This weekend, Oklahoma City of Museum of Arts Noble Theater is all about the anime, screening two 2009 hits from Japan.
One of them, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, is your standard, incomprehensible chunk of clanketyclank-clank fighting.
The other, Summer Wars, is a welcome respite from that. It still delivers plenty of action, but also heart, humor and a genuine story to which viewers can relate.
It revolves around 11th grader Kenji Koiso, who possesses great intelligence, but little in the way of social interaction, partly stemming from not having a family. He lives much of life online, in an avatar-led portal called OZ, where much of Japan chats, shops, plays and carries out any number of activities after assuming anthropomorphic identities.
But while Kenji spends the summer at the home of cute classmate Natsuki, pretending to be her fiancé for the benefit of her extended family, a ghost gets into the machine Love Machine, to be exact. A virus bearing that ironic moniker wreaks havoc in OZ, from corrupting e-mail access to rearranging traffic patterns on city streets, basically shutting down worlds both virtual and real.
Kenji is wrongly well, mostly blamed as being the hacker behind the malicious attack, so he works to restore order while clearing his name and, therefore, regain his standing of honor in the eyes of Natsukis relatives, because while their relationship is merely pretend, hed rather it be tangible.
And thats only about half of the film, which, just shy of two hours, certainly qualifies as an epic. For a majority of that time, director/ co-writer Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) justifies the length, even if the death of one character results in his story exiting the freeway for a scenic turnout that temporarily slows things down.
Most of Summer Wars is traditionally animated, but the sequences set in anything-goes OZ are where the film accelerates a more technological sheen. Here, characters jump, glide and defy gravity via their avatars. These scenes burst with imagination, dazzle with vibrant colors, and charm with a bubbly score.
While illustrating the dark side of the Internet and social networking, this is an all-around cheerful story a mainstream fantasy constructed with mass appeal in mind: smart enough for adults, shiny enough for kids.