In This Corner of the World

In This Corner of the World

2017, PG-13, 129 min. Directed by Sunao Katabuchi. Voices by Non, Megumi Han, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Natsuki Inaba, Nanase Iwai, Minori Omi, Daisuke Ono.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 25, 2017

Life during wartime may include privations, anxiety, and in this deceptively beautiful and gracefully animated film, a bright white flash from the direction of Hiroshima. But director Katabuchi (Mai Mai Miracle) leavens this multi-award-winning portrait of teenage protagonist Suzu (Non) with oodles of heart and soulfulness and an attention to the quotidian duties of the Japanese home front rarely seen in the West. Thus, it’s as much a hyper-accurate albeit fictional depiction of everyday Japanese existence during – and after – World War II.

An artistic, sensitive girl given to gorgeously animated flights of fantasy and poetic interior monologues, Suzu lives in the village of Kure, in Hiroshima prefecture, with her parents and younger sister Sumi (Han). Although the film – adapted from the manga by Fumiyo Kono – has a story that runs all the way from 1933 to August of 1945, Katabuchi, who co-scripted with Chie Uratani (notably both are Studio Ghibli alumni), focuses almost solely on Suzu’s perspective, thereby allowing the viewer to experience small-town, wartime life through the eyes of a tremendously sympathetic civilian-cum-dreamer. By the time the Japanese descend on Pearl Harbor, she’s already married to Navy man Shusaku (Hosoya) – a boy, really, who’s as much a sharp-dressed military mystery to her as Suzu the dreamy artist is to him. This middle portion of In This Corner of the World, with its keenly realized depictions of the banal daily drudgery of rural Japanese life during ever-darkening days, is downright Ozu-esque but certainly never less than fascinating. Worse, of course, is looming just up ahead, as American B-29s commence daily drops of propaganda leaflets, incendiary ordnance, and uncountable bombs on Kure and surrounding areas.

That makes Katabuchi’s film sound as grim as can be, but it’s nowhere near as bleak as Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies. And while In This Corner of the World is bracingly honest in depicting the hardships and tragedies Japanese civilians endured during World War II, it steadfastly remains Suzu’s story all the way through to its – dare I say it? – hopeful conclusion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Films
Skyman
Alien abduction faux documentary puts tragedy ahead of effects

Richard Whittaker, July 3, 2020

John Lewis: Good Trouble
The life of the indefatigable civil rights champion, from son of sharecroppers to Congressional hero

Steve Davis, July 3, 2020

More by Marc Savlov
Hill of Freedom
Delicate South Korean tale of love lost and found finally gets U.S. release

June 12, 2020

Impractical Jokers: The Movie
Community couldn't get six seasons and a movie, but these guys did?

March 13, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

In This Corner of the World, Sunao Katabuchi

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle