I was fortunate enough to first see In This Corner of the World on the big screen, but I can confirm it is just as emotional when you’re up close watching on a small one.
That’s what you get with In This Corner of the World. You get emotions. You get characters to believe in. You get history and fantasy all blended in a magical reality. You don’t get mecha, fan service and school dramas. In This Corner of the World is one of my go-to animes to use as a response to the unwelcome phrase ‘But, it’s just a cartoon’. In This Corner of the World is a perfectly balanced story.
The story begins in 1944, and we focus on a character called Suzu Hojo. She’s lovely from the outset, interested in drawing and blessed with a great imagination.
But we know the war is coming. Or perhaps younger watches of this anime don’t automatically associate the date ‘1944’ with World War II and, in which case, it’s unwelcome arrival in Suzu’s world will even more dramatic.
First, though, there’s the small matter of growing up. Suzu hears on the grapevine that a young man has come to her village to ask her parents’ permission to marry her. He’s not the suited she either expected or hoped for.
When we see them again; they’re getting married.
Shusaku Hojo is equally as lovely. He’s a thoughtful and tender man who works at the nearby Navy building. You can’t blame him for wanting to marry Suzu and make her part of his family.
At this point In This Corner of the World is a fascinating glimpse at Japanese culture. It seems idyllic at times and tough work at others. Suzu and family make a living by harvesting and selling seaweed. They’re not well off, but they are content.
Everything changes for our characters when the war finally reaches their coastal town. There are air raids throughout the night and bombs to hide from. Buildings are destroyed, people are killed and lives ruined.
There’s tragedy for our central characters. Afterwards, you’ll never look at Suzu in the same way again.
No family escaped the war untouched, and for Suzu, who grew up in Hiroshima, the costs of this conflict are going to be very high indeed.
If this story begins as a glimpse of an idyllic life before the war, then it becomes the telling of how awful life became during the war. For civilians, for people who never even touched a weapon, and for people who have nothing to gain from it.
I’m not sure In This Corner of the World is a feel-good animation. It is at times, but there are darkness and despair too. In the end, though, when everything seems darkest, there are the rays of hope that life will return to normal.
In This Corner of the War is simply but beautifully animated. It has a classic hand-drawn look with muted colours that are almost pastel at times. This is not a high impact visual anime but nor is it all line drawings, shaking cells or any of the other illustrative tropes you might associate with an indie production.
My copy of In This Corner of the World was provided for review.