Moments of 2009: A Crowning Moment of Leadership in Summer Wars

It’s been said both in jest and in criticism that there aren’t old people in anime — how anyone past 30 is considered middle-aged, and the truly elderly play out stereotypes. Jinnouchi Sakae in Summer Wars doesn’t fit these observations. She is 90 years old and utterly, unstoppably, and charmingly, a badass.

She does these awesome things ‘on-cam’. Usually the heroism of old characters are hinted at or told to the viewers by second hand sources. People talk about the character and what she did during the awesome old days when she was younger. Not here. The truly impressive things this matriarch of a proud clan of retainers to Takeda Shingen happen in real time. We see her do it, and I for one am thankful for this blessing.

Yes, this Takeda Shingen

During the bus trip (among many other rides) to Ueno by Natsuki, Kenji, and the Jinnouchi relatives they met along the way, it’s remarked on how the letters Sakae gets are from bigshots of different kinds — including famous politicians. As this was happening I thought it was just about providing background information — establishing how important Sakae is in society as a whole.

Well, I certainly did not expect how her influence was leveraged by the narrative! And how!

In the midst of the takeover of OZ (a vast virtual network that reminds me of Second Life) by the ‘Love Machine’ (that reminds me of the ILOVEYOU worm in 2000), Sakae sensed danger to the population — thinking immediately of the elderly, but eventually acting on behalf of the whole.

Sakae is not tech-savvy, but she sensed that people in general were in danger — and seemingly overreacted by contextualizing the danger as an attack (in the context of war). It’s ridiculously charming — like how a hammer sees any problem as a nail, this woman of a proud Samurai clan sees danger in the context of attack and defense.

Ultimately, there’s no ridiculing how she burst into action. Dialing on her black analog phone (yes, A DIAL) and accessing a dead-tree format address book and archived mail Sanae called on, harangued, browbeat, and petitioned everyone she could reach who had influence or responsibility: the Chief of Police, doctors, and the aforementioned famous politicians (who are friends, allies, and former students).

None of these faces were shown, just her working the phones with sure handedness and the confidence of one who has seen and lived through more than anyone living (she is about to celebrate her 90th birthday), and one who has acted dutifully and honorably throughout her own life.

This could be the most awesome animated series of phone conversations ever. It’s an impressive display of influence and leadership — more awesomely due to the fact that there was only integrity and goodness from her side of the line. I’ve had a morbid enjoyment from watching less than upright people work the phones and get people to say yes:

  • Bob Sugar and Jerry Maguire from Jerry Maguire
  • Chris Varick from Boiler Room
  • Tommy Carcetti from The Wire
  • Bob Rumson from The American President

…and many more I can’t recall right now. Not only do I get a rare treat by seeing something like this in anime, I also get to see it done heroically and by someone who I’d follow in real life.

I’m not kidding, because I do have someone in my life that’s very much like  Sakae — my mother in law, another reason why this show hits so close to home because my own mother in law is also a General of the Philippine Armed Forces (retired), though still active in government and public service, and also raised a fine daughter who I am more than lucky enough to marry.

Watching my own mother in law work her own contacts, accumulated through nearly 60 years of public service through five Presidential Administrations, some of whom are still active and powerful, never ceases to fill me with awe. Unlike Sakae, she wasn’t born into an old and powerful clan. In this she is more like me, born from working-class roots, form old inner Manila.

I never humored her while I was in courtship with her daughter. I considered her a rival and an enemy back then. It’s because of this I’m quite surprised at how well we got along since the wedding, and I look forward to a few more decades of building our family and household with her.

What’s YOUR favorite moment from Summer Wars?

Further Reading

ANN did a good review of the movie (Justin Sevakis 2009/11/27)

Koi Koi! I enjoyed this review as well (Jason Miao 2009/11/27)

Here’s more wild enthusiasm for it (Steve Den Beste 2009/11/29)

It’s way ahead of the parameters of the project, but this post is in support of CCY-senpai’s 12 Moments in Anime 2009 he does for the 12 days of Christmas.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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14 Responses to Moments of 2009: A Crowning Moment of Leadership in Summer Wars

  1. schneider says:

    Use my account, Natsuki :3

    That’s it.

  2. gaguri says:

    Wow your mother-in-law is Gar. Anyway my favourite moment in Summer Wars have to be 1. dramatic confrontation between the grandma and her idiot grandchild who should have been sliced right then and there! 2. Tekken/KOF battle 3. koi koi!

    • Yeah, she is! As for that scene — I knew that she was venting anger rather than really swinging that naginata with killing intent. As we find out later, she does believe that family holds on to each other; and that this is of utmost importance. Wabisuke is the only relative mentioned by name in her farewell epistle after all.

      I don’t think badly of Wabisuke (who is her son by adoption — being the son of her husband by a mistress), as I’m very very partial to prodigal son returns stories as well (since I feel like one myself).

  3. Martin says:

    It’s a shame we’re having to rely on a fansubbed version that’s so mediocre unless you’re fluent in Korean and watching it on a 800×600 res monitor, because Summer Wars is the anime film of the year, and as such deserves every bit of love that’s thrown its way. In the week or so after watching it I managed to type out over 1200 words of blog post over the thing, which I’d have already posted up if enough people had seen it too in order to understand what I was kyaaa-ing about.

    Sakae is indeed the epitome of the mindset of the older generation – the nearest I’ve seen is my grandad, who is currently 84 and recovering from extensive heart surgery; he suffers from rheumatism and asthma too but his mind is as sharp as it ever was and insists on being as stooc and independent as possible. He’s the only member of the family who the rest can never beat at Scrabble. Honestly, the man is invicible! It’s like playing against Kanae, except with words instead of Hanafuda cards. *_* Makes you realise that everyone, young or old, has something to contribute when the chips are down, which is one of the things I loved most about the movie. That sense of epic togetherness where everyone can add something positive.

    In all honesty, there are so many gem-like moments during the course of the film – some are jaw-dropping like the combat scenes and Natsuki’s showdown, but many are of the really understated variety. It’s rare to see a film that delivers on the cinematic spectacle, but at the same time keep your brain running on overdrive for days afterwards about the more profound things it’s trying to say.

    I’m sooo tempted to hit the ‘publish’ button now…

    • My mother in law can take on your grandfather in scrabble.

      Heheh, thanks for sharing your own family this way — the entire dynamic of the extended family… the clan, is sooooo alluring and heartwarming here. If my mother in law is almost exactly like Sakae, then my wife is clearly trying to be like her in almost every way (but she had better improve her scrabble and monopoly skills since I pwn her). I like big families — we’re the same on my mother’s side, though we’re quite harmless despite the odd high-ranking military or police member. That’s the chinese side of the fam, so there are a lot of mixed culture oddity I particularly enjoy as well.

      As for the understated stuff, I love how the movie never overplays a moment — it’s most indulgent is the final nosebleed scene but consider Kenji seeing Natsuki in a towel, Kenji turning red when Natsuki held her hand, Natsuki getting exposed over lunch over her crush on Wabisuke… all could’ve been terrible cringe-inducing moments in a lesser show, but stand out in this one as charming and lovable.

  4. glothelegend says:

    I just finished Summer Wars, and for some reason, my favorite part was when Kazuma punches (i forget his name) in the face, after becoming so fed up with him. I felt like a weight was lifted of my shoulders for some reason (plus I really wanted to punch that dude, who’s name escapes me, like most names tend to do).

    I also really like the moment that gaguri brought up. The grandmother kicked ass in that scene. She walked away in a huff, and I thought that she was maybe going back to her room at first, but then she comes back holding a spear! At 90! I love it.

    This movie was great.

    • Yeah the would-be incestuous cousin, only that Natsuki wouldn’t do incest with him. You know I was so pissed off with him too in my first viewing, but in my second (I’ve seen it thrice) I see him in a far more sympathetic light.

      He’s the family member who’s rather luckless in that he’s never really in any of the cliques (males and females). He’s not into gaming which kept him from appreciating what everyone else was doing, and his feminine (relative to the women’s roles in the clan) looking out for Kanae-sama’s corpse is what caused the undoing of the Takeda-Jinnouchi trap.

      It was a thoroughly innocent fuck-up; an unintended consequence.

      This isn’t to say that he isn’t annoying; after all that was the role he played — the annoying overprotective incestuous-wannabe older male cousin. However, his overall good-heartedness, his commitment to his family, (over)zealousness to duty, and throwing all he had in the common fight when it was needed, makes him a Jinnouchi that Sakae would be proud of too.

      As for that scene you picked out with gaguri, Kanae did not go back to her room, but rather the ancestral display room where the ancestral weapons are. And yes, the whole business with the naginata… it was fucking awesome.

  5. ans says:

    To me this movie was perfect, but for the final showdown with Love Machine, which came across as a tad too corny for my taste. But otherwise, damn. No patriarchal overtones. Great fight scenes. A family, nay, a world of users working together. Just great.

    • Aw man, that final showdown with the Love Machine reduces me to tears every single time (I’ve rewatched this quite a number of times already lol). But if it’s still perfect despite it as you say, then it is! ^_^

  6. ojisan says:

    Lotsa moments I loved. Here’s a creepy one (especially from a straight old guy). The men are mobilizing at last, and Mr. JSDF drives up with the military-grade satellite linkup. He’s asked “Just what do you do in the JSDF?” And three different, subtle expressions play across his face, ending with the smile and “That’s classified”. At this moment I don’t want to be alone – I want to be sitting with three fangirl friends to hear the SQUUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

    Otherwise, it’s the scene you mentioned. Especially the pan across the corkboards, the letters, her photos, then the photo of Obachan as a young woman. Chills –

    • That is indeed quite creepy…

      The photo of Obachan as a young woman was pretty intense! She’s a handsome lady to be sure, but what I would call traditionally attractive in an anime context. I do understand the chills man!

  7. Pingback: Countdown to the End of the World/Galaxy: ghostlightning’s 30 Favorite Anime of All Time (20-11) | We Remember Love

  8. Ray Summers says:

    And here I am, 8 years later, still dumbstruck at her sure ways.

    I still watch Summer Wars every year, sort of a doctrined affair to me now, and I still enjoy it as much as I did the first time.

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