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Summer Wars Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Summer Wars Collectors Edition CoverA 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:
Summer Wars Collector’s Edition comes with a special deluxe clear sleeve that reveals the artwork underneath, as well as a 52 page artbook, featuring concept art, an interview with the director, behind-the-scenes looks into the creation of Oz and the development of the Jinnouchi family, and more.

After the sensational success of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, director Mamoru Hosoda was offered the chance to produce an entirely new film based on an original story. Inspired by his own life experience with his family, he created his second award-winning film, Summer Wars. With this film, Hosoda crafted a story that showed the importance of family and understanding those you love.

Worlds collide in a tale where virtual reality meets actual reality. When Kenji Koiso is pulled from Oz, a popular social networking realm, to play fiancé to classmate Natsuki, he faces a mess of challenges. Between the boisterous and bickering characters of the Jinnouchi clan and the sudden chaos in Oz, Kenji and his new companions must learn the importance of coming together to face the toughest of odds.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release has the English and Japanese languages in 5.1 using Dolby TrueHD that moves easily across the bitrate range, with quiet lows below 1mbps to some really striking moments in the 3mbps range. 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 in 108p using the AVC codec. The feature is an high definition native piece and it’s really a great looking film with a lot of detail to be had with its backgrounds. 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 and the look of it all is really great. The clarity of colors is very strong here, especially in Oz with all the white backgrounds and the various colors that are brought into it, but it captures things well in the real world too with a softer palette but a different kind of richness to the backgrounds. We had run into some limitations of encoding with the DVD release in some of the big action sequences with all the CG items moving around and it’s essentially a non-issue here. There’s a lot to like with this transfer as it brings out the wonderful quality of the work that was put into the film.

The packaging for this release is pretty good overall but it left me wishing they went a bit further with it. We get a plastic o-card for it that’s done up in orange with a clear piece through the middle that ties thematically to the film which gives us a nice shot of our two leads. The look of it is nice but you do want to make sure you line it up properly since pieces of the characters come through it. It has a nice marquee kind of approach along the bottom that’s understated with it being a part of the Hosoda Collection, something that Funimation can market well. The back of the o-card is done in the orange as well and with the soft and thin white font it’s a bit hard to get a good read on the text sometimes. It’s got a nice layout to it and I like the breakout of the theatrical poster along the left and a clearer breakdown of the production side of things. The extras are clearly listed and we get a good look at the show along the bottom with some nice shots and an accurate technical grid that suffers from the too small and soft to read against the orange. The case inside all of this has a busy but appealing virtual world wraparound with all the avatar characters in illustration form that’s really nice and bright without being too overdone. The reverse side artwork uses the key visual image with Natsuki standing tall while the left panel breaks down the features by location and format.

The new bonus with this set is a really appealing 52-page booklet that has a lot of character and actor profiles, interviews with them and the director, an overall introduction to the property, and some fantastic visuals with the kind of color that works best in printed form, a wonderful little bit of something tangible. There’s a lot to soak up here that will add to and enhance your viewing of the movie after taking it in and Funimation put together a great book here.

Similar to the previous release, the majority of the screen is given over to the clips that are running throughout it with some upbeat music that sets the tone nicely for when there are action scenes. It’s definitely a good looking menu as it uses some choice pieces of animation for it. The bottom has the navigation menu, which also doubles as the pop-up menu. The navigation menu for the release is pretty basic though with just the strip along the bottom being used with this incarnation being done in orange to tie to the Hosoda Collection theme with the H logo, all of which is done with white text and is easy to read and navigate.

The extras for this release are pretty good if you want to get into the behind the scenes material with the people involved. The extras here are largely filled with interview segments for the main people involved, 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 was a massive popular film that arrived in theaters in 2009 from the mind of Mamoru Hosada, who garnered a lot of attention to that 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 Olympics 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 people’s 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.

In Summary:
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, especially if you’ve become a fan of Hosoda’s work after The Boy and the Beast or discovering his other films. Funimation has the potential to do some really nice collection material through this line and fans will love having such well-produced releases.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Interview with Mamoru Hosoda (Director), Interview with Ryunosuke Kamiki (Kenji Koiso), Interview with Nanami Sakuraba (Natsuki Shinohara), Interview with Mitsuki Tanimura (Kazuma Ikezawa), Interview with Ayumu Saito (Wabisuke Jinnouchi), Interview with Sumiko Fuji (Sakae Jinnouchi), Teaser Trailers (2 trailers), Teaser TV Spot, Original Trailer, TV Spots (7 spots).

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 22nd, 2016
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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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