Review: In This Corner of the World

With the UK theatrical release of In This Corner of the World only days away now, we thought it time to finally put our thoughts to paper and get a review out there and express how much we loved this movie. We were lucky enough to see In This Corner of the World late last year at an industry screening and were quite literally blown away by the soundtrack, animation, and, of course, the powerful story.

The story revolves around Suzu Urano and her ten-year journey of self-discovery and coming of age revelations set in Japan during World War II and, more specifically, a region of Japan close to Hiroshima. As a young girl in Japan during this time period her ultimate destiny is to be married off to another family although she would probably have been more content to spend her days drawing. She is far from forced into a marriage but doesn’t fight it and remains fairly carefree from start to end. As time passes, Suzu settles into the routine of married life, looking after her new husband’s poorly mother and taking over the day to day housework duties. For the most part, we come to know this family more intimately than her own and we really, as Suzu does, accept them. The latter half of the movie really focuses on the day to day wartime life, rationing and air raids.

The movie brings up some fairly common social conventions of that period that wouldn’t exist today and may even offend. These social conventions are never the focus of the story though that lies very much in wartime living. The movie in no way glamorises war and never even goes as far as to suggest that Japan was correct or good but then the same can be said for what we know to be the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I find this a very interesting take as it shows that during the war no one is good or bad; winner or loser, everyone loses. It’s interesting from a western perspective too as we can, or like too, imagine that whichever country we are from is the good side. The movie shows people trying to live, able men being sent to war regardless of choice and compassion for fellow human beings.

While war is the major theme throughout the story we never actually see any combat in terms of soldiers fighting but rather through fighter planes and bombers as well as naval ships. The story is really told from a civilian point of view where we see houses destroyed and lives lost but we are somehow detached from the actual fighting. That said, the use of imagery and sound during the bombings and dog fights can be harrowing. This part of the movie is really powerful in how they have been able to get across the sudden and terrifying aspect of wartime. In one scene we are shown Suzu’s own imagination blend with reality as she paints in her mind the colourful blasts and explosions that result from planes fighting it out in the air. It was a really impressive scene to witness and feel. There is another scene that I will not describe in detail due to spoilers but the simplicity and change in animation styles really hammer home the message that this movie is trying to get across.

I found the pacing of the movie really well planned out and executed. Many similar movies of this type have had issues with pacing which ultimately affected the enjoyment of them. In This Corner of the World, however, starts off with a quick series of scenes following Suzu’s life from a little girl into her coming of age. The majority of the movie then takes place over about a two year period when the war reaches its peak and then finally comes to a head. For a movie of this length which is very story driven through character interaction and very little in the way of action, it’s impressive that it manages to hold your attention for its entirety.

The animation is charming and features some fantastic and creative scenes, as I’ve mentioned previously. This traditional approach is perfect for the story being told and its great to see more of this type of animation quality return to the big screen.

The soundtrack for In This Corner of the World and, in particular, the use of sound effects really makes this movie. The story is great about without such attention to detail with the audio I doubt this movie would have been as enjoyable. The sound effects used really give a sense of how harrowing and isolated being in a wartime environment can be. Each time there was a bombing scene in the movie I was physically shaken, it had that much impact on the viewing experience.

In This Corner of the World is a charming, wonderfully thought-provoking and powerfully heart wrenching piece of animation that may be overshadowed by the likes of Your Name and A Silent Voice but is definitely not one to miss.