Summer Wars and Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo
October 17, 2009
So, what do I have to say about Mamoru Hosoda’s latest film Summer Wars? Exciting and fun. Beautifully animated scenes, as expected. And a bit disappointing, simply because I expected more from the guy who gave us Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo. I suppose the movie accomplished what it set out to do (light and wholesome entertainment), so perhaps comparing it to the more dramatic character-driven work like Tokikake is unfair. But that’s what I’m going to do anyway (!), if only for the sake of comparing similarities and differences between Hosoda’s approaches to his two works.
Hosoda has a striking talent for making everything flow naturally, so I was happy to see much of his delightful style still there in Summer Wars. If you’ve watched Tokikake, you may still remember cheeky moments like Makoto abusing her time travel, or quarreling with her friends. These slice of life moments are always fun and never mundane, because of the amount of care and detail went into crafting how characters move and the conversations bounce back and forth.
The left picture you see above is a scene from Summer Wars for example is just so active with expressions. The way those two women are gossiping, the girl suddenly blushing, the man suddenly stopping momentarily before walking again, the boy looking here and there…no wonder why I can’t take my eyes off these slice of life moments because they’re so engaging, natural, and never dull or manufactured.
One of the key differences between Summer Wars and Tokikake is their scale and focus. While Tokikake is a genuinely character-driven character centered around Makoto, Summer Wars is a plot-driven ‘save the world’ kind of story involving huge range of casts, with the main characters receiving a portion of spotlight. That’s one of the reasons why we never quite connect to the characters at the level we do in Tokikake, but I still think Summer Wars could’ve done better in making me care about them. It had 2 hours to do that after all, and it’s not like other side characters were terribly well-developed.
Even worse is that its plot…well, it’s nothing to write about really so I won’t. Actually the story behind the girl’s family is very interesting and even developed quite well. It just falls short when we’re dealing with the virtual world and how this family have to save the world by playing Tekken, gambling Hanafuda and cracking 2056 digit password against a hacking A.I.
It’s still a good movie and there’s nothing to complain about if you’re looking for more fun and wholesome entertainment. My final advise for you readers planning to watch this film is…try to not let your suspension of belief get in the way of enjoying this. This might prove too much of a task since the ‘world-making’ of this movie is really poor, very few things are explained in satisfactory manner, and you may think the whole fiasco unfolding in front of you is plain stupid (and it is…). It’s a shame really because family components are truly excellent, especially around halfway through. It just becomes impossible to take anything seriously when the ‘virtual world’ elements takes over as Hosoda didn’t handle sci-fi elements as well as he did in Tokikake. (*I realise the movie hasn’t been subbed yet in English, so feel more than welcome to drop by again and tell me how you went when it does get subbed =D)
By the way, my favourite scene from Tokikake was when Makoto ran with all she’s got and never looking back. Just perfectly sums up the movie doesn’t it? A story about a girl who learns to run forward to her true feelings with honesty, without fearing uncertainties. How ironic that she was more confused about her feelings and afraid of making wrong choices when she gained the ability to go back in time to fix her mistakes. Blinded by her obsession with creating the most ideal outcomes she forgets herself. She forgets feelings of her and others. Only after nearly losing Kousuke and Chiaki she learns to act in a way that is honest with her feelings. Now this may not produce the most ideal (or ‘correct’) outcome. But she accepts it and is content with the fact that she was honest and gave all she had. She only needs to run forward with those feelings, and the scene where she huffs and puffs endlessly and never looking back, highlighted her development as a character. Running was harder, but more fulfilling and worthwhile than easy backtracking in time.