Manga Review: Summer Wars Vol. #02

Summer Wars is an award-winning 2009 science fiction anime directed by Mamoru Hosoda. At the same time as the film’s release, a serialized version of Summer Wars came out in the manga magazine, Young Ace. Now, Vertical has released an English translation of the manga compilation, and you can read on for the review of Volume 2. (For the review of Volume 1, go here.)

The Review

Since my review of Volume 1, I’ve had the chance to watch the Summer Wars film. While the scenes of OZ, especially the fights between King Kazma and Love Machine, pack a greater wallop in anime form, my preference is for the manga. In addition to being better paced, the manga includes a number of details which, though small, add up to make a better story. For instance, we see more individual actions of the Jinnouchi relatives on the OZ front. We also get a deeper sense of Wabisuke’s regret, his desire to make things right, and the relief of the family when he finally returns.

As in Volume 1, Sugimoto-sensei does an excellent job of depicting the dynamics of a large extended family. Following Granny Sakae’s death, the Jinnouchi family splits, almost completely along gender lines, as to what to do next. But everyone quickly forms a united front with real trouble strikes.

Real trouble being Love Machine taking over an asteroid probe with the intent to crash it into a nuclear power plant. This quickly elevates the situation with the rogue AI from “a game” (as the Jinnouchi womenfolk call it) to a worldwide threat. This twist is standard stuff for sci-fi anime, but what adds color to this particular battle is how the Jinnouchis’ random personalities come into play. Between the resources of a member of the SDF, a fisherman, an electronics supplier, a gaming champion, an engineering professor, a skilled hanafuda player, and her two physics club friends, they find a means to face off against the ever-growing Love Machine. The way commentary for Ryohei’s tournament game mirrors the OZ battle adds an additional layer of tension and drama to the story.

One difficult part of the story for Western readers is Natsuki’s hanafuda match. The King Kazma/Love Machine battles are easy to follow because martial arts showdowns are the stuff manga was made for. Hanafuda not so much. I’d never heard of the game, and it was a bit like reading Hikaru No Go, where I really depended on characters’ reactions to figure out what was happening. So I had to raise an eyebrow at the illustration of people around the world watching Natsuki’s match and yelling, “Koi! Koi!”

Extras include the first page and table of contents printed in color, four pages of chapter 9 printed in color and a four-page bonus manga.

In Summary

Summer Wars roars to a strong finish! Amid the excitement of averting a nuclear disaster using martial arts, a traditional card game, and math geek power, our previously isolated main character experiences the power of family even as an outcast returns for a long overdue reconciliation. This manga might have sci-fi elements, but it’s really about human relationships, the blood ties binding the Jinnouchi and the budding one between Natsuki and Kenji. It’s a title I’d recommend to long time manga readers and newcomers alike.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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