough, I’m pretty sure the art in both movies was also done by the same man: Takashi Murakami. I loved the art in both movies but it just made the parallels more obvious since his art is very distinctive. Haha when I saw Kenji’s “ONEGAI SHIMASU!!!” scene I flashbacked to Izzy’s scene in Digimon, where he screams “YOU’VE GOT MAIL!” and presses the button dramatically…just like Kenji.
For a sci-fi, the story was very believable to me. The relationships were very real and the voice acting was seriously pro. Even with such an extensive cast, it still worked. The crazy family was lovable and exasperating at the same time; the developing relationship between Natsuki and Kenji was tentative and gradual. I really loved the family dynamics it presented and the way they made you get attached to the characters, so that when there is loss, you really feel it. When there is victory, you want to cheer for them. Actually, I did cheer. After Kenji gets hit with yet another encrypted code and he has essentially no time left, he completely bypasses decoding it on paper and starts doing it in his head. With the way his eyes were jerking around, I thought he was having some kind of seizure. I seriously screamed when I realized what he was doing.
I really really really adore this movie. I want to watch it again soon. If you search around online, or even on youtube, I’m sure you could find an english subbed version, or you could maybe find it on amazon or something. I’m not certain if it’s out on DVD yet but everyone should watch this movie. It’s so amazing and beautiful and just well made in general. It will have you on the edge of your seat screaming and cheering. It’ll play your emotions like a freaking harp. I’m just sad that not more people know about it here. Here’s the english subbed trailer, and see it ASAP~