The Spoiler-Free Review
So it’s a pretty hot summer season (at least, where I live), and there is one anime that I have seen that’s made a lasting impact on me. To date, few shows have touched me in an emotional way, and I’m proud to say that Summer Wars is one of them. Director Hosoda Mamoru (Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) has created another great film, this time defining what it means to truly be a family. It just happens that this family saves the world in the process.
Despite the story being all mighty and grand on paper, in truth it’s not. It begins with 11th grader maths genius Kenji Koiso being persuaded by his senpai and school idol Natsuki Nagano to come to her family’s home for a summer job. Lo and behold, he finds that his “summer job” is actually to be her (pretend) boyfriend, simply because of a promise she made to her grandmother.
Don’t get confused though – the show doesn’t focus on their romance. From this point on viewers delve into the Oz system and how Kenji is caught up in a mess when the system is hacked. Quite a big problem considering that the system controls almost every part of everyone’s lives (somehow). That’s about all I can say without spoiling too much, but trust me when I say that none of this really matters because the plot really only serves tie in the family relationships between the characters.
Nothing much about the Oz system is explained, and some of you might find this to detract from the story. I personally didn’t find this a problem but if you are seeking a true story past the development of family and character relationships (eg. Psycho Pass and it’s Sibyl System madness), I don’t think that Summer Wars is the show for you. Then again, if you enter in this show with an open mind I’m sure you will be able to enjoy this.
There is a large cast of characters in this show, mainly because of Natsuki’s super huge family. Summer Wars doesn’t explore each of them too deeply but each of them have a different and refreshing personality. The stand out here is actually one who you wouldn’t expect: Grandma Sakae.
This is the first time I’ve ever put an old granny as my favourite character of a particular show. In the film she’s portrayed as the head of the family that everyone loves, and yet she’s bold enough to point a blade at her adopted son. But seriously, she’s great and what makes her so special is how she is the core of the family who brings them all together.
Kenji and Natuski are also great characters that I liked, apart from the fact that Natsuki doesn’t get much screen time in my opinion. It focused a lot more on Kenji, which is understandable since he was necessary to progress both the Oz and family plot(s). Kazuma and Wabisuke were also enjoyable to watch, but suffered from a lack of backstory. That’s a problem that I had with all characters actually, but I feel like Wabisuke would have been better if he was fleshed out a bit.
Aside from this, the rest of the side characters are fun but pale in comparison to those I’ve mentioned above. They have their moments of brilliance though, and it wouldn’t be Summer Wars without them!
Animation + Sound
Summer Wars is no slouch in the visuals department, putting out very smooth and precise animation quality. Knowing this was animated by Madhouse I had no qualms with this show. After all, they’re the studio that did other various films that I have enjoyed like Perfect Blue and the Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
It isn’t the greatest and best animation quality I’ve seen, but really you can’t argue with what you have here. There’s a great attention to detail, fight scenes are fluid and the characters facial expressions convey their thoughts very well. I like to think of it as a jack of all trades, master of none. Other studios have better fluidity and detail but aren’t so good at the other aspects. I particularly liked the art style in Summer Wars, which was more laid back.
The soundtrack, though, complemented the show perfectly and was really, really good. Actually after finishing the movie and listening to the ending theme, I immediately went to YouTube to search up some of the songs I heard throughout the movie. Yes, it was that good. While I don’t consider any of the songs “single” worthy (I wouldn’t listen to them during my commute to school, for example), I’d be more than happy to listen to some of the songs when I feel like listening to a good anime soundtrack.
Voice acting was one of the best aspects of Summer Wars, with each voice actor making their characters stand out. Even side characters had great voice actors to portray their personality type (or trope, depending on how you see it). Were there any stand outs? Not in my opinion, but I feel like as a whole the voice actors worked well to unify the characters as they interacted with each other. This especially holds true in the last parts of the movie.
For being a show with such a large plot, Summer Wars largely ignores the ‘I need to save the world’ concept in favour of ‘we need to save the world’. It’s really all about the family and that’s why I think that it’s so great. Maybe I’m biased since I’m a slice-of-life fan and I enjoy great characters over an average plot, but I still think that Summer Wars hits all the points in making a great anime. It’s entertaining, has a great soundtrack and the animation is smooth and detailed. What else do you need? I highly recommend this show!
You can save the world in your backyard as long as you’ve got your family.
What did you think of Summer Wars? Leave a comment below!