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Tuesday, Jan 18, 2011
This week we put on our film studies hats again to talk about the representation of social media and network gaming in Mamoru Hosoda's most recent animated feature film, Summer Wars.

Being the nose-to-the-grindstone academic that I am, I admittedly had no idea what I was seeing when a colleague invited me out to see Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars this past Friday. I really should have known: it’s only the latest award-winning release from Madhouse, the Japanese animation studio responsible for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (also by Hosoda) and all of Satoshi Kon’s work up until his death. But I digress. The movie is offbeat and quite enjoyable, and I would highly recommend it to any gamers with a thing for anime. Or Facebook, for that matter.


The film is a bit of a tossed salad where plot is concerned, but the central storyline is one in which a young math geek and part-time code monkey, Keiji, seeks to prove himself to classmate Natsuki’s extended family, with whom he is staying over the summer. Events naturally coalesce to give him the opportunity, when a viral super-AI called Love Machine is unleashed onto the web, vandalizing sites and shutting down network hubs to affect everyone from the teenage txter to the communications of entire governments.


What especially impressed me about the film’s depiction of a global network is the enhanced state of media convergence implied to have occurred by the story’s start. There’s a dramatic, almost corny sequence where we get a montage of global network users connecting wirelessly by their phones or DSis, which makes me seriously question the heretofore under-advertised wi-fi strength of the average Nintendo portable. Beyond that, we also have the climactic scene i which Natsuki stands challenging the Love Machine AI with her entire extended family linked in behind her. We get a glimpse of a four-generation household all clutching their various electronic devices, from game handhelds to GPSes, all logged in with their various network avatars as they prepare to sacrifice them for Natsuki and the greater good.


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