Film Review: In This Corner of the World (Japan, 2016) is thought-provoking anime for older audiences

Similar to the majority of other anime titles on offer, In This Corner of the World is suitably aimed at older audiences.  Whilst the animated medium usually suggests family-friendly viewing, Sunao Katabuchi‘s thematically heavy drama is more thought-provoking than visually reliant.

Concerning itself predominantly with the bombing of Hiroshima towards the end of World War II, In This Corner of the World is a weighty tale centred around Suzu (voiced by Rena Nounen), an 18-year-old artist who is married off alarmingly quickly to Shusaku (Yoshimasa Hosoya), a young man who has fond memories of meeting her as a child several years prior.

Moving from her home in Hiroshima to the nearby village of Kure, Suzu slowly adjusts to her new life as a young housewife.  The threat of the Pacific War slowly creeps throughout the film’s considerable running time, with dates sporadically sprawled across the screen informing us that the Hiroshima bombings are imminent.

The threat of war seems so far away in the early stages of the film as Suzu bonds with her young niece and pulls her weight in the household, as well as the film adopting something of a mild-fantastical element when it visually represents the creative stories Suzu writes, but when government implemented food rations are introduced, the realities of war become all too real.

Aside from one moment where Suzu admires her nation’s weapons of mass destruction, In This Corner of the World opts to derail any imposed nationalism and keep the focus solely on the effects the war has on its citizens.  If there’s an agenda here, it’s more of the personal kind with Katabuchi and Chie Uratani‘s script highlighting Suzu’s determination in fitting in with her new family and doing whatever she must in order to survive.

The first half of the film doesn’t quite hint at just how grim the story will get, and the transition from Suzu’s domestic life to the realities of war isn’t the most organic, but it’s hard not to admire Katabuchi’s vision of creating such visual opulence against the backdrop of terror.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

In This Corner of the World is out now in select theatres.