In 2009, the follow-up project to the momentously popular The Girl who Leapt Through Time movie by Mamoru Hosoda was released in theatres in Japan. Unlike the first movie this was heavily distributed around the country from the first screening, but like the prior release it became immensely popular. Earning 1.63 billion yen in theatres, it was the fifth ranked anime movie in Japan during 2009. The Japanese DVD/Blu-Ray release of the movie took place almost one year later in 2010 and now Funimation has released it on DVD and Blu-Ray for the North American market.
The release comes in one small Amaray case with a slipcover over it to include both sets of promotional artwork. On the backside of the jacket is the final promotional poster used in Japan. Inside features the disc as well as a first press bonus from Funimation: 4 avatar art cards featuring the Jinnouchi family as well as Kenji’s second avatar.
Summer Wars is a family film first and foremost. The entire movie has one theme: by uniting as a family people can accomplish anything. Never once does it feel as though that theme is forced because the progression from introduction to end feels mostly natural and realistic given that the OZ internet portion isn’t taken literally.
The main character is very likeable and decently designed. He’s meant to be weak and timid, yet grow into a strong person throughout the film. Using mathmatics as his talent is something unique and fitting for the technology side of the film as mathematics plays a role in computations. Both Ryunosuke Kamiki and Michael Sinterniklaas perform Kenji very well and believable.
The same cannot be said for the main heroine: Natsuki. While she begins as an interesting and lively character, the main event in the middle of the movie changes her drastically into a depressed shell. Her actions in the climax scene do redeem her somewhat in my eyes, but she still ends up being a weak character. I absolutely love both voices of her. Nanami Sakuraba and Brina Palencia both do an amazing job with their vocal ranges.
The rest of the cast fit their roles fairly well for the most part. The highlight has to be the grandmother Sakae Jinnouchi and her incredibly strong impact on the film, but the other family members each have their moments to shine. The final scene where they are gathered as a family invokes a strong happy feeling as they’ve come together for one battle.
Visually this movie is highly appealing in the Blu-Ray format. There are two different styles of animation with both representing a different aspect of the film: the real world and the virtual world represented by OZ. The real world uses a more traditional anime structure with extended limbs and exaggerated faces while the visual world is a crisp artistic design.Given the glimpses we see of Oz via the screens of devices such as cell phones, the representation of the avatars is a much better visual image than the reality it would entail in that world.
The transfer looks absolutely clear to me. I have difficulties seeing any flaw in the animation with this disc. While some of the details are glossed over in backgrounds, it feels as though that was intentional rather than any kind of medium issue.
The movie is presented with both Japanese and English audio in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Everything sounds crisp and fitting to the scene. The background music never feels as though it’s misplaced and heightens scenes without much dialogue. A very well-done mix in both languages.
The dub itself is wonderful. The voices fit the characters and feels somewhat natural (but given that the movie features several Japanese references, some weirdness is bound to occur).
Subtitle-wise, the gist of the sentences gets across but some details are lost in translation. A early line has Natsuki telling Kenji to use the -chan suffix behind her name instead of -sempai to continue the “fake-fiance” role, but Funi translates it as “Act as if you’re close to me.” While the line is technically similar, the meanings are different and feel as though it’s looking down on the audience.
For bonus features Funi included interviews with each of the main cast members, the director, and trailer/CM spots. Each is presented in 480i which feels jarring from the 1080p the movie is in, but that’s a product of the Japanese side than Funi’s. Each CM also is presented in unprotected 4:3 format, which allows for the CM to be stretched on widescreens. The interviews themselves are quite interesting. I greatly enjoyed hearing how each character was cast as well as their thoughts on their character. There’s also a great scene where Nanami Sakuraba learns how anime is produced.
Overall I wholeheartedly recommend this set. The combination of a great movie, great dub, great bonus features, and spectacular presentation make this a difficult set to pass up. While the tagline is cheesy (especially when you see it on a set you just bought), You should be watching…. (Additional images can be found at this Photobucket album) BDInfo