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IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD gets 7.5/10 The art of war

Directed by Sunao Katabuchi
Starring Non, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Mayumi Shintani


Based on the manga of the same name by Fumiyo Kōno, In This Corner of the World tells of a young woman’s experience in Japan during World War Two. In her childish halcyon days of the pre-war Suzu (Non) spends her time in the sea-side town of Eba (a suburb of Hiroshima) drawing and helping out with her families Nori business, but when she comes of age she marries into a family from the nearby city of Kure, and moves to be with her husband’s family. There she comes to grips with the new challenges her life offers her in this Japanese Naval port town and the changing tides of war for Japan in 1944-45.

There is a resilience, and gentle sadness about this film about civilian wartime life for the Japanese during the Second World War. Unlike Studio Ghibli’s similarly themed Grave of the Fireflies there is less of a sense of overwhelming grimness about this animated film, but the occasional sense of joy in the darkness, brought about by the extraordinary vision of the main character, and her interaction with the family and friends around her. The war is not about battles and territory, but rather the mundaneness of the home-front – about stretching rations to feed a family, dealing with lack of sleep from air-raid sirens or increased factory work, avoiding running afoul of the paranoid Military Police, and seeing their loved ones ship off to war.

Of course this is not without its tragedy. As the war starts to go badly for Japan, the port city of Kure comes under increasingly heavy bombing, and with Suzu’s family being from Hiroshima, an inevitable tragedy looms on the horizon. In This Corner of the World never shies away from this, nor does it make the decision to wallow in it, instead looking at the green shoots recovery of the survivors and the sense of community and spirit that carried so many through. After all in the rationed community “tears are a waste of good salt”.

Sunao Katabuchi (Mai Mai Miracle, and assistant director on Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service) captures this lightness in an extraordinarily beautiful animation, a gentle hand-drawn style awash with bright greens and blues. The artistic life of Suzu constantly infringes on our perception, allowing for flights of fancy -from sequences turning into hand sketched drawings, to the burst of AA guns becoming splashes of coloured paint in the sky. That creativity and artistic innovation permeates this film, shaping the way we experience events.

An extraordinary piece of cinema, reminding us of the power of animation as it delves into a world few of us have seen before. In This Corner of the World is a gentle, amusing and poignant film.


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