Posted by SuperMario on 4 January 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews

In this Corner of the World (for the purpose of this review, I’ll refer it as “Corner”), is the truest slice of life drama if you ever encounter one, in that it’s a slice into an ordinary life of an ordinary girl during the War period. That speaks into the very first strength of Corner, it breathes life and it feels all too real. Suzu, our protagonist, is a normal girl who loves to draw and a bit of an airhead herself. Throughout the course of the movie, we see her grown through a passage of time, get married to a stranger in a strange town, find accustomed to the new life, new family, new hometown before the war comes in and destroys everything. Quiet, slow but melancholic and beautiful at times, Corner shines through mostly because of its restraint to go heavy-handed. They could easily go melodramatic in many moments, consider they’re dealing with war issues, one of the most brutal subject on film. Yet somehow they know that the main focus is the life of Suzu, and the terror of war ultimately is just a part of it.

Coming to Corner, I originally expected another war treatment in the veins of Graves of Fireflies or Barefoot Gen or Giovanni’s Island – a full-blown lost of innocence drama about the horrific consequences the war causes to normal citizen. I was taken by surprise by how Corner instead focuses on the ordinary life of Suzu, on her little moments of living her life, the life that she has no control over. The whole film is painted in a way that it feels like a memory, a look back to the harsh period of Japan with a tender perspective, an outlook that both bitter and sweet at the same time. In Corner, there’s no big emotional outburst in display. There’s no angsty statement to be found at the horrible injustice of war. There’s no grand decision that change the course of war. Just like in our own real life the life-changing moments happen only few times, with long in-between time we stay almost the same, Corner is more interested to focus on those in-between moments.

As Corner aims for simple approach, the character designs are decidedly simple, never stand out, which remind me greatly to the art of the old era. The cast share formal, yet natural chemistry and even her relationships with the members of her husband side, especially with her sister in law have some solid development. The tone is light-hearted and episodic – and surprisingly – good humor, but we can all feel the weight behind each fleeting moment. The light humor is what I really appreciate about this movie. As I often see it, if you can find humor even in the worst possible situation, then you can go a long way. Imagine how the father in law falls asleep in the middle of the air raid, or the members of the house nearly burst out laughing with the idea of Suzu being a spy.

In my opinion, the war section wouldn’t be that powerful without the full-of-life coming of age story about Suzu in the first half. She has a normal childhood with a small crush and some true moments of happy carefree life, she then marriages off to a guy she barely knows in a faraway land, spends her days away doing housework. Suzu is significant in a way she never stands out, or like her sister in law comments: “leading a boring life”. Yet, she is the perfect protagonist for Corner. She presents the lives of many ordinary people in that era, the lives that we can all relate to. The latter part has some quietly devastating moments but like what comes before, it becomes just a part of Suzu’s life. For me at least, I feel heartfelt how despite everything happens, Suzu and her family, and in a larger extend, the strength of normal people manage to recover and continue to live on their lives, with a smile on their faces.

In the end, I wholeheartedly recommend In this Corner of the World. Quiet, subtle, humane, true to life, and weirdly humorous and warm, Corner again is a perfect example of a work that can shake off all the flashiness to seek for something real, and simple. The result, of course, is far from “simple” and “ordinary”, the mastery that is so hard to obtain. 2016 and 2017 have been great years for anime movies and Corner stays rightly at the near top of those offerings. A marvelous achievement from studio MAPPA.

5 Responses

  1. Avatar mr.b says:

    Great movie. I watched it twice, first during my flight to Japan and then in my local theater, it was worth it both time

  2. Avatar Firechick says:

    I love this movie! I own it on DVD (The English version is better) and I got the manga, too! I love it when movies go out of their way to show what the characters are like in great detail before going into the dramatic stuff, because, that way, they actually give you a reason to actually care about them and what’s going on around them. It’s kind of surprising you say that the war stuff wouldn’t be as powerful without the slice-of-life moments (Though I wholeheartedly agree with you), as I’ve seen other reviews say the movie should have focused more on the war, and that nothing happens throughout the entire movie, not until the end. I disagree with that view, as I feel the entire movie’s heart and soul is…y’know, giving the audience a reason to care about Suzu and her plight.

    Yeah, 2016/2017 have been great years for anime movies. I hope there will be more good ones coming out soon! Great review of this wonderful but underrated movie!

    • SuperMario SuperMario says:

      You pretty much said it, Firechick. I believe it’s more about how we regard what the movie is about. The war section is powerful and I know most of people will remember that last part the most, but like you said the movie is about Suzu’s life and by that time we already invested in her enough to care about what’s going on. The life that is typical yet distinctive, just like there is no branch that is the same, yet together they make up the perfect tree.

      (I really hope my metaphor makes a lick of sense)

      This 2018 year will have some promising movies as well. A new anime directed by Mari Okada and new one from Mamoru Hosada. Count me right in

      • Avatar Bokusen says:

        I haven’t watched this yet, but I’m glad it’s getting good reviews!

        Reading this comment reminded me of a comment I read somewhere. Someone said once that one of the reasons they liked anime was that it was good at making sure we as viewers had an emotional connection to characters before putting them in danger, in contrast to a lot of Western media which tends to put them in danger first and I think that’s pretty true. Not for all anime of course (or all Western media for that matter), but certainly true for most of the ones I end up liking.

  3. Avatar moochi2000 says:

    I watched this on the plane too, to Japan. I did not expect this to be a tearjerker. Without revealing too much, the second half of this movie is what makes the film so spectacular. You are right, this is a seemingly average girl, who goes through a boring life. However, I love how she tells the audience her thoughts and when the trauma hits..holy cow! As a woman, who used to daydream a lot (like her), the story about her crush really hits home. I’m glad you watched this. Given that recently not all your anime reviews have scored high, I’m glad you gave this one 90/100!

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