The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is quite possibly my favourite animated film. I'd also say it was probably one of my favourite films in general. Not sure if re-watching it I'd not feel a little less enamoured by it, but either way my recollection of watching it holds it in high regard. So I was excited to hear that the same director was making a new film, titled Summer Wars.
No spoilers in this review (unless you're Meroigo and consider any info to be a spoiler), because putting spoilers in a review is stupid. I won't say anything here you won't learn in the first ten minutes or so of the film or by reading a synopsis.
The show is set in basically the present day, but there's this cybernetic world called OZ, which is accessed from computers and phones. OZ is basically a sort of cross between the current internet and an MMORPG. You can walk around OZ as an avatar, but essentially it offers everything you could possibly want, from shops to finances to communities and sports.
The film is centred around a teenager called Kenji Koiso. He's your stereotypical slightly nerdy teenager, and is gifted at mathematics but fairly socially awkward, and altogether a pretty likeable character. He's asked by a girl at his school, Natsuki Shinohara, to accompany her to her grandmother's 90th birthday party. He agrees to go, and it transpires that she's asked him along to masquerade has her fiancée in front of her huge extended family and grandmother (who turns out to be extremely wealthy and well-connected socially), fake backstory and all.
A mysterious hacker breaks the OZ security system, framing Kenji as the culprit. The virtual world is thrown into chaos, as the hacker gains control over it's infrastructure, and in turn the real world is also badly effected, as the hacker gains control over it's networks through information collected by hacking into the accounts of various authorities. The film then revolves around Kenji and Natsuki's family as they fight to beat the mysterious hacker and bring order to both worlds again.
In terms of animation, I thought it was fantastic. I really liked the cell-shaded animation style in the OZ world, and in the real world it's also very pretty. Definitely worth getting the full 1080p release.
The characters in the film are very well done, and are energetic, varied and importantly are believable. They work well with the story, with the main characters being developed fairly well and the fringe characters being interesting and entertaining.
I'd say that Summer Wars is as good as, if not better than The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. It's got slightly fantastical concepts to it (OZ) but at the same time it's presented in a way that doesn't stretch the imagination. It does a decent job of bringing you into the story and connecting you with the characters. It has an original storyline and concepts, it's well-paced, well animated and I think it's all-round possibly the best anime film I've seen. It's possibly the best anime film to be released in 2009 in Japan (and therefore 2010 in the west), depending on how King of Eden turns out.
I'd recommend everyone sees it, both people who have watched a fair bit of anime and people who haven't watched any, because I'd say it's a decent starter film for people who haven't watched any anime stuff, and it's nice to be able to recommend a decent film that feels a bit less childish than Ghibli stuff and a bit more original.
Link to Frostii's release, with 1080p/720p torrents and IRC bot packlists.