by Kim Morrissy,

Seven Days War

Seven Days War
Loosely based on Osamu Sōda's mystery story and social satire story, the new anime film shifts the setting to Hokkaido in the year 2020. Aya will be moving to Tokyo soon and wants to rebel against her controlling father. Her childhood friend Mamoru encourages her to run away, so she and some friends camp together in an abandoned factory on the riverbed. After they encounter an illegal Thai immigrant child who wants to reunite with their parents, the boys and girls start a revolution against the adults from their "liberation zone."

Seven Days War is "ok boomer" the movie. The meme represents frustration expressed in the form of cheeky dismissal against the adults who rule the system, and that's the exact same energy that forms the backbone of Seven Days War. The story is loosely based on Osamu Sōda's 1985 social satire novel, but it's updated to a modern-day setting and features an entirely new plot.

The story begins when Mamoru discovers that his childhood friend, whom he has always harbored a crush on, is moving to Tokyo because of the needs of her controlling father. He suggests that they run away for the week before she has to leave, and she cheerfully agrees. But instead of the elopement that Mamoru is thinking of, Aya brings together some of her friends and they all camp together at an abandoned factory. What would have been a simple camping trip turns into a war against the "rotten adults" when they discover an illegal Thai immigrant child hiding out in the factory, who is looking for their parents while desperately trying to avoid deportation.

The political edge of this story is evident from the premise, although the film never really goes into the nuances of the issues it's tackling. Frankly, the satire lacks edge. Most of the authorities are portrayed as cartoonish buffoons and generally incompetent, although that's the least of the film's problems. The film focuses far more on the relationship problems between the teen characters than on social commentary, resulting in some very cookie cutter storytelling.

The film's biggest flaws appear to stem from its changes from the scenario presented in Sōda's original novel. Instead of an entire class of boys, the film only focuses on six teens. The cast was probably made smaller so that each character could get more focus, but not only does this dilute the theme of revolution and collective action, it's still too many characters for the film to properly develop as individuals. The reasoning behind all of them deciding to camp together is very flimsy at best, because they don't even appear to be friends with each other when the movie starts. There's one late-game twist that would have impressed me more if the characters themselves had been written as anything more than broad archetypes, but other than that, there's not a single thing of interest about these characters.

The film is also clumsy at integrating its modern themes of social media and technology. As part of their war plan, the kids post videos mocking the adults, and the adults strike back by doxxing them online, but very little of this ends up actually tying into the siege on the abandoned factory. The most that happens is that the situation gathers media attention, so reporters start surrounding the scene, but nobody physically gets involved or starts resisting the police on the kids' behalves. The internet does help track down the Thai kid's parents, but it feels like an afterthought, as if the social media aspect was only tacked on to date the film in the modern day.

Most of the film's appeal comes from the inherent fun in the premise of adult vs teen warfare. The kids think outside the box when it comes to manning the fort, resulting in some pretty fun and creative strategies at times. There are times when it leans a bit too much into the ridiculous, and some of their strategies seem downright impossible to implement from a logistical standpoint, but it's in these sequences that the film comes closest to establishing a narrative identity. What Seven Days War lacks in bite with its social criticisms it makes up for with family friendly fun. Similarly, the film's visual style doesn't stand out much, featuring unexciting character designs and animation that plays by the books. It's never horrible to look at, but it all feels very safe.

There are parts of Seven Days War that I'll think of fondly, and if nothing else I'll at least appreciate the thesis statement. It's rare to see an anime portray Southeast Asian immigrants to begin with, and there's also a nod towards LGBT support at one point. It's not revolutionary stuff, and the teens are way too mild and tame to be convincing rebels against the system, but in a way I think that reflects the form that teen rebellion often takes these days. The messages of pro-diversity and accepting others regardless of their identity may come across as boring platitudes within the context of this film's narrative, but in this day and age it's seriously better than nothing.

Overall : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B-

+ Fun premise or adult vs teen warfare, positive messages about diversity
Underdeveloped characters, premise is supported by flimsy narrative logic, social commentary lacks nuance or bite

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Production Info:
Director: Yūta Murano
Script: Ichiro Okouchi
Original creator: Osamu Sōda
Original Character Design: Keishin
Character Design: Hiroshi Shimizu
Director of Photography: Toshiya Kimura

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Seven Days War (movie)

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