“Summer Wars” by Mamoru Hosoda

Above is the trailer for Summer Wars, one of the fifteen films that qualified yesterday for the 2010 Animated Feature category of the Academy Awards. Unlike most of the other films on the list, we’ve never written about it on the Brew so I thought it would be worthwhile to share some information about it. The film was directed by Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) and animated at Madhouse.

It was the 38th highest grossing feature during 2009 in Japan where it grossed $17.4 million. It’s been well reviewed (see Todd Brown’s review at TwitchFilm and Patrick Galbraith’s review at Otaku2). The film has screened at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, and has won the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year and the Sitges Film Festival’s Gertie Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

FUNimation, in association with GKids, is releasing the film theatrically in the US beginning next month. Here are the current theatrical dates:

Dec 3-8 Chicago,IL- Siskel Film Center
Dec 10-16 Los Angeles, CA — AMC Covina 30
Dec 24-30 San Francisco, CA- Landmark Bridge Theater
Dec 29-Jan 4 New York, NY- IFC Center
Jan 5-12 Boston, MA- Museum of Fine Arts
Jan 7-13 Denver, CO- Starz Film Center
Jan 7-13 Santa Fe, NM- CCA Cinematheque
Jan 14-20 Los Angeles, CA- Laemmle Sunset
Jan 21-27 Philadelphia, PA- Landmark Ritz at the Bourse
Jan 23-Feb 3 Honolulu, HI- Academy of Arts,
Jan 28-Feb 3 Seattle, WA- Landmark Varsity

(Thanks, Samuel Einhorn)


  • http://tinycinema.net tim!

    yay Gene Siskel! I’ll get to project this!!! and Muppets! December is a good month for us!

  • Spencer

    Looks awesome! Glad the Academy paid attention to it.

    • amid

      Spencer – The Academy hasn’t actually paid attention to it yet. ANY animated feature can qualify for the Academy’s list if they meet the eligibility requirements and file papers by the deadline. Being nominated is very different than being eligible for nomination.

  • Isaac

    “Richly detailed”, “stunningly detailed and authentic characters” doesn’t mesh with no lip-sync, in my mind. Neither does “spot-on understanding of human nature” with hiring a person you’ve just met as a pretend-boyfriend. I feel like reviewers are so dazzled with the otherworldly visuals, they gloss over the plot and the actual substance of the movie. Kinda like Avatar.

    • amid

      Isaac – Have you seen the film or is this a generalized opinion?

      • Isaac

        No, just basing my opinion on the reviews and the trailer.

      • Upstanding Citizen

        Isaac, Summer Wars makes a lot of thought provoking commentary on mindless thinking and the conflict between the old and new world in Japan, all of which is wrapped in a very entertaining, beautifully animated package.

        Perhaps you feel a trailer and reviews are enough to judge a movie by, but I, having actually seen the film, don’t think your generalizations are anywhere close to true. I’m also confused by the “no lip-sync” comment.

      • Isaac

        You’re right, I’ll have to watch the movie.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Well, the movie is “dubbed” the way the trailer shows it, and I’m sure it’ll probably be seen in theaters this way so the “no lip sync” might be a deterrent for those who pay too close attention to that part of foreign movies (or those that rather watch subtitles instead).

        Still, it’s no excuse to write this film off on that.

  • VinceP

    Wow!! Looks great! I will definitely be seeing this!

  • Adam C

    It’s always good to see Japanese works getting Oscar nominations, but I have to admit I found Summer Wars frustrating to watch. Rather than enjoy it, all I could do was notice Hosoda lifting whole chunks of storytelling and even storyboarding from his previous works.

    Despite repeating elements from the episode he directed of Ojamajo Doremi, I found The Girl Who Leapt Through Time to be far easier to watch. More comfortable. It was more based around the characterization and simple desires of the main character.

    Summer Wars on the other hand just leaves you asking questions all the time. The main question it left me with was this:
    Why has Mamoru Hosoda made an interesting, approachable animated family drama, full of characters and life (perhaps in a similar vein to Isao Takahata), and then attempted to squeeze the entirety of his previous film “Digimon: Our War Game” into it? It left no room for anything in the movie to work.

    • Kazuma

      He likes this white space stuff. Not only on Digimon, but also on Superflat or on The Girl, he in-globed it. It is the entertaining part of the movie. Just let it be :)

      • Chris Sobieniak

        It’s just a theme Hosoda likes wading his feet in. TIME also tends to be a theme in his work as well, and how one tries to repair or correct a situation in his or her life through these experiences. I’m reminded of that Digimon movie mentioned (seeing that as a fansub back in the day, much more interesting than how it was handled in the US release). Those early movies certainly show the kind of budding unique talent he possessed.

  • http://www.spectres.com.au/seanimation/wordpress/ Sean Callinan

    I found the contrast between the domestic family chaos and the white space virtual world, not to mention their interplay, to be the great strength of the film. I can never understand why people are so eager to confine any kind of art to one theme or style or category. Summer Wars was thought provoking, visually striking, and emotionally genuine. I highly recommend it. (NB saw Japanese dialogue version).

  • JoshM.

    I’ve seen this flick three times now, and I’ve enjoyed it more and more each viewing. And it’s not just me, either. As it deals with families (flesh & blood relations, adopted children, friends-as-family, etc.), I screened it for my girlfriend’s 20+ member, multi-generational family this past summer. From the littlest kid to the oldest Granny, they all said they LOVED it.

  • http://unseenfilms.blogspot.com/ dbborroughs

    I’ve seen this film twice now, once as the opening night at the New York International Cjildren’s Film Festival and at the end of August when they brought it back for a special screening at the IFC Center in NYC. I think the film is amazing. I’ve written about it on my film blog and elsewhere in and effort to get people to go and see it since I saw back in February.

    When I saw it Hosoda was in attendence and he said that he was doing riffs on the Digimon material (you’ll forgive me if I forget the details after 8 months). He also said that a strong influence on the film was meeting his wife’s family for the first time, though without the need to save the world.

    To me the film is a must see, especially if you can see it on a big screen. Its amazing with its sense of scale something that is going to be lost on home screens.

    I can’t recommend it enough and I’m considering trying to go see the film again when the English dub plays the Asia Society in Manhattan Saturday.

    • JoshM.

      “He also said that a strong influence on the film was meeting his wife’s family for the first time, though without the need to save the world.”

      Truthfully, it’s this interpersonal/family relations stuff that stays with you long after the film is over. Yes, the self-mutating cyber-threat plot-line is engrossing, but it’s still just the Christmas Tree that Hosoda uses to hang his many brilliant ideas, observations and critiques on.

      Just as ‘The Girl Who Leaped Through Time’ was a heartfelt love story wrapped up in the sci-fi trappings of time travel, ‘Summer Wars’ is a touching family drama/comedy using the omnipotency of the online world as its genre-friendly ghetto pass.

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron H. Bynum

    Is this is all we get from FUNimation’s “wide release”? Not surprising.

    Not that this won’t prevent me from driving up to Chicago… anime rarely hits the big screen, much less so in the midwest.

  • Abu

    This looks really interesting and just a little bit whacked out. I may have to drive to Philly to catch this one.

  • Heather L.

    Am I the only one who is nostalgically reminded of Digimon when I watch this? At the end of Season 02 when the entire world was involved over their cellphones, computers, etc in saving the digital and real worlds?

    • GhaleonQ

      It’s by the same director! Part of the commentary is how artistic animators have to do dreck in Japan to get a shot at something original. This movie’s a parody of his Digimon movie!

      • Chris Sobieniak

        In particular, I was thinking of the second film itself, released in Japan in 2000 called “Digimon Adventure: Our War Game” (what became a section of “Digimon The Movie”). Looking back, the film is still quite fresh an not so dated as I thought (if only because of the digital age we live in).
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9O6k1fi58-c

  • GhaleonQ

    You forgot to mention that it was the best feature-length animation of 2009. It’s a brilliant example of an intelligent blockbuster. Hosoda’s the best feature director in the world now.

  • Alberto

    …marking my calendar. See you guys at the Landmark Varsity!

  • http://funnylittlemen.co.uk/ MRoig

    I saw this year earlier this year and was torn in two. There’s a genuine humanity and warmth in this film but it gets seriously spoiled by al the silly cyber-space stuff which felt downright outdated and didn’t add anything. I’d love to say this is a masterpiece but unfortunately I have to downgrade to “very good”.

    I wrote a review of it on my (admittedly self-indulgent) blog:
    http://funnylittlemen.co.uk/weblog/were-not-angry-mamoru-just-.html

  • Robert

    Did anyone understand what exactly everyone was doing with their mobile devices and computers in order to make their avatars attack “love machine”? I sort of felt like it was an imaginative take on computer programming but all you see is a bunch of people button mashing their keyboards then somehow their avatars are battling it out.

    • majic

      Some minor spoilers below:

      The more imaginative world you see on the posters and whatnot is an online virtual world… that controls the world government. People in the real world really can’t do much of anything to control their avatars except use computers and mobile devices. It doesn’t look epic upfront, but it is in context!

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    I happened to like Hosoda’s depiction of time streams in “Leapt” and am intrigued by his vision of the Internet in a similar vein. For that matter, the finale of “The Secret of Kells” gives a similar treatment to the Chi-Rho page of the Book of Kells. This, to me, is a more valid use of computers in animation then a lot of what’s gone before.

    And OK, I’m also a sucker for Hosoda’s Maxfield Parrish cloudscapes.

  • Richard

    Saw this a few months back in London (part of the Barbican’s Japanimation thread) – hugely enjoyed it and would highly recommend (will see it again if it gets a proper release – and will certainly pick up the DVD when its out next year).

  • Sele

    This is definitely an amazing film, worthy of an award. Mamoru Hosoda is one of my favorite directors, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is also another amazing film.

  • http://abirdinthehead.blogspot.com spookymeggie

    As others have said above, I liked this movie better when it was only thirty minutes and called “Digimon: Children’s War Game”

  • http://www.mangatherapy.com Manga Therapy

    I caught the English-dub premiere at Asia Society this past weekend & I thought it was a masterpiece.

    The movie really showcases the importance of family and highlights how people should be more responsible with technology.

    I posted my thoughts about the movie, which you can read at: http://www.mangatherapy.com/post/1659502530/summer-wars

    The movie deserves to be nominated for an Oscar, but I don’t know if it will win.

    I wonder what will happen if we ever get a world like Oz…