Director Mamoru Hosoda, the man who wowed audiences with The
Girl Who Leapt Through Time, returns
to the big screen with another original animated movie and proves to
that he's not a one-hit-wonder. His
newest film, 2009's Summer Wars, is a
creative, eye-popping, and above all entertaining film that serves to
Hosoda as a talent to watch. FUNimation
has released this movie with a stunning picture and solid audio options. If you've been looking for a movie to show to
someone who doesn't like anime (or worse yet thinks it's all the same)
would be an excellent candidate.
When the matriarch of the Jinnouch clan, Sakae, falls ill
one winter, her distraught granddaughter who is away at college,
her that she can't die. After all, she
hasn't met the man that Natsuki has fallen in love with.
Sakae recovers and her whole family is
getting together to celebrate her 90th birthday, which
Natsuki with quite a problem: she
doesn't have a boyfriend, much less a fiancée to present to her
grandmother. Rather than get caught in a
lie, Natsuki hires a guy she knows, math whiz Kenji, to accompany her
The Jinnouch clan was once rich and powerful, but they
haven't been so in many years and now all they have left is the
estate that has been in the family for hundreds of years.
It's a huge, sprawling house on acres of
land, and Kenji feels very out of place, especially after he's
all of Natsuki's numerous relatives.
Things start picking up for Kenji on his first night there
when someone sends him a text message with a math puzzle embedded. It's a very difficult puzzle, but that's just
what he loves and he stays up all night working it out.
When he finally solves it he replies with the
answer and receives only an odd jack-in-the-box animation.
The next day he wakes up to discover that OZ, the
international graphic internet portal that everyone (including
uses to manage their affairs and to relax (think of Facebook meets a
has been hacked and invaded. It turns
out that the puzzle that Kenji solved was actually OZ's encryption
now the police suspect Kenji is the criminal.
That would be a minor mixup except that OZ controls just
about everything, and with the hacker having access to all of OZ's
he's wreaking havoc across the world.
Traffic lights are mistimed, fire alarms go off at random, the
pressure skyrockets blowing out pipes, and even the GPS units in
start giving them the wrong directions.
It's up to Kenji, with the help of some of Natuski's relatives,
into OZ and stop the hacker. But when
the do manage to break in, they discover that the stakes are much
they ever suspected.
This film is great on so many levels. As
simple eye-candy it's at the top of the
heap. The world of OZ is colorful and creative, and just flat amazing. This is where all of the action sequences
take place, and those are energetic and exciting without dominating the
It's also has a good character driven story. The
Jinnouch clan is filled with slightly
odd, but very realistic people who are definitely grounded in reality. From the domineering grandmother who fills
everyone with fear and respect to the family historian who loves to
tell of the
clan's great battles from centuries past, the group has enough engaging
interesting characters for an on-going show.
They popular the world of Summer
Wars nicely, and give the film a lot of
The thing that makes this film stand above a lot of other
Japanese animated features is that it tells a simple yet solid story.
no bizarre metaphysical ending to leave viewers scratching their heads
I quite like those some times) and the impressive, detailed animation
the story rather than supersedes it.
It's hard striking that perfect balance, but Mamoru Hosoda
manages to do
it and make it look effortless.
This movie comes in a two-disc set housed in a single width
Viewers have a choice between the original Japanese audio
track and an English dub, both in 5.1. I
viewed the film in its original language and spot checked the dub track
both were very good. The dub was very
well done with talented actors who did a great job of not only matching
speech to the animated lip movements but also brought the characters to
life. Neither track had any dropouts,
background noise, or other defects.
This is a beautiful looking disc. The
anamorphic 1.85:1 image is crisp and
clear with tight lines and a great amount of detail.
The colors are vivid and strong and really
make this transfer shine. There isn't
any digital defects, with even aliasing and blocking, the two most
animation flaws being totally absent.
Fans will be very happy with the way this disc looks.
The second disc is given over to extras, and while there's
not a huge amount there, it's worth checking out. There
are short interviews with the main
voice actors that run between 2 and 6 minutes in length, as well as an
interview with director Mamoru Hosoda that runs for 13 minutes. (These are in Japanese with English
subtitles.) In addition there's a
selection of trailers and TV spots advertising the movie.
This is a wonderful movie filled with great characters and
some very impressive visuals. The
perfect film to show someone who hasn't been exposed to Japanese
it's a movie is sure to impress. Highly