Kenji is a gifted math genius still in high school. His side job is helping maintain Oz, the giant computer network which connects just about everything and everyone. Oz is like a gigantic role playing game merged with online shopping, and nearly anything you'd do online. Kenji isn't paid much however, so when beautiful classmate Natsuki is looking for help on "a job", he's happy to help out.
As it turns out "the job" is posing as Natsuki's fiance during her family reunion, and 90th birthday of her grandmother. Kenji receives an email one night which looks like some kind of code. Curious if he could do it, Kenji cracks the code and sends it back. The next day it turns out that Oz was hacked, and the account linked to it is none other than Kenji's. Things go haywire across the world as so much of modern life had been linked to Oz. Oz is now being held hostage by a super computer virus which continues to cause more and more problems. Kenji doesn't know how, but he's determined to get his avatar back and restore his reputation. He's not alone as the colorful Jinnouchi family stands behind him.
I'm not sure why people talk so much about the Internet when referring to this movie, because Oz is NOT the Internet. Oz is a cute sanitized cleanly place where people do productive things. You're on my website. You know what the REAL Internet is like. Even if parts of it look safe and clean, you open one wrong door and suddenly you're in the seediest part of the red light district of Bangkok. The cesspool reality of the Internet has nothing to do with this show, which is apparently why everyone thought it was perfectly safe to have everything except cell phone networks and TV (because those are plot necessities) integrated into Oz. Oz is like a Massive Multiplayer Online RPG that everyone happens to play.
I didn't particularly like anyone in Summer Wars (aside from the kid with the kung-fu rabbit avatar), but taken as a whole I liked the Jinnouchi family. It's hard to tell who the main character is, but I think that's because the main character is in fact the family. This movie captures the essence of a family really well too. You love them, you can enjoy their company and support, but at the same time there are members you want to choke to death and royally screw up your life through their stupidity and thoughtless actions. Yup, that's family. The way they come together is expected, but still fun to watch.
Kenji is a weak protagonist, but he isn't much of a focal point oddly enough. And what guy answers a phone in the middle of the night, decides a string of numbers is a math problem, solves it on a string of papers, then sends it back to someone they don't know? You know what I do when I get mysterious messages in the middle of the night? I turn off my phone off and go back to sleep. Who has time for that? Also, if you've heard of the hero using math to save the day in this show; it's implied, not a reality. Kenji gets a string of numbers which he is allowed to decode (and apparently systems of Oz think transmitting these codes which allow people to work out passwords is a good idea). This isn't any different from having psychic powers or a Captain Crunch decoder ring. I hoped he would leverage his math knowledge in the game of Koi Koi by using statistics and counting cards. Or perhaps emphasize how exponential growth works in betting avatars (how fast doubling your bets could add up to big numbers), but in the end it math was just a super power.
Summer Wars comes with two parts of the story, the part at the family gathering and the part within Oz. The family portion has simplistic designs, but is well animated. The Oz part is just an excuse to invent random plot drama and show off spectacular animation. Ignoring that most of it isn't needed for the story, it does add to the entertainment value with eye candy.
Summer Wars is a fun watch, and especially good for family entertainment. It's lively, well animated, and has a great sentiment. It's also pretty much brainless. You'll have to park your brain at the door for this one, and possibly put it in reverse. If you watch anime for insight and intelligence (haha, you're still watching anime if you want that? *cough*), it's quite possible you won't enjoy Summer Wars, but on merits of being entertaining and heart felt, it works very well and you'll probably enjoy it.
Takashi: You didn't break the Internet did you?
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reviewed by archen in 2012