I feel that I will never understand the magnitude on the Japanese psyche regarding WWII and the dropping of the bombs. It permeates every fiber of their being and colors almost everything they do, consciously and unconsciously, even so many years after the events. We have another film that looks at the war experience, but it is done in a different manner. The inevitable comparisons between “Grave of the Fireflies” and this one, “In This Corner of the World” (“Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni”) will happen, as both are depressing, but the latter approaches it in a more hopeful, but less natural-looking, manner.
The film covers around 15 or so years of time; I’m thinking 1932 to 1946 or thereabouts. We come into the life of Suzu (the lady in pink). She is a fabulous artist, but a bit of a scatterbrain. She lives in Hiroshima and spends a lot of time sketching, sketching, sketching. The movie reflects this, in having her be in the sketches she has done, a soft line or pastel approach, or having the artwork come ‘alive’. When she is 18, she is given a proposal of marriage by Shūsaku (him to the far left), as he remembers her from 10 years earlier. They move to Kure.
Now, to help with the geography, Kure is a big naval base and about an hour train ride from Hiroshima. And since Shūsaku works for the navy and his family is there, thus the move. The movie details all the privations and struggles with being a nation at war and a city that is a prime military target, as well as Suzu trying to fit in with a new, somewhat abrasive, family.
There is a strong element of nostalgia, reflected by the art decisions. If Suzu was still alive, she could be in her 90s, and so it comes across as remembrances of a time past and the paths that could have been taken. Certainly when the war comes into her life, with the endless bombings and air raid sirens and food shortages and the shift in mood, the film takes on its darker tones. War affects everyone in varying degrees and when personal tragedy strikes Suzu, it takes all of her emotional courage and fortitude to soldier on and try to remain true to herself.
Despite it being a war film, I found it rather gentle, even when she is interrogated by the military police for sketching the harbor and its battleships. Even then, the whole thing is laughed off. The way they handle the bombing of Hiroshima is done in an interesting manner and how they are a caliber of collateral damage from it.
Again, it was a moving film, perhaps aided by the art style that softens the corners and makes things not as horrible as it really was. The movie ends too soon, as you would like to see how they moved on with their lives after all of this. The only sour note for me is that the US soldiers were portrayed as pigs. Perhaps they really were that way and a dash of kindness from them to the civilian population could have gone for miles and miles, but still, I see it as the only dour note in an otherwise poignant film.
Back to the art style, as you can see it is more cartoonish, avoiding a lot of the tropes that come with a ‘regular’ anime approach. They inhabit a kind of tweeny world, where it is not full cartoon, but certainly not as realistic as it could be. Again, this might be holding in nature with the remembrance part of the overall directorial approach to it. You might want to compare/contrast with “The Wind Rises”, which covers a similar slice of time, in how they made their artistic decisions. It is still a film worth watching, if only to understand things better.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (Not certain if it is fully effective)
Plot 8 (An interesting story told interestingly)
Pacing 8 (Moves along with a strong deliberateness)
Effectiveness 8 (Good use of sensibilities of the era)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 1 (A similar show would be “Ouran High School”)
Overall 8 (Well worth seeing)