Japanese anime movie review: Summer Wars (サマーウォーズ)

By | June 8, 2015

In the last few years, the frequency that I see movies has dropped considerably, so in order for me to rematch a movie it has to be pretty darn good.

Mamoru Hosada’s “Summer Wars”, released in 2009, is one such film which I immensely enjoyed the second time around. I had alluded to this movie in a previous post, but here I’ll give it a more proper review (avoiding spoilers as much as possible).

Kenji is a boy in high school who is invited by his friend Natsuki to a family’s house in the country for her Grandmother’s 90th birthday. Shortly after arriving, he is introduced by Netsuke as her fiancé, which is a major shock to him, especially considering they are not even dating. Around the same time, strange events start happening in OZ, which is a virtual world something like the Internet, except much more visual. Things quickly develop from there, and the movie manages to keep a fast pace, filled with action and twists until the very end.

The movie is great not only because of the extremely well-designed story, where all the elements fit together, but because of the visuals which are done beautifully, especially the virtual world which is done using CG models drawn with a colorful anime-style palette. The music didn’t really catch my attention much, though there were a few moments where it stood out to good effect.

Summer Wars, like many of the Ghibli movies, is also written such that it an can be understood, and appreciated by a wide audience, including those new to Japanese animation and die-hard anime fans. I think part of the reason is the movie’s universal themes: family and technology, with a little baseball and hanafuda (Japanese card game) thrown in. These are all integrated very artfully into the film, and the way the virtual world of OZ is illustrated is also very creative and fun to watch.

Linguistically, the movie contains much Japanese close to something you would hear in real life (much more realistic than many anime series), along with a mix of technology-related terms that are great if you are into that kind of thing.

Probably because of the movie’s slick visuals and well-constructed story, it didn’t feel aged at all, even though it’s over five years old.

After my second watching, I now consider this movie a classic anime film, and hope to see yet it again someday. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. You should be able to pick up the Blu-Ray on amazon for under $20.




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