Summer Wars and Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo

October 17, 2009

summer wars

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.

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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.

mmm

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.

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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)

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You can see how the cyberworld of Summer Wars is very similar to the one Hosoda created for his previous work, Superflat Monogram. Above: Summer Wars, Below: Superflat Monogram

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.

Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo [roxfan] (En_Ru) [A0A74CDB].mkv - 00002

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20 Responses to “Summer Wars and Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo”

  1. schneider Says:

    You sum up my love for running girls, which I’ve never been able to articulate into words before. ❤ Have to rewatch that scene!

  2. Hige Says:

    Looking at those side-by-side images demonstrates what a gorgeous colour pallet Tokikake has… and how gaudy Summer Wars looks in comparison.

    But still, I’m really excited about Summer Wars. Lushly animated Sadamoto character designs = sexytimes. It’s a shame that it’s not as well-developed as Tokikake, but I’m willing to judge it on its own terms when I finally get to see it (infinitely jealous you got the opportunity so quickly, by the way!).

  3. 2DT Says:

    Hosoda’s responsible for Superflat Monogram? And here I thought Takashi Murakami did the whole thing himself. That commercial was a favorite of mine (combined Superflat and shibuya-kei music, two things I really like), so that’s certainly interesting.

    From this review and the one on Mistakes of Youth, I’m sensing a trend that this sophomore effort just wasn’t as good. But the great thing about that is that I can go in with sufficiently lowered expectations.

  4. Kim Says:

    I heard there was a Korean sub of this. Now I am jealous that you already got to see the movie and disappointed it’s not as good as Tokikake. I’ve heard that it’s not as good from a few others as well but I am still looking forward to seeing it myself.

  5. gaguri Says:

    @schneider

    Haha, I wouldn’t say I like all running girls for the same reason though…and rewatch the whole movie while you’re at it 😀

    @Hige

    Thanks for mentioning the colours, Summer Wars is very easy on the eyes but when it comes to artistic sensibility I think Tokikake is still a tier above.

    And yep, the designs from tokikake is back again (wohooo!) in fact, the male lead looks almost like Makoto from tokikake. And there’s another boy character who I wished he was a girl haha…but seriously though, that would’ve been so hot ><. You'll see which character I'm talking about when you watch the movie.Hope you enjoy the movie for what it is.

    @2DT

    I first thought Murakami was responsible as well but apparently Hosoda was the director (I guess Murakami just gets the credit for desining the monogram pattern). And you can definitely see the similarities between SM and the virtual world of Summer Wars so that's interesting.

    And yea, just expect nothing too much and you might be pleasantly surprised =)

    @Kim

    I watched with Korean subs indeed, although I wish I waited for a better video quality release, but o well, you get what you (not) pay for, lol. And you should definitely still see it, since the movie still is Hosoda's, and much of his delightful style is still there. Just not as polished, refined or emotional.

  6. Martin Says:

    I must admit I’m really looking forward to Summer Wars, mainly because Tokikake pretty much came out of nowhere and knocked me flat back in the day. In that sense I’ll be walking in with the weight of my expectations, but even so it’s going to be a great viewing experience at the very least. The trailers look excellent.

    I’ve got a ticket for the screening at the Leeds film festival in five weeks time though, so I’ll star this post in my feedreader and get back to you on what I make of it. There aren’t any English subbed versions floating around the net AFAIK, but it sounds as though the big screen format will suit it really well…even more so than Tokikake, perhaps.

  7. gaguri Says:

    Ah a film festival, that’s excellent! And you’re right, I dare say it will benefit greatly from big screen even more than Tokikake, if only because the way it presents its virtual world (and that takes quite a percentage of screen time) is so detailed, colourful and energetic. And do tell how the viewing went, either via comment here or in your own blog post =D

  8. usagijen Says:

    If you watched Summer Wars on the big screen I’m gonna be sooo envious! Thanks to a Japanese Film fest, I was able to watch TokiKake on the big screen, here’s to hoping that happens with Summer Wars too!

    “…try to not let your suspension of belief get in the way of enjoying this.”

    This applies to almost everything, sad how some people decide to be curmudgeons when the world could be a better place if they see things from a better perspective. People who let their ‘thirst for BLOODY EXCITING movies/animes’ get in the way of enjoying this is equally saddening *looks at her baka aniki who slept through TokiKake*

  9. gaguri Says:

    No need to be jealous then since all I had was a Korean sub with ‘ok’ video quality (^_^b). I had a chance to watch Tokikake at Japanese film fest too (and eva 1.0), but since I already watched the movie I chose to watch few other Japanese films that I did not watch yet.

    And well, I wouldn’t say people ‘decide’ to let their suspension of belief get in their way of enjoyment (at least not always…). For example, I think I would have enjoyed Summer Wars more if the world was built with more details and care. And let’s not blame your aniki too much (haha…), I know some people just don’t get into 2D rendered world unless it’s Shrek or Wall-E (which are more like 3D anyway). Different strokes for different folks I guess.

  10. bateszi Says:

    Out of interest, have you seen Mamoru Hosoda’s other directorial works? He made his name crafting great movies out of popular action franchises like Digimon and One Piece; I’d definitely recommend you see both, particularly the One Piece movie and the first Digimon flick (which is only 10 minutes long!)– they are stand alone (i.e. you can enjoy without knowing anything about either series) and great examples of the film-making that got him noticed by Ghibli.

  11. gaguri Says:

    Well there is that one episode of ‘Ojamajo Doremi Dokkan’ Kim messaged me about, which I saw and thought it was pretty charming, but no other than tokikake, superflat monogram and summer wars I’m pretty much out of my ammos ^_^b

    I wasn’t aware of his involvement in those two works, but I heard some good things about digimon movies from other people of more refined taste, which striked me as bit odd considering you know, it was digimon (haha, stereotpying ftw…). I’ll make sure to try them both.

    *edit: wow there are like a million one piece movies. Bless MAL and their fabulous search engine.

  12. CRE Says:

    That summed up more or less my feelings on the movie. Also, if anyone’s ever seen Our War Game, the Digimon movie by Mamoru Hosoda, the plot is pretty much identical, which is also why I was rather disappointed.

  13. gaguri Says:

    Hmm, there seems to be quite a lot of digimon works directed by Hosoda. I guess I should start with what bateszi recommended, the first digimon movie.

  14. Shadowmage Says:

    In regards to Digimon, watch the Digimon Movie 2: Our War Game. In my opinion, it’s the only one that is complete enough to be worth watching for someone who is not a fan… though it’s the longest of the movies clocking at 40 minutes.

    If you don’t feel like tracking it down, here’s a link. The quality is decent when you use the “HD” function.

  15. gaguri Says:

    I actually remember watching a little bit of digimon when I was ‘not too little’ but little enough to enjoy it at some level (was dubbed though, so maybe that took away some enjoyment). I think I can manage to watch both at some point, with quality better than youtube.

    In another news, I watched One piece movie by Hosoda and hmmm…well, it was trippy and definitely very artsy…although I didn’t really appreciate the characters (although I guess a lot of that relies on how much you got to know the characters beforehand).


  16. […] It’s not a very unified entry, aside from a general focus on visuals.  It’s kind of a riff on Ha Neul Seom’s excellent visual analysis, though I disagree with some of gaguri’s other assessments […]


  17. […] suppose Gaguri is right; we don’t get the opportunity to love the characters like we love Makoto, Chiaki and Kousuke.  […]

  18. oink Says:

    The virtual word 3D sequences used in Superflat Monogram, Summer Wars and Tokikake, were actually used before all these movies in the 2nd Digimon Movie, Bokura no War Game.

    And Summer Wars is very reminiscent of Bokura no War Game plotwise, you could say Summer Wars is a 2 hours version of Bokura no Wargame.

    Hosoda also directed the 21st episode of Digimon, and all kinds of other stuff, like 199th episode of One Piece, OPs and EDs and episodes 5, 12 and 26 of Ashita no Nadja.
    As for Ojamajo Doremi Dokkan, he directed two episodes, 40 and 49.

    He directed a lot more stuff, several episodes of Rurouni Kenshin and Utena for example:
    http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%B4%B0%E7%94%B0%E5%AE%88

    If you use a translator, you can look at the list.

  19. oink Says:

    Here are some resemblances between the 2nd Digimon movie, which can be seen in Superflat Monogram, Tokikake and Summer Wars:

    -The 3D rooms linked by tunnels which characters move through
    -The characters with a “flat” shading, with no shadows, which is a stylistic decision on Hosoda’s part

    Superflat Monogram and Summer Wars:
    -the real world and virtual world
    -emails sent from the real world displayed in the 3D rooms
    -the battle is watched on the internet by all the world’s children in Bokura no Wargame, who send emails to the heroes to cheer them on

  20. gaguri Says:

    Ah thanks for the info, i appreciate it!


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