From the creators of Digimon, Summer Wars is a charming story about finding your inner strength. Our hero is a socially awkward teenage boy, Kenji, whose special talents lie in the fields of maths and technology.
His summer job is working as a tech dogsbody for society’s virtual network OZ, used by everybody for everything from shopping, socialising, news bulletins and business interactions. Only moments after he’s made it clear to his friend and co-worker that girls aren’t his strong point, Natsuki arrives asking for someone to accompany her on a trip.
This trip is a visit to her family which she has Kenji pretend he is her fiance during his stay. Kenji’s main draw as a character is his social awkwardness, drawing empathic cringing as we witness him attempt to deal with Natsuki’s formidable grandma, or her nosy uncle who asks Kenji if he’s knocked Natsuki up.
Whilst these incidents serve well to provide a bond with Kenji over the quirkiness and embarrassing nature of family, the crux of the anime comes when a malevolent force begins to wreck OZ. Kenji is initially booted out and arrested when he thinks it was his doing, after solving a thousand digit number string he thought was a puzzle but in fact was the security password for OZ, but ends up rising to the challenge to try and save OZ.
In the meantime, Wabisuke, the black sheep of Natsuki’s family, returns to the fray after a terrible tragedy, and bands with everyone to try and save OZ.
Although it contains light, cheesy moments, Summer Wars is unafraid to tug at the heart strings as it examines what family ties really mean. Natsuki’s grandma poignantly observes that the two worst things in the world are hunger and loneliness, and thanks to her family she never knew either.
If you’re looking for a fun and sentimental ride, Summer Wars is worth checking out.