This summer moviegoers flocked to see a big wartime epic called Dunkirk from director Christopher Nolan. In an interesting turn of events there is a smaller anime wartime film that is also worth checking out called In This Corner of the World. Based on a manga of the same name director Sunao Katabuchi has created a moving slice of life film that will dive you right into what it was like to live in World War II Japan.
In This Corner of the World is set around 1944-1945, and tells the story of an adolescent girl named Suzu who is from Hiroshima. At the outset, her parents tell her she has been matched and must marry a young man named Shūsaku and go to live with his family in the city of Kure. In Western hands, this might lead to a rebellious character refusing to comply with these orders but Suzu isn’t a rebellious character – at least at start. She agrees, and gets married and follows Shūsaku to Kure.
This may be hard for modern viewers to understand but try to use the film as an opportunity to understand a different culture and tradition, though no longer practiced in Japan. I really appreciated Suzu was such a quiet yet strong character. She’s a very peaceful presence in everyone’s life and that is comforting in a time of war. Shūsaku is also a calming, loving person which helps you feel a little better about the situation.
For the rest of In This Corner of the World it is like being a fly on the wall of the life of a family in Kure in 1945. Some will find it very boring because it is a long film at 128 minutes, and not a whole lot of action happens. For example, a lot of time is spent explaining how they ate during war: the special way rice had to be prepared, the way everything was rationed and prized, etc.
Meanwhile, Suzu is learning about herself as she does all of these menial tasks and eventually she does become more of a bold character. It’s a satisfying journey to see her grow from a child to a woman by the end of the film.
The animation is a beautiful watercolor and it reminded me a little bit of an Isao Takahata film, especially Grave of the Fireflies. That has a little bit more plot but they are close in tone and artistic style. The music by a Japanese singer named Kotringo is also really nice.
You could almost look at In This Corner of the World as more of a documentary experience than a narrative film. It gives you a chance to walk in the footsteps of a young woman in wartime Japan. You’ll either find that tedious or engaging, and I felt the latter. Either way it is worth a try especially with how weak animation has been in 2017. Let’s support the auteur filmmakers really trying to make something moving and beautiful.
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden