Saturday, April 21, 2018

Writing Lessons from Movies: Summer Wars

My friends suggested I watch this anime film and I did a few weeks later and I fell in love with this movie (Also the soundtrack is amazing)! It's one of my favorite anime movies I've ever seen. I love the creativity of the cyber world of Oz, the formidable villain, and the big ensemble cast. I loved it so much I wrote an article about it for Geekdom House. I watched it again recently (for the fourth time) and I realized how many things it has to teach us about writing.

In Summer Wars, there's a giant cyber world called Oz that hosts most of the world's communication, businesses, bank accounts, data, etc. and it boasts the best security in the world. Kenji goes on a paid vacation with Natsuki to her grandmother's big 90th birthday but while there he accidentally helps break the security code for Oz, allowing an artificial intelligence called Love Machine to wreak havoc on Oz.

Warning: Spoilers (Biggest one is 5)

1.) A Cyber World - Oz is the fictional cyber world of the film. You can enter this world via a game console, computer, or phone (landline or mobile). You navigate in this world using a personalized avatar. Oz is a well-intentioned world that handles basically all technology and strives to make peoples' lives easier without a malicious undertone like often this kind of cyber world can entail. It's creative in the fact that it's so limitless and expansive. You can do anything in Oz from shopping to business meetings to sports.

How this can be applied to writing: Have you thought of having a cyber world in your story? What ways could you make it unique? Other cyber worlds include The Grid from TRON, Alfheim from Sword Art Online, the VirtNet in the Mortality Doctrine series by James Dashner, and OASIS from Ready Player One.

2.) Having a Big Family - The Jinnouchi clan is a biiiig family. I love how varied all of the family members are and the film did well in letting each member shine, even if it was just for a few minutes. I love how the family made a big team effort together to save Oz from Love Machine. It made the sheer size of this family important for the plot and all the more endearing.

How this can be applied to writing: I have a big family and it always makes me happy to see big families portrayed since you don't see too many of them. This big family worked so well because they were so strongly incorporated into the plot.

3.) A Strong Uncle and Nephew Relationship - Mansuke and Kazuma have such a great relationship. Mansuke taught his nephew Kazuma Shaolin Kung Fu because Kazuma was being bullied at school. One of my favorite parts of the film is when Kazuma is asking advice from Mansuke while practicing Shaolin forms. And another favorite part is when Mansuke saves Kazuma from Love Machine in Oz. They have a great and endearing bond.

How this can be applied to writing: Uncles are often portrayed as the evil villains that want to hurt their nephews or nieces so it's nice to have a change of pace and see a great bond between an uncle and his nephew. 

4.) An Artificial Intelligence Villain - Love Machine is an artificial intelligence virus that tricked people into getting him into Oz. He wreaks absolute havoc on Oz and in turn the world by making GPSs go haywire, making medical alarms go off, changing traffic lights and water pressure, and much more. He even uses his power to attempt to harm people in the real world and even cause a death. He's a formidable villain that was created to cause chaos and he's good at it. Unlike an organic villain, he only has basic and logical motivations: he likes games and he was designed to take over and destroy so that's what he does.

How this can be applied to writing: AI villains can be difficult to write because they're so different than how humans think. They often have singular purposes and logic and lack emotion which can make them all the more dangerous. 

5.) A Death As a Midpoint Twist -  Skip this point if you don't want a spoiler. Okay? Still reading? Here we go. In the middle of this film is a very unexpected and shocking death: Sakae Jinnouchi. In the first half of the film, we come to love this senior woman for her determination, wisdom, feistiness, and more. This death takes a great tole on Kenji and the Jinnouchi family, especially since they felt like they could have stopped it if only they'd completely defeated Love Machine. This death brings to the forefront that people are going to die if Love Machine isn't stopped. 

However, this death motivates the family to stop this from happening to other families and they embrace Sakae's memory in how they finally defeat Love Machine. Though Sakae couldn't be physically present for the end of Love Machine, she's in Kenji and the Jinnouchi's hearts the whole way.  

How this can be applied to writing: Have you had a death as the midpoint twist to motivate your characters?

Have you seen Summer Wars? Have you noticed these writing aspects? What movies have you noticed have good writing? Let's geek out together!

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