With recent works such as A Silent Voice, The Red Turtle and Your Name topping the charts, many of us are becoming familiar with Japanese animation and can’t wait for our next dose. Up next to tug (quite hard) on our heart strings, begins life as a gentle family drama – until World War II explodes and the enviable events in Hiroshima implode before our eyes.
Of course, if one is familiar with the famous Studio Ghibli; Takahata’s war-torn Grave of the Fireflies immediately springs to mind as Katabuchi serves up a hefty chunk of sentiment; though there is a distinct difference here placing them at opposite ends of the spectrum. In this Corner of the World takes a while to find its stride, but when it does we are thrown into the action, all accompanied by a truly strong heroine who shines through such devastating circumstances.
Sweet, demure and artistic – Suzu’s imagination runs wild at her family home as she grows and turns into a fascinating young woman. Soon (far too soon one might think) she is married off to Shusaku, thankfully a kind man who treats her well but she still has to put up with the rest of his family, not to mention all the cooking, cleaning and washing. Trying her best to impress her new relatives, she struggles with her sister-in-law Keiko, who constantly gives her the cold shoulder, even when she does all she can when to it comes to entertaining her cute daughter Harumi. As war quickly looms over them, Suzu becomes detached from her fantasy world and is sucked into a deep chasm where it’s near impossible to escape.
What makes this film so special is that there isn’t really anything extraordinary about our characters. The realism here is unavoidable and at times comforting. They are ordinary people, doing ordinary things and just dealing with the fact they are now in a war-zone. Suzu’s visions seem to be a coping mechanism to deal with her insecurities; how her life has actually panned out and the deeply unsettling series of events that have happened to this young woman in a short amount of time. This girl gets married off before she can blink and her journey towards becoming a wife is a daunting and moving as the war virtually takes control of her life.
The surreal, minimalist artwork presented here conveys emotion, grabs hold you and transfers the immense amount of feeling right to the core. The water coloured palette provides us with a dreamy tangible landscape enhancing this extremely moving piece of cinema. Even the aftermath of such a catastrophic event as Hiroshima still looks beautiful as each frame exudes a plethora of emotions as the credits roll.
In this Corner of the World is out on June 28th