Review: In This Corner of the World — A heartfelt masterpiece about Hiroshima in World War II

suzu in this corner of the world still

In This Corner of the World / Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni (2016)

Movie review

This has to be one of the most difficult reviews I have to write because it’s difficult to fully describe what a beautiful, heartfelt and important masterpiece this film is. Directed and screenwritten by Sunao Katabuchi (Mai Mai Miracle, Princess Arete), In This Corner of the World is a Japanese animated drama adapted from an award-winning manga series by Fumiyo Kono. Set in Hiroshima from the year 1944, the story follows an 18-year-old girl named Suzu (voiced by Rena Nonen a.k.a. Non) who tries to maintain happiness while struggling through food shortages, lack of supplies, air raids and bombings during the terrifying times of World War II.

The narratives focus only on Suzu’s experience from pre-war until after the historical atomic bombing on Hiroshima that destroyed the city, killed over 70,000 civilians and permanently damaging thousands more. The first act has a warm, lighthearted tone with a bit of playful humour to develop the characters and get viewers emotionally invested before the shock that’s coming. It is difficult not to find the protagonist likable and engaging. She’s adorable, innocent, kindhearted and she learns to solve problems, contribute to her family and adapt herself in any situation. She likes to draw and daydream. Her family’s poor but everything is okay. She’s happy-go-lucky. And then the war begins, things become more and more challenging for Suzu and her family as the story gradually becomes more serious and tragic. This is unfortunately not one of her daydreams. It’s her reality and it’s truly heartbreaking.

hiroshima bombing in this corner of the world still

Although all the characters are fictional, the film’s illustration of Hiroshima and its depiction of the peaceful domestic life of the city’s civilians and the experiences during that period are meticulously based on surviving photos, documents and memories of the former residents. I can imagine how nostalgic and important this film can be to Japan. The film is like an epitome of Japanese history, traditional culture and art. The dream-like visuals are hand-drawn in trademark Japanese style and seemingly water-coloured. The music by Kotringo is absolutely brilliant, further amplifying Suzu’s feelings in every scene.

There are lots of films that convey the horrors and sufferings of war but not many that I’ve seen is as purposefully complete as In This Corner of the World. The film effectively presents the contrast between the beauty of peace and the cruelty of war while convincingly conveying the value and importance of love, forgiveness and generosity. And its anti-war/nuclear bombing message couldn’t be any more clearer — it brings nothing but indescribable loss and sadness.

hiroshima before after bomb
Before and after atomic bombing on Hiroshima.

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What I would’ve named the film: “Hiroshima Bombing: Unjustifiable”

Malaysian censorship: It seemed to be completely uncensored (at the local press screening). Highly doubt any scene needed to be cut.

Verdict: A masterpiece of great importance. If I saw this film last year, it would’ve been ranked number one on my Top 5 Movies of 2016 list.

Rating: 5 / 5

in this corner of world anime malaysia poster tgvCountry / Language: Japan / Japanese
Based on: 2007-2009 manga series “Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni” by Fumiyo Kōno

Genre: Wartime drama anime
Running Time: 128 minutes
Director-writer: Sunao Katabuchi
Voice Cast: Rena Nōnen (Non), Yoshimasa Hosoya, Daisuke Ono, Megumi Han, Shigeru Ushiyama, Mayumi Shintani

Malaysia Release Date: 13 July 2017
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Production: MAPPA

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