Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: B+
- Age Rating: 13 and Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 120
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Summer Wars
Summer Wars Anime DVD Review
By Chris Beveridge
February 14, 2011
Release Date: February 15, 2011
A trip with a fellow student lands Kenji in a world of trouble when he's blamed for destroying the virtual world of Oz.
What They Say
Kenji is your typical teenage misfit. He's good at math, bad with girls, and spends most of his time hanging out in the all-powerful, online community known as OZ. His second life is the only life he has - until the girl of his dreams, Natsuki, hijacks him for a starring role as a fake fiance at her family reunion. Things only get stranger from there. A late-night email containing a cryptic mathematic riddle leads to the unleashing of a rogue AI intent on using the virtual word of OZ to destroy the real world, literarily. As Armageddon looms on the horizon, Kenji and his new "family" set aside their differences and band together to save the worlds they inhabit.
The audio presentation for this release has the English and Japanese languages in 5.1 which are both encoded at 448kbps. The feature has a good soundtrack to it overall with lots of moments where the rear channels are utilized, but it primarily comes across as a forward soundstage piece. The rears are used in some of the bigger sequences, such as the ending match against the Love Machine, but for the bulk of the dialogue and a lot of the music, it's all along the front and it gets a good sense of placement and depth to it where appropriate. There are more characters talking at the same time in this kind of feature and that has a much more natural feel to it here that lets it work well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally in theaters in 2009, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Clocking in at just under two hours, it's all that's on the main feature disc outside of some trailers so all the space is dedicated to the feature itself. The film hits some high points with the bit rate when the action is really busy, such as the final fight sequence with the Love Machine, but there's only so far that the DVD can go with it in making it all smooth and problem free. You can see it in motion during scenes like that, where the avatars are running through in the hundreds and hundreds, and when you pause it's even more obvious with the noise and lack of solid lines. A lot of the feature looks good, if somewhat soft at times, but the colors are good and the majority of the backgrounds are clean and appealing. The feature looks about as good as I expected it to with what DVD is capable with.
Summer Wars gets a good package here with its single sized keepcase that has a slipcover on it that thankfully avoids replicating the keepcase artwork, thereby giving you a reason to actually want to keep the slipcover. The slipcover is a light and airy piece that features a look inside Oz with the main cast of characters all standing around in front of the central image for it. Using their avatars for the look here works really nicely when taken in conjunction with the keepcase cover itself which uses the main cast as they exist in the real world as they stand out in the summer countryside with the appealing landscape around them that feels alive. Both of the fronts are laid out the same with accolades at the top and the logo along the bottom which is kept simple but effective. The back covers follow a similar approach but flips it so that slipcover has the real world image and the keepcase uses the avatar versions from the front covers through a strip. The summary is pretty good overall on both and there's a strong listing of the films pedigree with its creative side. Add in a strip along the bottom with more shots from the show, a listing of what each disc contains and then finishing it out with production credits and a technical grid and you get a solid release overall. There is artwork on the reverse side of the cover with a two panel piece that shows the main cast as seen towards the end of the film with the boat in the background.
The menus for this release are pretty bland all told though it does open things in a bright and upbeat manner. The main menu has the top two thirds given over to the large scale view of Oz itself with its bright colors against the white background that lets it all stand out even more. The logo is along the bottom of that segment and the bottom third itself is made up of a nice sky blue that has the navigation itself, which for the main feature disc is pretty minimal. The only thing on that disc besides the feature is a series of good trailers, though I think FUNImation would have been better of promoting their standalone features and one or two TV series instead of all TV series. Submenus load quickly and everything is quick and easy to access. As is the norm, the disc did not read our players' language presets.
The extras for this release are all on the second disc that's included in the set. The extras here are largely filled with interview segments for the main people involve, such as Natsuki, Kenji, Kazuma, Wabisuke, Sakae and the films director Mamoru Hosada. They all run different lengths, with Natsuki's running only two minutes for example while Kenji's runs for six, and they have them talking about their roles and how they feel about the film. There's some time spent, such as with Sakae's voice actress who is truly impressive, showing them performing in front of the microphone that's a lot of fun to watch. The longest of them all is the one with the director that runs for about fourteen minutes and talks about things in a larger context. In addition to these, we get the various trailers and TV spots for the feature that were used to build awareness prior to its release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Summer Wars is the latest release to arrive from the mind of Mamoru Hosada, who we last saw going through the film circuit with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Similar to that film, Hosada has a piece that manages to blend serious and silly rather well as we're introduced to quite the expansive cast of characters and an interesting world with the virtual and how it connects to the real world. If anything, that's the weak link in things as it shows a variant of the internet itself but it feels like one that's severely out of touch with what it would be really like based on what's happened here. Still, taking that out of the picture, Summer Wars presents a very connected world that's more visual in its design and interaction.
The film introduces us to a couple of high school kids where one of them, Kenji, finds himself chosen by the attractive Natsuki to go with her for a summer job off to the countryside. What he isn't aware of though is that the job is going to be meeting with her entire extended family that's there to celebrate her grandmother's ninetieth birthday. And that she's going to introduce Kenji as her fiancee, as she promised her that she'd do that before she dies and there's a good chance it could happen soon. It's something that Kenji doesn't even realize until the introductions begin with her and he finds out that's what she has in store for him. It's all just a short term thing that she hopes to get past in order to make her grandmother happy.
Kenji's a good guy though, very nice and surprisingly smart as he was almost in the Math Olypmics as the Japanese representative. Since then he's just been continuing on with school and working as a small time maintenance person for Oz. Oz itself is of significant focus throughout this as it opens with an introduction of how connected the world is with it as it has some one billion users that do everything with it, from towns and companies setting up shop in it to general commerce, work and other activities. Unlike the Internet as we know it, it's done through a lot of avatars that are custom design and generally kind of silly. It's described as an almost magical world where everything is possible and it's a very friendly and inviting place.
Where things go wrong is when a program called Love Machine gets introduced into it and it begins stealing peoples accounts as that was its original programming of sorts. It can't do anything in Oz though because of the high security and encryptions that it has. At least until the program sends out the code itself to select individuals worldwide to see who can crack it. It's a great scene watching Kenji working on it throughout the night and then sending the answer off only to discover that he may have unlocked Oz for complete ravishment. The avatar for the Love Machine is one that takes over his avatar at first before it begins to acquire others and as it does so, it closes off key functions of those who had the accounts prior, which in turn causes quite a lot of commotion and stoppages. When you control transit, water and more, you realize just how much power someone can steal and utilize.
While we see the worldwide issue play out, with Kenji being labeled as a wanted criminal no less, the family drama also plays out at the large old style home that Natsuki's grandmother lives. There's a sizable number of people here and they all have their quirks which leads to all sorts of familiar family issues you get. The black sheep returns, Natsuki's lie becomes revealed and all sorts of little nattering and gossiping goes on when they all gather in different configurations. It's fun watching Kenji trying to acclimate to it all as there's so many people there and such familiarity amongst them all. Their view of him changes often through it as events progress and the larger storyline unfolds with what the Love Machine is up to and what Kenji's role in it will be. That also lets our view of the family change as well as we see the dynamic grow and reveal itself in a very fun and interesting way.
Summer Wars has a very good look about it, though I find the Oz material to be a little too safe and friendly. The character designs are solid with a lot of variety to them which is important considering the size of the cast and the settings for the real world segments is pretty strong. The home in the country is very appealing with its little details and the layouts. The animation has a very smooth and fluid feel to it that flows well and has a lot of rich colors. The Oz segments are very busy, too busy at times, and it uses the CG aspect really well to give it a very active and alive feeling. It doesn't do anything that's truly unique, but it takes the familiar and gives it a new life that has a solid and consistent feel to it.
Summer Wars is a vastly entertaining film that has a great sense of style about it. There's a large scale story here about how civilization is going to take a huge hit because of accounts being stolen and how it impacts it, but largely it's about family and discovering more about them and those that you never paid much mind to. Kenji's story here is a lot of fun as he's dragged into two very different story lines. He gets to stand tall in both of them and everyone views him differently as it progresses. There's a lot to like here and it's definitely one that has a great sense of fun about it. It does get serious at times but I found myself really liking the family here, though I'd only spend a weekend with them, and the world of Oz is certainly interesting. Summer Wars proved to be a very entertaining and fun evening viewing that's definitely worth checking out.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, U.S. Cast Commentary, Interview with Ryunosuke Kamiki (Kenji Koiso), Interview with Nanami Sakuraba (Natsuki Shinohara), Interview with Mitsuki Tanimura (Kazuma Ikezawa), Interview with Ayumi Saito (Wabisuke Jinnouchi), Interview with Sumiko Fuji (Sakae Jinnouchi), Interview with Mamoru Hosoda (Director), Teaser Trailers, Teaser TV Spot, Original Trailer, TV Spots
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
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