In This Corner of the World

In This Corner of the World

In This Corner of the World anime movie cover art featuring Suzu Urano
In This Corner of the World Cover Art

Overview

In This Corner of the World is possibly the best World War II movie I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen quite a lot of them. Being from the U.S., most of the WWII movies I’ve seen tended to follow American or Allied soldiers fighting on or near the front lines, often in the European theater.

However, In This Corner of the World instead comes from a Japanese viewpoint, but not only that, it comes from a Japanese civilian viewpoint; something we don’t often see in the West. This movie depicts how the lives of Japanese citizens were affected before, during, and after the war.

The first portion of the movie deals with the lead-up to the war in Japan. The war is ongoing at this point in time, but it’s far away and doesn’t really impact the daily lives of the civilians other than the fact that most of the men are employed by the military.

For most of this part, the movie feels like a slow slice of life story about a girl growing up in Hiroshima, but simply from knowing the city she’s growing up in, we should know how the story will end. This section ends with Suzu being married off to a family in the nearby town of Kure.

Once the war reaches the shores of Japan, however, things begin to change substantially. The rations given out to families by the government continuously decrease, the air raid sirens are heard more frequently, and the remains of the dead begin arriving back home.

It’s in this second part that we begin to see just how much the lives of the civilians were affected by the war, something I don’t think we fully understand or appreciate today, especially in the U.S. since the war wasn’t on home soil.

We often hear about how everyone at home had to chip in and do their part to support the war effort, but the same was true of the Japanese civilians, and they were being bombed at the same time. The war wasn’t just a part of everyday life, the war was everyday life.

A great example of this is the character Harumi, who’s about six years old. Despite her young age, Harumi is able to recognize and name all of the various battleships, and other kinds of ships, which are part of the Japanese navy. To her, this was simply common knowledge.

The climax of the movie, at least from my perspective, came during this middle part with the death of Harumi. Other characters had died such as Suzu’s brother who had joined the military, but Harumi’s death illustrated that even innocent civilians could be killed by the war.

The final part of the movie comes with the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, and the end of the war that follows. At first I thought it was strange that the bombing of Nagasaki wasn’t also included in the movie, but since it’s from Suzu’s perspective, this makes sense since she’s not anywhere near Nagasaki.

I also originally thought that the destruction of Hiroshima was going to be glossed over, since it wasn’t something that immediately impacted the lives of the people of Kure. There was a blinding flash of light, and then a large mushroom cloud visible over the mountains, but that was all for the time being.

Then, over the course of what appears to have been several days, pieces of Hiroshima begin to appear all over Kure, including a door to someone’s house which ends up in a tree outside Suzu’s house. Along with the rubble come the first victims of the blast as well, at least those who weren’t killed in the initial blast.

One was so disfigured by the blast that his own mother couldn’t recognize him because his face had been melted. When his body was removed from the roadside after he died, all that was left was a blackened outline of where he had been sitting against a building.

Even long after the city was wiped out, the effects of the blast still ravaged the civilians who had been living there. Just because they survived the initial blast and the intense heat doesn’t mean they were going to live much longer. At the end of the movie, we see that Suzu’s sister, her last remaining family member, is dying of radiation poisoning.

Characters

Suzu Urano is the protagonist of the movie. It begins when she’s a child and ends when she’s in her 20s, so we get to know her character over a fairly large portion of her life rather than just a single year. Over all those years, art and imagination were the only constants in her life.

When she was a child, she would make up stories and then draw them for her siblings. When she was an adult, she promised to draw portraits of family members who had gone to war so their loved ones would have something to remember them by, but she never actually gets around to doing this.

Portions of the movie have a different art style for the backgrounds which are based on Suzu’s art style. Often, this change in background style tells us that the scene is part of Suzu’s imagination and not reality, such as when Harumi is naming the battleships after her death.

When she’s probably in her late teens, Suzu is married off to Shusaku whose family lives in nearby Kure. Despite not knowing Shusaku before getting married, Suzu warms up to him as she discovers that he’s a much gentler person than she first imagined.

When Harumi is killed in an explosion, Suzu loses her right hand which was holding Harumi. However, this doesn’t stop her from completing her daily chores and doing her best to defend her new home and family.

After the bomb destroys Hiroshima and the Japanese government concedes the war, Suzu is visibly upset because she would rather fight to the death than forfeit. There were likely many civilians who felt the same way as her, that if they surrendered, those who have already died, died for nothing.

Suzu Urano and Harumi Kuromura from the anime movie In This Corner of the World
Suzu and Harumi

Shusaku Houjou is Suzu’s husband. He works as a clerk at the local naval base, but is later drafted into the military once the war enters the later stages. However, despite being drafted, Japan concedes the war before he’s ever actually deployed.

He claims to have met Suzu once when they were children, but since we only get the story of their meeting from Suzu’s perspective, and she doesn’t remember him, it’s unclear exactly how they first met. Suzu’s account involves a monster kidnapping them, and they get away by her tricking the monster into falling asleep.

Shusaku’s favorite thing to do is watch the battleships in the nearby harbor, which is something he seems to have shared with Harumi as she too enjoys this. Despite that, it’s unclear exactly why he never signed up for the navy before being drafted.

After the war is over, Suzu and Shusaku adopt an orphan they find on the destroyed streets of Hiroshima.

While there are other interesting characters such as Keiko Kuromura and Tetsu Mizuhara, the final character I want to talk about instead of them is Harumi Kuromura. Harumi is Suzu and Shusaku’s neice, the daughter of Shusaku’s older sister, Keiko.

While Suzu is definitely innocent for most of the movie, Harumi is the character who embodies innocence, which is why her death is all the more jarring. She was killed by a “dud” bomb that had a timer which went off while she and Suzu were trying to get a look at the ships in the harbor.

Other than looking at battleships, Harumi also enjoyed playing with string, and looking at ants, just like any other kid her age would. While her knowledge of battleships likely comes from Shusaku, her interest in them can probably be attributed to her older brother, who she doesn’t live with.

Harumi lives with her mother, and her brother lives with their father’s family. Because the two of them aren’t together, Harumi likely became interested in battleships as a way to feel closer to her brother since he liked battleships as well.

Conclusion

In This Corner of the world isn’t without its issues, but they’re so minor compared to the strengths of the movie that I couldn’t help but give it a 10/10. Maybe it deserves a 9 and I may drop it down to that at some point once I have more time to think about it, but as far as this post is concerned, it’s a 10.

If you enjoy history like I do and want to see a different side of WWII compared to what popular media usually shows us, I highly recommend In This Corner of the World. At the same time, if you’re simply looking for a movie with a good story that’s also visually appealing, this movie is for you as well.

The trailer for In This Corner of the World is available here.

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful in any way, be sure to click the like button down below. You can also let me know your thoughts on the movie down in the comment section as well. What scene hit you the hardest? Harumi’s death? Hiroshima being destroyed? Or something else?

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2 Replies to “In This Corner of the World”

  1. Incidentally, I just watched this movie the other day. Hardest hitting part was definitely the kid dying. The knowledge of what happened in Hiroshima in 1945 set up a good amount of tension throughout the first part of the movie, as the date approached, and I found myself wondering how it will portray the inevitable event. Overall good movie 👍

    Side note: back when I visited the Halo forums, I saw a few people saying things like “These shooter games make warfare look so much fun! I wish war would happen in real life!” Maybe those people would gain a better understanding of the folly of war if they saw a movie like this…

    1. I couldn’t agree more about the end of the movie. We all know that Hiroshima is going to be destroyed by the end of the movie, but how it will be depicted and what it will mean for the various characters is what kept the movie engaging to the end.

      The movie would have been so much worse if it ended before the bombing, and we got an exposition dump before the credits explaining what happened. I never thought the movie would do that, but that sort of thing happens all too often instead of following the “show, don’t tell” philosophy.

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