Director: Sunao Katabuchi
Starring: Megumi Han, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Natsuki Inaba, Nanase Iwai, Minori Omi, Daisuke Ono, Tengai Shibuya, Mayumi Shintani, Shigeru Ushiyama
Set in Hiroshima during World War II, an eighteen-year-old girl gets married and now has to prepare food for her family despite the rationing and lack of supplies. As she struggles with the daily loss of life’s amenities she still has to maintain the will to live. (Source: IMDb)
Non-Ghibli anime films have been on a pretty good run over the last year or so, with the excellent Your Name and A Silent Voice garnering positive praise from both critics and audiences alike. Still criminally under-screened, it is always worth hunting down a cinema that is showing them, as few films can sweep you away to other worlds and immerse you in fantastical and beautiful stories like anime films do.
Released on the 30th June in the UK, you’ll have plenty of time to find somewhere screening Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World, and it is definitely worth seeking out. The synopsis sounds unfairly bleak, and whilst it isn’t short of emotional moments, it is surprisingly warm and charming.
With a whistle-stop tour through her childhood, we find Suzu (Megumi Han) as an 18 year old being in an arranged marriage and facing the struggles of moving away from her family on the outskirts of Hiroshima to the naval port of Kure. Suzu is an instantly charming and likeable leading lady, and once again anime films must be praised for consistently focusing on the stories of ordinary women in positive and wonderful ways, where Western animations still lack.
The story of Suzu’s struggles to feed her new family through wartime rations might not seem the most compelling, but the characterisations and the gorgeous animation ensure it is anything but boring. Like so many Japanese animations, the pace is slow, but the visuals are so glorious that this is never an issue. The focus and lines are soft, the pastel colour palette appropriately resembling brushstrokes and flourishes. Suzu is a painter, and there are moments where different medias, drawing styles and tools are blended seamlessly with the normal animation, and to wonderful effect.
There are some genuine moments of humour that are interjected perfectly into the drudgery of Suzu’s life, but also some very emotional moments as well. Seeing the word “Hiroshima” in any synopsis should give you some idea, and whilst you shouldn’t expect Grave of the Fireflies levels of sadness, it might be worth going armed with tissues as it certainly doesn’t shy away from the realities, and particularly the human impact, of war.
Suzu is a self-confessed daydreamer, and there are times when the story flits in and out of these daydreams. At times this leaves you reeling as it isn’t always distinguishable between what is reality and what is a dream. A visual clue to help tell the truth from fiction perhaps would’ve been helpful. It is still a fairly linear narrative to follow (anime does have a habit of messing around with timelines and sequences of events!), but at times it was perhaps unnecessarily confusing.
Whilst all the characterisations were great, and particularly the core group of characters was great, there were perhaps at time a few too many players coming in and out of the story. This isn’t to say any of them are bad, but you might find yourself taking a split second to remind yourself of who is who and what their part in the story is, which does temporarily take you out of the story itself.
I saw this movie and you should too. There is beauty in the ordinary sometimes, and this is a very ordinary story but told in a far-from ordinary way. The animation is absolutely stunning, the characters likeable and relatable, and the story strikes the right balance between humour and tragedy. Fans of anime should definitely check this one out and newcomers should also give this one a go. There is much beauty to be found in the world of Japanese animation, and In This Corner of the World is another great example.