When timid eleventh-grader and math genius Kenji Koiso is asked by older student and secret crush Natsuki to come with her to her family’s Nagano home for a summer job, he agrees without hesitation. Natsuki’s family, the Jinnouchi clan, dates back to the Muromachi era, and they’ve all come together to celebrate the 90th birthday of the spunky matriarch of the family, Sakae. That’s when Kenji discovers his “summer job” is to pretend to be Natsuki’s fiancé and dance with her at the birthday celebration. As Kenji attempts to keep up with Natsuki’s act around her family, he receives a strange math problem on his cell phone which, being a math genius, he can’t resist solving. As it turns out, the solution to the mysterious equation causes a hijacking of the social networking site through which most of the world’s social and business traffic flows.
Summer Wars brings us a world that is similar to own, but more connected the internet than ever. The world of OZ is similar to the internet now, but what life would be like if Facebook, online shopping, IM, video games, and mobile apps where assimilated into one giant object that connects our lives like never before. Of course, Summer Wars is more than just a sci-fi film, there are some romantic comedy/drama aspects to the film as well. The rom-com aspects are nothing new and are not developed to the extent that they could have been. If Summer Wars was, just a rom-com film it would be nothing special and just a pretty looking movie with a generic plot. Of course it is much more than that and what makes Summer Wars a great film is that both aspects the rom-com and the sci-fi aspects get intertwined and bring out most of the potential that the film has.
Even with generic rom-com aspects of the movie, that is not the only flaw that the film has. Natsuki the main female lead just exists in the film. She is not developed as a character and most of the time she must rely on either Kenji or another member of the supporting cast for be emotional responses. The blame is two-fold for this, Mamoru Hosoda the director and Nanami Sakuraba (her Japanese VA that will be discussed later on in this review).
Art and Animation:
Visually Summer Wars has two different looks the real world, and the world of OZ both of them look great. The world of OZ is a colorful with avatars and plenty of white space, and the real with azure skies and green grass. There are a few actions scenes that occur during the film are exciting to watch and are well animated. The character designs are good as well, and for those who are not fans of moe will be happy to know that there are no moe designs to be found.
As for how the Blu-ray quality of the movie looks, it is stunning. The colors are vibrant and the image is crisp looking. This is easily one of the best-looking BD that Funimation has released to date.
Music and Audio:
The musical score giving sounds great and it fits the film when it needs to. There is a blend of two different styles of music an orchestral symphony and electronic style music. Both of these are played just at the right time and fit their respect scenes greatly.
Both the Japanese dub and English dub have their own positives and negatives. The biggest negative for the Japanese dub is Nanami Sakuraba who as mentioned above is the voice for Natsuki in the Japanese dub. Being that this is her first role Sakuraba gives a weak performance and does not give the emotional aspect that she needs to give for that role. Brina Palencia gives Natsuki her voice for the Funimation dub and does much better job than that of Sakuraba. Brina gives Natsuki the personality that she should have had from her Japanese performance. J. Michael Tatum’s rendition of Wabisuke is also one the standout performances in the English dub. Of course, the English dub has its share of issues. Michael Sinterniklaas gives Kenji his voice for the English dub and while it is listenable and not bad, it does not sound as great Kenji’s Japanese VA Ryunosuke Kamiki who does an excellent job with his role. Both the English and the Japanese dubs are listenable so which one to listen to will be up to personal choice.
Summer Wars is a film that just falls short of being a masterpiece. For all that, it does right Summer Wars is a thrilling and visually stunning movie that has a lot heart, a great cast of characters. What also makes Summer Wars stand out is that it is a film that can be watched by anime and non anime fans alike.
Pros: Visually beautiful, the way the two aspects of the film intertwine with each other.
Cons: Natsuki is not fully developed; rom-com aspects are under developed.