by Whitney Grace
Summer Wars is a popular anime movie released in 2009 and directed by Mamoru Hosoda. It was critically acclaimed by critics in the east and the west, subsequently it was adapted into a two volume manga. The manga follows the same plotline as in the movie: seventeen year old Kenji Koiso is a mathematical scholar and works part-time as a moderator for OZ. OZ is virtual world, where users can lead a second life and use it as a tool to augment reality. Upperclassman Natsuki Shinohara hires Kenji to be her pretend fiancé for her grandmother’s ninetieth birthday held at the family estate in Ueda. During the reunion, which is overwhelming to Kenji, he receives a mathematical email riddle and he cracks it. Unfortunately, the riddle turns out to be OZ’s security code and Kenji’s account is hacked by the Love Machine virus. Love Machine proceeds to take over OZ, messing up technology in the real world. Kenji is then accused of unleashing Love Machine, even worse is when the truth about his and Natsuki’s relationship is revealed. Natsuki and Kenji find themselves in the thick of OZ’s downfall, but by pulling friends and family together they save the day.
Iqura Sugimoto was given carte blanche to alter the story and it remains a faithful adaptation of the movie with only slight deviations. The main difference is that Natsuki and Kenji’s relationship takes center stage over the Love Machine virus bent on destroying the world. As the manga concentrates more on romance over doomsday, the danger is downplayed and makes the story less thrilling. Natsuki and Kenji’s budding love is very sweet to watch progress, however, from a nervous crush to the first passionate kiss. Natsuki’s family dynamics are also interesting. Most manga and anime portray Japanese families as stoic. Deep love is usually reserved for shojo and josei romances, so it is refreshing to see how a large Japanese family handles potential word destruction by coming together to stop Love Machine, though it is exaggerated for entertainment.
OZ is a main plot element, but the idea of a virtual world loses its impact in the manga. Digital worlds are constantly moving with users and data, but the drawings can’t communicate OZ’s liveliness. OZ is regulated to a basic social network hub that connects various accounts, it’s more like Google than a fantastic new invention.
Summer Wars the manga is a decent adaptation of the movie that loses some of its originality in the transfer, but is still worth reading for Hosoda and romance fans.