[From August Issue 2010]
SUMMER WARS (Directed by HOSODA Mamoru)
This animated movie was released in the summer of 2009 and had a long run in the theatres. It won many motion picture awards including the 2010 Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year. The director, HOSODA Mamoru, garnered previous praise both at home and abroad for his 2006 film “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.” Most of that movie’s staff, including the scriptwriter and the animators, all reunited for “SUMMER WARS.”
The main characters KOISO Kenji and SHINOHARA Natsuki are both Tokyo high school students. While on summer holidays, Natsuki offers Kenji a part-time job. Since he has a crush on Natsuki, and all that he has to do is accompany her to her mother’s parents’ home, he accepts. However, he learns that the real job is to pretend to be Natsuki’s fiance for a few days in order to cheer up her dispirited great-grandmother, Sakae.
Natsuki’s great grandmother’s house, located in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture, was kept by the Jinnouchi family, whose ancestors were wartime samurai. The big residence and its vast grounds are run by Sakae, who is about to celebrate her 90th birthday. Relatives from across Japan arrive one after another, all believing that Kenji is Natsuki’s fiance. That night, Kenji receives a mysterious numerical cell phone message. As a math wiz, he assumes it as a math problem, and solves it.
The next morning, Kenji awakens to the news that the virtual reality city of “OZ” is in chaos. While OZ is similar to the real world when shopping and utility payments are concerned, it is still a virtual, Internet-based place, where all of its users have their own Avatars. What Kenji did was break the pass code to enter the OZ control system.
While dozens of other people around the world have also deciphered the passcode, Kenji learns that he made a miscalculation. However, an artificial intelligence named “Love Machine” has already entered OZ and is stealing users’ IDs in order to control all the information and authorization codes. That is causing traffic problems in the real world and even changed the course of a returning interplanetary probe. During the mayhem, Sakae dies.
Wabisuke, the illegitimate son of Jinnouchi’s great-grandfather, confides that he developed the Love Machine. He says that it has been sent to OZ experimentally by the U.S. Department of Defense. The men of the Jinnouchi family decide to join Kenji to fight the Love Machine, which cannot be controlled by humans. After a hard battle, Natsuki plays hanafuda (Japanese traditional playing cards), the game she learned from Sakae, and using her Avatar, challenges Love Machine, finally destroying it.