Time and again, anime films have offered a reprieve from the mundanity of Hollywood with their unique approach to the medium. Few examples of the craft manage to make their way West, let alone gain recognition; yet every so often, there’s one which does just that, such as this award-winning gem from 2016.
Years before the outbreak of World War II, a young girl named Suzu Urano is living an idyllic, relatively carefree life in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Like any other child, she attends school and lives with her family in a humble abode, but Suzu is not like the other children in her village – due to her overly-creative mind, she has great difficulty undertaking even the simplest of tasks.
As Suzu comes of age, she is arranged to marry a man in Kure by the name of Shusaku Hojo, promptly moving away from her childhood home. Suzu’s relocation proves difficult in more ways than one, as the fighting between Japan and the United States has since escalated. With the conflict reaching its peak, the citizens of Kure are bearing the full force of the U.S. Air Force, struggling to maintain their day-to-day lives.
In this Corner of the World isn’t the first instance of an anime film exploring life in wartime Japan – one might recall Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies telling a similar story. Whereas the latter film focuses on two siblings in the immediate aftermath of a firebombing, the former films begins much more innocently, showing Japan as a place of relative serenity, with the characters not experiencing the horrors of warfare until much later.
Until that happens, audiences are treated to a blissful, leisurely-paced observation of what Japanese life was like prior to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which is rather interesting to witness – in one instance, limited rations and over-inflated prices mean Suzu must get creative when feeding the in-laws. If there’s one issue to be had with the story, it’s that the pacing is a bit too leisurely, to the point where some viewers might become disinterested.
Adding to the film’s innocence is the style of animation. Unlike other anime films, which rely heavily on loud colours and oversized facial features, In this Corner of the World’s illustrations resemble those of a picture storybook, with watercolours and soft pastels predominating the imagery. Although this style lacks the detail and vibrancy that other Japanese studios are known for, it does allow the picture to stand-out among its contemporaries.
In this Corner of the World harks back to a time long-since forgotten by the modern world, one which is brought to life by beautiful storytelling and exemplary drawings. Though not inherently engaging, it’s an experience not to be missed by anime fans, or anybody else with a keen eye for animation.