Saturday, August 12, 2017

In this Corner of the World (orig.Kono sekai no katasumi ni) [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
Japan Times (M. Schilling) review
South China Morning Post (B. Shin) review (J. Fae) review (I. Navarro) review*

Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review
Slant Magazine (C. Bowen) review

In this Corner of the World (orig.Kono sekai no katasumi ni) [2016][IMDb] [wikip] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Sunau Katabuchi [IMDb] along with Chie Uratani [IMDb] based on the manga [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Fumiyo Kouno [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a truly poignant/lovely if often very sad Japanese animated film about a simple young woman named Suzu (voiced in the Eng. version by Laura Post), with an endearing talent for drawing, who grew-up in a small fishing village on the outskirts of Hiroshima in the years before WW II and then married into a similarly humble family living "on the other side of the mountain" on the outskirts of Kure whose harbor had been a major Japanese Naval Base during WW II.

So the film, which won this year's Japanese Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, tells the story of World War II (or the experience of it) from the perspective of a quite ordinary young Japanese woman:

Of course she's patriotic: How could she not be?  Her husband Shusaku (voiced in the Eng. version by Todd Haberkorn) was a clerk for the Imperial Navy at the Navel base in Kure, her father-in-law (voiced in the Eng. version by Kirk Thornton) was an engineer at the base as well.  She had a childhood friend who's stationed on a Japanese cruiser.

YET, she also sees hints of problems: When as the War progresses / rationing tightens and she accidently breaks the family's only sugar jar, Suzu's mother-in-law (voiced in the Eng. version by Barbara Goodson) gives her extra money that she had kept in a shoe-box and tells her to go down a seedy part of Kure where she could probably buy replacement sugar on the black market.  Suzu is shocked to see that "if one had the money, war or no war, one could buy basically anything."  Walking home from shady part of town with a bag of black market sugar that she bought for 8x the official price, she gets lost ... winding-up in the seedy part of town's red-light district, where she is helped to get-out by a (foreign?) geisha-girl.  The geisha quite kindly/discreetly tells Suzu that it'd probably "not be a good idea" for Suzu "stay long" in that part of town.

Later, of course, the bombs start falling.  The irony, of course, is that Kure with its Naval base is bombed repeatedly / devastatingly while Hiroshima remains largely untouched and its residents including Suzu's own family repeatedly give assistance to "the poor residents of Kure, across the mountain," until ...

It's a film that does make you want to cry EVEN THOUGH, OF COURSE, the Japanese did terrible things in Korea ("comfort women"), all across China (the Rape of Nanjing ...), the Philippines (Bataan Death March), and across South East Asia (Burma Railway).  But, of course, Suzu wouldn't know any of that ... just that slowly but surely her childhood friends were "not coming back" from the War: Her brother's urn comes back with _only a small rock in it_ ... his ship was sunk somewhere in the Pacific and so, of course, there were no remains to "send back..." but apparently the Imperial Navy felt the need to send the bereaved family "something" to "honor."  And of course the bombing near the end of the War just gets worse and worse.

Yes, I know why the war was fought.  Yes, Imperial Japan did all kinds of terrible things all across their side of the Pacific.  Still ... one can not but feel for this simple Japanese woman and her family living through a war that they certainly didn't start and only really supported because ... they were told to ... by the same kind of authorities (their national leaders at the time) that we ourselves are taught to as-a-matter-of-course ... trust.

A truly fascinating and poignant film, worthy of being seen / reflected upon.

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