Wanna Watch a Great Anime Film?

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220px-Summer_Wars_posterSometimes, Japanese animation gets a bad rap. Filled with giant robots, large-eyed sex-kittens, and sword-slashing ninjas, Japanese animation is usually an acquired taste. People who are not rabid afficionados of the genre must ask themselves “How much of that stuff can you take?”. For those who are unfamiliar with anime (the native term for Japanese animation) and looking to learn more about it, or for devout anime fans who are trying to win converts, Mamoru Hosoda’s “Summer Wars” is a perfect choice. Produced by Madhouse, one of Japan’s most prolific and respected anime studios, Summer Wars  is an animated film that defies the common and traditional; it redefines storytelling through art.

The story is about high-school student Kenji Koiso, a math prodigy who is spending a vacation at his friend Natsuki’s family home. Natsuki is the most popular girl at Kenji’s school and he is shocked to find that, when he arrives at her family’s large, country estate, he is expected to pretend that the two of them are engaged. He reluctantly agrees and is introduced to Natsuki’s large and demanding family. Soon after his arrival, Kenji receives a mysterious email consisting of a cryptic numerical message and, using his mathematical ability, he quickly solves the puzzle. The following day, he watches a developing news story on television and realizes that he has accidentally hacked into Oz, a global virtual reality network that controls much of the world’s infrastructure. As society begins to unravel, Kenji and Natsuki (and the rest of her family) must delve into the fantastic world of Oz, racing against time to beat an advanced Artificial Intelligence named Love Machine, before it can chaotically destroy our world. Along the way they encounter computer viruses, hackers, game avatars, and other virtual characters, all of whom are rendered in amazing anime style.

Although the animation in Summer Wars  is impeccable, the real beauty of the film is in the way that Natsuki’s family is portrayed. Centered around the event of her great-grandmother Sakae’s birthday party, Natsuki’s fictitious engagement to Kenji is shown to be a heartfelt attempt to make Sakae happy before she dies. As the matriarch of the family, Sakae is the character that ties the other characters together, and she oversees the budding romance between Keji and Natsuki with an iron fist. This film is a great example of how animation can be a medium for more complex and abstract storytelling, rather than a just a simple vehicle for children’s tales and comedy.

Critics of animation, and of Japanese anime in particular, would be well served to watch Summer Wars, as it portrays a deeper insight into human emotion than most live-action films. It certainly contains some tear-jerking moments, but that’s not to say that there aren’t some incredible action sequences in it as well. It’s that sort of description that you hear about Summer Wars, action, romance, sadness, comedy, and above all, sublime artwork and animation. If you were to watch only one animated movie this year, you couldn’t go wrong with “Summer Wars”.

Posted by Jon   @   4 February 2013 0 comments
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