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.
In This Corner of the World is a fairly decent anime about a woman as she grows up in pre-war Japan and how her life changes during the later years of World War 2. This anime’s undoing, however, is due to the fact that it focuses on a specific niche of people and this niche is one that is not very prevalent in the anime community.
The movie itself takes a look at the effects of the war through the eyes of a young bride named Suzu who claims she is always dreaming. This dream state, however, can lead to some confusion as several of
the events in the story can feel surreal while only a small fraction of those events are actually dreams. An example of this is when Suzu visits home for the first time after her marriage and comments upon waking up from a nap, “that was a good dream” personally confusing me as to whether or not the events we had witnessed were real. I do feel that this lens and idea of a dream is a unique way of looking at war, avoiding the gritty aspects of it and viewing it in a more positive light, encapsulating the Japanese nationalism at the time. This ongoing theme the anime has also becomes very important in the story; specifically when you’re identifying the anime’s climax.
The movie itself has a very obscure yet dull climax. The director of the film, Sunao Kabuchi, was asked at a French screening of the movie “what the climax of the movie was” and didn’t give a decisive answer, leaving it up to speculation. This anime has (in my personal opinion) multiple climax’s though there is a singular event, a singular climax in this story, that shifts the plot from it’s rising to its falling actions. I won’t say what this event is, but I will say it “wakes” Suzu up from her dream like state and the reality of war becomes much more apparent and the anime itself takes on a different, more gritty perspective on the war as it slowly begins to penetrate Suzu’s peaceful life.
The anime’s falling action is very unique as, instead of slowing down the pacing and bringing the anime to a close, it leads to more exciting and thrilling events with a much faster pacing. I think this can also be connected back to the dream like state Suzu has been awoken from. Though some might say the event that woke Suzu up from her dream was “unnecessary” and it’s only goal was to arouse the audience, I’d argue that, without this event, the anime would not be as impactful as it is. Without an event like this occurring, Suzu would never have awoken from her “dream” and the anime would have no decisive conclusion.
The pacing of the movie, however, in the first half, is poorly done as it skips around through different periods of Suzu’s younger life, sometimes skipping weeks to years. This is something I and many others are not fond of as it seems to pick the time and place it wants certain events to take place. Though this might be connected with the historical accuracy this anime presents, I still feel that the skips, especially since they vary in length, are uncalled for. Many of these small tidbits of Suzu’s childhood provide little information to the viewer and much of it becomes irrelevant later in the movie.
The movies animation, though beautiful and exquisite, is also very bland. Many characters are similar in many ways because of this animation style and I often mixed them up. The animation, though part of the anime’s aesthetics, could have been done in a way to make the characters more identifiable. The animation, though it focuses on making the anime, in a way, realistic, falls short of making their characters stand out amongst both each other and their environment.
The characters themselves were very well thought out. Each one had a unique personality that matched their short but interesting backstory and though a majority of them don’t develop over the course of the story, those that do, like Suzu and her sister-in-law, Keiko, do so in a very well scripted and realistic way.
The film itself is very well directed and I find less and less anime as well written and directed as this one. It has many impactful and heartfelt moments that truly make you feel for the characters it presents. I feel that many people will not understand why certain events in this movie are so overlooked and skimmed over and that’s because we have a very different culture from 1940s Japan. This unique culture which Japan has lost much of in its post-WW2 state is what makes this anime very selective in its audience, something I see as a major flaw. However, this movie becomes much more immersive if you do look at it with the mindset of a Japanese citizen in the 1940s, making it a big hit or miss.
The music the anime has along with its placement, however, dilutes these heartfelt moments. The OST itself is charming but the placement of the music is where this anime is its weakest. The film has many very powerful moments both spoken and unspoken but the placement of the songs focuses primarily on the spoken moments of the show. These spoken moments, though powerful, are not as powerful as some of the unspoken ones and drowns out much of the softer music. The music itself would have had a much more apparent effect on the audience had it been placed into some of the more powerful, unspoken moments such as when Suzu is pushed into a ditch by Shuusaku, effectively saving her life. However, as it seems the priority of giving those spoken moments more impact, much of the music in the anime was used in them.
Personally the coolest part of this anime is how historically accurate it was. The anime itself has been in production since 2010 and everything from the locations to the weather is accurate and, had you been in each location on that date, it would have been the exact same as it was presented in the movie. I feel this unnoticed but unique aspect made this movie (once you find out about it) much more enjoyable and likeable.
Overall, In This Corner of the World was one of the more enjoyable anime I’ve seen these past few years, competing with other popular titles such as Koe no Katachi and Your Name. Though each of these titles has their own unique strong and weak points, overall I feel this one is the one I personally found most enjoyable (though objectively it lagged slightly behind the other two).
Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (I will call it KonoKata from hereon) is a slice-of-life, historical movie that details the life of a normal Japanese citizen during the latter days of World War 2.
For an average citizen, war is a very undesirable thing. It disrupts the peaceful routine that makes us very comfortable with our lives in the first place, food has to be rationed and thus you won't be eating much and deliciously for a while. Air raid alerts are very frequent and may happen anytime so chances are you won't be getting much sleep if an alert blared off in the middle
of the night. When your beloved ones are drafted for war, the mixed feeling of sadness, fearfulness, loneliness came flooding in fear of losing them and not seeing them again.
KonoKata tells its story in a very simple and honest manner, purely from the perspective of Suzu Houjou, who is an ordinary Japanese citizen during World War 2. We follow her life story of her growing up and ends up having an arranged meeting with her husband, then we see her doing a lot of household chores just like how a married Japanese woman was expected during that era. War came, and its devastating effect was felt by Suzu and her close ones, just like how it would impact an ordinary Japanese citizen.
The pacing of the movie is pretty slow, and doesn't attempt to manipulate the viewers by using any overly dramatic methods. When they are under attack, it would be presented in a slice-of-life way instead of a dramatic way, where we simply follow Suzu and her family move towards a shelter as fast as they could, hiding there bracing themselves as the shelter quakes from the air bombings, once everything has subsided, they come out from the shelter and life goes on. When tragedy really struck, there isn't much going on, other than we see how the victims overcome their sadness of losing their loved ones and return to their normal lives being stronger than before.
The characters are presented in as realistic as possible as well, there aren't any ridiculous bravado only seen in shounen shows, nor are there any crazy personalities that are always found in shows with school setting. Everyone is normal in KonoKata, just like your friendly neighbor who greets you every morning, and that strict military police who arrests you because they have to be overly alert at all times, etc etc. While it is one thing to be complimented for having very realistic characters, it is a pity that these characters will not be very memorable to you in the distant future.
As the first scene shed its light onto the big cinematic screen, the animation style by MAPPA (Zankyou no Terror, Yuri on Ice) can be seen as very traditional - mostly hand-drawn animation with very minimal CG being used, the backgrounds are illustrated akin to a watercolor painting. The character designs are simple yet sufficiently distinct to give everyone a different face. Overall, the movie is a delight to watch. Colors are very balanced, not too bright nor gloomy, which is rather nice seeing most war-themed movies can get overly dark sometimes. If you had been following the newer productions recently, you might feel a little unfamiliar with the older style KonoKata utilizes.
For the sound presentation, the great speakers from the big screen do the bombings a huge favor, highlighting their powerful impact and damage every time a bomb is landed. There isn't much to say about the soundtracks used in the movie, however, as they are pretty much standard piano themes that aren't memorable, and there aren't many of them as most of the movie doesn't have any music behind it. Seiyuu performances, although solid, isn't anything to be touted for, either.
KonoKata is one of those movies that does an honest and simple job in portraying how life of an ordinary citizen looks like during World War 2, serving as a great reminder on how war is truly an undesirable thing. Being simple and honest doesn't make a great movie, however, as the slow pacing, lack of drama and being slice-of-life heavy may turn many moviegoers away.
+ Honest portrayal on how life is during World War 2.
+ Realistic setting and characters.
+ Doesn't use sappy drama to hook you on.
+ Decent art presentation.
- Slow pacing, nothing much happens throughout the movie.
- Can be quite boring if it isn't your cup of tea.
- Ordinary soundtrack.
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