In 1944, Suzu Urano moves to the small town of Kure in Hiroshima where she marries Shuusaku Houjou—a young clerk who works at the local naval base. Living with his family, Suzu becomes essential to the running of the household and creatively prepares meals during the tough wartime conditions while also carrying out daily housework. In 1945, intense bombings by the U.S. military finally reach Kure with devastating effect to the townsfolk and their way of life. Suzu's life is changed irrevocably, but through perseverance and courage, she manages to continue to live life to the fullest.
Winner of the 40th Japan Academy Award for Best Animation Award, the 90th Kinema Junpo Best Ten Japan Film Best 1 and Director Award, 71st Mainichi Film Concurs Japanese Movie Excellence Award and Ofuji Nobushiro Prize, 59th Blue Ribbon Award Director Award, Hiroshima Peace Film Award during the 3rd Hiroshima International Film Festival, and the Best Film during the 38th Yokohama Film Festival.
A "Slice of Life" in Kure and Hiroshima in 1940s, Involving Love, Laughter, Fantasy, Hope, and Death.
The protagonist is a nonchalant (at least on the surface) and a bit dreamy ordinary girl who loves to draw and paint. She is raised in Hiroshima and marries into a family of a young man employed in the naval town of Kure,
The movies goes into great detail showing the life of an ordinary family of that time. It starts as a great slice of life, of her old-style marriage with a new husband, sharing life with in-laws and communicating with neighbors. There are happy, sweet, and tender
moments although the life is set in wartime, and the hardship gradually creeps into life. The relationship with the sister-in-law is a bit fictitious, but the protagonist forms a solid bond with the family and the relationship to her little niece is just beautiful.
And I will stop there, as it would be a great spoiler.
I will only add that air raid scenes were really terrifying, although it was not right in your face bloody. The reason why almost excessive showing of daily life was necessary becomes evident when the war becomes very personal and relate-able to the protagonist, and you are shown what war can do to people leaving emotional and physical scars. The effects of the A Bomb is not directly shown apart from a later brief horrifying scene (as the protagonist was in Kure, 30-40km away from Hiroshima), but depicted as a culmination of personal tragedies in a mass scale (if one could feel the great tormenting pain and sorrow of losing a loved one in Kure which was attacked by conventional incendiary bombings, then imagining the tragedy of hundreds of thousands lives lost in Hiroshima can evoke fear and despair without showing it right in the face).
I groaned in the theater as shedding tears was not enough to control my emotions. After the film finished I was in the streets with Christmas lights and happy faces around among families and friends. The world felt very ordinary yet very fragile. I kept on half-weeping on the train heading home.
This is a very well done film with a distinct art-style (it is realistic but it's a reality only achieved by animation and not a photoshop production using photographs or rotoscope), thorough research in history, and passion. I don't know if this film is the best of all war films, but I think it is one of the best animated films produced dealing with war (I can't say which is better- the Grave of Fireflies, or this).
This should be seen at theaters with a wide screen and good audio.
TL;DR: Watch this movie for the love, loss, and war you can expect in Japanese war movies. If you've seen any, like for example Barefoot Gen, you should know kinda what to expect walking in.
Right after the overall score is the "should you watch it" chart.
There is also a spoiler section at the very bottom for detailed commentary. Most people would not consider these spoilers, but they may hint at plot developments indirectly. Whether or not you wish to view them is up to you.
This movie takes place mainly around World War II, and talks about a ditzy and dreamy little girl called Suzu
from Hiroshima. She loves drawing, but is a bit clumsy at a lot of other things. In 1944, when she was 18, she was forced into a marriage with Shuusaku, a man she had never met from the city of Kure. With WWII raging on, how will Suzu and Shuusaku's life change? How will the people they meet change?
You probably already know what will happen, the question is just how it will get there. The themes are the same as most war movies, with perhaps just a tiny sprinkle of romance and beauty mixed in it. The movie's story does not really veer into the realm of the unexpected, yet the presentation of it is captivating.
A criticism of this movie that I have is that it moves extremely slow early on, and the pace is just all over the place. Sometimes years are just skipped, whereas sometimes you have events happening one after another on the same day. Though I get that it's kinda the point, it's unfortunately not something I prefer.
One thing I like is that the movie takes advantage of Suzu's dreaminess in order to give some fantastic surreal animation. Sometimes, you have no idea if something actually happened, or was simply the product of her imagination. The art contributes to this, which leads me to the next section.
It's a shame that I cannot give 11 for art to this movie. It is dynamic, abstract, and dreamy. It looks a bit like it was drawn with watercolor. As I was watching the animation of this movie, I couldn't help but feel that this was exactly how Suzu saw the world with her eyes. There are many climactic moments and significant events that are portrayed to convey feeling rather than realism. The art floats above the clouds and is not shackled by the restrictions of reality.
Sound: 9.5 (rounded up to 10)/10
It's hard to do sound wrong nowadays. I don't have much of a requirement for sound, as long as the music makes me feel what I think it's trying to make me feel at any given point. I usually don't have much to say about voice acting either, but in this case I found Suzu's voice acting in the very beginning of the movie slightly strange, as her voice didn't quite match the age of the character at the time. Once the movie progressed over to 1944, it became a lot more fitting.
Character: 8.5 (rounded up to 9)/10
Character development for Suzu and Shuusaku was very substantial. The movie does a great job at showing their development without explicitly telling you. However, there were characters that got the short end of the stick, per se. Look in the spoiler section for commentary there.
I have a somewhat personal grudge against this movie. As a person that loves watching romance, arranged marriages just do not sit with me very well. It took out a lot of enjoyment from the movie for me. The movie was also a bit too predictable, and did not try anything new with its approach. Perhaps I have seen too many of these movies; I found it hard to immerse myself into it, and frequently found myself pulled into reality saying 'oh that reminds me of such and such war movie'. Overall though, it was rather enjoyable regardless of all of these things. I also have some spoilers regarding enjoyment at the end pertaining to the romance aspect of the film.
As in my other reviews, my overall score is based only on enjoyment, and my enjoyment takes into account pretty much everything about the movie and summarizes it into a single number. Despite not having any emotional impact on me whatsoever, I was still glad I got to experience it. Although I personally did not enjoy it as much as I liked, I believe that there are many people, especially those that are fans of war movies or emotional stories that will love this movie and hail it as a masterpiece.
The "should you watch it" chart:
- like Japanese history?
- enjoy Japanese WWII movies? animated movies?
- like themes such as learning to live with people, coping with what fate gives you, and other themes of war movies?
- enjoy slow paced movies that are grounded in the realities of life?
- enjoy subtle, emotional stories?
Then you will likely watch this show. If you do not like all of these things, you may or may not like the movie. Your mileage may vary.
Very light spoilers ahead. You have been warned.
My personal enjoyment of this movie was impacted not only just because of the arranged marriage, but because the arranged marriage broke a pairing that I just kinda expected would happen based on the events of the movie. When true love gets torn by circumstances like that, I like it only when I expect it to happen. That was probably one of the few unpredictable things about the movie, but unfortunately that took away a lot of my enjoyment rather than add to it.
One other thing that was rather annoying was that it introduced characters, then did basically nothing with them ever again. This would've been fine for me if it had just been left alone, but the characters reappear, making them more than just insignificant characters. Just when they have shed the identity of insignificant character, they disappear from the rest of the story. I doubt this is by accident, and was probably intended as a sort of realistic portrayal of how sometimes we just never find out about what happened to some people or meet them again. This didn't do anything to alleviate my frustration, however.
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