15 September 2009
Normally the anime reviews featured on here tend to be woefully out of date. But for once, I can bring you a review rather hot off the presses, as this movie only recently finished airing in Japan! (And probably isn't even out on the internet yet, unless you're so desperate as to stoop to cam-versions...)
In any case, the movie in question is Summer Wars. And it's going to be the next must-see original anime film. From the same team as the people who brought us the instant classic 'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time', and it's safe to say that if you enjoyed that movie, you'll enjoy this movie. Actually, if you enjoy movies of any sort, you'll probably like Summer Wars. It has that sort of broad appeal that only a handful of films manage to capture - the same perfect balance of happiness, sadness, action, comedy and drama, all wrapped up in a stunning visual spectacle that we rarely see outside of Pixar releases. This is one of those movies you can show your whole family, or you can show to your friends who aren't really sure about that anime thing, and if they don't love it they're secretly a robot. A robot designed to KILL YOU. Run away now while you can!
What's it about? It's about a boy being dragged out to the countryside so that a girl can show him off to her extended family as a pretend boyfriend. It's about a black sheep causing family drama. It's about a maths olympian inadvertedly setting loose a vicious AI on the World of Oz. It's about communication, the end of the world, and a grandmother's birthday.
It's one of those stories that sounds trite, and maybe a little absurd, when you read the press release summary. But as with a lot of these sorts of stories, its charm lays in the characters, the setting, and the execution.
A wonderful dicotomy is set up between the World of Oz - a sort of potential evolution of the internet - and the old-fashioned traditional house in the countryside. Oz is slick, all coloured lines, white spaces, and abstract concepts. The country is a showcase of stunning backgrounds from a peaceful country setting, the sort you expect to see in artbooks rather than a motion picture. This is a beautiful film to watch. Every shot is interesting. Of particular note to enthusiasts is that the characters designs are done by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto - he also did designs for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and more famously, Neon Genesis Evangelion.
It isn't just the art, either - everything is flawlessly executed, sound and music included. Production values bleed through the soundscape, and the score delivers some fantastic and emotive pieces - it's a soundtrack worth owning (and in fact, I bought it immediately after seeing the movie. Interesting piece of trivia - many cinemas in Japan have a gift shop along with the concession stand, with merchandise, posters, and soundtracks to accompany the movies currently showing.)
In short, Summer Wars is fantastic. It's not enough to see it once. Probably not even twice. Animated movies like this one only come along once every couple of years, and you owe it to yourself to see it when it comes out in... oh crap, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time took FOREVER to get localised. Hopefully this movie shall be speedier.
Overall Score: 980,555 / 1,000,000