In This Corner of the World is like few films I’ve ever seen before, seamlessly balancing a raw anti-war message with a charming slice-of-life backdrop.
Directed by newcomer Sunao Katabuchi and adapted from an award-winning manga by Fumiyo Kuno, the story primarily takes place during World War II-era Japan. It follows the artistic and gentle daydreamer, Suzu’s life in Kure, a port town near Hiroshima, with the family she married into.
Gorgeously animated, the film uses watercolors to recreate the Japanese countryside. The animation’s detailed depiction of everyday life is interwoven with whimsical touches by the creative Suzu.
The first scene involves the clearly exaggerated and fun tale of when a young Suzu was lost in Hiroshima, before the war. Her mind and drawings, feature monsters, sea rabbits and crocodiles. The viewers see the world from Suzu’s perspective, as the mundane blends with her fantastical imagination.
Even as the film delves deeper into the horrific nature of war, the movie still injects her artistic interpretations into the world, no matter how bleak it becomes. This isn’t done to undermine the seriousness of war. Instead, Suzu uses her imagination as a coping mechanism to understand and process the traumatic events that affect her and her family. The film revolves around Suzu’s ability to find joy and wonder in the small things despite her traumatic surroundings.
While it does have a romantic plotline that’s fairly uninteresting, at its core, In This Corner of the World is about family, and how it changes and grows in unexpected ways. Much of the film’s charm and humor comes from Suzu’s interactions with her new family, especially her snappy, yet generous-hearted sister-in-law.
One of the film’s most impressive aspects is its dedication put into depicting WWII Japan. Director Sunao Katabuchi and the animators went to great length to accurately depict a pre-atomic bomb Hiroshima. They collected rare photographs of pre-wartime Japan and interviewed the locals who grew up Hiroshima before the bombing. The filmmaker’s dedication to making a historically accurate war film, that focuses on the civilian population is strongly felt throughout the movie.
Gently paced, heart wrenching and hopeful, In This Corner of the World is a beautiful and powerful film. Through the perspective of the main heroine we see the devastation of war, and the everyday joys of life, making the film a deeply important and unforgettable experience.