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[personal profile] starlady
Summer Wars. Dir. Hosoda Mamoru, 2009.

Summer Wars tells the story of Kenji, a young math geek who takes a part-time job pretending to be his older classmate Natsuki's boyfriend for her grandmother's 90th birthday party and accompanies her out to the family seat in Nagano prefecture (significant because the Jinnouchi family descends from people who backed the wrong side in Japan's wars of unification, and the losers had to decamp to some pretty remote places; Nagano's actually comparatively central). Kenji's other part-time job is as a code monkey for OZ, the global massively multi-person online environment which has grown to include over one-sixth of the world population. It's Google's cloud Chromium, with a few more amenities and better accessibiilty. When Kenji decrypts OZ's 2056-bit encryption key unknowingly, by hand, he comes under suspicion as the person behind a hacker A.I. that swiftly mounts a coup d'etat in OZ.

It's absolutely chilling to sit here at my computer and watch the avatar of the hacker A.I. merrily play merry hell with real-world infrastructure. This is the way we live now, at least those of us in wealthy countries, and given that Kenji cracks OZ's 2056-bit encryption by hand in one all-nighter, the security implications here are obvious--and then of course OZ representatives lie to the media about the nature and scope of the problem. Mm, disinformation! Too, some characters spend almost the entire movie insisting that OZ is "only a game, isn't it?" and I think just about everyone reading this will agree that the online world isn't any less real for being in some senses virtual; DreamWidth, WoW, Twitter, and all the other forms of social networking in which we participate online matter, and are intimately connected with our offline selves; the first part of the movie actually says explicitly that OZ avatars are equivalent to the person themselves. Outside the anime, we're not quite at that stage yet, but the day is coming.

Like [ profile] merin_chan, though, I find the stereotypical gender dichotomy both stale and offensive: all the women cook and are clueless about the Interwebz, and Natsuki retains her stupid crush on her grey-hat cousin Wabisuke for an infuriatingly long time. The one exception is the 90-year old matriarch of the clan; it's wonderful to see her working her analog connections with a rotary phone to single-handedly reassert order over the chaos engulfing Japan (and giving Wabisuke what-for at the business end of a naginata like her warrior ancestors). But then, of course, she denies everything she did. I'd love this movie twice as much if the cousin whose avatar is King Kazma had been a girl; but of course, King Kazma's a fighting avatar, and girls don't fight--and when the grandmother dares to pick up a weapon, the online world exacts a swift revenge on her for doing it.

The flip side to this is that when the female relatives do get involved, the family's victory becomes only a matter of time, and it was truly thrilling too to see the analog world work in concert with the digital, both locally and globally, to overcome the A.I. (ironically called "Love Machine", har har) responsible for wreaking havoc on both of them (and the mode of that victory, the analog card game hanafuda, is perfectly chosen). Even if Natsuki does get a magical girl transformation straight out of shoujo from the guardian spirits of the game, John and Yoko.

The animation here is absolutely gorgeous, not only the offline world but particularly the environment of OZ, which isn't quite superflat but which does nonetheless manage to give a good sense of the dehierarchical nature of internet space, and of navigating through it; space transforms at the speed of a keystroke. Really, I have to be clear that this anime was pretty damn awesome regardless of my critiques. More from Hosoda now, please! 

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-29 16:28 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I know you're at Wiscon and I'm late catching up on my flist after my conference, but I just wanted to say that I liked that image of the grandmother dialling her rotary phone too. I was going to write more about it, because she complicates the film's gendered dichotomies a little. But I was wondering, is there already some allowance for the "tough granny" character in the Japanese gender-role hierarchy? If that's the case, she could be just as "traditional" a female character as the wives.

Hope you're having fun!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-29 16:32 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wifi access is included in the reg price!

I do tend to see the grandmother character as something of a stock type. I really liked her, but there's definitely an extent to which she's not unfamiliar--I think it's her relationship with Wabisuke that is her least type-cast aspect.


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