Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chol's Animation Analysis: Love According to Summer Wars

     This blog will contain spoilers. Be sure to check out my non-spoiler review
I also apologize for any strange typos. Something is wrong with this entry code that cause strange glitches. I can't fix some things so I hope you can bare with that.
  Barely in time for Valentines Day, It's another deep analysis from yours truly. Ah, February 14th. A day that has also come to be known as "Single's Awareness Day". Oh, hey! I just noticed the abbreviation there. Heh, cute. Being a member of the single category for the majority of my life, you would think that I would hate this holiday. Well...yes. Yes I do. However I do have a bit of a romantic side. Today we are going to be looking at a great romantic anime film  from the great Mamoru Hosoda know as Summer Wars.
Okay okay so that might seem a bit odd for me to say for some. Summer Wars doesn't really have a strong focus on romance. I mean yes two main characters end up together by the end of the movie but there isn't much focus on that element in the film. It focuses more on the viral threat that is taking over the movies social network on steroids known as OZ. But there is a romance brewing underneath it all in this film with small visual touches here and there to show for it. Now whenever I watch any show where the two love birds take forever to finally get together, I tend to re-watch and determine if the romance is well written. If there is anything there that warrants one character falling for another and if they truly fit as a couple. I wasn't expecting to find much in a movie about epic digital battles against a super virus called.....Love Machine (man, the irony in this blog is like a punch in the face). But the more I looked, the more I found that shows these two teens to be quite the perfect match. [I like to point out that I'm basing some of my points of the inflection and speech from the English dub]

The Start
     Kenji is a systems moderator for OZ and is preparing for boring lonely summer in front of a computer screen working with his friend Takashi when suddenly Natsuki burst in asking if anyone of them to help her on a trip out to the country. Kenji ends up being the one to go by winning a game of rock, paper, scissors. So for the most part Kenji's involvment is by chance in this scenario. But I question if this result was not something Natsuki wanted to begin with. I say this because of how she acts around him on the trip. She informs him that they are meeting up at the estate to celebrate her great grandmother,Sakae, and her 90th birthday. She also begins to question Kenji on his involvement with the mathematics club. She seems interested in this and not just making random conversation. She's always smiling and seems to truly be enjoying his presence. I think from this we can gain that she didn't pick people at random when she stepped into that room.  

Later when they finally arrive and she drops the bombshell of introducing Kenji as her fiancee, Natsuki then takes Kenji aside, apologizes, and explains that due to her grandmother fainting a few days ago, she worries that she will pass soon and wanted to keep her promise of introducing her fiancee before she passes. Natsuki begs Kenji to play along and also mentions that they should seem lovey-dovey when seen together. Now I can't say for sure one way or the other if Natsuki had any feelings toward Kenji at the start, but from all this I can say for certain that she knew Kenji before hand and really trust him to ask him to do all this. As for Kenji, well it isn't hard to figure out about him. He randomly leaves a secure job for a trip out to the country to help this girl without even asking what he'd be doing before they get on their way. Yeah, He's totally into her. If that wasn't enough, it's driven home when he is brought to Natsuki's grandmother and she starts questioning him sternly, unsure of this new man before her.  

Sakae: "I'm asking are you man, enough for her?".
Kenji: "um...y-yes I guess" (turns away befuddled)
Sakae: "Man enough to die for her?"

Kenji quickly looks up at her bewildered by the question. But what is amazing to me that he only pauses for a second before answering yes, his eyes locked onto Sakae. He is trying to play a part here I know, but in the delivery of that answer, I think he was telling the truth. 

Love through Tragedy
     A good friend of mine years ago was talking about this married couple he knew when during the conversation he stated how he knew they would get married not long after they had  "that bad car wreck". Understandably confused I asked what he meant by that. He told me how a couple will grow closer together when they experience things together and that this bond becomes strongest when they experience a tragedy together.  They have someone who experienced it with them and they can more easily confine and console one another. I have no clue if this is a theory that he came up with himself or if this is a common theory that has been around for a while. I had it in the back of my mind while watching this movie the next few times and I think it works for this film. There are several times that Kenji and Natsuki share intimate moments but don't realize it as such because they are busy dealing with the chaos that is going on around them. 

When Love Machine breaks into OZ and the news sources point to Kenji for the blame,the truth is revealed to the family of who Kenji is and that the relationship was a fraud. As one of the family members handcuffs him to take him away, he goes to Sakae and thanks her for the hospitality and explains how with his busy family he doesn't get to have family dinners like the one they shared the night before. This little speech clearly touches the family in some way but most clearly in Natsuki. As he is driven away he looks back towards the estate. To his shock he sees Natsuki running after them. Why this is could be for a number of reasons. Maybe she wanted a chance to apologize for what she put him through or maybe she really didn't want him to be taken away because she didn't think he could be guilty for what he was blamed for. What ever the reason, It's a bit striking to see. At least to me anyway. Kinda supports the idea that she had some emotional connection to Kenji. 

Natsuki Has The Best Cry Ever
     Tragedy and chaos has stuck Natsuki's family greatly through out the rest of the film. The reveal of the lie about her and Kenji's relationship is exposed, Love-Machine is causing hysteria, and it is revealed that Wabisuke, Natsuki's most loved and cherished uncle, is the man behind Love-Machine and has run off. But tragedy hits them with one final blow with the death of Sakae. An emotional scene as they try frantically to resuscitate her while the doctor explains that it's too late. After pronouncing Sakae dead, the doctor explains that due to Love-Machinces actions, the signal that should have been sent to him when Sakae's peacemaker failed never reached his phone. The scene that follows is one of the most poetically moving scenes I've ever witnessede wu. First, the slow pan. The camera scans slowly through the room focusing on the family. It shows how each family member is dealing with the tragedy of Sakae's death. When something terrible happens, the whole world seems to stop and you are forever trapped in that moment. This slow pan displays that idea. 

 Some of you are familiar with this other anime reviewer know as That Dude In The Suede. He did a review of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time about about year ago. In it he took the time to discuss crying film. He said there are three types; The "sexy cry" which involves a character showing no emotion while a tear streams down their cheeks, The "public sob" where the emotion slowly bubbles over but is still held back, and then the third cry which he didn't give a name. It's a full on pouring out of emotion with no concerne of how the character looks. It's not made to look pretty because crying never truley is.

  "It's the kind of cry that isn't attractive because sadness isn't attractive. It's the kind of cry that make you feel guilt and embarrassed for witnessing someone breaking down in front of you".

That is why I give this section the title I have because it displays all three cries in one scene and does it amazingly. The camera pans to Natsuki and Kenji sitting alone trying to take in all that has happened. Natsuki makes a request to Kenji, one that I can say all men fear to be requested to do. "Make them stop. My tears".Every man has the same internal instinct to protect their love ones. Fight for them and shield them from harm. But when it comes to the matters of the heart we men are all hopelessly lost. We love to fix things but a broken heart tends to be the hardest thing to repair. "Hold me. Right here. Please". It's the only thing Kenji can do in this moment to help her so he grabs her pinky. The tears don't stop however, they increase. Kenji then grabs Natsuki's hand and she finally lets all her emotion out in a long howl of sorrow with her face covered in tears. Through all this Kenji says nothing. What can he say? In this moment he can do nothing. The only thing left to do is offer a shoulder to cry on. To tell someone, "let me grieve with you." 

Moral Support
     Kenji and some of the other family members make a plan to capture the viral AI during a battle with King Kazuma, an avatar of one of the family members. However it fails and the attack has made Love Machine take things to even bigger extremes by taking control of a satellite and having it hurdling toward a nuclear plant with a time limit of a little under an hour before it hits. At this point the whole family is in the same room witnessing this when Kazuma make one more made dash to try and take out Love Machine. The AI however has taken form with all the millions of avatars it has stolen and the sheer numbers are too much. The visual of Kazuma being defeated drives home to the entire family, some of which before this point were not taking it seriously enough, the threat of this AI. You can see the shock in everyone's face and Natsuki is the most visually disturbed. As they sit there in shock and clearly defeated, Kenji suddenly speaks up saying "It's not over yet". Natsuki's terror fades and  amazement falls her face. 

Here is a guy who when all the chips are down and everything seems to have failed them, with a stern face he refused to give up. Through out the rest of the film as he  continues to fight, you can see Natsuki feed of that and gain confidence in the fight. It's though him she gains the nerve to try and call Wabisuke and convince him to come back to help fight. Later when Kenji is frantically try his last efforts to defeat Love Machine, Natsuki shows support though touch by placing her hands on his back as she encourages him. 

Final Thoughts
    Kenji and Natsuki have indeed gone through a lot through this film. They have both faced trials and sadness and through the process have grown close. And we can see that this love that is forming between them is compatible. Kenji stays by Natsuki's side when she is sad and gives her hope and courage though his sheer determines to find a solution to their problems. Natsuki shows kindness and compassion towards Kenji. She Cheered him on as he fought. It's hard to see all this through the insanity that is happening around them, but how they handled things shows that they as a couple truly work.

-That Dude In The Suede "The girl who leapt through time review" 
-Image from His and Her Circumstances
-All screen shots and title card taken and edited by me.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Chol's Animation Analysis: Ralph and Venellope (Wreck-It Ralph)


WARNING this blog is "Wrecked" with spoilers.

I'm not going to try and make this blog into some fancy essay style writing like my last one. I'm just gonna bring up some scenes from this film that stuck out to me and why it solidified itself as not just a good film but a great, moving film that became my favorite from 2012.

What I wanted to talk about was the relationship that forms between Ralph and Vanellope. They meet and have a clash of personalities right off the bat. They form a relationship that starts off as a necessity.  She needs him to get herself a cart so she can race and he needs her to win to get the medal she stole from him back. However after seeing Vanellope's living condition and how it reflects of his in his own game, he feels a connection with her and his determination to help her succeed grows. There are three points where this is shown the strongest to me.

The Destruction of Vanellope's Cart.
Now at this point of the film, Ralph was just told that if Vanellope is allowed to race and gets in the line up of characters that the players can choose, that because she glitches out they will think the game is broken which could lead to the game getting unplugged. Because she's a glitch, she would not be able to escape the game before it gets unplugged and would evidently die. This news is very troubling to Ralph. He has formed such a strong bond to Vanellope that he can't bare the thought of losing her forever. So what action does he take? Something that most would find shocking, he destroys the cart that he himself helped her build.

 Now a few people I talked to said it wasn't that shocking because they knew he would do it. Some might find this point of the movie stupid or irritating cause it seems to be such an irrational move on Ralph's part. I will argue however that this action though hasty, was justified in the execution. When Ralph first tries to suggest to Vanellope not to race she does not listen to him no matter how much he begs. It's this that leads to his drastic action. And the way he did it struck me so hard that I was fighting back tears. He restrained Vanellope and broke her cart right in front of her, the frail cries of "NO!" escaping frantically from her lips as he destroyed her hopes. I could't stand that sound and it was so painful to watch. And I still say this moment was justified. Why? Because it shows how desperate Ralph was to protect her. He wanted to make sure that she wouldn't try to race even if he destroyed it while she wasn't looking. He was willing to hurt her to save her.

The intended self-sacrifice
Towards the climax of the film, "Sugar Rush" has been infested with insect like creatures from the other game "Hero's Duty".
Oh hush you!
The image of Ralph trying with all his might to desperately get Vanellope through the portal to escape the game was another example of good scene work. I know some people are the kind who want to see people smart enough to catch on quickly that if it didn't work the first time the character shouldn't try it over and over again, but here is another example of why that idea just doesn't work. From his constant efforts to pull her through with no result, we see just how attached to her he's become. He's so desperate to keep her alive he can't face the fact that with all his strength he still can't get her through. This determination continues later on.  To rid the bugs so the race can continue, Ralph races to the coke, mentos ... mountain thingy to create a beacon to draw the insects away. But King Candy is there to try and stop him. In the struggle, Ralph realizes that the only way to win here, is to dive past Candy and launch himself headfirst into the mentos which would have him fall helplessly into the mountain's coke lava (or whatever). Being a Disney movie which in the past has a knack of killing of people without hesitation, I was beginning to think that Ralph was really done for. The visuals and music in this moment left me moved and awaiting the worst. But of course Vanellope comes to save the day.

Ralph's New Motive in Life
At the end of the film Ralph gives an epilogue of what became of everyone after the events at Sugar Rush. It's a nice happy ending showing the sprites of Ralph's game becoming more friendly and how some of the sprites of unplugged games found homes. Ralph explains how he has become happy with his job as the bad guy. His reasoning, I'm going to be completely honest, was so touching and amazing to me that I was fighting back tears hard.

"..Because when I'm defeated and they hoist me up to throw me off the building night after night, I get a perfect view of Sugar Rush and Vanellope when she crosses that finish line" [paraphrased]

I think that sums up Ralph and Vanellope's relationship perfectly. It's like the bond between a father and daughter. It makes the scene of him destroying her cart make a bit more sense. How often do we see fathers do something like that. They worry about their little girls getting hurt and will take drastic measures to keep them alive even if they end up having their daughters hating them for what they do. He is no longer focused on his own success and glamor. He learned to take pride and inspiration from this little girl and her success. It's one of the most powerful forms of love I've seen displayed on screen in a while.

Another Point to be Made
While doing some image searching, I checked a few post on tumblr on the movie. This image caught my eye. 
That right there sums up this movie beautifully. That image of the girl in the arcade doing that is the prime example of how this movie gets gamers. I can honestly say I've had that connection to characters in games I've played before. You and that character work together and take on everything the game dishes out and at the victory you not only feel accomplished for yourself but you see the game sprite as real and your friend who you've grown with and bonded with. A connection that is so strong that even though you've just been sitting on a couch for hours, or driver seat at the arcade, the fact that the character you've been playing with has won you take pride in seeing them succeed and that you had some part in making that a reality. Sums up Ralph perfectly as well when you think about it. 

-title card made by me.