In this Corner of the World is not the first animated film to focus on the impact and/or consequences of World War II. A number of Studio Ghibli’s films such as My Neighbour Totoro and From Up On Poppy Hill had more than a nod to the impact of World War II on Japanese Culture, and Isao Takahata’s Grave Of The Fireflies provides a harrowing tale of the impact of firebombing of Kobe. However, In this Corner of the World is less a war film and more akin to a period drama, with its focus on the life of ordinary people - drilling down on the mundane tasks of day to day life.
The film commences in 1933 and focuses on the life of a young girl called Suzu who grows up in rural Hiroshima. Following her arranged marriage to a navy clerk she moves to live with his family in Kure. Home to an important naval base, thus Kure is a regular target for air raids. The film centres around Suzu’s daily life and the challenges of living under the shadows of what would become known as Chekhov’s A-bomb.
Having seen a trailer for In this Corner of the World, I was extremely excited when the discs arrived on my doormat and couldn’t wait to watch. Though, for me, In this Corner of the World simply didn’t live up to the promise of the trailer. The film focuses on Suzu’s life before and after the war, and this means that the film makes quite a few time skips. The opening scenes, where we first meet Suzu and are introduced to her love of drawing and the men which are central to her life, feel a little muffled as we speedily jump to a point where she becomes a young innocent 18 year-old, ready to be married. The time skips do slow down as we approach the middle-part of the film which enables us to get more of an understanding of the real-life struggles associated with living through a period of war. The contributions to war effort and the sacrifices made by woman who lived through this period.
In This Corner of The World had so much potential, however the film lack clear focus. For example, the ending left me rather puzzled. The film looks set to finish sn ending which would fit perfectly with the overall tone, including the choice of the title of the film. Throughout the film, the focus had been on the emotional impact that war brings rather than the destructive carnage it can bring. Yet, all of sudden we are thrown into the middle of a bombing sequence with burning buildings and a child cradling her dead mother. The child is then seen walking around lost and alone until she bumps into Suzu and her husband. Subsequently, the couple adopt the child and the film ends on this relatively happy note. I can only assume this was done to fit in with the film’s strap line ‘Torn apart by war. Brought together by love.’
Where this film shines really is through its animation. The soft-pastel hues are elegant and beautiful to look at. Everything is beautifully detailed. The animation enables the view to really take a step back in time, as it provides you with a wonderful insight into how Hiroshima would have looked like before the atomic bomb hit. Katabuchi and his team painstaking recreated the backgrounds for In this Corner of the World by studying photographs of the time, and interviewing local people who had lived in Hiroshima before the bombing. This film is just an insight into the struggle associated with living a war hit Japan, but a lasting memorial of the beauty and architecture of Hiroshima and this for me is what makes it special.