Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World—adapted from the 2007 manga of the same name—provides the perspective of a WWII Japanese housewife enduring the tragedies that take place off the battlefield. Set during the pivotal war years of 1944 and 1945, the film follows Suzu (Rena Nounen), who marries into the Hojo family when she’s only 18 and must bear the responsibility of caring for their household while her husband is away on naval duty. Most of In This Corner of the World plays as an extended comedy of manners, as Suzu repeatedly tries to fit into her new family and please her relatives, with varying degrees of success. For a manga series, a lackadaisical with pleasant misadventures taking up a bulk of the story can work, given how much breathing room there is within those serialized narratives. However, this two-hour film of mostly lighthearted comedy’s shift, abruptly, into wartime drama (and at about the 90-minute mark) feels forced, never making a smooth enough transition to allow the hardships its refocussing on to have a real impact. The final ten minutes of In This Corner of the World do reach an emotional peak that rivals other notable anime weepies like Grave of the Fireflies, but the more broadly enjoyable tone of the rest feels less substantial.
Published as part of Japan Cuts 2017.