Kenji Koiso (Ryunosuke Kamiki/Michael Sinterniklaas) is a math genius and part-time moderator for Oz, a virtual reality world that contains the personal information of everyone in the world. He is invited by his friend Natsuki Shinohara (Nanami Sakuraba/Brina Palencia) to attend her great-grandma’s (Sumiko Fuji/Pam Dougherty) 90th birthday celebration. One night, Kenji receives an email with a mathematical code that he easily cracks. The following day he learns that by solving the code, he inadvertently helped crack Oz’s security, giving a rogue artificial intelligence access to every major system on Earth.
Summer Wars was recommended to me by a friend who told me it was one of his favorite anime movies. Being the anime fan that I am, I figured I’d check it out. I’m glad that I did because this movie is truly brilliant. Not only does it offer two completely different yet awesome animation styles, but a great story as well.
First of all, the animation looks fantastic. I especially like how they gave the real world and Oz’s digital world each a distinctly unique feel. The real world has relatively flat color pallet and simple line work. Oz, on the other hand, is much more colorful and vibrant. Everything is outlined in red, rather than the usual black, separating it even more. The fight scenes in Oz were the most impressive. They were explosive and given the virtual setting, allowed for some of the best scenes in the movie.
The idea of a virtual reality inside a computer that feels like its own world has been done several times over since Tron. Despite the unoriginality of the concept, the world of Oz manages to remain unique. I haven’t seen the way the characters move and interact before but it feels natural. Combine that with the bright colors and Oz is a one-of-a-kind virtual world in a movie.
Oz has become the ultimate social network. Everything in the world runs through Oz, from system administrators to law officials to the president. It’s an interesting social commentary for the way the world is moving today. You can’t go anywhere without needing be connected for one reason or another. Summer Wars takes that idea further to look at the dangers of a virtual world that contains all the information of everyone in the world.
More than the social commentary, family is at the heart of the story. Natsuki just wants to please her family, a concept I think many can relate to. Since the amount of characters is pretty large (just look at the cast list down below for an idea), the story only focuses on a handful of characters. Regardless, the Jinnochi clan still manages to feel like a real family. The little time the secondary characters are on screen, they do well to give you a feel about how the family functions and cares for each other. I can’t think of any film that can build the individual characters by fleshing out the cast as a whole the way Summer Wars does.
Summer Wars delivers on both animation and story. Two distinct animation styles make the real world and the virtual world of Oz stand out from each other. The idea of a social network that contains the personal information of everyone and all their credentials and the security risk that it poses is an intriguing and thought-provoking concept. In other words, check this movie out, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Cast & Crew
Mamoru Hosoda – Director/Story
Satoko Okudera – Screenplay
Akihiko Matsumoto – Composer
Ryunosuke Kamiki / Michael Sinterniklaas – Kenji Koiso
Nanami Sakuraba / Brina Palencia – Natsuki Shinohara
Mitsuki Tanimura / Maxey Whitehead – Kazuma Ikezawa
Takahiro Yokokawa / Todd Haberkorn – Takashi Sakuma
Sumiko Fuji / Pam Dougherty – Sakae Jinnochi
Mieko Nobusawa / Shelley Calene-Black – Mariko Jinnochi
Takashi Kobayashi / John Burgmeier – Tasuke Jinnochi
Yoji Tanaka / Robert McCollum – Yorihiko Jinnochi
Mutsumi Sasaki / Bill Jenkins – Kazuo Shinohara
Kiyomi Tanigawa / Anastasia Munoz – Yukiko Shinohara
Hashiya Nakamura / Patrick Seitz – Kunikiko Jinnochi
Sakiko Tamagawa / Cynthia Cranz – Rika Jinnochi
Kaori Yamagata / Lydia Mackay – Naomi Miwa
Takuya Kirimoto / Chuck Huber – Ri’ichi Jinnochi
Mitsutaka Itakura / Christopher Sabat – Katsuhiko Jinnochi
Tagame Tamura / Jennifer Seman – Kiyomi Ikezawa
Eiko Kanazawa / Colleen Clinkenbeard – Noriko Jinnochi
Chigusa Takaku / Caitlin Glass – Nana Jinnochi
Yutaka Shimizu / Mike McFarland – Shota Jinnochi
Naoto Adachi / Jason Liebrecht – Ryohei Jinnochi
Riisa Naka / Monica Rial – Yumi Jinnochi
Sumire Morohoshi / Cherami Leigh – Mao Jinnochi
Yuki Imai / Alison Viktorin – Shingo Jinnochi
Rikito Ota / Brittney Karbowski – Yuhei Jinnochi
Hinano Minagawa / Tia Lynn Ballard – Kana Jinnochi
Ayumu Saito/ J. Michael Tatum – Wabisuke Jinnochi