Nothing is more terrible than war. Whether you experience it on the battlefield fighting for your country, a cause, an ideology or you are the one left behind waiting for ‘peace’, war brings suffering, destruction, loss, and fear to everyone. If you could describe In This Corner of the World with one word, it would be ‘human’. It is a slice-of-life World War II drama that shows the cruelty of war and that will definitely make you appreciate your everyday peaceful life.
War does not determine who is right but who is left.
The story is set in the year 1944 in Hiroshima’s military city Kure. Suzu Urano, a very carefree young woman who loves to draw,moves in from Hiroshima to Kure to marry Shuusaku Houjou, a young clerk who works in the local naval base. As she starts living with his family, she begins to learn how to run the household along with dealing with tough wartime conditions. In 1945, when the U.S. bombing reached Kure, Suzu’s life transforms as she tries to support her family and stay courageous.
In This Corner of the World starts with showing Suzu as a kid growing up in Hiroshima. Her childhood and personal story run parallel with the ongoing war and since the very beginning of the film the tension is experienced through more subtle ways. When she moves in Kure, the naval base of Japan in WWII, she is welcomed by her new family and she quickly adapts to her new environment, although we can sense that the war affects her daily life more now, we still see her as a funny, innocent housewife. But when the year 1945 arrives, everything seems to fall apart as events of loss ravel her with sadness and fear.
The storytelling of the movie is well executed. In the first half of the film we see Suzu’s everyday life, with a slow-paced tone but still keeping things interesting, which immerses into her carefree world. But when the movie reaches its climax and the real tragedy falls, it really crushes both her and the viewers and really creates the epilogue of a truly emotional story.
Art & Music
The art of the film is just immaculate. It feels like you are watching paintings of history and not an actual animation. The movie blends visual styles and shifts from a realistic to a moreimpressionistic vision. Scenes like the illustrated rabbits on the sea waves or the explosions that look like fireworks or like someone is painting on a canvas, deliver with their artistic representation a better emotional impact on the viewer. The music is quite melancholic in most parts but doesn’t fail to deliver happiness with its simple and gentle soundtracks.
Themes & Trivia
Crowdfunded project: The film is actually the result of the director Sunao Katabuchi’s first crowdfunding project. He collected 36,224,000 yen (about 321,905 US dollars) from 3,374 supporters making In This Corner of the World a huge success in the Japanese box office when it came out. It’s great to see that fans of anime can really support the content creators in an age where budget is playing the most crucial role for the creation of worthy animation.
Historical aspect: Even though the film manages to deliver how awful the war was, it is an unavoidable reality that it misses the fact that Japan is historically seen as the bad guys in WWII. The countries that have been colonized by them feel traumatized to this day. The Pacific War was the theater of World War II that was fought in the Pacific and Asia. The Second Sino-Japanese War between the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China had been in progress since 1937, with hostilities dating back as far as 1931 with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. However, it is more widely accepted that the Pacific War itself began on 1941, when Japan invaded Thailand and attacked the British possessions of Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong as well as the United States military and naval bases in Hawaii, Wake Island, Guam and the Philippines. I think it would have been even more horrific to show their war crimes as well and would definitely enrich the concept of the film more.
In This Corner of the World is not an easy film to watch. Not only because of its mature themes but mostly because it focuses greatly around Japanese culture. The way the characters talk and act can be very peculiar for someone who is not accustomed with their culture. There are many scenes in the film (like the umbrella scene, the one where she cuts her yukata to make trousers, when the military guy almost arrests her for drawing, the nori, the traditions, the housework, etc.) where we see things of a different culture during an older time, which I think it can be very hard to grasp especially for younger audiences.
But all the above make this film such an amazing experience. I felt like I was watching history through art or illustrated stories that my grandmother used to tell me. There is a scene in the film where a train goes through a tunnel and someone goes around the train telling everyone to close the windows. Even if this might sound silly, at first I thought it had something to do with war precautions but then I soon grasped that it was because the smoke of the train’s chimney would get in the wagons making it hard to breathe. This little detail made me realize how much the world has changed and how foreign this movie might look to people of a different generation.
This is probably personal, but I felt that the translation of the film was not that good. At least I thought that a lot of things the characters were saying didn’t come through properly in the translation, which made the movie hard to follow sometimes.
Even though In This Corner of the World came out a few years ago, I think it is a highly underrated film that should have gotten a lot more attention. It’s an absolutely beautiful film witha great production and distinct art style. In the end, even after you have seen all the harsh-hitting stuff, you can’t help but feel that things are going to be better and a strange feeling of hope. There are a lot of great anime films out there that deal with war and can’t be really compared with this one, but it is definitely worthy of your time if you feel like you would like to get unbelievably sad and hate humanity throughout its history.