- Manga Entertainment
- Running time:
- 109 mins approx + extras
- 16.9 anamorphic
- English 5.1, Japanese 5.1
- Release date:
- 28th March 2010
- DVD RRP:
- £17.99 - Amazon - Play - Manga UK
- Blu-Ray RRP:
- £19.99 - Amazon - Play - Manga UK
Kenji Koiso is your average teenage geek. He's in his high-school Physics club, has a part-time job in IT and seriously has the hots for his friend Natsuki Shinohara but is just too shy to tell her. In fact, about the only thing not dreadfully average about Kenji is that he's mathematical genius. When Natsuki invites him to take a summer trip with her back to her family's home in the countryside Kenji jumps at the chance, but there's a couple of things he just wasn't expecting. Firstly, Natsuki's family home turns out to be a rather large estate and her equally large family have powerful connections spanning back centuries. Secondly, Natsuki introduces him as her fiancé to the family's matriarch, a woman just days from her 90th birthday, with a grand and elaborate back-story to go with it, something she conveniently "forgot" to tell Kenji about.
During the visit Kenji receives via a mystery text message an incredibly complex mathematical code which, thinking it to be a random competition, he cracks in just a few hours and sends back to the sender. Little does he know that the code he just cracked was a master password to the OZ online virtual world, a virtual world where most of the world's online services are stored.
When Love Machine programmes a recently returned space probe to drop out of Earth orbit and sends it hurtling towards a nuclear reactor much like a ballistic missile, Kenji must band together with Natsuki's family in the real world, as well as a number of allies on the virtual world, to defeat Love Machine before the world faces nuclear catastrophe.
Imagine if you will a world where essentially all of the world's online services have coalesced into one huge online world. Entities like Facebook, Twitter, Xbox live, Amazon, Ebay, Youtube... they're all compressed into one huge online experience called OZ. Now imagine if this online world was touted as being so secure and so convenient that the vast the majority of individuals, websites, companies and even governments moved most of their digital existence and systems over to OZ. Then imagine, what would happen if the master password to this treasure trove of digital delights fell into the hands of a malignant, and somewhat immature, superhacker. On the surface that's pretty much what Summer Wars is about.
However, on the underside is a second story which is more about getting to know people in the real world, and how both strangers and family can work together to overcome adversity. And also how for all our reliance in these digital systems to which we entrust our everyday lives like some great 21st century religion, when the brown stuff first hits the oscillator, it's one elderly woman with a phone book, a land line, and a lot of favours to call in that really gets Japan back on track.
The animation is, as has come to be expected of production company Madhouse (The girl who leapt through time, Redline), absolutely superb, especially as this film contains two separate though radically different worlds. These being the "real" and the "virtual", each with their own distinctive art styles; "Real" being warmer and more homely while keeping it's more realistic feel while the "virtual" is more bold and vibrant with a overwhelming other-worldy vibe to it. The "real" world owes much to - and can arguably be seen to be on a par with - the works of Studio Ghilbi and Makoto Shinkai while the "virtual" world draws more from the likes of Ghost in the Shell and Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash as well as from the avatar systems of modern gaming consoles.
Voice acting wise, the Japanese original is excellent, no doubt about it, but this is luckily one of those rare cases where I found the English dub to be as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable than the original. Boasting a good mix of some well known voice actors as well as a number of lesser knowns it's restrained when it needs to be, exuberant when it's a called for and emotional when required and doesn't ever go running away with itself as many lesser dubs have been known to do.
Currently, Manga UK are also offering this film as part of a twin pack along with the aforementioned Girl who leapt through time, in both DVD and Blu-ray versions. Which, if you have a hunt around, is currently selling for only a few pounds more than the Summer Wars only version.
Interview with the Director, Stage Greeting, Japanese cast interviews, Japanese trailer, teaser trailers and TV spots
Summer Wars is available from most high streets and online retailers from today on both Blu-ray and DVD. A trailer can be found on Manga UK’s official site here.