Stripped of its context, this statement is going to make me sound like I am either some kind of know-it-all trying to sound smarter than you by dismissing something that you like, or like a crazy TV Tropes contributor who can’t help but compare everything they come across to that one show/book/movie/video game that they like way too much: Summer Wars is basically the exact same movie as Digimon: Bokura no War Game. See what I did there? I even called it “Bokura no War Game” rather than “the second Digimon movie” or “Children’s War Game”.
Now, to actually unpack that statement. They really are basically the same movie: a rogue AI breaks into a superflat-styled, Snow Crash-esque virtual world and starts to take it over. It’s up to our plucky adolescent heroes (with the rest of the virtual world cheering them on!) to save
the world Japan before the timer hits zero and the thing that the AI is controlling lands on something and blows up everything. I’m not abstracting anything with that plot description to make them match up. They are both that exact plot.
Mamoru Hosoda is basically remaking the same movie (and yes, he has directed Digimon stuff before making The Girl That Leapt Through Time)—but improving it in just about every way along the way. For starters, the fact that it’s not Digimon frankly helps make the movie more enjoyable. It allows the same movie to be okay for “everyone” in the same way that say, a Ghibli or Pixar movie is rather than being pigeonholed in a way to little kids. Similarly, this also lets the movie go run for two hours, rather than one hour. The extra hour of runtime greatly helps the movie by allowing it to have a large, but still somewhat well-fleshed out cast. True, many of them are quite clearly types, but Hosoda has a deft enough touch to provide a sense of warmth to them nonetheless.
That said, if you were paying attention you’ll remember that I said that it’s an improvement in “just about every way”. This indicates that there was at least one way that Children’s War Game was better. Sure, Summer Wars had better animation, better plotting, better characters, more exciting action, and better humor, but you know what it didn’t have? Butter-Fly. ONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN MYYYYYYYYYYYYYY LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE!
(Also, I do have to admit that I don’t know the rules to Hanafuda and therefore was bummed that I didn’t get what was going on when Natsuki challenged Love Machine.)