Caught a screening of In This Corner of the World at Angelika Film Center. It’s not difficult to see why this gorgeously animated feature is so critically acclaimed in its native country: playing as a more optimistic counterargument to Isao Takahata’s unrelentingly bleak Grave of the Fireflies (in which children are repeatedly failed by their stubbornly nationalistic elders), director Sunao Katabuchi’s latest effort finds hope, love, and beauty amidst the tragedy and hardships of life in WWII-era Japan.
Beginning as a cheerful, easygoing slice-of-life narrative, the story follows a young, absentminded girl named Suzu, who spends her days drawing and daydreaming. As she grows older, she stumbles into an arranged marriage, witnesses the rapid industrialization and militarization of her homeland, and gradually loses both loved ones and her innocence to the air raids and firebombings—but through it all, she perseveres, thanks in large part to the unwavering support of her family. Likewise, despite its dark and disturbing subject matter (the setting—a naval town near Hiroshima—is particularly haunting), the movie itself remains colorful, lyrical, and occasionally even boldly impressionistic, proving once again that the anime industry is in capable hands following Hayao Miyazaki’s… er, “retirement.”
[Originally written August 12, 2017.]