Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: In This Corner of the World – animator’s war drama celebrates women’s strength

Hayao Miyazaki protégé Sunao Katabuchi’s beautifully rendered film is a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the second world war and the horrors it wrought on Japanese civilians

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 5:02pm

3.5/5 stars

The horrors the second world war inflicted on Japanese civilians can be felt throughout this animated film by Sunao Katabuchi. But the skilful director – a protégé of Hayao Miyazaki, having worked on several Studio Ghibli features – doesn’t shove the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in the audience’s face. Instead, that blast serves as an ominous backdrop to what is essentially a coming-of-age story of a young woman named Suzu, voiced by Rena Nounen.

In fact, In This Corner could be considered a tribute to women in general; the film doesn’t just focus on Suzu as she goes from a wide-eyed pre-teen girl to a housewife who lives in Kure, the seaport town close to Hiroshima.

In the episodic first act, we see Suzu as a young artist spending time with her doting mother and grandmother. Later, during the war, the adult Suzu works hard to dole out rations to her fellow countrymen alongside her mother- and sister-in-law.

Rendered in 2D, the film is beautifully animated and illustrated, its colours muted. Even as the setting grows increasingly grim – Suzu and her family are forced to move to an air raid shelter in the third act – the protagonist keeps her love and hopes alive.

If there’s a message to this film, it’s the often unrecognised forbearance and perseverance of women, and the idea that unlike men, they can put love over pride and nationalism.

In This Corner of the World opens on March 30

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