2016/12/05

この世界の片隅に "In This Corner of the World"

Sometimes, in the case of historical or traumatic events, our feelings of discomfort and sorrow might prevent us from seeking out further information. The merit of the knowledge we can gain from such information is invaluable. Perhaps this is especially true of wartime events in Japan in 1945.  Every so often, there is a movie or other media which chronicles these events, such as in Grave of the Fireflies or Barefoot Gen. However, many storylines are told from a military point of view, or focus on the victims in Hiroshima city, who suffered the most. These shocking recollections and horrific tales should certainly be read or watched by all, but it takes a lot of inner strength to sit down and do it.

Also, could it be that something is lost when we only look at the violent and horrific acts? What of the people living elsewhere in Japan? What of the civilians who went about their daily lives? What struggles did they endure and what did they take pride in? How did they make a living and how did they entertain themselves? What did they value most?

I did not expect to learn so much when I watched In This Corner of the World (この世界の片隅に), an animated feature which was released in Japanese theatres on November 12th, 2016, and is based on the graphic novel series of the same name. It is a beautiful rendition of everyday life in wartime Japan. The film starts in the 1930s in Japan, with a Japanese girl named Suzu, who lives with her family in Hiroshima city. She grows up, marries a man named Shusaku, and moves to a nearby town called Kure, where she will live with his family, help with the farming, housework, and look after Harumi, her sister-in-law's daughter.

Throughout the film, military themes are present as Kure was a military base for the Imperial Japanese Navy. At one point, there is a fire raid on Kure and several times the family has to take cover in a bomb shelter under their vegetable fields. However, unlike other movies in wartime settings, the plot does focus a lot on the day-to-day experience of an average person. Furthermore, unlike other movies that are set in Hiroshima in 1945, there is nearly no gore or graphic imagery. In the scenes where attacks and raids are depicted, nothing was overly shocking or upsetting, and nothing made me cry. Certainly, however, these parts are sad. I feel like they are necessary to paint a wholesome picture of young Suzu's life. She is happy, she is perplexed, she mourns, she is frustrated, she is content. This is her experience as a woman in 1945. Thus we can connect with her and we can learn from this.

There are even amusing and heartwarming plot points--for instance, at one point in the summer, Harumi finds a line of ants leading to the house and Suzu discovers that the ants have gotten into the sugar pot. Her attempts to purify the sugar fail so she goes into town to buy more, which is expensive due to rationing. After buying some, she gets lost in the maze of buildings, but is saved when she meets a wealthy young lady (Edit: Sorry, I made a mistake. The woman who helped Suzu was a brothel worker.) who tells her the way. Small details such as these, plus the authentic tone and old timey language use gave me a feel for the setting in 1945. In fact, I feel as if I probably missed a few references due to a cultural "generation gap," if you will.

On the subject of the language used in the film, it was not only quite old-fashioned but also I felt like I was listening to a genuine, bonafide "Hiroshima dialect." A lot of people know that the Hiroshima dialect uses turns of phrase such as "ja ke." This and other regional phrases and words were often used in the film, but I also felt the tone, the rise and fall of the characters' voices, was also very indicative of Hiroshima, yet sounded very natural and not overdone. Some people might think this would mean that the movie is difficult to understand because the dialect is so strong, but this is not so. I found that the characters spoke slowly and clearly enough that I could catch most of the words. I know almost nothing of the Hiroshima dialect, but after watching this movie I feel like I have a better understanding of what it is like.

In This Corner of the World goes beyond being a movie about wartime Japan. It is a movie about love, how we define family, loss, and new beginnings. These themes are depicted with beautiful art and the creative use of different mediums. It has won three awards so far, and is nominated for a fourth. Personally I cannot recommend it enough!

Here are a few links for those interested.
Wikipedia
IMDB
Anime News Network

1 comment:

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