In this Corner of the World (2017) by Sunao Katabuchi (T)

Poignant wartime drama

Sunao Katabuchi's "In this Corner of the World" (2017) follows a great tradition of Japanese animation set during the Second World War. It is a period of history that lends itself to many stories and this film takes its own unique view of the war, from the perspective of a young woman growing up near Hiroshima in the 1930's and 40's.

"In this Corner of the World" is screening at Japan Cuts, that will be on July 13 to 23.

Suzu Urano (Non) is a young girl whose flights of fancy and carefree attitude make her an immediately likeable and relatable protagonist. Growing up in Hiroshima with her parents and younger sister, she enjoys drawing and telling amusing stories. When she turns 19, Suzu is married by arrangement to Shusaku Hojo, taking his family name and moving to live with her in-laws in nearby Kure. Her life is far from easy, having to do many of the chores around the house and deal with Shusaku's temperamental elder sister, Keiko, and Keiko's daughter Harumi. Despite the tasks of rural life, cooking, cleaning and running errands for the family, Suzu soon finds herself enjoying her life there. She makes friends easily and rarely seems troubled. As the war progresses, Kure, which is a naval base, comes under repeated attack and the dangers increase for Suzu and her new family.

Written by Sunao Katabuchi and Chie Uratani, the film has a nostalgic feel for a lost world. Some have commented on the language used by characters which is a rural dialect of that particular place and period. The world is shown in great detail with the life of an ordinary family lovingly portrayed. Even minor chores and activities come to seem enjoyable and important. The film highlights the need to appreciate even the small things in life. We see the changing seasons, characters cooking and eating together, and snatches of their lives that create a tapestry of daily routine, conversations, and the various relationships that make up their world. The art-style is delicate and creates a comfortable feeling while watching. Occasionally, there will be sequences where Suzu's imagination comes to life through a "hand-drawn" style that is very effective and evocative, as we see the world through her eyes. Almost every character is portrayed as likeable, with no more than minor difficulties between them. The second half of the movie involves serious tragedy, as the war finally reaches Japan. The music creates the right atmosphere of whimsy and comfortable rural life with more threatening overtones as events unfold. The voice cast all do a great job, with Non playing Suzu, Yoshimasa Hosoya as Shusaku and Minori Omi as Keiko. All of the cast help create the feel of real people and their relationships: parents, in-laws, children, husbands and friends.

The film is well-paced throughout. Although there doesn't appear to be much happening in some scenes, as character converse or go about their daily routines, each moment reveals something about the various people in Suzu's life or Suzu herself. The editing helps create a sense of forward momentum without any one lengthy scene, but rather a collection of smaller moments almost creating a collage effect. As the anime nears its climax, there is a great use of dates and times appearing on screen to increase the sense of dread that something terrible is approaching.

This movie is a fantastically understated wartime drama. Its emotional impact  is built up as you grow attached to the characters throughout the film. Rarely becoming overtly sentimental, the movie instead focuses on creating a realistic world and showing you the events unfold from the perspective of the protagonist. When tragedy finally strikes you feel as though you are experiencing Suzu's same sense loss and sadness. A powerful film that stands proudly beside other great animated features.



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Asian Film Vault: In this Corner of the World (2017) by Sunao Katabuchi (T)
In this Corner of the World (2017) by Sunao Katabuchi (T)
Poignant wartime drama
Asian Film Vault
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