Thursday, 29 June 2017

In This Corner of the World [この世界の片隅に - Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni] (2016)

An eighteen-year-old girl from the Hiroshima area of Japan gets married and learns to adjust to her new life during WWII.

Having endured a couple of Japanese animations that were questionable in terms of quality over the past couple of months (I am, of course, talking about the 'Fairy Tail' and 'Sword Art Online' movies), moviegoers in the UK will find themselves with a little treat this month.

This is one of those animations that takes a look at life in Japan during WWII. It's not exactly anything new in terms of basic concept but doesn't really mean anything. Like most other countries near the heart of the war, films on the topic will keep being made. And seeing as this is based in the Hiroshima area, well, do I need too say anything? Though you don't get anything as full on as, say, 'Barefoot Gen':
That isn't the film's focus. In fact, it doesn't even decide to take the same route as something like 'Grave of the Fireflies' (perhaps the most miserable animation you'll see) as it takes a somewhat more lighthearted route. Well, as lighthearted as things can be during the period. Indeed, the film doesn't shy away from death and all that, it just does it in a more restrained and minimal way that still proves able to pack a punch.

Putting the war aside, the film's focus is on the central character of Suzu and the stuff that involves her and her adjusting to the new family and the conditions of the time. Initially, the film did start off on what I felt was unsure footing as it skips through her childhood with this, that, and the other happening. I think my main trouble her was trying to keep up with the visuals all while reading the subtitles that had a lot to say. Sadly, Japanese is not like something such as French where I can sort understand enough so that I can half read the subtitles. So I did feel a little in the cold at first and a little lost as to what was happening (not to mention a little thrown by having it start with a Christmas tune).

However, I did manage to catch on soon enough (while the film itself found a more suitable rhythm) and that's when the film started to pay off. I could enjoy both the visuals and the story which work together to create some great moments, especially when the war arrives (I have to admit they do make it seem quite beautiful at times - which was part of the point because of what the central character is like).

Despite all that goes on, the film is able to take a more positive, uplifting approach to the subject while never ignoring the cost of it. It finds a nice balance between the domestic life, the war, humour, drama, and so on which ultimately blends into one of those surprisingly satisfying experiences. And it proves affecting without ever having to resort to displaying the horrors on screen (most of it happens offscreen). Instead, there are rabbits in the waves, sparks in the dark, and other such inventions to represent something in the world.

It's a wartime tale but not one with its sights set on the death and destruction. In fact, it's actually quite a charming, uplifting film that, once it has got going, tugs at the right emotional strings and does so with some fine animation.

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