In This Corner of The World

In This Corner of The World

Luke Lodahl, Writer

On August 15th, 1945, Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s surrender bringing the end to World War II with more than 36 million casualties throughout the Pacific. When watching movies that depict these times, you know it’s not going to have a happy ending. In the case for Japan, they’re consistently marked by the same crippling blow, the nuclear bombs.

In This Corner of the World is a Japanese war/drama film directed by Sunao Katabuchi and written in collaboration by Sunao Katabuchi and Chie Uratani. The movie takes a step back from the action of the war and takes us through the life of Suzu Hojo, a young woman from a seaside town called Eba near Hiroshima.

Instead of depicting the horrors of war or when the bombs fall, like in Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies, this movie is a window to another world and another time not often available for us to see — the day-to-day life and experiences of the citizens of Imperial Japan during the war. The film is thoroughly researched in order to intimately preserve pre-war Hiroshima, a time few people are left to recall.
Suzu’s journey begins in 1943, as an 18-year old. Suzu is married off to a man named Shusaku who lives in Kure City across the mountains from Hiroshima. Most of the beginning of the film is full of surprisingly happy beats but sad and incredibly melancholic at times. Suzu is such a young woman moving away from her home and thrown into a completely new alien world to begin a brand new life away from everything she’s ever known. The movie initially feels as lost as Suzu, but they both soon find their way. She is incredibly hardworking and upbeat as she makes the best out of an unfamiliar situation. She can be oblivious and clumsy but fiercely loyal and assertive when she needs to be. The rest of her new family and the other characters are complex and bring strong elements to the story as a whole.
Before any signs of conflict-hit the screen, you get a wonderful glimpse of a country pulling together in its darkest hour. The warm hand-drawn style of the characters is beautifully contrasted with scenic painted backgrounds of Japan’s countryside and sprawling cities lost in time. The fluid art style showcases the beauty of a Japan long gone and the striking horrors of war when it finally arrives.

As the film nears its inevitable conclusion, it is never dulled by the knowledge that it’s coming. When tensions hit, there are luckily lighthearted moments as we persevere during these trying times. When the heavy hits, it hits hard, but unlike any other war film I’ve seen, the war is shown sparingly. It is used more as a backdrop and setting for the drama unfolding. The moments of conflict that are depicted end up happening so fast you can almost miss it. The restraint direction of the film is what makes the film so special. It truly encapsulates the perspective of Suzu in an incredibly convincing way. The movie doesn’t try to be a war movie. It’s an exploration of wartime Japan and a coming-of-age story of loss and perseverance through hardship. Suzu’s life is tarnished by grief but always balanced by love and happiness. The film captures something that is truly human and real, away from geopolitics and external affairs, providing an honest representation and experience few films come close to.