Welcome to the first Monday of the month which means one thing, Movie Monday! Now as I’ve mentioned, and attempted to start back in June to be met with failure. So it officially starts now. Movie Monday’s are basically going to work a lot like Anime Reviews and will be left with a grade ranging from A to F.
Since summer has officially started I decided to choose a movie that takes place over the summer, and has Summer in it’s name. I recently borrowed it from a friend of mine for the second time for this review, and just the other day finally purchased myself a copy which arrived just this morning.
Here is the 1st post for Movie Monday, Summer Wars!
Summer Wars was released in Japan on August 1, 2009 and then had a US release on December 24, 2010. The film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda and was animated by Studio Madhouse. It was dubbed in English by Funimation Entertainment which is the only way I have watched the film and I though that the dub was overall very well done. But I’m getting ahead of myself right now let’s get to the story.
The film takes place in a world not much different than our own, just with the addition of this virtual world “OZ” that operates pretty much everything that has to do with everyday life. Our main character 17-year-old Kenji Koiso works as a part-time OZ moderator and is planning on using his summer working on that. His plans change when Natsuki Shinohara, his crush, asks him to come help her out with a summer job. Kenji agrees goes with Natsuki to her family’s estate and finds out that his job is pretending to be Natsuki’s fiance for her great-grandmother’s 90th birthday party. One night Kenji receives a message on his phone with a code attached and tells him to “solve it”. Being the math genius he is, Kenji stays up all night cracking it but ends up causing even bigger problems.
The plot drew me in right away because of how much it involves this virtual world and the family aspect, and it just really found the idea of it interesting. However, there is one thing that really…..opened my eyes about the plot that changed how I thought about it. When I first watched it I did have this nagging feeling that I had seen this movie somewhere before, but could not figure out what it was. Then I watched the review done on Glass Reflection’s YouTube channel and he talked about the similarities between Summer Wars and Digimon: The Movie specifically the middle part or Our War Game. And when I realized that it opened my eyes to just how similar parts of the story are. There’s a “AI” attacking the internet and causing all kinds of trouble. There’s no Digimon, sure, but it was still created by someone (in Summer Wars it’s an adult while in Digimon it’s Willis who is like four when it happens and I call shenanigans on him having that much ability at a young age). There’s still a chance Earth could still be destroyed but instead of Tai trying to contact all the Digidestined and put in a bunch of family drama. It’s enough of a separation that ensures the movies are not identical but it still a nagging problem that I have while I watched it. Which is a problem you could avoid if you had never seen Digimon: The Movie. Was I still drawn into the story? Yes. Did parts make me cry? Yes. It did not hurt too much of the movie.
Now as for the characters. Kenji is made to seem like the main character in the movie’s description, while Natsuki is made to seem like it because she’s at the center of almost all the promotional photos and even the DVD case. I think that instead of one singular main character it is Natsuki’s entire family as well as Kenji and Natsuki. Sure a few of them are not as important and do not play as big of a role, nearly all of them contribute to the fight to save Earth in some way. Natsuki’s family is so large that I had to look up how they were all connected to keep them all straight. Since the movie is not too long we do not get to see the characters develop a whole lot, there’s only a two hour run time. But we did get to see Kenji become a little braver, Natsuki stop sulking in a corner and help fight the AI”Love Machine” (Yeah I laughed at that a lot), and Natsuki’s cousin Kazuma become stronger to protect his mom and baby sister. Which is nice and I think showed how they changed as events unfolded in the movie. I will add that Natsuki really bothered in some ways because she did just sit around for the middle portion of the movie not really doing anything, but then came in to help save the day at the end. Also! She probably could have given Kenji a heads up that he was supposed to pretend to be her fiance before they met her grandmother. Just common courtesy. The cast reminded me of my own, very large, family who I could see doing very similar things if we were in the exactly same situation. It was nice to see so many characters who reminded me of my own lovely family.
The one character who stood out the most was Natsuki’s great-grandmother Sakae. Her family has lived in the same house for generations and are the descendants of samurai. Which makes her one kick butt old lady. You do not mess with her. When crap hits the fan, she gets up and does whatever she can to help. She actually reminds me a lot of my own grandmothers who are very similar to Sakae in being no nonsense old ladies. I want to be just like her when I get old.
The soundtrack was….okay. The music fit the movie very well but was kind of forgettable. Nothing really stood out to me at all and it was all just kind of average. The animation, however, was very well done and the difference between the regular animation of the normal world and the more 3D-like animation when we were in OZ helped to differentiate what was going on and where we were. It was solid overall and was very similar to other movies that Madhouse and Hosoda have done before. Which is nothing bad, it is just a very solid base they have set for their movies.
Now for the final verdict. I really struggled with what rating to give this movie because….well because I do really like to watch it. It has a high enjoyment value when I watch it. But this movie was not perfect. The large cast led to not all the characters being well developed, the soundtrack was only average. and it has a plot that is so similar to a movie I have seen a hundred times.
In the end, I award Summer Wars with rating of a C but with a special addition. I award it with a C – Should Be Watched Once rating. It may be an average movie, but I still do get enjoyment from it every time that I watch it. Plus It can be really funny at times.
Well that is all that I have for this time, and the first Movie Monday. Next month we are going to start with an older film. I had planned to start with movies from 1996 (the year I was born) but could not find any that seemed interesting. I did find one in 1997 so that is the year we are going to start with. What did you think of Summer Wars? Have you seen in? Let me know down in the comments below!!
See you next time!!