I was very excited to see MangaUK had licensed In This Corner of the World for cinema screenings in the UK and was very quick to book my tickets. I’d heard very good things about this anime film that, surprisingly, came into being because of crowdfunding.
In This Corner of the World follows the life of Suzu as she grows up in Hiroshima and is then whisked away to neighbouring Kure to be married at the young age of eighteen. Her life is seemingly peaceful and rural but rumbling on in the background is the Second World War, which rapidly makes it presence felt and throws Suzu’s life into turmoil.
I was expecting to be in tears from start to finish, given the subject matter, but was surprised that neither I nor my two friends who I saw the film cried. That certainly does not mean that In This Corner in the World isn’t as emotive and poignant as everyone has been saying. Tragedy strikes more than once and the last hour or so of the films ramps up on the devastation, but the story-telling is subtle. It doesn’t strike you over the head and tell you to be constantly sad.
Mixed in with the tragedy of the war are people going about their daily rural lives, growing up, helping each other and enjoying each other’s company. In Suzu’s case, her blossoming relationship with her husband Shusaku and friendship with her niece Harumi are a welcome distraction from the war and show that life still goes on. I enjoyed In This Corner of the World because it felt grounded and a lot of effort clearly went into building up the environment, so viewers become completely invested in it before the effects of the war really become apparent.
For me, there are three parts to this film: Suzu’s character development as she grows from a child in Hiroshima to a bride displaced in Kure, the challenges she faces adapting to her new environment against a backdrop of war and rationing, and finally the catastrophic effects of the war complete with its air raids, bombings and loss of life. It sneaks up on you and when it finally hits, it hits hard, even though you know it’s always been there in the background all along.
I particularly love the art style of In This Corner of the World. Suzu loves to draw and the film is peppered with her own creations, such as the rabbits jumping the ocean waves and the bombs dropping from the sky bursting into splashes of paint. The art style itself feels somewhat unpolished and rustic and the characters appear more ‘realistic’. This helps to give the film a more grounded feel.
The background to the film’s creation is quite interesting. It’s based on a manga of the same name by Fumiyo Kono. When the production of an adaption film was announced, Japanese crowdfunders raised 39 million yen, beating the target of 20 million yen. The director, Sunao Katabuchi, was meticulous about creating realistic environments to set his film in and spent much time researching and interviewing to get the details fine-tuned. I think his hard work paid off.
In This Corner of the World is about much more than Hiroshima during the Second World War. It’s also a poignant exploration of love, loss, perseverance and living. Find a screening near you here.