Year: 2009 | Directed by Mamoru Hosoda | Roundup Rating: A
OZ is more or less a future depiction of our technology - or social networking in particular, its importance in our everyday life, may it be in business operations and in simple daily tasks. In the movie, if this system suffers from malfunction it can potentially send the world into the brink of chaos. And since it makes everything comfortable we are under the impression that we would be completely lost without it. Watching this movie four years after it has been made there is a surprisingly prophetic truth with how the world at the present time is being run by the internet. Hosoda acknowledges and embraces this truth, he points the positive as a unifying factor for people to communicate and stay connected, and shows us the downside of depending greatly everything into it. Probably my favorite use of OZ is the bonding between grandpa Mansuke and his grandson Kazuma. They got together in OZ so he can teach his grandson about Shorinji Kempo in order to defend himself from bullies.
Mother and Family
The two teenagers may be the lead characters of this movie but it is the great-grandmother that serves as the driving force of the story. Looking at her govern her family - all four generations of them, gave me a renewed admiration for women, mothers and homemaker's in general, particularly the latter. I adore how the grandmother portrayed such a strong matriachal figure who was able to keep her family in line as a unit - especially in times of distress. They trusted her wisdom - that very one thing you get through years of age and experience. Even when she passed away she never faltered to remind them that they can overcome everything if they are united together as a family.
Most of the scenes in "Summer Wars" is dominated about computers and the cyberspace, but let's not forget that the core value of this movie is about "family". I love how the grandmother emphasized to her descendants "to never turn your back on family even when they hurt you, and to remember to find time to eat together as a family even when times are rough." There are a lot of people out there who hate their families because of their unfamiliar differences, especially when they are under the influences of their friends and lovers. Family relationship is like a complicated and unsolvable mathematical problem simply because you cannot make your own choice what family to belong to. God grants us one, although it is beyond our comprehension whether we would like them or not. This may sound like a cliche but the only thing you can do with the situation is to accept and love one another flaws and all.
As Kenji gets along with the Jinnouchis, enjoys their company and falls in love with the whole clan, we feel exactly the same way for them, because just like him we are the outside spectator, and we see the family right through his eyes. I have probably seen this film more than five times and I love it in each viewing because of the characters that are so human despite the fact that we are talking about an animation film here. I like how the story has its usual stereotypes on family, for example, the noisy little children, the spinster aunts, the prodigal son, the cousin who hates your boyfriend, the inquisitive uncle, the cousin who isolates himself, the uber supportive mother and of course, the family's loud and boisterous camaraderie.
About Your Lover...Old People Still Knows Best
In our family we are reminded to trust our parents, especially our grandparents, because of their natural wisdom gained from life. It sounds scary and unbelievable but I find it true for older people to to have an automatic instinct on knowing the person who would be best for you. Right off the bat grandma Sakae is aware that Natsuki is lying to her. She knows that Kenji is a poser boyfriend with a fake background. She may have played along with her great-granddaughter's tomfoolery but she is not swayed by it, because she saw right there and then the kind of sincerity from him that is both genuine and real.
The story between Kenji and Natsuki is probably not the focal point of the movie, but it is still there. Natsuki is the most popular girl in school, she came from an old Japanese clan with a very tight knit family and she is a year older than him. Kenji is clumsy, he is a genius in math but nothing else (thus, he reminds me of Chiaki from TGWLTT), his parents are rank & file employees and they are mostly away because of their work, and he is a year younger than Natsuki. Maybe it's just me, but in my opinion their relationship is a representation of the younger generation today. Look, most of my friends and some of my family relatives are dating or married to younger men. The way I see it that's the trend nowadays (although I'm not really one to agree because I'm always against the idea). There is something sweet and innocent about them, although Kenji is a wee bit awkward in most instances I can't help but root for him to get the girl, and while Natsuki maybe lying about introducing him as her boyfriend still, I can't help but wish that she likes him, too. Regardless of his status as a poser boyfriend Kenji never pretended anything about himself. What the family sees is the real him, and there is nothing fake about his treatment towards them as well. They disliked him when they learned that Natsuki just invented his identity, but he won them over during a very crucial moment in their lives, not because he wanted to please them but because he did what he believes that a man needs to do: to protect the family. No matter what, he already had a special place in the heart's of the Jinnouchi clan.
It took me two long weeks to write this review for the reason that I find myself ill-equipped to have any say on the matter. Summer Wars is an amazing film, period. It would be highly doubtful if someone declares that they do not like it since it can cater to both the young and the old. In my opinion, Hosoda is not the "new Miyazaki". I am a fan of the latter and also a fan of the former. They are different when it comes to their style of storytelling. Miyazaki is more on the magical and whimsical, while Hosoda vents on between the realistic and fantastical with a flair for drama. I am absolutely looking forward to watching his upcoming films (I have seen Wolf Children prior to this) with my childlike-colored glasses waiting to be surprised, overwhelmed and inspired.