Summer Wars – Meh.

Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars has gotten a lot of high praise from both reviewers and bloggers. “Imaginative,” “gorgeous…” even “perfect” — these are just some of the words that have been used to describe this movie.

Well, they’re right about one thing… it is pretty. I just didn’t like anything else.

Maybe I just think the movie could have used some judicious editing, because I was tired of the movie after just an hour. To my displeasure, there were still approx. fifty minutes left on the running time.

Maybe I just don’t like Kenji one tiny bit. Lovely, another passive and wimpy boy who somehow managed to save the day. It’s nerd pandering that would make Harry Potter blush. You too can save the day — with math! Nevermind that we have technology that could crack any code a billion times faster than any human….

Maybe I just think the plot is simply outlandish — the idea that everything is so inexplicably linked through the Internet that a rogue AI can just bring the world down to its knees on a playful whim. This might seem silly to harp on, especially considering the fact that we have giant, fighting robots and magical schoolgirls in anime, but those shows made some modicum of sense in the context of their universes. I just don’t feel this conflict was realistic in the world that was portrayed by Summer Wars. When inventing something so powerful, why did nobody stop to think of the potential problems? Why would everything come down to some Japanese family? In a world crisis like this, why were there no responses from any government?

Maybe I just don’t think the anime is very inventive. It’s a spirit bomb. No, it is. They used a spirit bomb to beat the enemy. Majin Buu (Love Machine) is neither good nor evil. It just wants to play, but it nevertheless poses a danger. Unfortunately, Goku (Natsuki) can’t beat the Majin Buu (Love Machine) by himself so he gathers up everyone’s power (OZ accounts) to destroy the beast once and for all.

The movie is even complete with a gratuitous power-up sequence (mahou shoujo transformation) too. Goku may sound like he’s taking a dump every time he powers up, but dear god, I don’t want to hear Natsuki’s banshee scream again. No, I’m not saying Summer Wars plagiarized Dragon Ball Z; lots of anime end this way, but that’s exactly the point. If Hosoda is really the next big thing, he can do better than this.

Maybe I just think the movie is a cheapshot. You know what I’m referring to: “Yes, some poor scientist may have invented the Love Machine, but it was America’s fault for not properly assessing the potential dangers of the invention before unleashing it on the world or, rather, poor Japan.” C’mon, that’s weak. Look, I think it was a horrible idea to use the atomic bomb in WW2, but the message that comes across in Summer Wars is plainly a cheapshot. Looks like a bomb, doesn’t it? If you wanna make a statement against what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then do it properly. Don’t just toss in some half-assed metaphor at the end of the movie when nothing up until that point even remotely dealt with the issue.

Maybe I just don’t like this family. Maybe I just don’t appreciate family, but the Jinnouchis remind me of just how annoying my Asian relatives can be. Obnoxious, rumor-mongering women, bombastic, full-of-shit men, bratty children, and to top it all off, there’s always some domineering head of the household sitting at the top. Not all families are annoying, sure, but the family in Summer Wars feels one-note and inauthentic. Do you really think a simple letter would wash away decades of bad blood like it did with Wabisuke and the rest of the Jinnouchis?

Maybe I’m just nitpicking, but if you really want a critical assessment, here it is: Kenji sucks. You’re right, I already complained about him, but it bears mentioning again. He’s the main character. He’s the first guy we meet at the start of the movie and he’s the guy who ultimately saves the day at the end. And yet despite all that, he doesn’t change. One bit. Describe his personality at the start of the movie… bashful, shy, nerdy. Okay, now describe his personality at the end of the movie.

Bashful, shy, nerdy. His character had no arc.

Who did have an arc then, if not Kenji? It’s not the grandma, of course; she represents an unchanging ideal even in death. You could argue that the entire family (excluding Wabisuke) is a character in itself, but I don’t think the family had any meaningful character development either. They accepted Wabisuke back only because they were following orders from the matriarch. Other than that, they said or did nothing of substantial note. Sadly, the only person who had an arc in this movie was Wabisuke, the misunderstood black sheep of the family.

He’s the devil may care rogue who finally realized the errors of his ways, took responsibility and became part of the family. The problem, however, is that he was rarely onscreen. As a result, the audience doesn’t get something human and emotional to connect to. Rather, we are meant to root for some high school nerd and his convoluted fantasy on how to win the girl of his dreams.

Pretty, but pandering; in the end, this is my final assessment of Summer Wars.

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30 Replies to “Summer Wars – Meh.”

  1. Hehe , didn’t you know that when an anime has great/unique animation(better yet , a highly acclaimed director/studio behind it) and a seemly complicated storyline with no obvious moe mongering at sight, everyone needs to rave about it even though they didn’t really enjoy it that much? Then all this raving(especially by esteem bloggers and sites) will then in return cause pressure if you don’t rave about it , hence resulting in almost everyone praising about it.

    I know because I did that in the past as well (no , not TM8.0 ). Though I can’t catergorise whether Summer Wars belongs in this group or not because I haven’t seen it yet. I will have the chance of watching it on big screen next February anyway . HAHA! Take that! Or not because I will be wasting my money to watch this meh movie.

    1. Then all this raving(especially by esteem bloggers and sites) will then in return cause pressure if you don’t rave about it , hence resulting in almost everyone praising about it.

      Well, I don’t think peer pressure is at play here. I think people honestly think Summer Wars is enjoyable. I personally don’t and listed my reasons.

  2. Yeah, that was pretty lame of them to throw in – “oh, and it was the Americans’ fault!” at the end. Right. The Japanese guy who was too dense to realize they were going to use it to tear down the internet-based infrastructure and wrote it for them had nothing to do with it. Honestly, why even put something like that in the movie at all? It’s not like throwing in a comment about Amuricans blowing shit up or taking things over was poignant or scary – it was just pointless and stupid.

    I agree about the power-up sequence. I could have done without Natsuki’s jailbait boobies flying around while I’m trying to watch a family movie (or the unnecessary “omg Kenji almost sees her naked in the bath” part, or the unnecessary “Kenji is having horny thoughts around small children” part or the unnecessary “pervert uncle talks about making babies” part…). Sorta put a damper on an otherwise great scene. Fucking whales.

    And you’re spot-on about Kenji; he *does* suck. It didn’t really bother me throughout my two viewings of the movie, though. I guess I just subconsciously wrote it off as the “totally average (read: boring) everydude who basically functions as wallpaper for more interesting characters”– trope. So… he’s like 90% of male anime leads. I dunno why this is such an epidemic. Probably has something to do with the fact that the girls will sell the merch, when the guy has to have a giant robot or be a brooding fag genius (haaaay, Lelouch, Light~!) to get any attention.

    Kenji’s suckishness also ties into the giant plot contrivance of OZ and the whole world being on the interwebs – it’s an Eigen Plot (see TV Tropes) to let the otherwise total loser Kenji to use his mathlete skills to save the world. Because going into this movie, the one *I* was rooting for was the boring average guy! Sigh.

    tl;dr: I enjoyed the movie a lot, but some parts were really, really stupid.

    1. I joke, but I don’t even care so much that Kenji’s a wimp. Be a wimp for all I care. I’ve rooted for naive, dorky characters in the past, but a character has to develop. A character has to go from A to B, giving us a reason to follow his journey. Obviously, there are exceptions; for example, character studies can be fascinating without the character ever evolving, but Kenji’s character was not obviously not worth studying. So in the end, nothing changed with Kenji except getting the girl. Ultimately, the message is that the only thing that matters is getting the girl, but their romance was nothing worthy of note so… what an empty existence.

  3. i love you
    this was the first link when i googled “summer wars sucks”.
    i read the kick-ass review from ANN expecting so much, at the same time i tried to be realistic as to not over-hype the movie for myselft but ya…
    what a piece of shit this is.

    i agree with you completely on the whole issue of kenji’s character being a one dimensional character.

    it also bothers me that the focus changes from him, to his sempai, then to the grandma. what the hell is this movie trying to tell me?

    even with a relevant modernized theme and situations so support that, the message came through as static to me.

    i’m glad that i’ve found some people who aren’t just trying to set the stage for hosada as the next big name in foreign animation!

  4. This is very much an aside, but…

    Do you really honestly think that using an atom bomb in WW2 was a “horrible idea”?

    Why is it a horrible idea, exactly? It effectively ended the war. It prevented massive causalities on both sides that would have easily dwarfed the causalities caused by the bomb drop itself (i.e. the causalities that would have come about by a conventional land invasion of Japan by America). Japan was not willing to end the war unless they were beyond the point of any hope of success; this is a very sad but a cold, hard truth of WWII. It’s well-documented by historians.

    Furthermore, the Hiroshima bombing raised public awareness of just how destructive the atom bomb can be. A case can be made that the Cold War never exploded into nuclear war because the example of Hiroshima made both sides very much against the idea of using the bomb.

    And yet, you just call the use of an atom bomb in WWII a “horrible idea” with out so much as giving a reason why. Even as an aside, I expect better of you than that, E Minor.

    1. we here at moe sucks have just dropped the ball lately. we haven’t done our due diligence on investigating the appropriate usage of the atom bomb on hiroshima and nagasaki and its pertinence to pretty yet substanceless family tripe animes such as summer wars. i’m sorry for disappointing you Ryan R.

      in all seriousness, my anti-atom bomb position is hardly a controversial or new one, so i didn’t think i needed to justify it when i wrote the article. if it bothers you that much, i’m sure you can find literature out there by esteemed historians that’ll more capably decry the usage of the atom bomb in ww2 than a disgruntled anime fan on a defunct anime blog.

      1. Most esteemed historians would admit that without using the atom bomb in WWII, the casualty count from that war would have been much higher, and the war would have lasted much longer. At a basic pragmatic level, at least, is was certainly not a horrible idea to use the atom bomb in WWII. And it’s certainly not like Japan never recovered from it.

        Look, WWII was kind of important. It’s not something that should be addressed as flippantly as you did in this blog entry, imo.

  5. I do think you’re right about the characters. I found most of them extremely annoying and pretty stupid, too. I really liked Kazuma, probably because he was the only “strong” character who really gave a crap about others, even though in the beginning he was wrapped up in his own world. I think Kenji did have somewhat of a character development, even if it was very small. He started out all shy and not confident at all, but in the end he was the one who told everyone else that they only lost if they told themselves they lost. I do wish it was a bigger development, but oh well. The biggest reason I bought it and keep rewatching it is because the art is indeed beautiful, the animation flows quite well and, for once, the English dub doesn’t suck!

    By the way, thank you for writing an intelligent review that isn’t wrought with spelling errors and text talk. This is, honestly, the first grammatically correct review I’ve ever read, and your point is well thought out. Props for all that, too.

    1. Wow, the first grammatically correct review? I’m flattered but I’m a little skeptical on that. But yeah, thanks for the thoughts. Like you said, we mostly agree. I’ve thought about the movie a few times since writing the post and I’ve vacillated on whether or not the focus on the family might have precluded anyone from stepping forward and grabbing the reins of the storyline. I just couldn’t really identify with the family, and in the end, the lack of a character to root prevented me from really being hooked. I haven’t seen the dub so I can’t testify to its quality.

  6. Planning to watch this shit after I readed an argument about a dumbshit on a local wapsite how great, accurate and truthful MAL ratings are. He says that “Hey fucker, are there any animes out there that are better than 50cp of summer wars??” fuck that.

    You sir, made this interesting. As much as I sense your critical assesment about a well praised dipshit. Congratulations for not being swayed by the peer pressure nor the atrocity of wannabee bloggers and scorers of this anime. Nor what they call pretty and eyecandid- well its only unique to me.

    Now, have grab a DVD copy and lets see if this shit is worth the praise.

  7. Planning to watch this shit after I readed an argument about a dumbshit on a local wapsite how great, accurate and truthful MAL ratings are. He says that “Hey fucker, are there any animes out there that are better than 50cp of summer wars??” fuck that.

    You sir, made this interesting. As much as I sense your critical assesment about a well praised dipshit. Congratulations for not being swayed by the peer pressure nor the atrocity of wannabee bloggers and scorers of this anime. Nor what they call pretty and eyecandid- well its only unique to me.

    Now, I have to grab a DVD copy and lets see if this shit is worth the praise.

    Sorry for the typing error =P

    1. Congratulations for not being swayed by the peer pressure nor the atrocity of wannabee bloggers and scorers of this anime.

      Well, I don’t even know how others feel about Summer Wars. I don’t read a lot of blogs and I’ve never read MAL unless it’s for a very specific reason.

  8. I’m sorry but after watching it, I’m having a funny idea of how pixar’s UP or The Lion King has a better context compared to this movie. I’m really sounding like an ethnocentric and childish, but I dont find any unique and stand off quality regarding summer war’s context. To be frank, its stereotype to some degree with some added variation.

    Sorry for my bad english. =P

  9. This movie blows. I watched it because of the hype, with my sister in the other room. We were both laughing out loud at the leaps of logic and the completely unlikeable characters. The moralizing of the film was definitely the low point, however. The family hates Wabisuke, but why? He’s the only decent character. He makes a mistake (I guess), but how was anyone supposed to predict the result? The rest of the family act like such raging pillocks all the time. That old bag couldn’t die fast enough for me, especially after she felt entitled to attempt murder. Are Japanese people really like this? And the movie ends with a ****ing card game. Well, good thing they tried the whole DBZ action thing first, otherwise the ending might feel anticlimactic. *eyeroll*

    This movie is everything people hate about anime. Nonsensical story, terrible characters, ridiculous leaps of logic, and trying to shove a moral message down the throats of the audience that doesn’t even make sense. I’m truly stunned at the incredibly positive reviews Summer Wars has received.

  10. Disappointed. The first portion of the film was okay, up until they started throwing all the internet-is-actually-digimon-world-bullshit towards the end, and lots of leaps of logic. (Defeating the boss via a card game? Entering virtual simulation using gameboy-ish devices? Changing the trajectory of a free falling satellite?) The forced romance between the two main characters? What?

  11. My friend Told me to watch this movie because it was on her top 5 best anime movies, and i wanted this chick to like me.

    SO like any dude, i sat down and watched the movie. And It fucking sucked sooooooooooo much. Why is the villain an Ai and not a supreme hacker? What the fuck does this damn family have to do with the world of the Internet? Why are all the family scenes soo damn pointless in the movie????? What were the purposes of “The Guardians Of Oz”, You know the giant whales that are suppose to “Protect” Oz, and didnt do JACK SHIT. The fact that a 15 yr old programmer can hack a password shows how shitty their security system is. Why is the entire FAMILY soooo oblivious to the fact that the entire world is hanging in imbalance while only a few give a shit to do something. and How is it that the AI only deploys ONE nuclear plant to explode and not the entire world? Why on EARTH would the AI hold back on humanity after it already trashed it to hell???? How is “The Pro bunny fighter” is the only player good enough to fight the AI? I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH ON WHY THE HACKER IS A DAMN AI!!! To Top it ALLLLL Off the FINALLLL boss fight is A FUCKINGGGG CARD GAME Trying to Get SOme damn SYMBOLISM towards a family NOOOO one gives a shit about. Not to mention the pointless Super Saiyan Angel Form where she FURIOUSLY lays down a card to beat the AI.

    I didnt rant as much as i did to the girl i was talking to, but i kinda figured that she wasnt gonna be interested in me anymore lol

  12. I can fully relate to this review.
    As someone who studied IT, the whole plot is so dumb, that I had to turn this movie off right after a nerd cracked a code, that an highly advanced AI couldn´t crack…
    Also the main character just plain sucks, why is this movie high rated?
    I think they used the world of Oz as an excuse, so the computer animation would fit better in the movie.
    The dumbest part of all: The US department of defence would let run their whole defense grid over an social media application…
    Watched Porco Rosso the day before and that movie had far more research to it, than this crap.
    Anime movie scene has been dead since they tried to appeal to young girls only in my humble oppinion

    1. I just felt that it was all just wasted potential, Summer Wars probably could’ve been a more intense anime show instead of a rushed family movie

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