Sadly, the VLC app on the iPad choked on the 720p video of Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars that I managed to find. But that just meant that I had to watch the movie on a laptop like Jobs intended. However, this hiccup didn’t take away from the resounding amount of pleasure that I took from watching this amazing film from a director that I previously had no knowledge of.

Mamoru Hosoda directs this really spectacular tale of identity as told through the breakdown of an all-encompassing social network called OZ that gets accidentally triggered at the 90th birthday party for the matriarch of the Sanada family. Poor Kenji had been tricked by the prettiest girl in school to take a summer “job” playing the role of the fictional fiance that she’d been telling her whole family about. Only this family is a large and distinguished family in Ueda city and shy math whiz Kenji finds himself the opposite of the well-bred, university aged, and international character he has to play.

The story does a wonderful job of paralleling the social network of the family with the virtual network of OZ in a really intriguing way by showing both networks function on relationships that are simultaneously proximal and distant. Truth is a slippery concept at the best of times and it starts to burst at the seams when rogue AI takes over Kenji’s avatar, then slowly the network, and all infrastructure in Japan.

Kenji's avatar with cape

Like an evil sorcerer's apprentice

I really liked how the visual design made allusions to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence in Fantasia when Kenji’s stolen avatar starts to tear things apart. They did an excellent job in alluding to animation’s most famous depiction of a plan getting out of control when the evil Kenji-mouse starts eating other users before revealing itself to be the “Love Machine” AI. Now Kenji and the Sanadas have to figure out how they can stop the identity swallowing Love Machine before it steals the avatar of someone with real military power and makes everything in OZ and the real world go kablooey.

Love Machine

You don't want any part of this Love Machine

I was really impressed how the film managed to maintain an emotional core, a sense of humor and depict the concrete and metaphorical aspects of family and self-identity. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Summer Wars and hope that a general audience is able to get their socks knocked off like I was. And don’t forget to check out Hosada’s previous film: The Girl Who Lept Through Time.

One Comment on “My Favourite Movie of 2010: Summer Wars”

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  1. Michelle says:

    Just bawled my eyes out over this movie (in a good way).

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