In this Corner of the World (Kono sekai no katasumi ni)
Directed by Sunao Katabuchi (Mai Mai Miracle)
Based on the manga by Fumiyo Kono
Voice acting by Rena Nounen, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Natsuki Inaba
Review by Jordan
“With white rabbits and heron in the sky”
The world needs people like Suzu Urano, to endure it, and to offer a genuine, infectious appreciation for its moments of happiness. Films too, need characters such as this, to portray the beauty discoverable in those with every incentive to shy away from a gladness only barely visible.
Like Grave of the Fireflies, Sunao Katabuchi‘s In this Corner of the World takes us to a Japan in the midst of a cruel war, with the herons unaware of the threat the sirens announce and the citizens of the seaside Kure and nearby Hiroshima longing for that obliviousness. As was Isao Takahata’s approach also, Katabuchi finds an uplifting element and presents the world as unfolding before her eyes, offering a story beautifully told and animated, filled with heart and little human flourishes that carry lasting emotional significance.
As a young girl, Suzu displays an innate and practiced propensity to charity and empathy, loved particularly by her grandmother and loving towards her younger sister. Her idiosyncratic daydreaming is seemingly linked to a marvellous artistic ability; she paints the thoughts of her own and personal interpretations of others, bringing the turbulent sea to life as white rabbits atop the swirling blue. Upon becoming a young woman, her charms are noticed by suitors, and aged 18 she marries the measured Shusaku Hojo, a clerk at a naval base, and moves away to live with his family.
Homesickness and difficult feelings of being unwanted ease as she finds creativity and personalisation possible in running the household, with her mother-in-law unwell and unable to assist. Even in the eyes of Shusaku’s bitter, life-weary sister Keiko, Suzu is soon seen essential to her newly acquired family, bonding with Keiko’s daughter Harumi and preparing meals with the sparse rations provided. She is a friend, having embraced her life in her own beguiling way, with a shy smile, even if it was one she didn’t choose herself.
A war film in acknowledgement of its historical placement, In this Corner of the World sees an artist paint her version of the devastating events surrounding her, while still not losing touch of the grave reality she is faced with. The ending sees the perspective that there is life left to live when so much has been lost, having respectfully and truthfully dwelt on the innocent victims and those in mourning of what could’ve been.
Not all of life can be countered with a charmingly aloof shrug and smile, and there is a time when daydreams must fade, but tough times are better approached and endured when happiness can be more easily recounted.