Film Review: In this Corner of the World 「この世界の片隅に」

In this Corner of the World
この世界の片隅に [Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni]
2016, Animation
Director: Sunao Katabuchi

In this Corner of the World tells the story of Suzu, a young girl who left her hometown in Eba, Hiroshima City upon marriage to the port town of Kure. This is the story of loss and survival amidst the background of impending air raids and bombings in World War II Japan. The film sets itself apart by focusing on the day-to-day life of people living in those times amidst the bigger story of war around them showing great examples of mankind’s vulnerability and indomitable spirit.

Suzu sorting ingredients for a meal

Set in the cataclysmic World War II Japan, a few years before and after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima, the film opens with light-hearted and fast-paced montage of Suzu’s young life. The town where Suzu lives in is faithfully rendered and animated. It takes the viewer to Hiroshima of old, before the destruction of the atomic bomb. The director, Sunao Katabuchi, who worked as assistant director for Studio Ghibli’s Kiki’s Delivery Service, said in an interview that he researched thoroughly on Hiroshima during this time by interviewing former residents and atomic bomb survivors. The resulting animation is a faithful recollection of Hiroshima from its survivor’s collective memories even if the story itself is fiction.

Rendition of street scene in Hiroshima, pre-Atomic bomb

This award-winning film, adapted from Fumiyo Kouno’s manga, was developed through crowdfunding. Raising twice as much as the intended amount, it was a record success in Japan.

Stylistically, the animation focuses on scenes of Suzu’s ordinary life. There is something characteristically beautiful seeing a young wife going through the everyday mundane tasks of cooking, washing clothes, going on an errand, while the prospect of danger lurks unknowingly in the background. The viewer is well aware of the exact date the atomic bomb will be dropped in Hiroshima and the ensuing chaos right after. This I think is what makes this film beautiful.

Suzu, Still image from In this Corner of the World

For all of life’s misgivings, all we have to do is press on and move forward. In instances when we fail to do so, we can stand back or stand still. And fight whatever is in our way – when we are ready. But to live, and to thread on a life of purpose is what gives us a place we can call our own, in this corner of the world.

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