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.
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?
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.