Sunday, 28 October 2012

Anime Film Review: Summer Wars, The First Digimon Movie and the Internet is a battleground

So snap, I just got back from watching a ton of stuff, but the one thing that sticks out in my mind is the fine piece of anime that was witnessed, and that is Summer Wars. Now, before we get into this, I know very little about the outside of Summer Wars, unlike when I usually watch and subsequently review a film. This is usually because I've either A) got the film on DVD, thus knowing about it anyway B) have chosen to spend good money in the cinema, implying research or C) google it half way through watching it on TV. But yesterday I found myself in a situation I'd rarely ever been in before, short of picking a movie at random because nothing is on at the cinema. I went to a University Society (The sci-fi one, incidentally) and was just shown a film. It was quite a nice feeling, and so I've decided to maintain that bubble and just review it without all the excess I usually fill reviews with. After that, we will see how good it is...Ok? Ok.

Inevitably in a review/Summary Spoilers will appear, if you want something non-spoilery, Enjoy the Webcomic

Summer Wars is set in a very near future in which OZ, a social network cross between Habbo-Hotel and Facebook has taken the entire world by storm, we are talking people living their entire lives online, medication, sanitation, government, emergency services, gambling, all done by this one network, and seemingly accessible by every type of electronic device. This makes up one half of our realms of existence.
The second realm is the real world, in which a minor OZ Admin and High-schooler called Kenji...something is asked by the rich and popular Natsuki Shinohara (though seemingly the family is sometimes called Jinnouchi, I'm assuming its branching) to do a mysterious job in which she must go away with her for a small portion of the summer. Gladly he ditches his Admin job and stumbles hopeless for the approval of the girl...What were you expecting, really?

Things like the Rabbit and the Squirrel are avatars in the world of OZ. Interestingly the Dog is not, or if he is, keeps very quiet about it. 

So Kenji and Natsuki travel to the countryside, to the place that will be the main-stay of the action within the real world will occur. The veritable Mansion Fortress of the ancient Jinnouchi clan, a kind of ancient landed family that has struggled to find it's place in the real world, though still maintains it prestige. It is stated that they are the descendant of Takeda supporters, which is a nice detail, it also mentions a battle of Ueda that I believe was in Samurai Warriors 2, so it has a nicely rooted history. But yes, Natsuki and Kenji rock up to the fortress, and just like I did when I first went to my girlfriend's house, Kenji starts to realise he might just be a very thousand social rungs below Natsuki. The large family is united around a matriarchal figure of Grandma Sakae, a strong, old, prestigious woman who still has contacts reflecting the kind of political clout the Jinnouchi clan used to have. 

This is precisely how I remember meeting Helene's grandmother.

And here emerges one of the things I thought made Summer Wars stand out; because it wasn't really a question of liking it or not. It is pretty much a standard affair, heavily reminiscent in my eyes of the First Digmon Movie 'Our War Game', and with elements reminiscent of prominent Anime movies both from within and without the Studio Ghibli school. But for everyone generic about either the Social Drama, or the Fights, or the Comedy, there is something about both how it is polished and precise the writing is, and how it manages to merge fairly seamlessly between those three which makes it worthy of mention. 

But yes, the first stand out measure is the way the Family is constructed and portrayed. I'm fairly sure there are about twenty or so members of the Jinnouchi Clan, and bar maybe two of the middle aged Women, every character feels unique, even those with little or non-existent screen time, the attentions to detail when it comes to Kenji exploring the house and running into various members of the extended family is very competently done, the smaller children, variety of aunts, the men of the family play a particularly hilarious role later on, but even in the early stages, stand out characters like Mansuke Jinnouchi, the patriot uncle with the old war stories from the 1600s pervade and give the family a real sense of volume. 

Interestingly enough this attention to detail persists into the second setting of the film, 'the internet'. Now, film's in general trying to portray the Internet are normally fairly lacklustre, the only good western attempt I can think of is Futurama, and that was futurenet. But the Japanese tend to nail this stuff with a bit more ease; E.g, once again, Our War Games. 

I wonder how many Tai Cosplay's have pulled off the Hair without it looking terrible?

Quickly Squirrel-san, we must charge to death and ruin!

So yeah, the Internet, a hard thing to capture, but a great place to play around in. It is one of the ideas for our webcomic. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. While away in the land of the rich and the power, Kenji is sent a e-mail with a code, and being a math genius (Oh yeah, forgot to mention, Math Genius) spends a good portion of the night working it out and then sending it back. I guess this is a standard practice because at no point does he question it or think that anything could go wrong....

Then suddenly everything goes wrong. Kenji wakes up to find himself on the news, and that he has been accused of hacking into OZ and causing havoc, consequently a warrant has been issued for his arrest, and one of the Jinnouchi's (the weird, I fancy my niece one) is a police officer. But that isn't the worst of it, the person he solved the code for is now using it to take over his account, and screw things up major style. Kenji goes online with a hastily made account using the Jinnouchi's house phone (yeah, ANY electrnic device) ((Squirrel up there is Kenji, floating pair of thick red glasses is Kenji's friend)) goes to witness the first real piece of drama in OZ.

We have reached a glorious point in civilisation where this could be claimed to be generic.


So yeah, that picture probably deserves some explanation, near the start we are taught that KING KAZUMA is the best fighter in OZ (See: Bunny Rabbit dressed liked Marty McFly.). Conveniently it just so happens that the controller of KK also lives in the giant Jinnouchi mansions, and has a good old Internet style fist fight with the evil, now confirmed for a virus rather than a hacker, the psychopathic mute, Love Machine. (Pictured on the left of the 1st epic show down). The second is once again from Digimon, as you can tell by that adorable WarGreymon, and that other guy who was really over-powered in Digimon Rumble Arena 2.

"Double the Digi-Rumble" is promised, however, as no-one actually played the first, it is one of mankind's greatest unanswered questions if it actually did. 

So now both in the real world and in OZ, there is a problem, Love Machine is messing stuff up. We receive this information is a lovely little montage showing how the rest of the inordinately large Jinnouchi Clan is struggling to get to Ueda. While this happens we also witness Kenji, his friend, and  KK Controller all try and save the day via the internet...And then Granny Sakae saves the world the old fashion way!

By using an influential list of contacts that even David Cameron or a Rothschild would be impressed by she tells everyone in Japan to collect their shit together.  

During this time, Love Machine has been rapidly gaining power by absorbing accounts and kicking the ass of the rabbit Marty McFly. The family shenanigans intensify as well as they learn that Kenji isn't her fiance, nor is he 'of good blood' (I am really, really sympathetic towards Kenji in this respect) and the suspiciously Savile-esque (British joke) cop tries to take him to the station. He later gets taken back as the roads are too fucked due to Love Machine. Oh, and then this suave mo-fo appears.

Oh, I wonder if this mysterious computer science guy will be in someway connected to the global catastrophe occurring within this time space.

Anyway...I've just been informed by my research department, in an attempt to prevent me before I make too big a deal out of the War Game/Summer Wars comparison, that they are both by Mamoru Hosoda. I can't say I'm at all surprised, and I'm actually rather happy. It makes it more of a part of this man's continuing vision to fuck up the Internet and show epic battles within said domain. Now I also have a reason to post the next part of the story in my third set of comparison pictures. 

Summer Wars

When threatening to destroy the Internet, always allow people an ample amount of time to download all known Pornography.  

Now that I'm aware that the two are from one man's artistic vision, the idea I was originally planning, which was a kind of, both stories at once scenario is no longer as funny. So I'll just be wrapping it up over the next few paragraphs, as I've still got a few things to say about Summer Wars, and a load to say about Digimon, which was awesome, but I'll save that for another article.

As you can probably gather, a heroic duel for modern civilization begins, spreading over both the Internet and the real world, with the entire Jinnouchi clan becoming deeply involved, and both Kenji and Natsuki playing increasingly important parts. The action is great, the music very good, the relations are fairly heart felt, there is no secondary set of love interests, you basically get pure Natsuki/Kenji from beginning to end. They have one, slightly forced fall out, but it is quickly resolved. The action in the real world is as poignant as it is utterly enjoyable. The action in the internet is all the over the top Anime stereotypes my brain has been saturated with over the past decade since Pokémon and Digimon rolled up on these fair shores.

Clearly he has done it before (though I didn't quite realise how literally he had done it before), and he is very good at the niche of 'feature-length Anime in which the Internet is threatened by a virus and combated by school kids'. Whether Our War Game was only ever really a practice is an interesting talking point, but Summer Wars definitely feels polished, it is lacking in only a few senses, and it easily achieves what it sets out to do, though there is the possibility that might have been a sight set too low. 

Overall: Visually gorgeous and well written, the use of a digital threat allows for the transition between bombastic fight scenes and touching family drama to be swift and natural. Would recommend, would watch again, though only with Our War Games on at the same time. 8/10.

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