“Summer Wars” is an animated feature from Mamoru Hosoda, the director of “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.” It takes place in what appears to be an alternate present, in which everyone is connected via OZ, a digital world that resembles a hyper-evolved Facebook.
Through OZ, people can shop for digital accessories, file their taxes and even do their jobs, as profiles carry the same privileges as the user. In “Summer Wars,” OZ is fully integrated into every facet of the human lifestyle, a relationship with disastrous consequences.
The film centers around Kenji, a young math whiz who punches code for OZ. After a brief introduction to the digital world, Kenji is asked by Natsuki, the most attractive girl at school, to pose as her boyfriend at her grandmother’s weekend-long 90th birthday celebration.
Soon after his arrival, Kenji responds to a mysterious text message, inadvertently enabling an artificial intelligence (AI) designed for hacking to break into OZ’s security, granting it access to every account.
The result is chaotic, the entire population seized by panic as their accounts are stolen, exposing the degree to which the world depends on its digital counterpart. The situation escalates as even the president of the United States loses his profile to the AI, thus surrendering his privileges to the malicious software and bringing about the possibility of a nuclear holocaust.
Now, only Kenji, with the help of Natsuki and her family, can save the world from highly ironic doom.
For the most part, the film is highly entertaining. Endearing characters keep things interesting in the real world, navigating themes of family and honor, while spectacular action sequences and high-stakes thrills make the exposition of the digital world both thrilling and intriguing.
Hosoda successfully builds tension by tying the action that we witness within OZ to real-world consequences, lending a feeling of authenticity to the disaster the characters face.
The film leaves little question as to the danger of complete integration of the human experience into the digital plane. In spite of this fact, the film’s message is ultimately optimistic, as it is only through the global community established by OZ that they are able to prevent the end of the world.
The ending does drag on, as the heroes are presented with desperate situation after desperate situation in which they overcome impossible odds, but if you’re a fan of multiple climaxes, then this only makes for a more pleasurable viewing experience.