As someone who previously used to be very much into Japanese culture thanks to anime’s like Dragon Ball or Gundam Wing alongside with their animated feature films, it’s a bit of a shame that I wasn’t really familiar with Sunao Katabuchi until this film. Sunao Katabuchi helped bring the television show Black Lagoon together, and it was produced by the powerhouse that is Madhouse, behind some of everyone’s favourites such as One-Punch Man, Death Note, and even Paprika.
This time Katabuchi makes a film based on a manga (or graphic novel for the Western culture) that can be (loosely) summed by describing it as a period coming-of-age war story.
In This Corner of the World follows Suzu, a young girl from Eba, Hiroshima, and we see her grow up and eventually be married off as in typical fashion from their culture at the time. The film shows off her day-to-day schedule in a mundane way, showing that Suzu has a lot to get used to, changing her entire life in a dramatic way.
Suzu marries a man from the city of Kure, which is a Military town of sorts, a huge Navy base is located within the city, and her new husband Shusaku has a job with them. We see her adjusting to the new married life, and living with her parents-in-law, and eventually her new sister-in-law, Keiko who has had a harsh life on her own. Keiko’s daughter Harumi and her family is the only good in her life.
The film is stunning and has gorgeous jaw-dropping sequences. One sequence changes the style of art, and in the process, left me speechless for the rest of the film. Each of the characters are drawn over the more stable backgrounds, the buildings that are crucial to each city we are shown. On the Blu-ray, we see a featurette that shows how Hiroshima and how Kure looks today, and when we see it next to images from the film, it’s understandable to why it’s utterly crucial to have that design feature for the backgrounds. While the film may not be fully accurate, it builds reality around it, and it makes it more powerful for it.
As the film moves slowly at first showing Suzu’s life, it felt a bit harder to connect the story and the characters. But I slowly grew as Suzu did as well, as she got closer to Shusaku’s family during her stay with him. And as the years move forward towards the war, it also moved closer to the end of it, including the dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. The film became filled with dread, as the pace picked up moving closer and closer to the eventful days. I was aware of what Suzu and her family had in the future, but she wasn’t, and it became painful.
The Blu-ray comes with a featurette as I’ve mentioned that shows how two of the cities look in modern day. There is no speaking, but there is a Japanese song with subtitles that allows you to see the differences. It also comes with a preview of the manga with the same name it is based on. It also has an interview with the producer Masao Maruyama, a few interviews with the director on his U.S. tour, plus a very in-depth interview with the Katabuchi on his own. It’s completely fascinating and a great way to dive in and find out on some of the behind-the-scenes of the film.
At first, the film was intriguing and kept me at arm’s length, but it very quickly brought me closer and closer. In This Corner of the World is powerful, and empowering. To see a family be shaken to their core as they lived in fear, and watch as how they and their community rose from the ashes to be stronger than before, it left me with tears around me. This film is a beautiful look into one of the world’s dirtiest and most painful moments in history, but it found a way to make you smile. It is an incredible representation of what life can be like sometimes.