Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World (Kono Sekai no Katsumi ni) is one of the biggest Japanese films of the year and the recent winner of the Japanese Academy Award for Animation of the Year. The crowd-funded story of a young woman named Suzu living between Hiroshima and Kure, Japan in the 1930s and ’40s is a heart-warming and unusually raw and honest tale of World War 2. It is fresh to see such a beautiful depiction of the daily struggles of normal people living throughout the war, oblivious to the real implications of what is going on in the world around them.
The story of Suzu, a young girl who finds herself in an arranged marriage to a young man sent to the navy is a raw and eye-opening delight that shows a different side to war-time drama. Suzu’s story evolves through the years as the Pacific war grows closer as she deals with rationing, bombings and the impact of war on ordinary lives.
In This Corner of the World is a moving and tender film that creates a real sense of normality in rural Japan before the war takes place. The first half of the film builds through the childhood of Suzu and her family as she becomes a woman, living the life of a stay at home wife, learning how to create garments, and cook rice. It is the sheer time and effort put into the growth of Suzu as a character that creates the depth that allows this film to tackle such dark times with a real sense of hope. Suzu is a vastly developed and human character that allows for In This Corner of the World to move slowly but surely towards a slow burn climax that shows the sheer raw destruction of war.
Every frame is beautifully crafted and whilst the animation isn’t as elaborate as other recent anime, the natural colours and simplicity make for a pleasurable and meaningful experience. The soundtrack is fitting and creates a rural feel that makes for a connection between the viewer and the tale that unfolds. In This Corner of the World, Katabuchi has managed to bring rural 1940’s war-ridden Japan to the western world, it brings a fresh and altruistic view to the war that we seldom see.
It comes as no surprise that Katabuchi has worked on Studio Ghibli classics such as Kiki’s Delivery Service. Whilst the style of animation here isn’t quite to the standards of Studio Ghibli, the use of watercolour and a more artistic approach is refreshingly beautiful and clean. He pastel colours used throughout to depict the sky, sea and clouds create a softness that makes the film’s subject matter more accessible and less mentally draining. The￼ white flashes of the nuclear bomb and the confusion between the civilians as the terror unfolds goes far beyond the artistic approach of the director.
In This Corner of the World is slow and uneventful, this builds to the terrifying and real historical events that impact Suzu’s life. As the film draws to a close and the 129 minutes of beautiful animation turns to black there is a real sense of accomplishment that makes this film a great addition to the war genre.
For Fans Of: Grave of the Fireflies, The Wind Rises, Spirited Away.
In This Corner of the World (Kono Sekai no Katsumi ni) releases 28th June 2017 at Cineworld Glasgow Renfrew Street or Edinburgh International Film Festival.