In This Corner of the World starts in media res, offering early indication of the fragmentary structure it never quite overcomes. Though the soft-hued pastel palette is gorgeous to look at – particularly when the natural world is portrayed – this Japanese export struggles to find a clear focus.
Following the clumsy Suzu’s life as a homemaker, In This Corner of the World features some charming comedy of everyday life as well as sporadic bursts of childlike fun, but the early part of the screenplay could have done with much more ruthless editing. Most of the enjoyment here comes from the visuals. Like the films of Studio Ghibli, whose shadow Sunao Katabuchi is surely hoping to emerge from, Corner of the World features beautifully detailed representations of the mundane, and particularly of food.
Despite the distressing nature of the subject matter, air raids revitalise the film’s pace and provide the opportunity to alter the visual style. Interesting perspectives and compositions proliferate, while immersive animation deepens empathy for the protagonist. Suzu’s love of drawing is also sensibly exploited to diversify the aesthetic and to offer insight into her mindset. The strength of focalisation together with the World War II content makes Corner of the World reminiscent of both Ghibli’s The Wind Rises and Only Yesterday.
Though the film’s uncertainty about its core narrative causes structural waywardness and problematic pacing, Corner of the World’s ability to surprise is also one of its most pleasing elements. Characters are complex and, true to life, apt to be misjudged initially and better understood later.
In This Corner of the World both deserves and suffers from comparisons to Studio Ghibli. Though the film as a whole is confused and convoluted, Katabuchi leaves us with a hopeful conclusion and worthy salute to the power and sanctuary of the imagination.
CAST: Non, Megumi Han, Yoshimasa Hosoya
DIRECTOR: Sunao Katabuchi
WRITERS: Sunao Katabuchi (screenplay), Fumiyo Kono (manga)
SYNOPSIS: In Hiroshima during World War II an 18-year-old girl gets married and has to prepare food for her family despite the rationing and lack of supplies. As she struggles with the daily loss of life’s amenities she tries to maintain the will to live.