Two-Hour Breathers: Summer Wars

Since becoming a parent,┬áthe maximum amount of time that I have without having to run off to do something or attend to someone small and needy is roughly two hours. Those two hours are precious to me, so I tend to obsess over what I’ll do.


One of my favorite things to do is to watch the animated film, Summer Wars. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda, its a great story about family relationships layered under a science fiction plot.

The story follows Kenji Koiso, an insecure math genius who gets roped in by his friend Natsuki into pretending to be her fiance for grandmother’s 90th birthday. Together with Natsuki’s whole family, they work together to stop a rogue hacker program bent on causing destruction.

The story arc surrounding the computer-generated villain follows a familiar tune: artificial intelligence is created, set loose, mayhem occurs. However, Summer Wars is saved from being formulaic is the way the characters are fleshed out.

The characters are varied and authentic in a way that would make you swear they were based on people you know. There is the fierce grandmother matriarch, the uncle who asks inappropriate questions, and the well-meaning but ultimately bumbling cousin. I find myself grinning at how the characters interact, especially around the dinner table, because these are scenes that can easily happen (and have happened) during our own family reunions.

The cat and mouse, save the world plot is entertaining enough, but Summer Wars truly shines when it focuses on how family relationships work. One of the highlights of the movie is when the grandmother’s letter is read. She gives voice to what every parent thinks and hopes for their family.

Summer Wars is sweet and at times, heartbreaking. Watch it with your kids, as an adventure film. Watch it with your husband, to laugh at how Shota reminds you of your cousin. Watch it by yourself to remind yourself of how precious family is. Whatever your motivation, watching Summer Wars is a great way to spend your break, and will leave you looking forward to your next meal with your family.