On an Earth where an internet world known as OZ
Is used universally by the whole globe,
Each nation and person enjoys an account,
Including a man who controls a space probe.
But more on that later; right now, there’s a boy
In high school named Kenji, a timid math whiz,
Who visits the home of the great Jinnouchis
Because of one Natsuki, a classmate of his.
Her own great-grandmother’s about to turn ninety,
And so she’s devised a duplicitous ruse.
Her family thinks Kenji is her fiancée.
When she begs him to lie, Kenji cannot refuse.
He plays along with her and warily meets
Her quirky, extended, and loud family.
He’s quite overwhelmed, but at night he receives
A code-bearing e-mail and solves it deftly.
The next day, the news has him labeled a hacker;
They say that he broke into OZ’s mainframe.
When the family also sees through Natsuki’s lie,
They’re quick to reprove and give Kenji the blame.
But Kenji’s the prey of identity fraud;
A program of sorts has hijacked his account.
In the digital world, it reveals itself as
A renegade A.I. they cannot surmount.
Since everything, traffic lights, e-mail, and such,
Is routed through OZ, which was once thought secure,
The havoc the A.I. commits in that world
Reflects in our own planet’s infrastructure.
The A.I., called Love Machine, steals many more,
Several million accounts, and it gets ever stronger.
The Jinnouchi family tries to ignore
Its effects, but quite soon they cannot any longer.
For Granny, their matriarch who’s tough as nails,
Insists it’s a war that they all have to fight,
But, because OZ is down, they all realize too late
That she died of a heart attack late in the night.
The women want only to prep for her wake,
While the men crave revenge, so they work separately.
They move a plan forward to trap Love Machine,
But, because of a stupid mistake, it gets free.
Defeating King Kazma, an OZ fighting champ
Who belongs to a kid in the Jinnouchi clan,
The A.I. takes hold of a certain account
Controlling the space probe, as part of a plan.
It targets a nuclear power plant with it,
And starts a countdown for the terrible boom.
They have just two hours to get the account
That controls the space probe, or it means certain doom.
With the help of an uncle who made Love Machine
And whose claims of his innocence keep falling flat,
It’s Natsuki who challenges it to a match
Of Koi-Koi, a card game that she is good at.
By wagering OZ accounts, little by little,
They quickly win back all that Love Machine stole.
While failing the game though, it targets the probe
On the family’s home before losing control!
In the final few seconds, with math as his aid,
Young Kenji succeeds in diverting its course.
It misses (just barely), but, saving the day,
Kenji’s now a boyfriend that they all can endorse.
With Love Machine squelched and no longer a danger,
The uncle confesses and takes the results.
And, though they’ve lost Granny, they’re glad to have Kenji
As part of their home, so the family exults.
Summer Wars is a Japanese animated movie that manages to be funny, sad, and exciting in a way that few anime films are, in my opinion. The best parts of the movie feature its wonderful endorsement of family, particularly forgiveness and facing the hard times together. Granny’s posthumous note to her relatives is particularly poignant and eloquent. While I didn’t know most of the Jinnouchis’ names by the end, the filmmakers did an excellent job at giving most of them a unique personality, much like in Meet the Robinsons.
Also fascinating is the film’s indictment of relying too much on technology. It is stated that usage of OZ is as pervasive as cell phone ownership, and people tend to use their accounts for business purposes, thinking that their information and identity are safe. The scenes where Love Machine does seemingly simple things in OZ, such as knocking over some dominoes, producing real-world havoc ranging from faulty fire alarms to confounding traffic, were particularly insightful. With Facebook, Twitter, and the like being so ubiquitous, the concept of OZ and its misuse seems very plausible. Also, the Madhouse animation, while not up to Studio Ghibli standards, is much improved over that of Millennium Actress eight years earlier.
However, there are two things that really bug me about Summer Wars. First of all, there is some adult content, including several (mostly light) obscenities and some scenes of near nudity. Also, I particularly don’t appreciate America being cast as the bad guy, since it is said the United States Department of Defense bought Love Machine from the uncle and were testing its abilities on OZ before the A.I. got out of hand. While I’m not saying such a thing couldn’t happen, the film paints the U.S. as being foolish and incompetent.
Despite these shortcomings, Summer Wars is very entertaining. Though a few moments in OZ devolve into something reminiscent of a Saturday morning cartoon (such as Digimon), it is nonetheless thought-provoking while also fusing fun and the importance of family.
Best line: (to Kenji, after he’s accused of hacking OZ) “Please tell me you didn’t break the Internet.”
Visual Effects: 6
Other (adult content and anti-American subplot): -5
TOTAL: 28 out of 60
Tomorrow: #337: Psycho
© 2014 S. G. Liput