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Japan: Avatars come to life in the anime Summer Wars

Against the background of the Japanese countryside, feel good sentiments and an extraordinary virtual world are featured in Summer Wars (サマーウォーズSama wozu) [ja], the new animated movie by director Mamoru Hosoda [en].

The anime tells the story of Kenji, an awkward teenage math genius who finds himself involved in an epic battle in a virtual world where he must become a code breaker and battle avatars to win. His allies are the members of a traditional, old-style Japanese family.


Official trailer by KADOGAWA Anime

Summer Wars [en], created by the award winning director and screenwriter, was received very positively by the Japanese public and topped 1 million viewers in the first few days after its release this summer.

MoriGuru particularly appreciated the mix of different elements and the family values that the film conveys.

テーマ的には人と人のつながりは大切だよねという普遍的なものみたいですけど、大人数の親戚とか、今の時代ならではのネット上の仮想空間とかそういう要素の融合が独特の雰囲気を生み出していたと思います。
正直言うと、最初は「あれ…なんかイマイチかも?」と思って観てたんですが
徐々に勢いのある展開が続き、一気に盛り上がっていったので不安は吹き飛びました。
鑑賞後に心地よい気分で映画館を後にできる作品だったと思います。
大家族って騒がしそうだけどいいなあって思いました^^

The message is a universal one like ‘the bonds among human beings are important’ but the integration of elements such as the large family and the imaginary ‘virtual’ world created a particular matrix.
To be honest, in the beginning I thought ‘this movie is going to be light weight’ but, as the story developed, all of a sudden it warmed up and that uncertain feeling in me faded away.
When the movie was over, it left in me a good sensation and I think that it was well worth watching it at the cinema.
I also thought how nice would be having a large family even though it might be rowdy!

Taka also praises the anime and describes elements that he recognized in his own life.

観ていて、僕自身といろいろと共通点もあって、思いのほか感情移入してしまいました。
例えば、こんな共通点が。
●僕の出身が長野県(サマーウォーズの舞台は上田、僕は伊那出身)
●毎年夏休みになると、長野の僕の実家に、東京から従兄弟たちが泊まりに来て、
 みんなで大騒ぎして遊んでいた
●高山家は女系家族
●僕の祖母が春に亡くなった
●サマーウォーズの栄おばあさんの誕生日(8月1日)が、僕の家族と同じ

As I watched it I found a lot of common points with my own life and I felt very involved, emotionally rather than just rationally.
These are some of the common elements:

  • I am also from Nagano Prefecture (Summer Wars is set in Ueda, while I am from Ina)
  • Every summer, my cousins from Tokyo came to my home in Nagano. They stayed over and we have a lot of fun altogether.
  • My family is a female lineage family
  • My granny passed away this spring
  • In our family, we also celebrate a birthday on the day of Sakae's (Summer War's grandmother) birthday of August 1st
  • The movie has received also some criticisms, however. The ‘teenager saves the world’ scenario, in particular, has made some [ja] consider the story too light weight to claim a special place in the viewer`s heart.

    Blogger at Kz Loghouse feels somehow unsatisfied at the sentimental scenes.

    感動シーンが満載でとても心にグッとくるものがありました。
    ありましたけど・・・何か足りないような・・。
    例えて言うなら「涙は出るんだけど、鼻の奥からツーンとくる感じじゃない」って雰囲気。

    There are a lot of moving scenes and some of them reach straight to the heart.
    Though there are these…. I feel that there `s something missing…
    As example, it`s that kind of sensation like ‘yes, tears come to my eyes but I`m not feeling real grief.’

    Summer Wars was first released as a manga to test people`s reactions and kazahoshi ranks the written version.

    < 対象>
    中高生以上
    < 五段階評価>
    ・面白さ   ★★★☆
    ・読み易さ ★★★★
    ・文章    ★★★
    ・補完    ★★★☆
    ・総合    ★★★☆
    部分的に違うところがちょくちょくあり、ラストに至っては全く別物でした。
    結論を先に言えば、映画には到底敵わない。

    Aimed at:
    Secondary, high school students and above.

    Valuation on 5 points:
    Fun   ★★★☆
    Readability ★★★★
    Style    ★★★
    Others   ★★★☆
    General    ★★★☆
    In some parts the book is different and the ending was completely different.
    In conclusion though, the movie has no rivals!

    1 comment

    • I’m very surprised to find that my blog entry is referred by this kind of English media. Thank you.

      One of the factor that many Japanese people like this movie is that, we are longing for family ties, because the number of two-generation families are increasing recently, especially in urban area like Tokyo.

      I like this movie, and there are many fans of it around me.

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