I first watched Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars (サマーウォーズ) a couple of years ago after enjoying Wolf Children. It’s been a while since watching the film again, so I decided to pop the Blu-ray in. And it was a little eye-opening to see some parallels between the film and what is happening in the world today.
Summer Wars tells the story of high school student Kenji who is invited by his friend Natsuki to her family’s large countryside home to celebrate her great-grandmother’s 90th birthday. However, Kenji soon gets swept up not only in the large’s family’s unexpected drama, but also in what increasingly becomes a disastrous hacking of OZ, the world’s massive virtual reality world.
While Kenji isn’t responsible for the initial attack, he and the respected Jinnouchi family take it upon themselves to fix the ensuing chaos in the virtual world as it begins wreaking havoc on every day real life around the globe. Society, having become intricately connected to OZ, becomes crippled as a rogue artificial intelligence threatens both the virtual and real world.
As the film progresses, it is not hard to see similarities and parallels to the way the world is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic today. An unknown and volatile threat brings the world to a standstill with no clear antidote. It’s a trial and error when it comes to figuring out what needs to be done. And it isn’t just one, single solution either.
The film begins like a quaint family drama with some romance thrown in. But the idyllic scenes come to an almost abrupt halt when this unexpected threat emerges to wreak havoc on their lives and the rest of the world.
A heartbreaking tragedy puts things into perspective for the family. They must learn how to balance their personal feelings and traditions with what’s happening in the world.
And that’s where Summer Wars draws its strength. The strong familial bond that powers the family through the unexpected is what powers the film to be a truly magical and exciting experience.
Great-grandmother Sakae, even at 90 years old, is the strong and firm head of the family. Proud of their family’s warrior history, she ensures that her children, grandchildren and beyond remember those roots in order to mold them in a positive way for the future.
While I’m not sure I can say that is a totally universal idea, it’s certainly an idea that is relatable to me as a Filipino-American. And perhaps it should be a more widely universal idea.
Family can be one of the strongest defenses. It can be your strength to help you power through any challenge. On the flipside, because of how powerful it can be, family can also bring the most pain as well. Summer Wars is able to show both of those sides in an incredibly meaningful way that shows they do go hand in hand.
In thinking about today’s world and drawing from Summer Wars, it is important to remember how those little things can go a long way to overcoming any ordeal. Whether it is your family and the bonds you have or having that personal responsibility to help the greater community, nothing is impossible.
That Summer Wars can be that relatable in today’s uncertain world is so wonderful. But just on its own, Summer Wars is a dramatic, funny, emotional and thrilling adventure.