This is a review of the new anime film Summer Wars, but before I get to the real "review" part of things, I must describe my experience of the act of watching the film itself. In a push to get the movie an Oscar nomination, Funimation has decided to release the film in a larger number of theaters than normal for one week and two week screenings. I went to a screening at the IFC Center in New York, and it was amazing. It was in a larger theater than I'd expected, and though it was not exactly a full house, it was quite full. This impressed me, as the last non-Hayao Miyazaki anime at a movie theater I'd been to was an art-house screening of Tales from Earthsea that two other people went to. Very impressive. The review will now begin.
There are two people currently considered the Masters of Anime, Hayao Miyazaki and Satoshi Kon. Satoshi Kon recently passed away while working on his planned final movie "Dream Machine", and while Miyazaki is alive and working, he is technically retired and his post-Mononoke and work is a bit epilouge-y. Obviously, the new generation of anime fandom needs a new genius. And we have one in director Mamoru Hosoda, whose new film Summer Wars is a masterpiece.
There are many ways I could describe Summer Wars. I think Wikipedia describes it best as a "Japanese animated science fiction romance film". There are elements of bang-zoom action and blush-swoon slice of life, combined to create an engaging, somewhat surreal movie that Scott Pilgrim wishes it was. The movie tells two stories: one, a charming hand animated coming-of-age story about Kenji, and his visit to his friend Natsuki's family, the other, an computer generated action-packed adventure with a nice moral about the danger of over reliance on the internet, jammed with the amazing visuals I have come to expect from a Studio Madhouse production. The two stories often intersect in fascinating (and necessary) ways, creating an adventure full of heart that everyone can get something out of, be you a fan of the restrained thoughtfulness of a Miyazaki film, an admirer of the wild visual flair and psychology of Kon, or a family looking for something fun to watch.
Aside from the film itself, I was really impressed by the dub. Funimation has once again done a sublime job with the dub, with strong performances and natural dialogue. I am not even curious to see this in original Japanese.
If this film does get the Oscar nomination as I hope, there is a good chance it will get a wider theatrical release. The film certainly deserves it, for being both a crowd-pleaser and intellectually enjoyable. Good luck, Summer Wars, I hope you get that nomination.