Ah the life of a lower level system administrator. You just have to sit in front of a computer doing menial tasks. Your life is simple and unless something is really messed up you don't have to worry about anything high level. And that is almost how is worked out for Kenji Koiso. Then a girl by the name of Natsuki Shinohara bursts in offering him a four day job to come help out with her Grandmas 90th Birthday. So he takes a break from the system admin thing to follow her out to the country. Once there he finds out that he is supposed to be her fiancée because she lied about having one.
The is all a very minor part in the story itself and while it works well in this series for character development, it is not what makes this movie good. Their are two main stages in this movie, the house of Sakae Jinnouchi (the Grandma), and the digital world of OZ. You don't need to know much about Sakae's house except that is where out main characters play out what is happening.
To understand what is going on in this movie though it is important you know what OZ is. OZ is the primary communication and control hub in the world now. It is accessible from just about any computerized device there is. It has 400 million+ subscribers and real time translation system allowing people across the country to communicate. Businesses and governments have even setup offices in OZ allowing their employees to control the day to day business with their avatars. This means that water system, electric grids, traffic systems and other essential system can be taken care of by a users avatar that has rights to these system. Good thing OZ has a 2056-digit encryption code to keep people from breaking into the system and using it maliciously. But you know that this means someone does break the code and that causes all sorts of issues.
That is the movie starts picking up. Kenji gets an e-mail with a code. He breaks the code returned the e-mail. He wakes up that morning with everyone blaming him that OZ has been hacked with his account, turns out he broke they encryption when he solved that little code the night before. Using the only computer in the house he gets a temp account setup and finds that an AI called Love Machine is the actual culprit. Love Machine wants to know everything and in this pursuit it starts to absorb people's avatars and their abilities, giving it control over nearly everything in OZ. It is now up to Kenji, Natsuki, and her family that has gathered for her Sakae's birthday to stop Love Machine before it can wreck more havoc on the world, and possibly kill millions.
So you know the basic plot now, and overall it is a really good movie. The story is told beautifully and you really feel for the characters and their situation. The are a few anime clichés in the movie. The initial premise of lying to the family about the fiancée for example is there, but it gets found out so early in the movie it is almost a non-point. There is also the fact that Kenji just happens to be a math genius so when they run into encryption problems he is able to solve them, but it was not like they just tossed that in at the end. This is also what starts the issue and it is mentioned at the beginning of the series that he was extremely close to representing Japan in the Math Olympics. So I will forgive them for using a few clichés.
Another thing about the movie is that it is beautiful. The art both in and and out of OZ is amazing. When they show the real world the movement are so fluid and natural you easily get lost. There is no exaggeration of any thing and there is no fan service. It is like they are real and normal people. When they show the world of OZ everything gets a surreal look to it (or at least that is what I am going to call it). People are represented by the avatar they created when they subscribed. There are two guardians of OZ that are represented by a pink and blue whale that swim around space that OZ occupies. The entire landscape is dominated by a central structure that would normally defy explanation, but in OZ it works. The way things change, the way the avatars interact, and the way our primary villain looks are all done wonderfully.
So if probably sounds like I really liked this movie, and that is because I did. This movie is a perfect example of things in anime done right. There are reasons that it has won awards from at least 4 different film festivals and best animated film from the Japan Academy Prize. This movie is honestly a testament to what can be done with anime and you should do yourself a favor and check it out. It will be on DVD and Blu-Ray on February 15, 2011. If you are lucky you will also be able to catch it in theaters while it makes a theatrical tour around the country.
Anime Rating: 5 / 5